CHICAGO (CBS) -- CBS 2's Jim Williams spent his formative years in the West Chatham neighborhood, just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway. He recently took a stroll down memory lane with a childhood friend and neighbor who perfectly explained why they look back so fondly on their old neighborhood today.
It's a cliché that Chicago's communities were once so close, people knew all of their neighbors. It sounds like an exaggeration, but in West Chatham in the 1960s, it was true.
Even decades later, April Mosley can recall all of her neighbors, including Williams; connected by a common conviction: you didn't have to be related by blood to take care of every child.
"The parents looked after us as if we were theirs," she said. "You did something wrong, they're going to get you."
As Williams described it, West Chatham "was a village."
"There you go. We grew up in village, and you don't see that anymore," Mosley said.
Mosley has been Williams' friend for 60 years. She knew him when he was a painfully shy kid, terrified to read out loud in front the class.
They were in the same grade at Hookway Elementary School, and lived across the street from each other in a time when – even at five and six years old – children in Chatham could walk to school without an adult.
"We would walk throughout the neighborhood; never had a problem," Mosley said.
It was 1962 when Williams' parents – his father, a Chicago police officer; and his mother, a special ed teacher – bought their small house for $20,000.
For Black Chicagoans, with limited housing options in a sharply segregated city, Chatham was a modest slice of the American dream; a place where parents of various income levels led youth sports, and scout troops, and the Camp Fire Girls.
"It is symbolic of people striving, and making it, and making it on their own terms," said Nedra Sims Fears, who leads the Greater Chatham Initiative, and lives in the community too. "So all the things that made Chatham attractive back in the day, it's still attractive, and people have come."
Despite a loss of manufacturing jobs that's hurt Chatham's economy, and even though more African Americans live in the suburbs today, Chatham's residential streets mirror the pristine streets of Williams' childhood. West Chatham Park, where he played Little League, is even nicer.
Sims Fears said Chatham is still a good investment, and it's been more attractive during the pandemic.
"You can buy a two-unit condo in Bronzeville for $250,000, and you can buy a house in Chatham for $250,000. People got out of those small condos in Bronzeville and Hyde Park, and came and lived in Chatham," she said
Mosley and Williams both live elsewhere now, but they're grateful that when they were children, a village was home.
"I think I was a lucky lady to be raised here in West Chatham," Mosley said.
People ask Williams, a native South Sider, how e became a Cubs fan. Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, lived in Chatham, and Williams and his family knew him. He was part of the community.
for more features.