The Cream Of the Crap
From this view of the Beech Aircraft plant along east Central, you can see the houses along Byrd street. As if living in an un-air conditioned house wasn't enough, imagine a thousand cars in the parking lot behind your house generating more heat.
Another view of Dog Patch and some planes on the parking area at the plant.
I grew up on the east side of Wichita in a part once named Travel Air City. It was started as a housing area for people working for Beech Aircraft. Beech owned the land from Central to Kellogg along Webb Road. As the post WWII years progressed, the neighborhood continued to decline until it was called Dog Patch after the Al Capp Cartoon city. The neighborhood was about four blocks by four blocks with two trailer parks and if it didn't have enough run down properties, they drug in what looked like two story Military Housing buildings that had made up a housing area called Beechwood. The should have been torn down but as late as last year, they were still renting them to people too poor to leave. Dog Patch was the home of a few professionals and a lot of Rednecks and trailer trash. The Oakies and Arkies settled in Dog Patch and the games began. There were some that had jobs, but a lot those people worked just long enough to buy some old junker and enough beer to get good and drunk. By being the kids of one of the people employed at Beech we were self titled "The Cream of the Crap".
I think you could say that it was a little better than some parts of the city but I have seen two adult women roll out in the street fighting and cussing. It was normal for me on my morning paper route to find a car parked in the yard with more than one person in the car so drunk they didn't even get into the house. Until they tore down the "Past Time Gardens" that was on the end of Byrd street, it was almost comical to watch the drunks stagger home when the club closed.
As the neighborhood grew (The baby boom effect) there was no shortage of kids. One house right down the street seemed to have families of bunches of kids. The first family I knew had six girls and one boy. The next family had four boys and three girls. The last family that lived there had a bunch of kids and I didn't even keep track of the number. They were a dirty faced snotty nosed bunch of kids that were never seen alone. If you saw one, there would be at least five of them. Their mother would come over to our house to escape the tribe and they would come over and sit on the porch. That is unless Rex, the wonder dog, was outside. For some reason he hated those kids and they feared him. He loved to launch himself off the porch and chase them home. I never saw anyone bit, but they screamed and he chased. Such fun.
The salvation of the neighborhood was the school. The patrons of the district from Forest Hills and Eastborough kept putting in enough money to expand the school until it was one big school. Nothing was too good for their kids and if a few of us "lesser" slipped in it was of no concern to them. It didn't bother me, because those rich kids just backed down when you cussed and spit on them. If could outfight most of them and damn sure outrun the rest.
I often wonder what would have been my lot in life if I had married my girl friend right out of High School, or as some did, during high school because of kids. A lot of the old gang of guys went to work in the plants there in Wichita and some progressed up the chain until they hit some plateau and are just waiting to retire. Some did not listen to their body and died. Two just didn't go to the hospital until they died ugly and hard. One of the smokers has had more cancer than I care to think about and is lucky to still be alive. There is one of my friends that has evolved in to the neighborhood drunk. He still lives right in the middle of that place and wonders why many of us moved away and on with life.