MOLINE — They walked, they talked and they hugged. Man, did they ever hug. They even threw caution to the wind, venturing into the now fenced in yard of old Mr. Briley.
That was a no-no 50 years ago, but not on this clear and cool August morning.
"Back then if you threw a ball or a Frisbee and it went in his (Briley's) yard, you kissed it goodbye,'' said Craig Sanders, who with his brother, Todd, organized a reunion for those who grew up on Moline's 30th Ave. Court.
For the better part of Saturday, more than a dozen friends — now in their 60s — shared memories of a simpler, yet amazing time in a place that is still near and dear to many of them.
"It was a warm and it was safe,'' Craig Sanders said, marveling at the group that had gathered to share in the unique reunion. Some came from as far away as Portland, Ore. "I figured about 39 kids grew up on this stretch. We watched as homes sprang up and kids moved in. It's great that we could all get together and share this.''
Even with the help of the internet, it was no small effort to be able to connect this group with a special part of their past.
Through Facebook, many of the 30th Avenue Crew found each other over the past two years and started hatching the idea that the first-hand trip down memory lane would serve everyone well. And with a push from Craig and Todd Sanders, both former Moline Dispatch newspaper carriers, the reunion became a reality.
There was a social Friday, a unique memory-filled walk about the neighborhood on Saturday morning, lunch at the Maid-Rite, dessert at Whitey's and a gathering later that day. Sunday was open to chance.
Doug Dailing, like many of his former neighbors, walked the avenue Saturday and shared stories of days gone bye, chuckling about doing things that were safe and some not-so-safe.
"If it rained, we raced boats down the incline on the avenue,'' said Dailing, who now lives in Rockford. "We flew kites; I still fly them. We made skateboards, we played Wiffle ball and red light-green light. We had fun. If they ever tear up the avenue, they'll find the penny I laid there just before they finished it 50-plus years ago.''
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Dailing shared that he and the rest of the 30th Avenue Crew regularly used the steep, tree-lined path for sledding.
"OK, we are still here and that proves we were smart enough not to get ourselves killed,'' Dailing chuckled, walking part-way down a wooded area just off the avenue, only stopping because of the dangerously steep incline. "We were high flyers and risk-takers, but we are here to talk about it. No one ever said it was smart, some of the things you do as a kid, but it sure was fun.''
Those who gathered and shared were welcomed by everyone who calls 30th Avenue home today. One side talked, while the other listened to stories of riding bikes, 30th Avenue spring, summer and fall barbecues, and picnics, and that there was always somewhere to hang out in those days.
That Moline's Avenue of the Cities will always be 23rd Avenue to them.
"Yeah, what's up with that?'' Dailing asked, drawing laughter from Craig Sanders. "Still have Whitey's, still have Maid-Rite, but you couldn't do the right thing and leave 23rd Avenue alone? It will always be that to me.''
And, 30th Avenue will always be "home" for so many of the friends who gathered this holiday weekend.
Craig Sanders now lives on Duluth, Minn., his brother, Todd, resides in Princeton, Ill., and Leslie Fahey, Portland, Ore., just a few of the old crew who come home to revel in their memories, renew friendships and enjoy some of the things that made their days in Moline so special.
"Special place,'' said Marie Madallozo Foster, just before stepping in for a group photo. "Great people, great place. Home.''
Home it was, and home it will always be for the crew from Moline's 30th Avenue Court.