The Front Porch

A front porch is the direct opposite of a rear patio! You don’t see many of them anymore. In years gone by, the front porch was the control center of most households and the “get to know you spot” for many homes. The seating arrangement was easy and not complicated. A few pieces of wicker, a small table for the drink, and you’re in business to do some “visiting”.

I don’t think they build front porches anymore. I’m not sure why because they don’t cost the builder that much to put a simple deck, enough for a chair or two, facing the street, shouting distance from the sidewalk’s think it may have something to do with “architecturally incorrect” by today’s standard. Go figure!

In the “good old days” the front porch was the place that you retreated to after dinner, and before the sun went over the horizon, where you gathered, as a family, to compare notes, share gossip, and otherwise try to ‘one upmanship” your neighbor, or any one else passing by on the nearby walk way.

In my mostly blue collar Los Angeles neighborhood in the mid 1950’s we had a porch that was no more than six feet from the sidewalk and it was easy access to passer-buyers. The only man in the entire neighborhood that wore a tie to work was Mr. Johnson. He lived across the street and would stop by on occasion and visit with my Dad and me. I think their might have been a little jealously on my Dads part because I was mesmerized by anything Mr. Johnson had to say. Maybe it was the tie, maybe because he hired me occasionally to do a simple chore, and actually paid me for it. My Dad, a Packard motor Car mechanic, had no reason to be jealous, I loved that old man and wanted to grow up to be just like him.

Our front porch was actually on the side of the house because we lived on a corner, but they still called it a front porch. Sounded better than “side porch” I guess. Anyway, ours faced the street and during the hotter part of the summer, us young guys would dig the tar out of the cracks in the concrete; the city’s way of repairing huge cracks, and then rolled it into a ball and tossed it at someone. Usually another kid.

At night, the porch was a special place to be. As the sun was going down, but still enough light to see, the folks passing by were silhouettes in motion. and we, sitting there slightly looking down at them, with lights of our house glowing to our rear, we must have looked like a shadow come to life, or something.

The front porch was the reason people who owned homes in the neighborhood knew everybody that passed by, by their first name. People took walks in those days, after dinner, and would stop to visit with you if you happened to be on your porch during their passing. ”Hello there, Leo, how are you, and how is that Boy of yours doing?”. (As if I wasn’t sitting right there) Us Kids couldn’t get away with anything because if they didn’t see you do it, they heard about it, and shared it with your folks before the day was through

I remember a time when I had just turned into a teenager I approached my dad, his drink in hand, in his “porch” mood, and informed him I wanted to go the Military school. The monthly cost was probably more than my dad made in a year, but I figured I would ask. After all, he always seemed to be relaxed and in a good mood if he had a spell on the porch. My reason for wanting to go to an Army/Navy school escapes be, but it had something to do with wanting to keep up with a friend of mine who got into more trouble than I did and needed to be separated from his “bad influence” friends. My dad said no, I got angry, got over it, and that was the end of it. I never did go to that Army/Navy school; probably a good thing cause I didn’t take authority or orders very well and they would surely have been all over me.

Seems like today, family’s gather in the rear patio. I suppose this is the equilevent of a front porch, but how do you get to know the folks on your street if you can’t talk to them occasionally? I mean, talk to them when they’re in that “strolling’ mood that comes after a good meal, perhaps a drink, and an attitude of friendly sharing. I knew almost everyone who lived in any of the homes, thirty houses in each direction. You got acquainted with folks in those days, especially if we youngsters spent most of our time roaming around the neighborhood. My Mom told me to be home by dark, I was. Not a lot of crimes in our area cause everybody new everybody else and if something suspicious was going on, the word got passed around fast. I call it the “porch information machine”

I miss a front porch, and I still can remember the good feeling I had when someone came by that had something good to say about me. If it was somebody I had wronged that week, I usually went in the house when I saw them coming. By the time I went back outside, my dad usually forgot the misdeed and even if he did remember, he forgave me because as my dad loved to say “boys will be boys!” That’s porch talk!

By Dennis Milroy (





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