Mr. Rouse's article was about that area known as The Boulevard, a piece of land only about six blocks wide which stretched from Peterson's Yacht Basin and the southern reaches of Salter's Creek in Newport News eastward along Twenty-fifth Street and Kecoughtan Road to LaSalle Avenue. The Hampton Roads marked the southern boundary and the area within was a wonderful place to grow up. There were very large houses, other nice houses and some small well kept ones as well, all on streets lined with large, shade giving trees and in the days of no air conditioning, it was generally quite comfortable excepting those days when the breeze was naught. Homes were built with large windows generally on all sides and the cross ventilation, plus the abundant shade made quite a difference from what we find today. Many had the huge attic exhaust fans that pulled the hot air out and away and it was a simple solution to what is today a very expensive problem.
The picture above shows Chesapeake Avenue, what was called by locals The Boulevard, hence the name for the area. Storms such as major nor'easters and hurricanes which passed through the area would turn the normally tranquil Hampton Roads into a living ocean and we kids enjoyed walking down to watch the action. Nearly every storm which came along flooded the section shown, adjacent to Peterson's Yacht Basin, but in really bad storms the harbor would rise over the entire roadway and into the front yards of the waterfront homes and up side streets for up to half a block. When it was over, you could tell how high it had been from the brown grass present that had previously been green. At those times, we boys loved to ride our bicycles along the seawall prior to the flooding of the storm. With the wind out of the east or northeast, we would head west, windbreakers held open and feet on the handle bars and sometimes reaching speeds where we were passing cars running parallel to us. Looking back at it today, it's truly a wonder that no one was seriously hurt but I don't ever recall such an accident. The only problem was when we reached the bend in the road that marked the rise over the Peterson's Yacht Basin bridge, we were going so fast that we were pushed all the way over to the other side in Stuart Gardens. Needless to say, it was a long walk back home against a forty-plus mile per hour sustained wind. What was worse is when we got home and found out that one of those drivers out there was a neighbor who informed our moms. But it didn't stop us from trying it again at another time.
I don't think there was a single street between LaSalle Avenue and Walnut Avenue (at Peterson's Yacht Basin) that we didn't explore on bikes in those days and all children living from Walnut to Pear Avenue (marking the city limit between Newport News and Hampton) attended Woodrow Wilson School, a drab gray three story schoolhouse built early in the twentieth century with one classroom for each grade, one through seven. It made for a close knit school and lots of individual attention which was great unless you had committed mischief either at school or in the surrounding neighborhood. If so, Miss Wheeler, the hard-nosed principal who we never knew loved us all dearly until we graduated from high school, would assign us to sit on her pink bench outside of her centrally located office where all would see us when they passed by. Talk about humiliation.
Back then, we swam in the Hampton Roads, paddled our canoe in the Hampton Roads and even fished in the Hampton Roads. Not a chance of that happening today, but it was a different time, a much less populated time, and the original Old City of Newport News located on only four square miles and with a population of about forty thousand was a great place to grow up. Everyone looked out for everyone else and lawsuits were seldom ever needed. Your word was sacred and disagreements were solved by a reasonable discussion around a kitchen table, except for the occasional bloody nose that came with being a boy in school. But the fights were never serious, adults were called Sir and Ma'am and no one would sass a teacher or a policeman. Those were special times and nowhere were they better than down on The Boulevard.
The picture below was where I lived from birth 1947 until graduation from high school in 1965. What a great house it was and what a wonderful neighborhood. I just wish young folks today could know the same joys we had from learning to make something out of nothing with imagination instead of requiring 24/7 electronic entertainment. I fear they are missing some of the truly finer things of life.