Toy Street, in a designated city historic area, is only two long blocks. There is a mixture of private homes and professional offices. A handsome old brick school with large windows is being developed into condos.
A lot on one of the blocks was for a couple of years a formative place for me. I started school, housed in a large two-story house set back from the street, with a sidewalk sheltered by huge, old oak trees, leading to the front door.
The house, no longer there, was Haynsworth Private School, which I attended in first and second grades. There I learned to read, to print, to spell, to add and subtract and measure, and to get along with classmates and teachers. My friend Danny and I ruled at the kiddie park on one of the corners, where we walked at recess. Frequent field trips taught us about the community as we experienced the fire station, the police station, the zoo, the airport, and the downtown stores. In an upstairs hallway I received a polio vaccination.
I learned the 3 R’s with the kind and patient Mrs. Nell Hewell and the beautiful and enthusiastic Miss Betty Isbell; I learned group singing, toy band, marching, and dancing the Virginia Reel, with its dos-si-dos and Grand Promande, with the elderly, temperamental, fussy Miss Blanche Deschamps, who also read to us stories from Pooh and mythology. There were occasional talks in small groups with Mrs. Madelyn Haynsworth, the school’s founder and director. It was a place I began to love learning.
Everything is gone, surely all who taught, and many who learned there. Newer houses have been built closer to the street; one lot has become a vacant, paved place. There are no old oaks.
The walk down the street was pleasant: a blooming, fragrant gardenia greeted me in the yard at the head of the street. There were blooming hydrangeas and crepe myrtle trees, dogwood trees heavy with summer leaves, blossoming and fragrant hedges, a slight breeze at times, and the singing of a mockingbird; these enhanced the nostalgia.
The River Park.
A river runs through the city and reaches gentle falls. The city has made a park on both sides. There are benches and walls on which to sit. Children wade and splash by the shore. Singles and couples walk along the paths, some walking dogs, and many of the couples holding hands. I walk down paths, look down at the river from a suspension bridge, find a French bistro on a terrace by the river and sip a cafe au lait as I watch people passing, enjoying the long summer late afternoon. I approach the amphitheater and sit on a wall to watch the rehearsal of a couple of scenes of Titus Andronicus . Just as the sun sets and the full moon begins to rise, I leave, looking forward to being there again.