After a six-month absence, I’m back in the Twin Cities. Even in that short period of time, more changes have crept into my old hometown and its surroundings. Nothing seems to stay the same anymore; ever. As that old worn cliché goes: ‘The only constant here and elsewhere seems to be change.’ As a veteran of the ages, it can be a sometimes sober and intimidating thing to ponder as the decades roll by.
Once again, I’m reminded that it’s not my world anymore. That world of years gone by has evolved, marched ahead and stumbled backwards, recognized past sins and repeated the favorite ones again and again. A re-clothing of past blogs on this subject matter highlighted my own awareness of these changes creeping into my life.
The impressionable clay that was to become my life formed over three decades; the forties, the fifties and the sixties. After 1971, my life took on more semblances of structure and order. I became less aware of the changes swirling around me since I was running the rapids of jobs, kids, changing careers and evolving lifestyles. My focus on the ever-present usurped any awareness of my past life that was slowly slipping away. Changes were going on all around me whether I was aware of it or not…usually not.
Over the past sixty years, just about every neighborhood and building that was a part of my past life has disappeared. I talked about these phenomena in another blog last year. It just pricked my consciousness again recently when I read about the changes to the neighborhoods of Haight Ashbury, Greenwich Village, and the Presidio of San Francisco.
Those places now only exist in old black and white photos, color slides, documentaries, and textbook illustrations. Most of the physical evidence that were those places has been altered, adjusted, remodeled and removed. In short, just about every landmark that I encountered growing up in the Twin Cities now ceases to exist. I’m guessing it’s not just me but most of us from my generation have experienced the same thing.
Urban evolution and development has erased any and all vestiges of those times past. It’s almost as if they never existed in the first place. You can call it progress but a part of my history (and thus my memories) disappeared in the dust and rubble of those buildings footprint.
West Seventh Street meant eight years riding a city bus to grade school in downtown St. Paul. Now old Fort Road is slowly being gentrified and its old landmarks are taking on a new meaning. Keg and Case (food court and mall) has morphed out of the old Schmitt Brewery.
KTCA, the old public television station on Como Avenue, moved downtown. The Neumann Center moved off campus and the West Bank has changed colors and flavors since I hung out there in my pseudo-hippie years. My favorite bar of years past is now an off-site treatment center.
The Minnesota Department of Health tore down its old building on campus and moved off campus years ago. My hippie hangout in Dinky Town has been replaced with student apartments and a ‘tiny Target.’
MCPB, Maryland Public Television, has evolved over time and now my timeframe there is considered their ‘Camelot years.’
Each new generation has created, found, and/or changed any semblance of what used to be. My old hangouts, dens of iniquity, lodging, lovemaking, entertainment, and employment are but dust in that memory bank called my past life.
These changes go far beyond old buildings and neighborhoods. When I was pondering my future and what I wanted to do when I grew up, advertising seemed romantic, exciting and a place where I could write to my heart’s content. I never made the grade and now when I go back over my collection of ‘Mad Men’ videos, I shudder at the thought of me among those wolves, drunks and womanizers. Talk about a lamb going to slaughter.
If you think about it, the areas in which major development has changed the face, structure, and organic workings of a discipline are truly remarkable. Those disciplines include but are not limited to:
Careers – longevity of any of them
It’s a whole new world out there, Mr. Jones.
Now when my grandchildren ask me about the fabulous fifties, the turbulent sixties, the seventies and beyond, I can only smile. It’s all there (or some of it) in my mind. But I don’t have any landmarks we can visit together. There are only old photos, sketchy memories and true embellishments that only a Papa can spin to the delight of eager and receptive young ears.
It was the best of times and…it had a few lumps too.
But the basic rules of life still apply and the fundamentals haven’t changed. When they get older, each of my grandchildren will have their own ‘old place’ to fill their collective memory banks. They’ll be able to regale their own children with tall tales and (some) true about what it was to grow up ‘back in the day.’
I love it.