It All Looks So Different

Pat and I were raised in the same city for half our lives, and return occasionally to visit relatives and doctors.  At those times we always seem to be pressed for time and just go to the same places pretty much.

Well, this time was different.  We traveled to watch a grandson play in his last state baseball tournament before heading off to college in the fall to, well, play more baseball.  Finding us with some time to kill before heading to the ball field, we were trying to eat up some time by thinking of places to go.  We ended up on the far side of the city deciding to drive down the old main street through the middle of downtown which, when we were young, was the main highway, route 66.  To cover the whole trip from one end to the other would probably take 45 minutes.

We started looking for old landmarks that we remembered from decades ago and surprisingly spotted some of them that amazingly were still in use, although looking rather frail and ratty.  The reminiscing began for times remembered, most of them pleasant.  What used to be a vibrant main street of growing businesses with new buildings of all sorts was now more of a run down series of businesses catering to a run down clientele of various sorts.  The first thing that jumped out was the metal ornamental fences that surrounded most of the businesses.  That was the first hint that theft and break-ins must be a problem.   The most startling was the curled razor wire on top of one fence that made it look like a prison.

We noticed that all of the old movie theaters were still there with the same names.  My question was, “Would you feel safe walking down the street at night”?  Answer: “No, not even in the daytime.”  There was an obvious “lady of the evening” standing on one corner, and although it was only 9:30 a.m., a man was so drunk he could barely stand while trying to walk.  Beyond my university alma mater we passed my old high school that had been marvelously transformed into lofts.  The classic brick structure still looked majestic.  On one corner downtown was the building that used to be Woolsworth five and dime where Pat had her first real job (not counting the Indian Trading Posts of her youth).  For after school on Friday, and all day Saturday, her two-week take home pay was nine or ten dollars.  She loved the job, especially being able to eat warm cashews from the nut and candy counter, with permission of course.

Past downtown was my first Jr. high school (still there), and farther on a lunchtime hangout the “Long Dog” (still there) where we would eat chili dogs and smoke cigarettes.  We remembered the times in our youth when all kids had the run of the city.  For ten cents we could board a bus pretty much anywhere in the outlying areas, ask for a transfer, and travel essentially all over the city.  Leaving home early on Saturday morning, the bus would take us far into the “East Heights” as they were called, to a classy public swimming pool where we would spend the day playing in the water learning to swim.  It was packed.  Our neighborhood had no such facilities.  Generally, we were required to be home before dark.

There were no phones on which to call home, in fact we had no phone at home until I was about fourteen.  Pat was somewhat higher class than I; they had a phone! Imagine that.  Cell phones?  Those were the places where you got one call.  Looking back, that all seemed so normal, and well it was.  Growing up in that time we never knew of anyone being kidnapped, let alone assaulted and murdered.  The only explanation is the Christian influence on the culture.  We were a Christian nation at that time and the behavior of all was modified and tempered by that influence.

In the lower classed neighborhood in which I lived, the only person avoided was the one of whom it was rumored smoked marijuana.  No one had seen it, but surely it was true in part because the street over, where he lived, was one block closer to the “sawmill” bunch, and that was not good.  Most of the kids we knew had a swig of alcohol once in a while, and smoked cigarettes, which many seemed to do including some medical doctors in tobacco ads.

A little past downtown we had to turn around and head to the ballpark.  Had we continued, we would have passed some of the nightclubs where I played as a young man (those now are not pleasant memories) and finally up nine-mile hill to the Indian Trading Posts where Pat spent many summers learning to wait on New Yorkers who after spotting the Indian in full costume (for photographs) were hesitant to get out of the car.  It’s hard to believe that the beginning of these memories began about sixty years ago but some seem as fresh as last week.

As with everyone else, the details of growing up can fill a book that would be very entertaining since we all have unique lives that are fascinating.  No two stories are the same.  Pat and I enjoyed our very brief “trip down memory lane” (oh how corny!), and we would like to hear yours.



  1. I love this post Dad!!! The fact that the memories “seem as fresh as last week” is so fun. You continue to make the most of all of your time and experiences, and I’m ever so grateful for that. Love you both!

  2. Thank you Daughter: I only hope Pat keeps me from the “ramblings of an old man”. I’m dying to write about the “real good” stuff, but I’ve got a reputation to protect (I think). Love Dad

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