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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Revisiting the Past

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

The other day I took a few hours to visit the neighborhood of my youth. After parking the car along one of the main roads, I walked past a now-closed mom-and-pop grocery store. Old memories soon popped into my head.

Almost every day in the summer and on Saturdays during the school year, I’d pull my battered, rusty red wagon behind me as I looked for empty pop bottles that litterbugs had tossed into yards or left along the side of the road.

Each quart-sized bottle fetched a return of five cents, while a “normal”-sized one was worth two cents. After collecting several bottles, I’d head for that now boarded-up grocery store. Usually the money that was given to me never left the premises for before leaving I’d buy either Superman or Batman comic books.

Several yards down the road stands an elementary school and a junior high. The old buildings, the ones that I attended, are long gone. A few months before the old elementary school was demolished, my brother and I took a tour of the place. I remembered some of the old paintings that still adorned the walls and I could actually go straight to the rooms that I attended from grades one through six.

My third grade teacher was special. It was her first year of teaching; she was young and pretty. More importantly, she was an excellent teacher. My sixth grade teacher was special, too. He made class interesting and it was obvious that he cared about his students.

I remember a bully by the name of Richard. For some reason he took a particular delight in tormenting me. One day, while waiting in line to return to the building after recess, he punched me. For once I was brave enough to punch him back. He then squealed to the teacher that I had attacked him.

Having the reputation of being a “goody two-shoes” paid off; the teacher would not believe that I would punch someone!

The junior high had many fantastic teachers but for me, the best of all was Mr. Davis who taught U.S. history. His class was informative and fun. Some administrators didn’t like him because he didn’t fit their concept of what a teacher should be like. However, the kids loved him; many of us stayed in touch with him until his death several years ago.

While these and other memories were flooding my consciousness, I arrived at the old home site. The porch that Dad had enclosed was still intact but the garage that he had enlarged was gone. I swear that the front yard has shrunk. When I was a kid it seemed like mowing it took an eternity. Now, even at my advanced age, I could polish it off in ten minutes!

Most of the concrete driveway that Dad had installed was still there. However, just as when we left the place in November of 1965, a sliver of the driveway on the left side of the entrance is missing.

Our neighbor, after having a survey completed, discovered that a little piece of our concrete was on her property. Dad offered her a good price for the sliver of land, but she refused. Soon she put up a fence against the driveway, making it almost impossible for a driver to get out of his car.

Across the street lived a very pretty girl who was just one grade behind me in school. For a long time I had quite a crush on her; unfortunately, she hardly knew that I existed.

A few months after moving to that house, we had the good fortune to get a couple fabulous new neighbors. I remember standing on the back porch watching as a black Chevrolet backed into a driveway a couple houses down from us. I wondered if they had any kids. They didn’t, but they became great friends and soon took on the unofficial role of “second” parents to my siblings and me.

Not far from the house is a field that now is overrun with weeds, wildflowers and even a few trees. Long ago, several neighborhood boys had cleared that land so we could play softball there. I usually played in the outfield which was difficult since I only had a catcher’s mitt. One day we quickly scattered when the biggest and strongest of the boys smashed a long drive that knocked a metal pipe off a far-away house.

Next I walked downtown, a distance of perhaps two miles. It was nothing to walk there and back when I was a mere lad but today my back was sore by the time I reached my destination.

The old Kresge building is still standing but it is being used for other purposes. If I didn’t blow all my hard-earned money on comic books, I would go there to buy the best submarine sandwiches this side of Mars. In my imagination I could still taste one of those culinary wonders - like one of Pavlov’s dogs I began to salivate.

When I was a kid, downtown is where most of the important businesses were located. Today the true downtown is on the north side. Sitting on a bench in front of the library, I remembered what a beehive of activity the downtown used to be. It’s kind of sad, but few things in life remain the same.

After resting my aching back, I began the return journey to my car.

Somehow I was both happy and sad. I was glad to relive such wonderful memories; perhaps I felt sadness because I realized that my youthful years are gone forever.

It is not a healthy idea to become obsessed with the past. We need to have our main focus on the present and the future. Yet, it is healthy to remember from where you came. To some degree, what you are today is a result of the experiences, both good and bad, that you had in your early years.

Getting into my car, in a strange, melancholy mood, I started the engine and slowly drove away - away from the reminders of an earlier part of my life.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Funny, I don't remember you living on my block, but your story says you must have.

Just a few days ago I told my daughter how the lady next door was so protective of every inch of her property.

My brother and I had so many Super and Bat man comics my mother said we had to get rid of them. Today they could make us rich.

The fourth grade teacher was young, pretty and smelled good, unlike cranky old Miss Custer who would never wear a sweater like that.

We played ball down in the field where two houses used to be and we ran a number of times.

The school is still there, but the neighborhood is long past gone. Houses seem to groan and cry. But there was a day when we washed their windows and mowed their lawns, swept their sidewalks and cleaned at the curb. Something folk called PRIDE.

Say, now I remember. Didn't you have a sister named Margaret with long pig tails?

Thank you for sharing your trip down memory lane. One of the best things about attending class reunions (50 years since graduating, next year) is to take this trip with others who were also there. It is sad how many are no longer here to share these memories. The rest of us keep them alive by including them in our stories of that younger time.

Mickey,

I recently visited every house I ever lived in (8).

It was really only a virtual tour via Google Earth but better than nothing.

Like you I was so surprised at how small some of these houses were.

Some had changed for the better and some for the worse and two seemed as if I had lived in them yesterday.

I would love to "Really" go to each house but that is definitely not in the cards anymore.

How I enjoyed reading about your "old house" and your collecting and redeeming pop bottles, and meeting a few of your teachers and hearing about your comic book collection.

You wrote a wonderful story and I hope you write many more recollections from "Our" youthful days.

I cherish my past, but also look forward to my future even though it may not be long. But my past is what I am today and I cherish every moment of it. Thanks for the nice reminders.

Very nice, Mickey. Sounds a lot like my old hometown in northern Wisconsin. You brought back many memories, most of them good.

Loved your story! At times we need to look at our past.

I remember revisiting the house where I spent my early years. When I visited as a teen, I noted that I had to stoop to wash my hands in the bathroom sink. I asked when and why they had lowered the sink, to which they replied, "We didn't! You just grew up!" Thought you'd appreciate that. Great story to read.

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