Why was it that my mother was waiting at the back door for me when I got there?
She demanded, "Why were you and George fighting in the street, just now?"
I didn't curse back in 1978, but if I had, I would have said, "Ma, how in the hell did you know that?"
What had happened was, a woman up the street that knew my mother through another woman in the neighborhood, who also knew me and all my little buddies, called my mother to let her know I was acting in a manner - that was not proper for little nine year old boys.
YES, I got in trouble. I got in trouble because of the neighborhood network! What I would come to call in later years, "The Clothsline Syndicate".
I'm in my late thirties, and one of my most promanent memories as a pre-teen / teen was is of my mother, my next door neighbors, the rest of the ladies with back yards along our alley, and the rest of my buddies moms - all hanging up laundry to dry on Saturday afternoons. (Sure, us kids hand to hang up laundry too, but that's another blog for another time). This "Clothesline Syndicate" was how the neighborhood moms shared, information, news, receipes, and 'intel on us kids!' It was one of the key ways families got to know each other. A hand wave to the woman 6 houses up the alley and just out of shouting range! A casual stroll down the alley to complement the mom hanging up these cute "Tom and Jerry" bedsheets.
The "Clothesline Syndicate" was me and my crew got to be known by many of the moms in our Baltimore neighborhood. We were always treking up or down the alleys with footballs, baseballs or frisbees or bicycles looking for one another. We'd throw a wave to one of our buddies mom's, "Hi Missus' Brentley, can Kevin come out?" They'd nod and say, "Hey Ralphie, yeah he's upstairs in his room, go on up." Or, there were those times when we'd be somewhere we shouldn't be and the memebers of the "Clotheline Syndicate" would step out on the back porch and yell, "Cal-vin! Calvin come on in here!" Then you'd hear another voice a half block away calling, "Cal-vin! Your Mama is looking for you!" Then, "Here he comes!" And then Clavin would come trotting down the street.
Then the Clothesline Syndicate, died.
I Blame it on the dryer. When electric dryers became more affordable, and my mom and then Mrs. Brentley and Mrs. Newhaven, and Mrs. Jenkins, and Ms. Ellen got them. I saw less and less meetings at the clothelines. I saw less bed sheets waving like family flags from the clotheline flagpoles. I saw less and less of the mother's and mom's in my old neighborhood standing in the back yards talking, laughing and sharing kiddie intel.
I think Kenmore, Whirlpool and Amanna improved the quality and ease of washing clothes and keeping our fabrics clean. But, they killed the Clothesline Syndicate and changed forever the dynamic of our family and community. Some might even say - they ruined The Village.