Is there anything more welcoming than a front porch?
For years I have lamented the near demise of the front porch. As a kid growing up in a city neighborhood, the front porch was part of everyday life. It was a playground on too hot or too rainy days, a fort, and the place to plan all the events that we could cram into our summer’s days. It was also, and probably most importantly, the place that neighbors visited when strolling by one another’s house.
Those old cement and wooden porches were the foundations of the neighborhood. We could play with Buster Madison all day long but he became even more popular when his parents came out onto their porch in the evenings after supper. It was then that Mr. Madison would treat every kid to a piece of butterscotch candy. Mr. Madison would tell us that what he was sharing with us urchins was a piece of Callard & Bowser Butterscotch –“the finest in the world”. He may have been right, we just knew it was a special treat. To this day butterscotch of any type conjures up images of sitting on the Madison’s front porch with our little piece of England. At the other end of the block was Mrs. O’Leary. Her son was a policeman so we always settled down a bit as we passed her house. Ya’ never could tell when being extra nice would come in handy! Anyway, Mrs. O’Leary had some fine honeysuckle bushes in her yard. When she would sit on her front porch, we’d ask if we could pick a few (a few dozen, it always turned out) to get the honey. We could – if we didn’t trample her roses. Not being complete fools, those roses were treated with lots of respect for sure.
And, now, neighborhoods are mostly absent the front porch. We won’t even discuss gated “communities”. Our neighborhood, like so many others, has replaced the front porch with rear decks or sun rooms. Although, many of our neighbors have taken to setting up folding chairs by their front doors and garages to mimic the old porches. It works, kinda’. There’s even a sort of code: one chair, wave as you pass. Two or more chairs, you’d better stop and sit a spell. Our friends, Maria and Tom, usually have at least 4 and can somehow produce several others in the blink of an eye. Like true copy cats, we have assembled our hodge-podge assortment of “front porch” chairs, too. It’s great.
So, imagine my surprise and curiosity when it was announced that Jacksonville was holding this weekend its Second Annual Front PorchFest in the Springfield section of town (PorchFest) . Since The Redhead was up North visiting friends and family and my list of things that needed to be done had dwindled, I figured it was a good chance to explore another area of town and to see some front porches – I hoped.
Sure enough, Springfield is about 25 minutes from here, a hop, skip and jump from the downtown and Riverside areas. Tricky folks over there – hiding in plain sight. Arriving a bit early, 12:00 noon and the music was set for a 1:00 P.M. start time, I had time to walk around. It’s a mixed area, with Main Street being the closest thoroughfare. The neighborhood is filled with large, early 1900 era homes sitting side by side with bungalows and craftsman-style houses.Some have been converted to professional office spaces but most are home-sweet homes. Mixed in is an ample dose of abandoned and run down houses and buildings. I’m told these are being bought and renovated on a rather steady basis. None the less, home is where the heart is and this place, it turns out, has plenty of heart!
For a bit over three hours the hands of time had turned back. Front porches everywhere! People were walking around on the sidewalks and in the road. Food trucks, set up on the periphery, sold everything from fresh ground beef hot dogs (yep!) to fish sandwiches to organic fruit “hand pies”. The Redhead will be happy to learn I was very sensible and stuck with the fish. I did get the address for the local bakery making those hand pies, just in case.
But, the music was reason most everyone was there. The Methodist Bell Ringers set up on the park green, A Soul Group was singing to heaven and us up on Silver Street. Blue Grass was around the corner. A folksy gal was on third and the popular Firewater Tent Revival was just up the block. (note the drum kit)
Too much? No way! All of this was within a short stroll and a few hours. Evening would bring out larger musical groups, some of which I had had the pleasure of hearing at the Riverside Art Mart or my beloved Lillie’s. For me, previous and much looked forward to engagements (plus some unseasonable heat) kept my time at the PorchFest too short. So, I hoped to find that one special group or singer that would be “better than good”.
I was not disappointed. Complicated Animals is a duo now in Jacksonville, but singer, Monica da Silva, originally hails from Brazil. They call their style of music, Indie Nova. Their arrangement of, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”, was an intriguing blend of Lou Reed meets Suzanne Vega meets Astrud Gilberto, without a hint of pretension. Wonderful stuff. Complicated Animals http://www.complicatedanimals.com/ can be found at several venues right here in the Jacksonville area when they are not touring. This Saturday they sung, just for me I think, from the front porch of a charming old colonial.
How wonderful front porches are!
Hope to hear from you. Better yet, stop by. The front porch is all set!