the tux shop

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Observations and Commentary, Photography
Tags: , , , , ,

The concept of traveling to the past within one’s own life intrigues many people. Possible motivations are limited only by the scope of their experiences. Perhaps it’s a chance for redemption, to not repeat those foolish things which let a special person drift away. Perhaps it’s to avoid a traumatic event, to stay home during that wild blizzard rather than head out and wreck the car. Perhaps it’s to ease an unquenchable guilt, to take back that hurtful thing said and always regretted. Perhaps it’s to once more bask in a moment of pure joy, to re-experience the birth of a child. The list is varied as it is long. Almost inevitability, however, it involves retreating to a decisive moment, a fixed point in time when something highly personal can be relived. I harbor no such notions.

Today I grabbed my camera and visited the town where I grew up. I do this periodically, perhaps once a year or so. Each time I’m filled with an increasing sense of melancholy, if not alarm. I suppose this isn’t unusual. (Unfortunately, I also feel more and more like one of those “remember when” people.) Time colors everything and my hometown memories are bathed in fuzzy, muted sunlight filtered through shades of honey-dripped nostalgia.

I noticed things are much quieter on the streets these days. Indeed, the population has dropped from 72,000 to 56,000 since I was a kid. (I’ll save you the math. That’s about 22%. 22%!) Many of the old landmarks which were part of my youth are gone. Stores have changed names, others have been shuttered. My old grade school has been razed and a new building designed by someone who apparently got their architectural smarts from the Lego people now sits in its place. Roads have disappeared or been diverted. Ugly chain store driven shopping centers dot the edge of town, drawing business away from what was once the main commercial strip, a street now a sad and pathetic shell of its once bustling self. The story is a familiar one. It’s just more disheartening when you see it in a familiar place. I’m sure the current city fathers would vehemently disagree with my perception, but…

That’s why it’s so satisfying to stumble upon something which hasn’t changed all that much, something which looks pretty much the same as it did when you were riding a banana seated Schwinn Stingray all over town. And that’s why if I could go back in time, it wouldn’t be to alter or relive a personal moment. I would go with camera in hand and a simple mission: Photograph all those wonderful old places, buildings, parks and scenes which filled both my town and youth. Photograph them before I forget. Photograph them before they disappear forever. Now wouldn’t that be grand?

Note: Originally written in July 2010. I’ve taken the liberty of slightly modifying it.

  1. I am very glad you stumbled upon my blog! This is a very interesting concept. I’m not particularly attatched to my hometown, but it’s small one of only 500 people….I may have to bring my camera along this Thanksgiving holiday and snap some snowy pictures of the buildings that are still in their original form.


  2. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Great post! Really liked it!


  3. joem18b says:

    I went back. My old girlfriend was shocked at the missing hair.


  4. sparklebumps says:

    I would LOVE to move back to the town where I grew up! Sadly, the gas station where I used to get $1 ice cream cones closed, but the hardware store that sells baby chicks in the spring is EXACTLY the same.


  5. Why can’t things stay the same in some small way if only for nostalgia’s sake? I guess not, but it sure would be nice just once.

    Very moving post.


  6. This is another lovely post, John.


    • John says:

      Thanks, Sandy!

      I try to encourage people, especially young people, to photograph all the stuff which surrounds around their life. Someday they’ll be happy they did.


  7. My old neighborhood is such a mixed bag. The commercial strip is completely different, in an awful way. The residential streets are sort of the same, a bit seedier but recongnizable. I went back about a year ago. The worst thing was that my elementary school has bars and grates over all the windows and the gorgeous circa 1900 front door is covered with heavy wood and a padlock. Breaks my heart.


    • John says:

      Seeing your old elementary school looking like a prison or having it demolished – both are miserable fates. Somehow, I think seeing it look like a prison is worse.


  8. I can’t go back. I find it too depressing. It’s good not everyone is like me or we would have no memories at all.


  9. John says:

    Whenever I visit where I grew up I have this unrealistic hope that somehow something I thought had changed mysteriously hadn’t! Of course I’m delusional.


  10. I have visited my past places before, but a lot of them are gone. Fires, tornadoes, woods now developed, etc. I think that if I ever moved away from this town, I probably wouldn’t come back. I’d have no reason.


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