Alley Rats may seem like a derogatory title, but when I was a kid there were a lot of us kids who wore that title, if not proudly at least accurately.
In those days when everyone but country kids walked to school, we used all avenues including the alleys, the tracks and the sidewalks to get to school or downtown. The world looked different when you looked at the rear of sheds and back porches in the neighborhoods.
The difference now is a lot of those old sheds and garages are gone or have been replaced with newer buildings, which are not as interesting.
Since I no longer walk the alleys of Sedalia, the only place I can see buildings like my friends and I walked by as kids are in the movies or old magazines. There are scenes in one of my favorite Christmas movies that always takes me back to those days. Ralphie and his friends in the movie “A Christmas Story” used the alleys in the same manner the McCoy boys, Donnie Harbit, John Riley, Bob Sublett and I did in the ’40s and ’50s. There were dangers in those alleys, and I recall dodging bullies and bulldogs in those days.
The bulldogs of the story were those English bulldogs with the teeth that show even when their mouths are closed, and I can vouch for the fact that they are sharp too. The biting incident took place one morning as one of my friends and I were on our way to Washington School, and were walking behind another group of kids using the same alley that ran between East Fifth and Sixth streets.
We were well aware of the man who had a shed on the alley that kept his pair of English bulldogs locked up inside when they weren’t in his house. The dogs must have been growling at the group walking in front of us because they started beating on the door that came out onto the alley before moving on toward school. The problem was the man, thinking perhaps he would teach the kids a lesson, let the dogs out just as my friend and I reached the shed.
It was a scary situation for us young boys seeing those two dogs filled with fury coming at us, and we climbed the fence on the other side of the alley pretty quick. I was not quite fast enough however, and one of the dogs shredded my pant legs. As I recall, my mother was not too pleased, and neither were the police who must have given the dog owner quite a talking to, because the dogs were never in that shed when kids walked past after that.
I recall mom telling me not to ever walk in the alley anymore, but I’ll bet she knew I broke that promise almost immediately, after all the alleys were more interesting than the street. As I said, I don’t walk the alleys anymore, but I am looking forward to seeing that alley scene again when I watch ”A Christmas Story” this year.