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Reminiscences of a Raleigh Boy: Part 5

Before It was Glenwood South

This is how Ravenscroft School looked in 1972, right after the Glenwood Towers seniors apartment building was built. It had remained virtually unchanged since my school days there in the late 1950s. The buildings were converted to office use shortly after this photo was taken. Below is the view today.

Last week GNR publisher John Morris and I attended the Blogger Bash at the Edge Office on Glenwood Ave. Afterwards, we stopped in at a nondescript bar on Tucker Street around the corner from the Cafe Helios coffee shop.

As we were sitting on the outdoor deck sipping our brew, engaged in heady conversation, John asked me if I remembered Glenwood South when the strip was primarily a commercial and industrial area. (He relocated to Raleigh just four years ago, so he knows the area only as the entertainment district it has become in recent years.)

Well! It just so happened that the deck we were sitting on is across the street from what is now Glenwood Towers, a subsidized housing complex for seniors. I pointed to the old stone buildings adjacent to the high-rise which now serve as offices for the Raleigh Housing Authority. That, I said, is where I went to kindergarten in 1956-57, when it was the Ravenscroft (Episcopal) School.

At that time the school campus occupied the entire block. The two-story stone classroom building adjoined the stone church, where we kindergartners attended daily chapel. The headmaster lived with his family in the stone house next door.

On the Johnson Street side an open creek (Pigeon House Branch) ran the whole length of the block. A WW II-era Quonset hut on the grounds served as the 6th-grade classroom. And the sprawling playground was where the high-rise itself now stands. With its tubular-steel jungle gym, swing set and see-saws, ball field and “merry-go-round,” this playground was a 5-year-old’s fantasy land!

As I recall, that end of Glenwood Avenue was still all residential in the ’50s— except for the Pine State Creamery across the street. I was beguiled by that building back then, with its tall, yellow-brick corner tower lording over our playground. Seems I remember my class got a tour there once, and we were even treated to a sampling of ice cream.

The low-lying area between the Norfolk Southern train trestle and the Seaboard tracks to the east was all houses. That part of town was known as Smoky Hollow. Back then it was a blue-collar neighborhood whose residents worked primarily for the railroad and other industrial businesses in the vicinity.

Sometimes, after my Dad picked me up from school, we would drive through there on our way home. I recall vividly the pall of smoke hanging over the place in the wintertime.

Raleigh’s minor league baseball park, Devereaux Meadow, was located across Peace Street from Smoky Hollow. That venerable sports facility was demolished in 1979; the city’s sanitation department occupies the site today.

Just beyond the Norfolk Southern trestle in this shot is where Smoky Hollow used to be located.

During the mid-1950s, Glenwood Ave. from Tucker south to Hillsboro Street, had begun transitioning from residential to commercial. Businesses such as auto garages, tire shops, upholsterers, plumbers and typewriter and TV repair shops occupied the storefronts along the street.

By the early 1970s the transformation was virtually complete, although a handful of houses and apartment buildings intermingled among the small businesses. At that time I was working as an awning technician and picture framer at Clark Art Shop, located at the corner of Lane Street, which dead ends at the tracks.

During my lunch break I would often walk down the block to the Milk ‘n More Store for a pint of chocolate milk and maybe a pack of Nabs or a Honey Bun. The Milk ‘n More was sort of an outlet store for Pine State Creamery across the street. The TexMex restaurant on the corner occupies that store building now.

I can hardly visualize those days now, what with all the traffic and entertainment activity going on there, and with high-rise condos and apartment buildings sprouting literally on every block. A major entertainment hub now occupies the old Pine State building. Clark Art is still in business, though I think they no longer make awnings.

And across from the no-name bar on Tucker St. is the Ravenscroft playground, where, in my memory anyway, a 5-year old Raleigh Boy still plays to his heart’s content.

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