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Childhood charm in yesterday Compton

Compton native Susan Firth recalls a gentler time in Compton, circa 1970s, when drive-ins were popular family entertainment venues before the arrival of street gang mayhem.

Compton Herald |
The Compton Drive-In had a mural of Viking ships on its screen tower. Opened in 1949, the drive-in has since been closed and demolished. Photo: William Gabel via CinemaTreasures.com

Yesteryear Charm: ‘My childhood experience was simple growing up in Compton; we watched cartoons on Saturday mornings, walked to the corner store, and rode our bikes for hours…’


My childhood was in Compton, Calif. during a time when everyone treated each other like family. We went outside to play, we got dirty and we didn’t eat fast food … we ate home cooked meals — garden fresh vegetables, fresh grown fruits, potted meat, tuna and crackers, Vienna sausages, Now-n-Laters, Frooties, pickles ….

We played Simon Says, Mother May I, Red Light/Green Light, Hide and Go Seek, Jacks, Marbles, Tag, Hopscotch, Jump Rope (with a long ass phone cord), Checkers, and raced against each other in the street.

The guys played football/softball in the middle of the street. There was no bottled water; we drank from the water hose. We watched cartoons on Saturday mornings, walked to the corner store and rode our bikes for hours without a cell phone. We weren’t afraid of anything, not even the police. If someone had a fight, that’s what it was — a fist fight. Kids didn’t have guns when I grew up. The street lights were your curfew. School was mandatory. We watched our mouths around our elders because we knew if we disrespected any grown up we were going to get hit with whatever was close.


Comment below if you’re proud that you came from a close-knit community and will never forget where you came from!

Suzan Firth (formerly Suzan Smith) grew up in Compton and graduated from Manuel Dominguez High School in 1971.

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  • Robert April 26, 2017

    Your description of your childhood is very similar to my own. We move to Compton from watts in 1961. I could not believe all of the fruit trees in my backyard. I actually could not believe the size of my backyard. Going up in Compton was idyllic. Real problems did not become apparent until the early 1970s with the rise of street gangs in the city.

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