People always tend to think of Compton now as a crowded urban area, because that's what it has become. When I was a kid there, people knew other people by sight. My sister would point out Charles Mingus walking down the street, and he would be wearing a Chinese hat woven from straw (we called those "coolie" hats back in the
50s). He lived in kind of a funny looking house on stilts. Which was good because the area flooded quite often back then. One of the streets I lived on there ran so heavy with rainwater one year, I watched neighbor boys go down our street in a canoe. I walked into the flood waters, up to my chest into our big backyard, because I thought I heard our cat Maggie crying outside. She was inside as it turned out, and I was scolded for getting so wet.
When the rains came like that, later in a field about 10 blocks away a pool of quicksand would develop.
The street I lived on at that time was quite close to the Los Angeles River, not that that made a difference in the rainy season because the river came down our street. On a corner a few blocks away, a donut shop opened, and I was there for the grand opening when a trapeze artist in a sparkly blue bathing suit swung back and forth in the hole of the immense donut. Actually she came on second. A small black boy had climbed the ladder first, he couldn't resist, and made a few quick short swings back and forth before he was removed from the trapeze. The Big Do-Nut eventually became Randy's Do-Nut, and a Los Angeles landmark of sorts.
The concrete walls of the Los Angeles river were steep, but as a daredevil child I learned to ride my bike at an angle down the wall and go all the way down from the top to the bottom. I just couldn't ride my bicycle back up the wall.