Saturday, September 26, 2009

Can you ever really go home?

I grew up in a small town, so small, the dogs used to have to wag their tails vertically. That didn’t seem to matter much, when you are young and your bodies are small, the world is a big place. Even if that world consists mainly of a couple of counties and a piece of another state.

I grew up in a time when you made your own fun. For me that was spending my time in the woods just exploring. You see, back then, boys were expected to be in the woods. It kept them out of the way. Dad used to say, “why don’t you boys go play in the traffic?” when we were bothering him. Yah, dad, what traffic?

This was before bicycle helmets were invented, penny candy meant you got two pieces of candy for your penny, Bazooka Joe was two cents and it really hit hard on our allowance when it was raised to a nickel.

We had toys such as darts with real metal tips, played with toy guns and built forts in the trees. Our friends had barns and tractors. We built dams in the brook, played baseball, caught lightening bugs in jars at night, after dark, without parents near by. Yes, we were boys, we got dirty, lost in the woods and played outside until dark.

Somewhere along the line, we became teens and discovered cars. We got through high school and went our separate ways. Some stayed, I went north to attend the University, go married and headed out to L.A. to get our first jobs. I lived in L.A. for three years (yah Toto, I wasn’t in Kansas any more) then Boulder Colorado, Tennessee and now Massachusetts.

Now I live five hours away from my childhood home, Wells, VT. Friday I had a floating day to take off, the weather was perfect and I got a bee in my britches and headed across Rt 2 over to Brattleboro and picked up Rt 30 to visit my old stomping grounds to find out, can you really go home?

Well here it is. These are some of the landmarks that I think of when I think of my home town. This shot was taken from the top of Lake Hill, over looking the Little Lake. Behind the lake in the picture is Pond Mountain which overlooks the village.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

At the outlet of the Little Lake is a damn that raised the level of the lake. This spash of color was nice because it is still a little early for the fall colors.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Down in the center of the village is the library. It was open so I decided to see what it was like inside.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

I went in and except for a little extra seating, it is exactly as it was when I was school. I had a great chat with the new librarian.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

This is the Episcopalian church where my family went on Sundays. It was built by the first bishop in Vermont. Take a look at the top windows. They are not windows, but are painted to look like windows. This church was actually struck by lightening once, not in the steeple, but in the back along the chimney.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

It’s not hard to see that this building is the grammar school. This is where I went to school from the third grade through the sixth. Back in the day, there were six grades in three rooms.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse

Today, the school has been extended in the back. I was shooting the building late in the afternoon and was fortunate to be able to talk with one of the teachers and one of the sixth grade students about student life, the state of the school and life in Wells. The huge piles of wood chips you see are the remains of the ash and maple trees that we played under when I was young. They were taken down two weeks ago. Sad, but hey, they were old 40 years ago when I when to school there.

©2009 ShootingMyUniverse
I felt strange driving through my old home town with Massachusetts plates. How ironical! I’ve become a leaf-peeping flatlander. My time was short, I had to get back down to Brattleboro and meet up with my brother and his wife.

Scenic Sunday


JOE TODD said...

Woods and Forts. The woods and fields I used to play in as a kid are now a disc golf course. Is that progress?? Great post...

Richard said...

Sounds like my early childhood. About the only thing you forgot was marbles, toy soldiers, little cars and rubber bands.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This is a marvellous post Steve. I did this once many years ago and found that the town I grew up in was gone and in its place one which was foreign to me. It had expanded beyond belief and nothing remained the same except the lower and high schools I attended. There was nothing left of my childhood days.

This looks like a great town for a child to grow up in but I can see that when they grow older, they have to leave in order to expand. These good old day of our childhood can never come again nor can the memories be replaced.

madcobug said...

Looks like a great place to raise children. Love the school house and the church is beautiful. Helen

eileeninmd said...

Looks like a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing your story and the lovely photos. My favorite was the first one with the lake.

Frank said...

I know I say this all the time but this was awesome Steve I loved every minute off it. Great story and photography. You grew up in a very beautiful place but I'm glad you found Gloucester. Hope to see you soon

A New England Life said...

You can go home, but it's usually not the same as when you were a child. It appears your old hometown of Wells remains fairly untouched. What a lovely VT town it is.

Years ago we went up to Manchester. Beautiful place too, though extremely touristy. Driving off the beaten path in that area it's so pretty but rather remote. I grew up in a very small town too where the big deal was walking to the store to buy penny candy, or maybe a popsicle.

I enjoyed hearing about your life and family Steve. VT to LA? Your parents must have thought you were crazy!

Steve B said...

Hi Frank, Why I love Gloucester could fill a book and I've only been here three years. It is folks like you that accept outsiders like me into the community that makes it special. For the last 20 years, I didn't even know who lived next door. We all get up, go to work, go home and go to bed. I know all my neighbors and then some.

Hi eileeninmd, There are a few more houses up there, but thankfully the people that owned the field recognized that it was important to leave that place undeveloped. I hope that it can always remain a hay field because it keeps the views open.

Thanks Helen, There are so many churches that have gone defunct. The two churches in town seem to be doing well.

That is sad Joan. Things must change. The two gas stations in town are gone, a couple of new ones popped up. The post office building is still there and it looks like some of the farms are still producing.

Hi Richard, We missed out on the marbles, they phased out, but we did have soldiers, rubber bands and matchbox cars. (I still have my matchbox cars somewhere).

Hi Joe, The changes that I have seen in Wells are nothing compared to the development I witnessed on the Front Range of Colorado while I was there in for 16 years. I've seen the habitat loss that is beyond belief and is impacting the population of many species.

Stine said...

You grew up in a very pretty place. If it still looks like what you remember, you are very lucky. I grew up in a small town too but it sure looks different now. ;-)

Steve B said...

Hi Sharon,
For those that go off to other parts of the world and come back it is a great shocker to see our memories become strip malls, ticky-tacky boxy houses, golf courses and Wally-marts. The idyllic small town must adapt to economic changes. Some improvements are better, some are worse. Wells seems to have a compromise, however there really isn’t any work there for guys like me, so off into the world like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Hi Stine,
It does not surprise me. My ex-mother-in-law taught school in the California town where I owned my first house. She said that it used to be a bean field. The urban sprawl in Denver has snapped up little communities. Douglas county, south of Denver is just miles and miles of strip mall communities on short grass prairie and farmland. In New England, there are still many rural places. The trick becomes making a living. I watched Vermont go from an agricultural based economy to a recreation based economy. Family farms were lost forever. Now I’m pleased to say that there is a more balanced blend…I hope.

Gaelyn said...

Nice tour of your old world. It does look like a pretty small place. Love the old buildings. Nice captures.

Pagan Sphinx said...

These are familiar surroundings. I'm in Massachusetts also but very close to Southern Vermont. It's not a long drive to get to the green hills of Vermont. Sometimes we can't resist driving further and further north, though. Vermont is a beautiful state.

For some reason, I thought you were younger than 2 cent Bazooka bubblegum!

Hilke Breder said...

Living in Brattleboro, I love your images of Vermont. What attracts visitors to our state however is also contributing to its gradual decline: few industries and little employment opportunties for young people, instead an aging population with little desire or ability to spend money and contribute to the economy.
Still, I love living here.

Steve B said...

Hi Gaelyn, There are so many picturesque little places in Vermont. There is so much to see and life is at a slower pace.

Oh yes, I am that old. I remember when Pat Leahy was a Freshman Senator. I was in school at UVM when Bernie Sanders won the Burlington mayoral race by 16 votes (his Wikipedia sketch says 12. It was a very nasty weather day and everyone though that Gordon Pawquett was a shoe-in so nobody voted.)

Hi Hilke Breder. Well, I decided to leave out a lot of the back story in this piece. You see, I used to look down on the flat landers, I was a fourth generation Vermonter. But as you say, there isn’t work in Vermont, much of the industry has go away. Now there are lots of cottage industries in a recreational based agricultural state. Brattleboro is a lovely town but its infrastructure is crumbling. It’s nice to have cutesy boutiques and shops, but they depend on tourist dollars. I wish I had the answer on how to make Vermont more prosperous and keep it Vermont.

Thus, I have become a flat lander myself, driving up to leaf peep with my Massachusetts plates. (Oh, how the mighty hath fallen.)

Through my brother, I've gone to restruants and heard the stories of the wait staff moonlighting so that can raise families and stay in places like these.

Janie said...

Sounds like a fun childhood, and the pictures are great!

Mary said...

I've always loved Vermont! It must have been a wonderful childhood, Steve. Oddly enough, I still live in the town where I grew up. In the same house even. And sad to say that the town has changed so much. :(

I'm not sure you can go home again, even when you've never left.

Anonymous said...

Very good blog.IL exciting watching with pleasure!

Eve said...

This was so fun going back in time with you Steve. Not all boys were boys tho...back then I would have been right there with you building forts, running like Indians through the woods, playing war games, catching frogs and snakes and bringing them home...(why is it back then garter snakes never bit us?) Yes I was a tomboy and probably still am. Cars!!! Oh yeah, I went there too! (67 Chevelle...a girl can dream!). Your town is beautiful! The pictures are stunning. I went back to where I spent the best 5 years of my childhood, Atlas Drive on Griffiss Air Force Base and there wasn't a house left. Just a crumbled road and overgrown weeds. Still, the feelings of adventure surrounded me like a blanket. The only thing different...everything seemed miniature. I was just a little kid back then.
Thanks Steve this was great!

matthew houskeeper said...

I went to HS in SW VT, and my mother still lives there. Much of this is very familiar.
Nice work.

Cyndy said...

Hi Steve,

I just happened to some upon your site..We went to school together ALL those years ago. Loved your pictures of Wells. I still live in Vermont but don't go to Wells anymore. Family and firends have moved on and it just is not the same. Beautiful pictures and brought back some great memories.

Cyndy Hughes Cummings

Steve Borichevsky said...

Oh my! Cyndy, drop me an email!

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