It’s a small-town phenomenon: Parents raising kids on the same block where they grew up — with grandma, aunts, siblings and cousins all right around the corner. And it has been that way in small towns just about as long as anyone can recall.
But it’s also common in the Sparkman neighborhood, with some families three or four generations deep, making Sparkman feel more like a village and less like a big city.
Here’s a look at what’s bringing neighbors back home generation after generation, and a candid discussion about what it’s like having your in-laws living across the street.
The Hilburn family greets you like an old family friend. The family’s Oak Cliff roots run deep. Tom and Cheryl Hilburn built their home on Alco Drive three years ago, but they’ve lived in Oak Cliff most of their lives. Tom was the son of a Dallas police officer, and would later make that his profession as well. His mother worked at A. Harris, a predecessor of Sanger-Harris department store, for over 30 years. Cheryl grew up in Oak Cliff and worked at her cousin’s business, Lone Star Donuts, as a teenager. Her father, Glenn Smith, owned Majestic Paint & Body.
Although they’ve moved around a bit, the Hilburns make their homes and memories in Oak Cliff.
The Hilburns moved to Duncanville when Steve was in ninth grade, but they came back to Oak Cliff when he was in college. And after college, Steve and his wife, Stacey, moved just around the corner from his mom and dad. They don’t have children, but Steve and Stacey can count on Cheryl to take care of their dogs, and their lawn. Once, Cheryl walked over just to water the grass, while Stacey and Steve were inside watching from the window. Things like that — and free meals, Steve says — are the perks of living so close to his parents.
The family members think Oak Cliff is getting better and better. And they like to see their neighbors building houses and fixing up old stores. The Hilburn family is much like Oak Cliff itself: deep-rooted, close-knit and friendly.
Walking into the home of Carla and Butch Boss, you would think that you entered a museum — chandeliers, a grand piano, crystal decorations everywhere. But right upstairs, grandchildren are jumping on beds, running around and playfully tackling each other. Carla and her three children, Lisa, Wendy and Jeremy, burst into fits of laughter at the sound of children ransacking the second floor of the house. This is just a peek into the jolly Boss family.
Just as Carla and Butch are the rock of the family, so is their house. Daughter Lisa lives three houses away with her family. Wendy lives two streets over with her husband and children. And Jeremy lives about six blocks away with his wife. The three Boss siblings, after spending years at college or trying out different cities, moved back to Oak Cliff for the unique sense of community, and of course, the family. “If it wasn’t for Oak Cliff, I wouldn’t be in Dallas,” Jeremy says.
Lisa and Wendy wanted their children to grow up with their extended family right down the street, just as they grew up. At a moment’s notice, a grandparent, aunt or uncle can be there to babysit or check on a sick child.
Wendy and Lisa love living close to their parents, and they want to carry on the tradition when their children grow up. “I’m not thinking about them moving away ever,” Wendy says. And Lisa is fixed on buying three other houses on the block for her kids.
Lisa brings a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream from her mother’s freezer and sets it in the middle of the table. She hands everyone a spoon, and they all dig in. Wendy says, “People don’t know how lucky they are.”
Jacob and Joyce Locke first moved to Oak Cliff when they started having children 52 years ago, because they wanted to settle down in a nice neighborhood. When their daughter, Jerri, moved out and started a family, she didn’t go far for long. She moved in next door to her parents on Montclair Avenue.
Jerri says she likes having her parents as next-door neighbors because she gets to be with them in the “fun years,” instead of just coming around for special occasions, or when they’re sick or have a problem.
Although Joyce and Jacob are close to 80, they seem much younger. “Grandpa gets on the floor and plays with the girls, while grandma’s in the kitchen cooking dinner for the family,” she says. Jerri’s daughters, Grace and Annabel, who she adopted from China, love to watch grandma cook, and help every chance that they get. “If the girls are helping grandma cut vegetables, she’s right there and patient,” Jerri says.
Jacob walks to Rosemont Elementary School every school day to pick up his grandchildren, just as he walked to get his daughters years ago, stopping to say “hello” or chat with neighbors along the way. Joyce has been a volunteer at Edgefield Church of Christ for many years, and the couple also volunteers at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where Jerri works.
Everything in this family is done with humor, so it’s no surprise that Jerri couldn’t think of one negative aspect of living next to the house where she grew up. Although, her own house is part of the family’s history as well. Jerri says that when she and her sisters were growing up, “a mean old woman” lived in the house where she lives now. It’s hard to believe that the house, which was such a source of anxiety for them, has now turned into a house of immense love, she says.