Country Overlook: ‘Everybody knew each other’

By Patrick O’Connor

The Country Overlook neighborhood was built in the late 1940s. Wichita had jobs and workers wanted to buy homes, often through the G.I. Bill.

JAMES HAYS and his family shared a duplex with his grandparents. “We were right across the street from MacDonald Golf Course. We would hop over the fence and go sledding on the course when it snowed, and my biggest memory — right across from our house outside of the fence of the golf course — was a baseball diamond. We played there most every day in the summer time. Just neighborhood kids, choose up sides, no uniforms, no coaches, no umpires, no parents. If we got thirsty, we drank from the hose of the lady who lived next door. As long as we turned it off, she didn’t care.

“My father had a second-shift, white-collar job at Boeing. He got laid off once or twice. It was tough, but we got by. 

“Another one of my good memories is riding my bike all over the east side of town. We would ride to school sometimes, weather permitting. Go play tennis at Fairmount Park. Ride bikes to the Crest Theater. That was the go-to theater in the neighborhood … You didn’t worry about your bike stolen back then like we would now.”

Sisters JANICE OSBORN and ELLEN LaMONT run LaMont Stable in Derby, where they raise American Saddlebreds. 

Janice: “We were on Old Manor between Ninth and Tenth, in one of the little cracker box houses. There were very nice houses a block away. I also remember there was a drive-in near our neighborhood called the Big Bun, where hotrodders hung out. 

“We went to Murdock Elementary, which is no longer there. It was thrown up for the baby boom. It was a great small school. Everybody knew each other. “We could walk to it — eight or nine blocks. We had an idyllic childhood. The houses were small, but we didn’t know it. We had yards and sidewalks, kids on bikes, lots of kids, which was great. It was a small, sheltered neighborhood.”

Ellen: “We had the best backyard. We had a playhouse, and nothing was new, but we had a fleet of bicycles. Dad was a bicycle fanatic — couldn’t bear to see something get thrown away. He would fix them up. There were bikes for everyone. Everybody came to our house. Our block had a really good congregation of ladies that supported each other.”

Janice: “Even the mailman, George, would come in for coffee sometimes when they had their get-together in the morning. They would have Christmas cookie parties. Each lady would bring their best cookies to the party and take home an array. They were ‘50s housewives who did things the ‘50s way.”

Ellen: “Sometimes the neighbor would pay me for pulling weeds. I had a paper route for a little while, but I liked working at the horse farm the most. It was at Central and Edgemoor. I rode my bicycle there. I pestered them until they gave me something to do. I figured out what was needed and made myself useful. Pretty soon, I was working there. I could ride a little bit —sometimes you had to show people how to ride. It cost two dollars for half an hour. One time, I came off a horse and broke my collarbone. Got bucked off. It was my fault. I was eating my lunch, riding the horse bareback. I dropped my Kool-Aid jar and I reached for it.”

Janice: “Babysitting was my main thing. I was very in demand. I had this old, World War II backpack and I would pack it full of crafts to make. I had a head full of stories. I had kids that would be very upset if their parents didn’t have their weekly night-out.

These interviews were conducted for the Wichita Old Neighborhood Project. If you have a story about your old neighborhood, contact Pat O’Connor at wichlitsoc@gmail.com or 316-832-0309.

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