Waddaminute: Porch Culture

Something said at the Shiloh FLC Gentrification forum is not sitting right with me. And this is just my life experience, which may not reflect someone else’s who may have lived in a different era and place. But the idea of porch culture being so prominent isn’t exactly jiving with my memories.
I grew up in a mediumish North Central Florida city in the 1970s-1980s. I’ll admit there has been some climate change, but the general weather is hot & humid. I had no clue what people meant by humidity until moving north because when it was hot it was always humid. Shade did not matter, much. So in the 70s I think people did hang out on their screened (Florida has big bugs) porches, but as air conditioning, sweet, sweet humidity controlling AC in the form of window units became more affordable in the 80s and 90s people in my neighborhood were seen less often on their porches.
Also, I think cable also played a part. My family got cable in the early 80s, 1982 or 1983 to be exact. Yes, it is entertaining to watch the world go by sitting on the porch, but so are the stories and wrestling and that new Michael Jackson video in the AC.
FF to today in Shaw.
Not that no one hangs out on their porch or stoop. I will occasionally sit outside in the front yard, when the mood grabs me. Cell phone guy will be out, in his front, broadcasting his business (at some point he’ll wander to his backyard too) loudly and clearly. Other households will sit out front for a smoke, or to decompress before heading back inside. There are so many inside things that demand our leisure time, so it seems unfair to blame gentrification for the decline of porch culture. Maybe technology is to blame.

6 thoughts on “Waddaminute: Porch Culture”

  1. In the process of neighborhood change often identified with the G-word, the first in-comers often do avoid the social setting of the street, with its concomitant complications and misunderstandings, to the point of ripping porches off their houses if codes allow.

    In later phases, after the number of in-comers has reached the tipping-point, in-comers often initiate street-oriented community of their own, and may make efforts to include long-time residents with varying degrees of sensitivity and success.

    I have personally observed this occurring, block by block, in a dozen neighborhoods, for three decades.

  2. Interesting theories. For me, the porch-sitters sit on porches in the nice weather, e.g. fall afternoons and spring evenings. They go inside during summer afternoons and evenings. But there are always some outliers, like my parents, who bundle up in blankets in order to eat dinner on the front porch into October/November. They seem to have developed an aversion to the dining room table.

  3. in Shaw
    you are correct. it’s technology that has impacted porch culture more than G. room/central air, cable, fewer smokers…stuff like that.

  4. I’ve seen pictures from the 40s (or 50s) of my side of the block and there are as many porches then as today.
    I have a very good reason for not hanging on the stoop. Mosquitoes. I can slather on the DEET or other semi-sometimes-maybe alternative before spending time outside….. OR I can stay inside, where they follow me in to bite me.

  5. I’d be more inclined to sit on my front step if the neighbors didn’t “wander” by and start conversations that inevitably end in “so… can I borrow $10?” or “… why did you hire those other guys to paint your house/refinish your floors/fix your car when I could have done it?”

    I’ll stick to my backyard.

    – JM

  6. I’ve written about the importance of being seen in front of your house before. It’s a way to be available for interaction with neighbors in a close setting. I’d agree with some of the chat on the Shiloh Gentrification forum that not enough people do it.

    Then again, if a person _doesn’t_ want to sit on their front porch all day doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.

    But these days I can’t sit on my front steps without hearing the word ‘faggot’ (it’s gotten worse – I’ve made some calls with the GLLU) coming from down the street. So I prefer to stay indoors where I don’t have to deal with that crap.

    Anyway, some people are busy, have stuff to do, or aren’t home a lot. And video games and other MMORPGs are just too cool to ignore. When in doubt, I’m playing online rather than sitting on the front porch – but that doesn’t mean I don’t like (most) of my neighbors.

    I don’t get harassed by panhandlers, but I do get harassed by realtors who think I’m the rich gay owner of the house I rent. They NEVER STOP asking questions about how much the property is, how much I paid for it, etc. And they seriously don’t believe me when I tell them “I don’t know. I don’t own this house.” The weasley realtors seem to think just because I’m a clean cut white person that I’m also a gay real estate mogul. Not true.

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