Brandon James kneels in the doorway of a towering duplex on the 300 block of West Mineral Street in Walker’s Point, painting the upstairs door a deep blue. James, who owns the home, lives in Bay View but grew up in West Allis — “basically” Milwaukee, he says. “It was nice; it was quiet. I didn’t live too far from a park so we spent a lot of time at the park, at least in the summer,” he says. “We actually lived upstairs in a duplex that my grandma owns and my grandma lived downstairs.”
Casey Dominiak holds a smoldering cigarette between his hard-worn hands at a bus stop on the east side of 6th Street in Hillside. Dominiak, who grew up on the south side of Milwaukee near 8th and Oklahoma, attended Audubon Elementary and graduated from Pulaski High School. “Lived here all my life,” he says in a slightly-lisped, weathered tone.
Bashir Malik walks down the sidewalk at Bay View Bash, backpack on, art in hand, to meet some friends at a vendor tent. Malik grew up in a part of Milwaukee you might not be as familiar with, these days. “Before the expressway was here, I was on Lloyd and 9th,” he says. “Now, the expressway goes right through there.”
Barbara Gerow meanders past the wading pool at Humboldt Park coaxing her dog, Pokey, to keep up. Gerow, who is 75 and has been in her house – originally her great-grandfather’s – on Burrell Street for 51 years, supports herself with a walker as she talks. “The whole area, especially where my grandmother and grandfather’s house was, was Orchard Park. And I don’t know when it got changed to Bay View but it was interesting, you know?”
Philip Chinn stands with his pedicab near the corner of Jackson and Kilbourn during Jazz in the Park waiting for riders. Chinn grew up on the north side of Milwaukee near 55th and Mill Road before his family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when he was 8 years old. What does he remember from his time there? “Mostly, it was pretty chill. Our neighborhood was ‘bad’ but there wasn’t too many drugs, there, and there wasn’t a lot of shootings and stuff like that,” said Chinn. “It wasn’t the worst part of the north side, by any means.”
Amber Villarreal has been a mom for as long as she can remember. Villarreal, who grew up in Bay View, often had the responsibility of caring for her brother, who’s 10 years younger. “He’s actually like more of a son than a brother,” she said.
Robert Kebschull works on the yard of the house where he grew up in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. The 63-year-old Kebschull said he decided to re-do the home he’s lived in off-and-on for 40 years after his parents passed away around 2007. “I’ve been working on it, doing a lot of stuff inside, outside… we’ll see what happens when I retire – whether I stay here or whether I move on.”
As storm clouds gather over Humboldt Park, Carlos Avila and Erika Coria dance and teach a group of youngsters. Avila and Coria are part of Ballet Folklorico Mexico de los Hermanos Avila, a dance company that teaches and performs traditional forms of Mexican dance. Today, it is traditional Aztec dance.
Paul Doblinger sits in the parking lot of Eastbrook Church’s Holy Grounds Café on a Thursday morning. “Just comin’ home after third shift, here,” he says.
Steven Feih grew up in Brewer’s Hill and Bay View in a small family – it was just his mom, his dad and himself. “Being an only kid, you know, your dog’s your best friend, your imagination’s your second-best friend.” Though Feih isn’t what you would call a loner he has a complicated relationship with people, stemming from 20 years working as a bartender. “You see it all – you know what people are going to say before they say it,” he said.