Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hometown Tour

A few days ago I shared a story which included my father's visit to his old boyhood home.  Thus in a nostalgic frame of mind, I took a tour around one of my childhood neighborhoods via the magic of Google Earth.

I landed in the middle of the ten hundred block of Walnut Street, smack-dab in front of Wes's house.  This huge structure has been wonderfully maintained and looks better than ever.  Wes's dad, Ed, bought the house in the forties and stick by stick turned it into a home for his family and an apartment house harboring many others.  He eventually expanded the apartment complex into the one-time barn.  I do not remember exactly how many rental units he had.  Possibly five.  Maybe six. In later years, Ed was sometimes teased about his "White Elephant."  Laugh, he said.  I have ridden that elephant around the world twice.

At any rate. I started my tour at the alley beside the entrance to their residence where we used to start our games of "chase" with our marbles. Such a game could progress through many blocks of city streets and alleys.   I strolled past the house and surveyed the vacant lot to the north.  It is now a beautiful, well-maintained garden, vegetables and flowers nicely arranged to please the eye as well as the palate.  In the day, Wes and I built an underground fortress on this lot, a dugout with considerable room inside. Lumber cobbed from Ed’s projects formed a roof which was sodded over, thus blending in with the surroundings.  It is the same lot we ignited one sunny afternoon, and the local fire department got a free training exercise.  I forget what we got.

I walked on north to the corner of San Rafael where I could see that the building which was the corner grocery store still stands.  No longer is there a jingling bell attached to the screened front door. It has been converted into a nice little residence for someone.  Moving back to the south and past Mesa Road and Cache le Poudre I noted the new Bristol School.  I attended Bristol, but this place used to be a large tract of fallow land.  When I arrived at Dale Street, I noted that the neighborhood grocery building on that corner is gone, as is the Bristol School I attended.  I strolled up Dale Street, pausing for a moment in front of 514 where we lived for a year.  Looks to be well-maintained.  The next house to the west is a huge house which we called the Lee Cottage.  I remember when Dad had this structure moved to its present site from a location about a block farther west.  1947, I think,  All the school grounds and camp meeting structures at the west end of Dale Street on the south side are gone. There is a newish apartment complex there.

Back to Walnut Street, south a block to Monument.  I went up Monument to 520 where we lived for a year, then on to 532, our final residence in this neighborhood.  Moved from there when I was fourteen.  Everything west of 536 is new and different, hill is gone, school is gone, residences built all along everywhere, doesn't even resemble my old stomping grounds.

Back to Cooper Street, then on to the south.  One block, street jogs, and if it didn't, traffic would run right into a house my dad built.  Making the jog and going on down Cooper, there are two houses in this block that dad built as well.  At the corner of St. Vrain, turn left, go one block and there sits a church where Dad had been pastor.  The original building still stands, but there is a huge addition.

Back on Walnut, continue south one block, I pass the home of my high school trig teacher.  He would be long gone now, rest his soul.   Left at the corner, one block to Spruce, south to Bijou, noting that everything is changed.  Houses I knew, gone.  Convenience stores, stuff and so on.  Left on Bijou.  I see the viaduct ahead.  To my right I see a Denny's and a high-rise hotel taking up the area where the last house the folks lived in before moving to Indiana was located.  The viaduct, a new structure, of course, but in the same place as the old one, now crosses not only Monument Creek and the railroad, but also I-25, which not only did not exist in the day, but the Eisenhower administration had not even ideated the interstate system yet.

I went across the viaduct, around the bend and saw that the Pioneer Museum is gone, but the old library building still stands across the street from St. Mary's, the spire of which still points heavenward. When I was eleven years old, I pleaded with the librarian to permit me access to the "adult" section, the real library.  In that benighted day, kids under thirteen were banished to the "children's section."  I was allowed access, and one of the first books I chose and read was Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo.  At the corner where the Marksheffel building stood is a new library building.  And now we are "downtown" and everything has changed.  Almost.

Have you traveled via this vehicle?


Secondary Roads said...

I recently did a trip to the north side of Quito, Ecuador where Sylvia and I lived 40 years ago. Where there had been large open fields, there are now myriads of houses standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Fortunately, the bull ring still stands and that provides a handy reference point.

Sharkbytes said...

I have not tried it. Maybe I'm just too annoyed that they refuse to put our house in the correct location although I've corrected them three times. My small town has started a "history" page on FB, and I have to admit there have been some interesting pictures. I'd never, EVER go back there to live. Too many things have not changed.

Grace said...

Specific neighborhood where I grew up - boring and as soon as I was allowed I spent my time in Manhattan and that changes so fast you can go away for a long weekend and come back and find your building gone!

I think I tried Goggle Earth once and it didn't work so well on my MAC.

Oh yes, I remember 'graduating' to the adult library - Happy Day!

vanilla said...

Chuck, "going back" can be bittersweet. Yet some things remain unchanged. For a long time GE showed only the main drag in our town, but recently they came through and did the whole shebang.

Sharkey, seems your town is "stuck" in the past? Changes are not always good, though.

Grace, a vibrant place like NYC no doubt changes so fast ones head would swim. Wasn't that moving up to the real library the greatest thing?

Vee said...

Google Earth - the cheap way to travel.

vanilla said...

Vee, so easy, no concern for gasoline prices, and I don't even have to wear a coat!