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Neighborhood tries to recapture magic

A little less than 30 years ago, the alley behind the 2000 blocks of North Second and Third streets was filled of magic.

On Friday night, the grown-up children from that generation were looking to rekindle it.

The blocks make a true neighborhood, the sort of place where a neighbor watches the children until parents get home from work, or picks up the mail while others are on vacation.

It was also site of several block parties, the last one took place in 1977. Since then, a generation of children has grown up, moved on and now returned to what the neighbors all refer to as "the alley."

John Willis grew up on the alley, and always had fond memories of the parties. He and other neighbors had always talked about putting another together, and they knew it was the right time when several former residents returned to their childhood home.

"We always talked about it, but as the families started moving back in, we all started saying 'We've got to do something,'" Willis said.

It was Willis and neighbor Kathy Staton who originally began discussing the block party months ago, but it has been about two weeks in the actual planning stage.

The two were soon joined by other neighbors that worked hard to recapture the feeling from that last block party.

It wasn't the first time that the residents of the alley have had to work together; they've also tackled a little civic improvement, another method of preserving their childhood.

"Growing up, the alley was part of everybody's yard, we'd play flashlight tag, kick the can, everything," Willis said. "Then the street started breaking up, so we got together with most of the neighborhood and came up with enough money to have it paved again."

In the old days, it wasn't uncommon to see a dozen children relaxing around Staton's parent's swing. Now, the tradition has been passed on.

"Now, our kids congregate here," Staton said. "This is where they loaf."

As she spoke, neighbor Frances Miller informed Staton and Willis that a few neighbors who had moved on were headed back into town for the party.

The block party is especially important for Miller, who moved in on the same day as the last block party, May 30, 1977, he remembered easily.

"I don't want to miss this," Miller said. "That was a good time."

"Well, we hope to repeat it," Willis called out with a smile as Miller walked off to collect his lawn chairs in preparation for the first alley party in a long time.