The following is known in the trade as a "helpful visual aid".
(You may well be asking, "What trade?", but I'm not going to tell you. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that I made that opening sentence rhyme.)
View Larger Map
In the map above, zoom into Caddy Road. #14 was my house. River Street was the main drag. You've heard the cliche about living on the wrong side of the tracks? The trolley ran parallel to the river, with Dorchester on one side and the rich suburb of Milton on the other. I lived in Dorchester.
(Milton was just named the second-nicest small town to live in from the entire United States, according to Money magazine. Dorchester wouldn't make that list even if the voting was limited to residents of Dorchester. My paper route was in Milton, and that will tell you most of the difference right there. Nobody from Milton delivered papers in Milton. It was all kids from Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, the parts of Boston that border Milton, who delivered their newspapers to them.)
To be totally honest, Caddy Road was a pretty nice street with mostly middle-class families. I wasn't living in a slum. But, if you wish to get a better feel for the neighborhood as a whole, zoom in on Sanford Street, or Wichita Terrace, or maybe Cedar Street, after you take a look at Caddy Road. You'll see that it isn't a place where rich folks congregate. Anyway, keeping with my current theme of generally pointless nostalgia, I was thinking about one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid - finding stuff - and I thought referring to the map might add to whatever scant enjoyment you're likely to have while reading this.
Be that as it may - and it might be - some things are found just because you happen to see them while you're doing something else. A few of my finds fell into that category, but I'm mostly talking about things that come under the heading of Stuff I Found While Really Actively Looking For Stuff. Now, that's not to say I was really actively looking for the specific stuff I found, but rather to say that I set out on some days with the specific goal of finding something. I started doing this because I quite often had stumbled upon found money (and not always in Milton.) It wasn't a big deal, but it was a dime here, a nickel there, sometimes a quarter, and plenty of pennies. Perhaps once a year, I'd stumble upon an actual dollar bill.
(That was always a thrill. A dollar, in those days, set up a Dorchester kid with enough money for candy and comic books for a whole weekend. And one time, when I was about 11, I found an actual twenty-dollar bill in the grassy median between The Star Market and the Arco gas station on River Street. That was spectacular. I had become the richest kid in my neighborhood in one fell swoop! I didn't worry about the cost of anything for a week. I went on a Mallo Cup and Zero Bar bender that was the equivalent of a sailor's drunken binge during a three-day shore leave. Looking back, I'm amazed I didn't go into a diabetic coma of some sort.)
Anyway, after having the thrill of finding a few coins, I started going out for walks around the neighborhood with the intent and purpose of finding things. The hope I had was to find more money, of course, but I realized that if I kept my head down and truly studied the gutters, or investigated the detritus that gathered in public driveways and cul-de-sacs, I would often find something that seemed just as valuable to a dumb kid like me.
Baseball cards and other sports-related collectibles were plentiful, although most were weather-scarred to some extent. It didn't really matter to me, though. In those days, I enjoyed baseball cards just because they were baseball cards, even if slightly damaged, and I had no notions concerning their future worth if they had been kept in pristine condition. They were mostly used to play "flipping" games with the other guys who had baseball cards. Whoever was competing would "flip', or sail, a card toward a wall. The kid whose card came closest to the wall got to keep all of the cards flipped during that round. Most preferable was a "leaner". That was when your card actually leaned against the wall in a semi-upright position. If you did that as the last player, you were the automatic winner, of course, but if you were one of the early shooters, your card now became a target, with the other kids trying to knock it down, and in order to do so, it had to be hit, and that tended to crease your card a bit. One way of gaining an advantage was to have a card that had been dipped in wax or paraffin, giving it more weight and a chance at better distance, but this was mostly considered a cheat and you might be barred from the contests if you tried it and got caught. In any case, all of these things didn't lend themselves to cards that kept their initial appearance.
(My main fun with baseball cards was in playing imaginary baseball games with dice, as written about in The Green Sox, which you could read if you have another hour or two.)
Matchbook covers were another good find, as they always contained enticing offers. My favorites were the ones that promised a high school diploma without having to go to school, which I would have dearly loved not having to do, but I never did mail away for the details. Others asked me to send away for something, such as stamps or coins from far-off lands, so finding them was useful for igniting imaginative dreams. I did send away for some stamps once (the cost was 10 cents, as I recall) and the stamp company was true to their word in sending back a big sack of the things, but they also sent a bunch of very valuable stamps "on spec", which I didn't understand at the time meant that I would have had to pay something like fifteen dollars (a relative fortune, to a kid) to keep those. I just thought I had gotten lucky and someone at the stamp company had made a mistake in my favor. My parents set me straight and made the necessary arrangements for return of those time bombs before I ruined them and they would have had to pay..
If I felt like doing something truly constructive, and not just going in for unrealistic daydreaming, I could always spend an hour collecting bottles that were returnable (after a bit of cleaning) for two-cents deposit each. Not only was I cleaning up the neighborhood, but collecting twenty-five of those gave me enough scratch for admission to the most excellent Saturday kiddie matinee at The Oriental Theater in Mattapan Square, a good five hours of entertainment value.
[From Tavern Trove, where I see that, as with the matchbooks, I would have been better off saving beer bottles rather than cashing them in for a deposit. I cashed 'em in for two cents, but now you can sell 'em for about $16. That's... let's see... a jillion percent profit, if my math is correct.]
Most of these scavenger hunts were made while walking along the streets of Dorchester, maybe investigating a few trash cans along the way if I felt adventurous enough. The best place to find bottles, though, was by the shores of the Neponset River. Teenagers who hung on the bridge, or nearby in the woods along the bank, would throw their empty beer bottles there. The teens weren't legally old enough to drink, so it wouldn't have been too smart to have a big pile of empties sitting by their side on the bridge when the cops drove by. I'm sure most of the empties ended up on the bottom of the river, but enough were on the banks to make it worth your while to explore for a few minutes. I recall one Saturday morning when Joey Santucci and I worked our way toward Mattapan Square (about a mile away by car, but a bit more by walking the river bank) with the express goal of finding enough bottles by the time we reached there to be able to go to the movies. We were successful enough to not only go to the movies (and get popcorn, besides) but also had a dime apiece left over, se we traveled home in style on the trolley instead of walking River Street.