GLENDALE — Three ladies walking side-by-side down the middle of the street laughing and talking. A 12-year-old boy shooting hoops in his driveway. A man picking raspberries in his front yard.
This is an average day in a special neighborhood. It's a diverse community and the neighbors are truly connected. They are extension's of each other's families. This isn't just any neighborhood, it's the Brantwood Lake neighborhood in Glendale.
“Well, you know, you often hear about the very large cities where people just don’t get to know each other, and so I would really say Glendale is a very welcoming community," Lora Hyler said.
In this edition of the My Block series, I met with Lora Hyler so she could show me her Glendale neighborhood through her eyes and experiences. Where we went, who we talked to, and what we talked about was all up to her. There was no script to follow. Welcome to Lora's Brantwood Lake neighborhood at Brantwood Avenue and Atwahl Drive in Glendale.
"Literally it looks like a parade going through (Brantwood Avenue) sometimes. You get the families with the strollers. The kids on their bikes or roller skating or on scooters, and so yea, it's just a really special place to just spend time out here," Lora said.
She has lived in this neighborhood with her husband for 28 years which means she is pretty familiar with all her neighbors, especially Lori Talasek and Erika Sander. We met up with both of them at the same time.
"Lori was the first person to introduce us to the neighborhood, and I'll never forget we actually found some baked goods in our mailbox with a little tag with her name on it," Lora said.
Lori has been in the neighborhood the longest. It's not the first time she gave a neighbor a little bit of food.
"(After school) I had various kids stop in, 'I don’t have my key.' Come on in and have a sandwich," Lori said.
She is kind of like the neighborhood mom in that sense. Lori also left some welcome treats for her now friend and neighbor, Erika Sander too.
"She was the first one on my door stoop also and, made the comment, brought a little banana bread," Erika said.
But this type of stuff is easy for Lori to do. It's just in her nature.
"I had people say, 'gee I don’t even know the person next door to me.' And I'll say, well whose fault is that. And they’ll say, 'well.'
Now Lori and Erika are close as can be and love to give each other a hard time.
"So I'm used to talking, but some people don’t appreciate the fine art of discourse," Erika said while motioning towards Lori.
"She talks all the time," Lori responded.
The three of them, Lora, Lori, and Erika all told me this while walking down the very middle of Atwahl Drive. There aren't sidewalks, but it is a safe neighborhood where one doesn't have to worry about reckless drivers.
"Well we are very fortunate that we can walk around this neighborhood safely. As well as a couple blocks west of us, we have Kletzsh Park. We have the beautiful waterfall," Lora said.
These walks are also ways people continue to connect, especially during the pandemic. Whether someone is sitting on their porch, doing yard work, or playing basketball in their driveway, it's an open invitation for a neighbor to approach them and strike up a conversation.
"The fact that you can take a walk like this, and bump into people, and say hello, and catch up on how they're doing. And that became very important during the pandemic just to find out how people are doing," Lora said.
As we began to say our goodbye's to Lori and Erika, we met one more member of Erika's family, her dog, Maude. In this neighborhood, dogs are another way relationships are built.
"We get to know one another by our pets name, so and so with rover comes up, 'ohhh it's rovers mom. How are you? What is your name again?' And then after about three of these encounters (we say), 'Don’t you think it's time we introduce ourselves,'" Erika said.
It's just another way to show how many people in this neighborhood put in the effort to get to know each other.
We said goodbye to Lori and Erika and made our way up Atwahl Drive to a man in his front yard picking raspberries.
"Did you guys just pick all these berries?" I asked the man.
"Yea this was just today," he said holding an entire bowl full of raspberries.
"That's a lot of berries," I responded.
"And every other day, I come out and get one of these," he said.
That man is Erik Sams. He picks these berries and his rhubarb plant to make rhubarb raspberry jam. Erik gives it out to any neighbor that would like some.
He and his wife Pamela moved to the neighborhood about eight years ago from Dusseldorf, Germany.
"We’ve lived in many other places and never have felt so welcomed," Pamela said.
The berry bush is interesting, but it's what is behind their home that is truly spectacular.
"People have said they have lived here for 25 years and never knew it was here," Erik said.
He is referring to Brantwood Lake which is directly behind his house. It's the man-made namesake of the neighborhood.
There are about a dozen houses that surround the lake. There are little docks that stretch out onto the lake, private beaches, and kayaks/paddleboards/boats in each yard. These lake homes almost make up their own neighborhood.
"In the winter, we have a skate and splash and a chili cook off. So the kids can go out and skate, they can go inside and use the pool, and then all the adults are enjoying and taste testing chili," Pamela said.
When it's warm and people are on the lake, it's not surprising to be called in by another neighbor just to say hi.
"Greg and Susanne down at the end. When we're out paddling, they’ll call us in and they’ll fix us a cocktail, and refresh us, and well stop in there for 45 minutes," Erik said. "Our grandkids really love fishing, so we'll go out fishing in the same boat."
You would never expect to see a lake like this tucked away in a suburb, let alone one that is on the Milwaukee-Glendale border. It's the rare dichotomy of suburban and rural that creates such a unique culture.
Listen. You hardly hear a thing, so you feel like you’re in the middle of no where, but you're five minutes from anything you need.
He's right. It's only a 15 minute drive to Fiserv Forum. The closet park with a view of Lake Michigan is Klode Park which is just eight minutes away.
Most importantly though, everyone in this extended family of neighbors basically lives on the same block. The next person we met was 12-year-old Fabian Davis Jr. On any given day, you can find him playing basketball in his front driveway. He doesn't just have one hoop, he has two. One is normally set at a regulation height while the other is lowered so that he can dunk.
"I'm the king of this driveway. He can’t beat me at all," Fabian says about his dad. He then proceeds to dribble and drive towards the hoop, but his dad won't let him have a bucket too easily. Fabian Davis Sr. swats the ball away to which Fabian Davs Jr. exclaims, "why'd you do that?"
It's all fun and games in this driveway.
"Sometimes when I have friends around, we play lightning. We play 1-on-1 and 5-on-5. Stuff like that," Fabian Davis Jr. said.
He is a multi-sport athlete which makes getting to practice a high priority. So what is one of Fabian's favorite things about the neighborhood?
"It's so close to all my sports I play."
Like the Sams, he mentioned how nice it is that any place he wants to go is just a short drive away; however, it still has a peacefulness about the neighborhood.
"It's pretty nice. Not like that much stuff, like bad stuff, happens, and it's pretty quiet. So that's why I like it," Fabian Davis Jr. said.
The neighborhood is just that, nice and quiet. But once you get the neighbors together, you're guaranteed to hear howling laughter down the street. In fact, once a summer, Atwahl Drive is blocked off so the neighbors can have a giant block party. Then it's not so quiet but in a good way.
This story ends where it began, at Lora's home. We met her husband of 30 years, Ken Pinckney.
On any given day, you can find Lora and Ken sitting in their backyard enjoying the nature their suburban home offers.
"Cause it is so quiet, and all you can hear is just the nature is great, and after a long day sometimes it's just nice to sit out and enjoy that," Ken said.
They describe their backyard as Disney-esque. It's common to see little critters roaming through the backyard like deer, rabbits, birds, and squirrels. In fact, when it comes to the birds, they are inviting them to come in and check out the scenery. They have two bird feeders they call 'the restaurant'.
"Thought it was a great idea to put in a single bird feeder just to see what would happen, and we got so many different types of birds I ended up putting a second one in, and we call that the restaurant here," Ken said.
This is an example of what the neighborhood offers. Even though they are on the Glendale-Milwaukee border, they still have a nature escape that is just a few steps away. It pairs well with a neighborhood that's extra friendly. You can have backyard parties, but also it also affords some privacy.
Any place that you want to move to you want to be able to go to a place where someone knows you gives you the space you need, but at the same time they’re always available and it's a great fun place to be around.
As we finished the tour of the neighborhood I had one more question to ask Lora.
“Is there anything else that you’d like to add about your neighborhood," I asked Lora.
“I think one thing that I’m really happy to see is that we’ve been here 28 years, and even though we are seeing turnover, we’re really continually embracing new residents in the area.”
Those new neighbors are embraced as family. The community has a tight bond. That’s something they pride themselves on.
If you would like us to come to your neighborhood for a My Block episode or know of someone you think would be a good candidate for this, email firstname.lastname@example.org.