Downtown neighborhood to reunite

Published 10:55 pm Monday, June 15, 2009

Nearly 50 years ago, a neighborhood where generations of children had grown up was razed to make way for the city’s new municipal building.

“We were a poor neighborhood, said Dalton “Doodlebug” Russell, one of the children who grew up on Spring Street and played in Pender Park. Spring Street ran through where the municipal building now sits, and the city’s Market Street parking lot now covers the area where Pender Park was.

Despite the neighborhood’s economic status, the children there were rich in friends, said Russell, who was born on Spring Street in 1933. There was never a shortage of other children to play with.


Email newsletter signup

“We used to gang up and play ball and have a good time,” Russell said.

Now, Russell and Mary Walsh are helping to organize a reunion for the neighborhood. They have sent invitations to Saturday’s event to more than 100 former residents of Spring, Wellons, Barn, Washington, Chestnut, North and Market streets from 1930 to when it was razed.

The first such reunion was held in 2003, and was deemed a success, with 81 people in attendance. Russell and Walsh are hoping for a similar response this time.

“I’ve got about 76 people” that have confirmed attendance, Russell said.

The reunion will be held at a clubhouse on Deer Forest Road, owned by Russell’s brother. The event begins at noon, and food will be served at 1:30 p.m. The organizers are providing food, but ask attendees to bring a dessert to share. In addition, people might want to bring old pictures to pass around.

Many of the old residents of the neighborhood still live in Suffolk, Russell said. Others live nearby, but a few have spread across the country. Some attendees at the celebration will be coming from as far as Minnesota, Michigan and Maryland.

“We thought everybody was poor,” said Russell, reflecting on his childhood. “We didn’t know any different. We grew up poor, but a lot of us have done pretty well. We had a couple of millionaires out of this bunch.”

To get to the clubhouse on Deer Forest Road from downtown Suffolk, go down Carolina Road, turn left on Deer Forest Road and turn left at the first lane. The clubhouse will be visible about ¼-mile from the road. Balloons will be at the intersection of Carolina and Deer Forest.

For more information, call 539-4675.