Front porches on the old homes in Junius Heights and Munger Place begin to earn their upkeep in the summer. That’s when Yolanda Odom drops in on friends and neighbors, or welcomes others who find themselves in the middle of porch parties.

“They usually are more fun when they’re not organized,” says Odom, a self-confessed “stay at home person” who lives with husband Lanhon and their two children in Junius Heights.

“You’re driving by and see someone out on the porch, and you decide to stop. Then other people start to show up, and someone runs to 7-Eleven for chips and dip.

“Porch parties just happen,” Odom says.

Such casual activities typify summer in East Dallas. We can run or bicycle at White Rock Lake, look for new books at neighborhood libraries, enjoy seasonal flower exhibits at the parks, and harvest vegetables from our gardens.

We asked several neighbors about their summer plans, and we pass them on to you here, along with some of our own suggestions:

Dig up the Garden

Lawn care is hard work and can rob a homeowner of precious leisure hours. So, this summer, why not hire a kid to cut the lawn while you tend your garden? Or better yet, hire a kid to mow the garden so you can work on your lawn.

“I’m amazed at how many of my ‘M’ street neighbors are gardening,” says Patrick Butterworth, the “resident English gardener” at Mother Nature Garden Center.

“It’s one of the greatest weekend avocations.”

Butterworth is making plans to attend the Dallas Symphony Orchestra summer concerts on the lawn in the downtown Arts District. But he’ll make time for his organic garden, where “I’m finishing off my crop of lettuce and potatoes. I don’t like okra that much, but I’ll grow it because it’s good for you,” he says, along with tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, pole beans and burpless cucumbers.

“I garden like crazy,” Butterworth says. “Even though I work in the business full time, this is my hobby.”

Something for Seniors

“Older adults helping other older adults – and others in the process,” is the theme at the Greater Lakewood Shepherd Center, an inter-faith agency that holds classes and events at area churches and other locations.

A $12 quarterly fee ($15 after July 1) qualifies seniors for most activities. The quarterly schedule includes classes in foreign languages, ethics, quilting, needlework and bridge; travelogue and book review presentations; line dancing and theater groups; lunch and breakfast clubs; and trips to local theaters and Texas attractions.

A water exercise class meets June 10 at the Belmont Towers pool. For more information, call 823-2583.

Fire up the Fourth

At dusk July 4, the Lakewood Country Club shoots fireworks from the golf course. Find a safe place to sit in the area and enjoy the show.

Freedom Fest runs from 1-11 p.m. at Fair Park the same day, offering music, cultural entertainment, midway attractions and fireworks. Park officials expect 100,000 people to attend.

Y Not Get Wet?

Gigi Woodruff not only coordinates events at the East Dallas YMCA (824-8139), but will teach a lifeguarding class in July for anyone 16 and older.

“We’re geared up for kids in the summer,” she says, “but we also have programs for adults.”

The programs are free to members, while non-members pay modest fees. Hour-long adult fitness and water aerobics classes begin June 2 and run monthly through September. Group and private swimming lessons are available, and a “Terrified of the Water” class will teach new adult swimmers.

Don’t Pick the Flowers

The Rose Garden at Samuell-Grand Park features 258 varieties of roses – park maintenance supervisor Sandra Hicks has counted them. Budget cuts threatened the garden before the Dallas Men’s Rose Society and the Dallas Rose Society stepped in with donations.

The garden is easily accessible from Grand Avenue, and the roses bloom through August.

For more free flower viewing, visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden from 3-6 p.m. on Fridays. That’s when the Arboretum drops its regular fees.

“So many people forget Texas has a beautiful growing season in the summer,” says the Arboretum’s Jill Magnuson.

East Dallas resident Jim Gerken and his children take advantage of that Friday schedule. “You can find something different every time. It’s the best deal in town,” Gerken says.

Look for roses in the Heritage Rose Garden and caladium and lantana in the Jonsson Garden. Two straight rows of crepe myrtle trees will bloom in Crepe Myrtle Alley, in the middle of the Arboretum pecan grove.

Life at the Lake

“I suppose the activity that’s at the top of my list is to walk or jog at White Rock Lake,” says attorney and former city councilman Lee Simpson. Simpson runs early in the morning, and later in the day, he says, “I take my two little boys, who are increasingly interested in fishing. We explore the shoreline and look for places to fish.”

Blade Runners

Walk through Fair Park in the early evening and you’ll see “tons of people rollerblading” across the wide concourse near the reflecting pool, says graphics designer Peggy Bennett. Bennett joins the ‘bladers, while husband Josh Alan, a writer and musician, runs his 9-minute miles through the park.

“It’s completely open,” says Bennett, “and there are a lot of police patrolling, so you feel safe.”

Drawing a Bead on Fun

Anna Esler of Anna-Crafts in the Lakewood Shopping Center (828-9393) offers classes in basic beading, star beading and, if you can handle it, the challenging off-loom beading. Learn to make your own beaded earrings, belts and fringe. It’s the latest fad in the art world.

“People have always been interested in beading, but it has become that much more popular as clothes designers place more emphasis on sparkle and glitz,” Esler says.

If you can’t bead, she says, try weaving.

“Lots of times in the summer, I find people want a short-term project but also something they can carry around. This is where stitchery comes into play,” Esler says. “They can roll it up, cart it around, and take it out when they have some free time.” Another idea: Try a cross-stitch pattern, where you weave a design through a canvas grid right into a T-shirt.

Read a Book

“There’s not anything you can’t find out in the library,” says Dora Franco, who manages the upstairs apartments at the big, old house in which she lives on Victor Street.

“I go to the Lakewood Library sometimes just for a couple of hours and watch the people come and go. I love that.”

A trip to the Lakewood or Casa View libraries can top off a good day. Sometimes, Franco and a friend will go out for lunch and shopping, “and then we go to the library and see what books are in,” she says.

She looks for health books, mysteries and romances.

“I’m a romantic freak,” she says.

A romantic freak or a romance book freak?


And when she gets home with her books, she’ll sit with one on the long, front porch with a glass of iced tea.

“Most of the people in the neighborhood like to sit on their porches and look at each other and watch the cars drive by,” she says.

Because it’s summer, and people do these kinds of things in summer, sometimes they’ll stop their cars. And then it’s time for a porch party.

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