Voices From Eager Street: Ms. Mabel

Voices From Eager Street
Ms. Mabel moved to Eager Street in 1965 and she now lives right around the corner at the intersection of Montford and Ashland. She was kind enough to tell us about her memories of the neighborhood.

Ms. Mabel with her great-granddaughter, Chloe

On her background:

“My family moved around this area in 1965. We moved from Biddle Street. And then before that we lived near Broadway, and then before that we lived at Durham Street. Before that, I was born in North Carolina. We lived at 2334 Eager Street. I lived there from 1965 to 1974, and then I moved to Bradford Street.”

On what the neighborhood was like when she moved to Eager Street:

“When we moved around here, every house was full. There weren’t any vacant houses around here. We had to get used to the trains going by. But there were a whole lot of kids in the block, and everybody knew one another once we all got acquainted with each other. The kids would be out roller-skating, playing hop-scotch, playing touch football and wrestling, you know how kids do. Running down the alleys. It was a nice neighborhood.
It was mostly Caucasian people. When I say Caucasian people, I mean everyone who’s not black! There were about 6 or 7 black families. Then the Caucasian people moved out and people of color started to move in. It was a tight little neighborhood. Like I said, there weren’t as many vacant houses. All the kids played together, all the kids grew up around here.”

On her home at 2334 Eager Street:

“It was only a 3 bedroom house. Three bedrooms upstairs, but it was really two, but there was a little small room in the back. We had the little porch on the back, and then a bathroom. Downstairs, it was straight through, and then you had a kitchen, living room, dining room. Out back, you had a little grass.
I had my four children, my mother had her children. All of us stayed in there. We had pretty good times in there. Listening to music, play cards in the back yard, people sit out front and have cookouts. A lot of social things. Kids out there playing football. Kids going up and down riding bicycles- Big Wheels, which got on my nerves. It was a lively little neighborhood.”

Ms. Mabel’s old house is the one in the middle. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

On rowhouse living:

“You don’t have no windows. You only got kitchen windows, front windows, bedroom windows and back windows. You ain’t got no windows on the side. The good part is you’ve got neighbors on the side of you. The bad part is you can sometimes hear arguments coming through the wall. Other than that, they’re pretty good. Just the thing about the windows.”

On when she started to notice vacant housing:

“That was in ’85, or maybe into the mid 90s. I’d say about the end of the eighties into the early nineties. The people that moved in here, as they got older and their kids grew up, some of them died off, the kids moved away, some of them moved away. This used to be a lively little neighborhood, and then we started having problems with drug dealers on the corners. People moved out and most of the time people didn’t move back in.
Landlords weren’t fixing the houses up. And then people would move out, drugs and stuff started moving in, and nobody really moving back into the neighborhood. The markets moved out. Most of the small businesses that were around here closed down. There were a lot of little black entrepreneurs around here that had their own businesses, and as they got older, nobody didn’t take it over.”

On why she stayed in the neighborhood:

“I don’t get out that much. I’m more like a person that likes to stay around one neighborhood. I’m not the type of person to keep moving from place to place. I’m a settled person. I move to a place, I’m not just gonna jump and move just because.

Ms. Mabel looks out from her new house on Ashland towards the space where 2334 Eager Street used to be.

On what’s next for the neighborhood:

“I hope, since they’ve started, they don’t hit a snag and stop. Because if they start fixing it up, if things around here change, people might start moving back in. Sometimes people just remember a neighborhood like it was, how bad it was. But we did a lot of stuff around here to try to keep stuff down, keeping the alleys clean. The City wasn’t doing it. Vacant yards, trash piled up knee-high. I would call the City to try to clean the yard up next to me, and they kept passing the buck. It wasn’t their problem, so we got together and made a community organization. Trash was everywhere. Rats, four-legged rats, two-legged rats! We started trying to keep it clean around here.
People’s attitudes really have to change. That’s the only way that neighborhoods change and come back to life again. If you keep having the same attitude, things ain’t gonna change.”



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