Where I live, in the Dayton suburbs, I rarely see front porch swings.
Once upon a time, you could walk through your neighborhood and nearly every home had folks sitting on the front porch. It was a neat adventure calling out to friends and neighbors.
My grandparents lived on the opposite corner from where I grew up in Elwood, Indiana. When my mother was eleven, the family moved from the north-central part of town to the southwest corner of South A and 8th streets, a large, roomy rectangular home with the front door opening onto South A Street, and the more commonly used entrance on the 8th Street side door.
On the front porch, there was the porch swing.
I have many fond memories of sitting with my Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Donna on the unpainted swing. They were the “Kool-Aid” house before it was popular. My uncles and their friends were always there en masse, and the neighbors seemed to flock to the porch to chat with my grandparents. It always seemed Grandma and Grandpa had coffee cups in their hands as they relaxed on the swing.
Both grandparents were descended from a long line of practical jokesters. Neither could resist a prank and when I look back on the austere photographs of their grandparents and great-grandparents it is almost impossible to believe my ancestors were extremely witty, and full of the devil when it came to playing tricks and jokes on others.
One evening, before I was born, a young neighbor boy came up to the porch.
“Mr. and Mrs. Barmes? Have you seen my dog?”
Grandpa Leroy turned to Grandma, “Oh, Donna, was that what we had for supper?”
The little boy turned on heal and ran for home, “Mom! Mom! The Barmeses ate our dog!”
Ruby Parker lived next door to my grandparents and across the street on the northwest corner was Marguerite Spies. Since I spent a good deal of time with my grandparents I still consider them as much my neighbors as I do those with whom I grew up at my own home. Ruby’s daughter, Joan, had two sons my age, Dean and David, and a younger daughter, Lisa. Marguerite’s grandchildren, the Boyland boys, and the Finan boys were classmates and baseball team members. Kathleen Finan was several years younger than me but we’ve kept in touch via social media and even ran into one another during marching band season.
Ruby Parker also had a porch swing. As a little boy, I often wondered if she had legs because they were always covered by her constant knitting or crochet projects. I remember Grandma Donna and Ruby talking over the backyard fence as they each tended their beautiful flower gardens. Grandpa Leroy would often go over to visit his Ruby Doll on her own porch.
Ruby had wooden planters on her front porch that were always filled with beautiful flowers. One morning before Ruby took to her porch swing, Grandpa took the planters and set them on the stone porch walls of his home next door. After an hour or so, Grandpa meandered over to Ruby’s for his morning chat.
At some point, he said, “Don’t Donna’s flowers look absolutely beautiful?”
Ruby turned to look at their porch and said, “Yes, Leroy, they’re gorgeous. I’ve been sitting here [knitting] and admiring them this morning.”
Ruby looked closer. She laid down her knitting needles (or crochet hook) and turned to her own porch, finally realizing she had been looking at her own flowers most of the morning.
I just looked through Joan Sorg’s photos on Facebook, and there was a photo of her mom, Ruby, seated on her sofa, and through the picture window, you can see her porch swing.
It was a different time.
It was a simpler time.
It was a time when we took the time to talk to others.
The front porch was the place to be. If there was a porch swing, it was even better,