Six Degrees of Frayser

NEIGHBORHOOD STORIES

By Kelly King Howe

It’s just another Friday night.

The football game is over, and the real fun has just begun. Frayser Boulevard is one long line of cars, starting at Wendy’s and ending at McDonald’s. The cars were different. Some new ones, some old. Different colors, various sizes, some that commanded attention and envy; some that might not make it the next Friday night. All the cars were different, but inside the cars was a common thread, an unseen force that brought us all together, and to this day, still guards that bond.

We were Frayser.

That made us family. No, that STILL makes us family. That bond is very much still alive and well.

Maybe you stopped at Taco Bell and talked for a while. You might head to Grant’s parking lot, although for the life of me I can’t remember there ever being a store named Grant’s there. You might go across the street to Big Daddy’s for a hamburger and a game of pool. To this day, when I hear songs that played on the jukebox there, I am immediately carried back to that time . . .

We stepped out on the dance floor, and the band starts to play, holding you close, I get carried away. Finding that falling is easy to do, lost in the feeling again.

Feelings. Home. Family. This was my world growing up in Frayser in the ’70s and ’80s. Everybody knew everybody. Today we call this Six Degrees of Frayser. Everywhere you go, someone will know someone or know someone who knows someone that grew up there. “Where did you go to school?” means where did you go to high school.

And inevitably, when someone asks me this question, it launches a round of “Oh my husband/ neighbor/ cousin’s wife/ boss’ husband/ best friend went there! Did you know them?” And I usually do. Because everyone knew everyone. Because we were family. We looked out for each other. We did life together: went to school in neighborhood schools, worshipped in neighborhood churches, and shopped at neighborhood stores.

The friendships I developed in those years are still some of the most important people in my life. They have stood by my side through all the messy and painful parts of life. They have celebrated the victories and milestones. And I have done the same for them.

Most of the definitions of neighborhood deal with location. But to me, growing up in Frayser, neighborhood meant friends who felt like family. And now, it means that even though we may not live near each other, we are still a neighborhood. Because a neighborhood is much more than a location on a map.

I grew up in Frayser, and I am so glad I did. <>

Frayser High School captured in the 1970 school yearbook.

Kelly King Howe is a self-described gypsy soul with a love for Memphis, a terrible sense of direction but an awesome sense of adventure. She writes for StoryBoard Style.

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