Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Two Questions: "You Can't Go Home Again"...But.......


 Redartz: Hello gang; hope you're up for a little introspection. I'll try to keep things light, never fear! This week's post was prompted by an experience I had over the past weekend. Being Mother's Day on Sunday, I went back North to my hometown to visit my Mom (having moved around some, she has ended up back where we started). The visit was great, had a good time visiting with her and with other family members. When the event ended, I had a little extra time available before I needed to hit the highway for home. So on a whim, I decided to take a little drive around the old haunts and see how things had changed. 

As it turned out, much had. Sadly, my hometown fell victim to the worst effects of recession and loss of industry. I knew that going in, but it kind of struck me more intently; seeing so many familiar sights gone. There were a few businesses actually remaining that I recalled from, well, forty years ago. And there were some signs that there was still some life in the town, despite the omnipresent empty buildings and abandoned lots. But perhaps what hit me hardest was my stop at a local park; one I visited very frequently as a youth (indeed, among my very earliest memories is a trip to said park with my family and cousins, drinking Kool-Aid and swinging on the swingsets). Long story short, the park was being eliminated. All the swings and attractions were gone. Picnic tables gone. Even the trees were being cut down. It was.....disappointing. 

But, as I said above, I don't want to get too down here. As they say, the only constant in life is change. Which brings us to our questions. After I left town and was on the three hour drive home, I had the radio (Sirius XM) going full bore.  The music, all 70's and 80's, perked me up quickly, as did the knowledge that some of the changes I witnessed would work for the good. So,  our questions:

1.  How has your 'origin town' changed! Have you visited recently; or perhaps even still live there? Is there much remaining that would have been familiar to young you? 

2.  If you are needing a little 'blast from the past', how do you achieve it? We surely have many ways, in this day of internet availability. Additionally, where do you find elements of optimism, signs of improvement, as you look around you physically and culturally? If you were a teen today, what would you look back on fondly? 

Again, hope this isn't too...navel-contemplative. Just kind of put me in a thoughtful state of mind this week. At any rate, here's a sneak preview hint for next week: a look at BWS...


McSCOTTY said...

Strangely enough we visited my home town just yesterday (Monday 10 May) to visit a large charity shop (Thrift shop in US) in search of old comics, books , LPs etc. Sadly it wasn’t a productive journey. Anyway the town itself has certainly increased in size but the increased number of shops accompanying the larger population has resulted in the usual spread of multinational / regional shops you can find in any city/ town in Scotland or indeed in the rest of the UK and beyond -i.e. more shops but reduced choice!. Gone are most of the independent tea/coffee shops, newsagents, chemists, book stores, food stores, toy shops etc. The town once had 2 cinemas that are now replaced by a chain pub and a new housing estate. The main bank in the town is now a Costa coffee shop (think Starbucks) and every other shop I knew is now a fast food take away. There are however some nice new buildings in the ton centre but they seem to be legal or council offices.

The only buildings I recognise that are still used for the same purposes are the railway station, the large church of Scotland and a pub that looks never to have changed in all that time – But for context and to be fair I last lived there 50 years ago (arghhh! ) but I regularly pass through it on my way home from work to where I live now .

Like so many other towns worldwide the recession and closure of traditional industry (steel, coal, manufacturing etc) has had an effect on the bulk of the population and the look and feel of the town itself look poorer, untidy and certainly more downbeat despite being surrounded by wealthy homes in beautiful green foliage laden country lanes/roads.

For my “nostalgia kick” I get that now from blogs (like this) old records/songs and old comic books (I can’t get that “hit” from a repackaged graphic novel /book collection it has to be the original comic) . I also get that “hit” from visiting old town I used to live in (or visit) as despite what I noted above with most things disappearing, in most cases I can still pinpoint where the old cinema was where I first saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bank or the playing filed where I scored a goal for my primary school etc. And of course there’s always chatting to my pals over a cold pint of beer or a coffee as inevitably all conversations come back to “do you remember …?”

I am sure (hope) that today’s kids will look back on their childhood with fondness but in a different way. Unless you live in or near a city and a specialist comic book shop I think the nostalgic influence of comics will be less, no longer can you pop into a newsagent in any village/town and pick a comic from the spinner rack. As music is not mostly listened to on download no longer can you look back on experiencing the thrill of saving up for that single/LP record and going to the local record shop chatting to like-minded fans and reading the lyric sheet and taking in the cover art etc . Tactile toys (board games, toy cars etc) are replaced by PC games etc . But I suppose for today’s kids there will be a shared nostalgia in their computer games, downloads, on demand TV shows/cinema, but it all now seems to be too easy to obtain and impersonal with little to no shared experiences.

Signs of optimism, well many of todays younger adults seem to be more aware of the mess we are making of the world, so to be fair to them they may turn around the mess previous generations have made.

Steve Does Comics said...

I'm still in my town of origin.

When it comes to the city centre, in my childhood, Sheffield was going through the latter stages of its post-war regeneration, was a mass of building sites and roadworks and was unrecognisable from how it had been just 20 years earlier.

However, that rebuilding quickly became perceived as an urban catastrophe and the last 20 years has seen the eradication of virtually all the stuff that was built in that boom, meaning the place is now unrecognisable from how it was in the 1990s.

The centre's massively improved. Thanks to downgrading of roads, you no longer have to sprint across six lanes of traffic or brave disturbing underpasses to move around and there's a more pleasant, relaxed atmosphere to the place than there used to be, with a big improvement in city squares and public places.

Retail in the city centre's in terminal decline but there are far more people living in it than there used to be, with new blocks of flats everywhere and plenty more in the pipeline. The great tracts of wasteland that used to litter the centre are also gone. However, there's a far bigger problem with homeless people sleeping rough than there used to be.

When it comes to the residential areas outside the inner city areas, they're pretty much unchanging over the years.

As for where I get optimism from, it's from cranes. Whenever I see a crane go up, I get excited.

Socially and politically, I do think young people are far nicer, kinder and more responsible than my own generation.

I just worry that they're going to be blocked from actually changing anything by a corrupt and incompetent government whose only interest is keeping itself in power at all costs. The future's looking ominous for Britain, right now and it's hard to see how things can be sorted out peacefully.

PS. For anyone interested, this Twitter thread features two photos I took from exactly the same spot in Sheffield city centre. One in 1988 and one in 2019. It's like looking at two completely different cities: https://twitter.com/SteveDoesComics/status/1121466902528892928

Anonymous said...

Almost 15 years ago, through a jumbled series of circumstances, I ended up moving back to the town in the San Fernando Valley where I (mostly) grew up. Within a three or four mile radius are all three of the houses my family lived in since moving to California in the mid-60s. There’s a Jack in the Box on San Fernando Blvd. that’s been in the exact same spot for as long as I can remember, but most of the surrounding businesses have changed, some of them multiple times.

I get a strange sensation sometimes — there’s this one shopping center that’s had the exact same layout for the past 50-plus years, but even though the individual stores are all different now, I can vividly recall which stores used to be in their place, almost like a ghost overlay. The Ralph’s supermarket was a Hughes market for thirty years or more, the Pet Supply store used to be a Hobby shop, the CVS was a Sav-On, the Regal movie theatre used to be a Pep Boys and before that it was a Crown Books and before that it was a J.C. Penney’s.

But infinitely stranger than that are the few spots that feel like they haven’t changed even a tiny bit since I was a kid. There are some
neighborhoods that look like they’re practically frozen in time. From what I can see of it through the chain-link fence, parts of the grade school where I went from Kindergarten through 2nd Grade look almost identical to my childhood memories of it. And the corner Liquor Store where I bought many an issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and MASTER OF KUNG FU, the signage in front looks different (I’m sure the interior isn’t remotely the same) but the exterior side wall of it hasn’t changed at all — the huge, shady deodar cedar tree is still there, and so is the bike rack where I used to lock up my bike while I perused the spinner rack.

One weekend a few years ago, I happened to be driving by my old Junior High School and noticed one of the gates was open, and groups of adults and their children were going in and out. I thought maybe they were having an Open House event or something, so on a whim I parked the car and entered the grounds. IT WAS SO WEIRD. There were little cosmetic differences here and there but overall, it was like stepping back in time to 1974. The cafeteria, the Student Store, the Ninth Grade Lawn (where 7th and 8th graders dared not tread or risk ending up inside a garbage can), the exercise yard outside the gym, the handball and basketball courts, my old locker, my first girlfriend’s locker — it all looked, eerily, EXACTLY as I’d remembered.


Anonymous said...

As for what I do for nostalgic warm n fuzzies — the usual: listen to old music, watch old movies, read old comics.

McSCOTTY: i do enjoy getting comics in new, improved formats like Marvel’s ‘Epic Collection’ line. I appreciate seeing the line art in all its pristine glory, with rich, solid blacks and color separations registered correctly. Comparing the ‘remastered’ Gulacy art in MOKF to the original printings (or Colan’s TOMB OF DRACULA or Brunner’s DR. STRANGE), it’s like seeing those pages for the very first time. But I also know EXACTLY what you mean about the originals giving that nostalgic dopamine ‘hit’ that the new printings don’t. Plus the originals have those great house ads and Bullpen Bulletin pages and letters columns. And Value Stamps, if some doofus didn’t snip ‘em out!

The problem then, is do I toss the kinda cruddy originals and keep just the gorgeous new reprints, or do I skip the new ones and just hang on to my oldies but goodies? Unfortunately, in many cases, I need BOTH. The missus isn’t crazy about it, obviously, but she hasn’t threatened to divorce me yet.


Selenarch said...

It's hard for me to say what's changed about the town I grew up in, mostly because I haven't spent all that much time in its various bits. I did go to the old neighborhood I grew up in not all that long ago, and it seemed a dirtier and smaller than I remembered. The old White Hen where my great aunt worked, and the spinner rack with comics I used to visit more than church had been replaced with a liquor store. The kind with windows too covered with ads to see into from outside and a clerk behind bullet-proof glass with one of those revolving caddies where you have to pay so there's no way to get at the register. They shut down the middle school I used to walk to everyday for two years. It was just too far gone with violence to save, I've heard. There were a lot of gangs (local and otherwise), drugs (the kid with the locker next to mine got expelled for selling dime bags), and alleys you didn't walk down even when I attended (a friend took an ice pick to the ear when he tried). Still, even though it was probably just as dirty, small, and dangerous then, mostly I remember it was full of good people. Some were a little rougher or down on their luck than others, but there were good people. I think there still are, and this is just how that sort of neighborhood looks now.
As I've gotten older, it doesn't take much for me to get a bit of nostalgia. A willow tree reminds me of my grandmother's backyard. A tiny garage reminds me of where you'd used to go to find your neighbors drinking beer and fixing cars when the sun went down. A jungle gym is how I took a thousand trips to outer space with the Fantastic Four. I don't really have to go home again, it's all still pretty much there.

McSCOTTY said...

Steve: I visited Sheffield for work a few times in the early 1980s and recall what looked like a massive roundabout (I think locals called it the hole in the road) what was that? Totally agree the UK is in trouble under this government and not just because of disillusion in the Union by Scots after the Scottish gov election but there's is a decline that seems to be gaining speed.

b t. I have started to pick up the Epic collections of some of the strips I enjoyed from the past as well due to space restraints. However I find in some cases the art doesn't look as good with the glossy paper and fine printing. Case in point for me are the many Neal Adams collections where the art doesn't look as good to me as it did when printed on newsprint. Saying that Trimoe/Severins Hulk and Kirby's Thor looks great.

Selenarch. It's terrible gangs and drugs are taking root in your old town. Sadly it's the same in the UK and everywhere else for that matter. Scotland alone has the worst cocaine habit in Western Europe although gang violence is largely on the way out thankfully.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graham said...

(1) I still live in my hometown. Of course, everything has been in a constant state of change over the past forty years. I knew most of the store owners and operators back then and most of them have passed away or sold out to people that I didn't know. The store where I used to buy comics stopped selling them when I was about 12 or 13, so I experienced change pretty quickly. The nearest town that did was about thirty miles away. Back in the day, people didn't drive thirty miles unless there was a doctor trip or back to school shopping, but I found a cool bookstore there that sold comics and I visited it until they shut down in my early 20's. My favorite things to do as a kid were to read (comics, books, anything), play sports, and listen to music. Today, there are no book stores, no record stores, and I'm way too old for basketball and football. :) There is one used record store that has a huge selection, but it's about 100 miles away. I visit it about every six weeks.

(2) I have a big collection of music, so when I want to "go back," I can always listen to tunes....I've downloaded a ton of songs onto my iPod. I still have a lot of books that I bought as a kid and I will mix one of them into my usual reading now and then, plus I have picked up some comics via the Kindle app on my phone. YouTube is my friend, too, plus several old TV stations with classic sitcoms and crime dramas. I'm glad because there's not much to watch, listen to, or read these days that's worth a hoot....I sound like my dad when I was a teenager. :)

Redartz said...

Excellent, well considered responses everyone. Very well done...

McScotty- it seems the replacement of local enterprises by chains is a global phenomenon. That said, there are notable exceptions. Although the times are tough in my old hometown, my current town is doing pretty well, and numerous start ups are opening all the time. And a big draw is the pedestrian bridge across the Ohio river, a former railroad bridge. An effective use of local government, imho. Perhaps involved, imaginative local government is a key to civil renewal.
And I totally agree with your sentiments about the young. Truly the next generations are the best hope we have.

Steve DC- sounds like your environs are moving in the right direction. Perhaps the improved atmosphere will prompt a bit of retail development. Keeping things 'people friendly ' is a very good approach.

B.t.- well said, love your 'ghost overlay' description! Quite so, probably many of us have that same sensation; seeing what was superimposed over what is. The power of memory is staggering. And as you noted, there are the occasional remnants still visible. During the visit described in the original post, I saw one drug store still remaining under the same name it held when I bought baseball cards there 50 years ago...

Selenarch- you may have summed us all up with your comment that 'it's all still there'. Indeed, whatever resides in our memories is never completely gone.

Colin- the generational dichotomy you discuss seems manifest over here as well. But as you and others maintain, there is a source of promise in the attributes of the young. It's been a few tough years in the UK and the US, but the things we see and hear from some young folks are heartening.
And you nailed it! YouTube is a wonderland of vintage music and video. One has to wonder where all of it comes from. Truly amazing hat people have preserved...

Graham- these devices we have access to now sure make 'travelling back' easier! Smartphones, tablets; we can carry entertainment around with us that would have dumbfounded our youthful selves!

Steve Does Comics said...

McScotty, that was indeed the Hole in the Road. It was an underground public square, with the traffic going around above it. It had its own fish tank and, in winter, a big Christmas tree. Sadly, it was filled in in the 1990s and no trace of it remains.

BY the way, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, last night, about ERG-1 but the comment disappeared into thin air. It's a problem I tend to have with blogs that use an embedded comments form, rather than a full page one. I'll try again, later, with a different browser and see if that works.

McSCOTTY said...

Steve - I wasn't aware the hole in the ground was an underground square, sounds cool. Yeah I'm having issues with Blogger at present but thank you for trying to reply.

Colin: Sadly I tend to agree with you about many over 50's attitudes, then again there are some highly intelligent enlightened older folk (cough! cough ! :)) but it is a worry about the NHS.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I grew up in Gary Indiana a.k.a. "Steel City." Gary suffered everything you'd expect. If's population fell from 150,000 in the 70s to about 50,000 today. Where my father toiled, at Inland Steel, the # of workers fell from 33,000 to less than 5,000 today. Gary was the USA's murder capital for at least a few years.

But because I grew up in a relatively unpopulated area on Lake Michigan, surrounded by woods and sand dunes. I can still “go back” and walk the beaches. But gone are the stores where I bought comics, candy, baseball cards and such.

To get to the beaches I drive past my old home, old school, down “Indian Trail” which, by Treaty, separated Native Indian territory from the U.S.A. 200 years ago.

My experiences with comics, etc. are like everyone else’s due to digitization. But I still visit my LCBS monthly. I buy something, even if not particularly interested, as a form of tithe to keep the church going. The store operator, a former artist on Dick Tracy named Jim, is my age. So when the store is empty, we can reminisce quite a bit.

Though, last week the store was rather full and I must have been off my nutter b/c I held up the Marvel reprint to Amazing Spider Man 101 and said, “Jim – If you are jonesing for some ‘up the nostril’ Gil Kane this Spidey 101 is the ultimate!” Jim started laughing as did a few other guys our age. The younger ones remained rather stoic and started looking for the emergency exit.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents - IMHO It'd be awesome to provide the names of the towns you are referring to! It helps paint the picture!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Are things getting better or worse?

I think we probably need to lose about 4,000,000,000 souls to salvage the planet.

Where's Thanos when we need him?

McSCOTTY said...

Charlie: I’m not sure giving my location would be much of a guide to those from the US, stating Scotland may even be a stretch lol. Anyway just in case I was brought up in a (then) large village called Cambuslang about 6 miles from Glasgow city . I live about 10 miles south of there now in a similar (slightly smaller) sized town. I’ve lived in 6 towns not too away far from my “origin” point in my younger years with my parents ( many more on my own and with my partner of course in the UK and overseas) .

Had a wee giggle at the Thanos comment there but sadly there is no doubt the planet is overpopulated and the idiots amongst us seem to be outnumbering the decent folk. I look on in despair at the situation in Gaza and Israel this morning, the planet is just emerging from a global pandemic (in Israel at least) and they are almost immediately back to fighting each other (I’m not making any political comment here on this complex situation just on the human despair element). I fear for the future of the planet more each day.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

McScotty - Charlie has always enjoyed geography plus you never know where a connection may lead?

For example, I found Bronze Age Babies the day it stopped and became BitBA. Somehow, I / we managed to realize that Doug (BAB) Mike and Red (BitBA) and I lived within minutes of each other. (Red not so much but he was a fellow Hoosier.)

But none of us knew this nor had ever met each other. All the more interesting since Doug, Red. and Mike had been blogging with each other for years.

So we rallied, along with a chap named Colin Bray from Exeter England (initial connection via SDC or BitBA) to go to the huge C2E2 comic convention in Chicago a few years ago!

Jesus said, "Any opportunity we have to meet each other, talk comics, spread peace love and joy, we should try to use."

Colin Jones said...

Charlie, you'll be condemned as an "eco fascist" for saying we need to reduce the world's population! But you are right of course - ideally the global population should be no more than half a billion in my opinion.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin! I don't even think Thanos would relish removing like 90% of the population! But hey! I see your point!

500 million inhabitants with the technologies developed so far, the world would be salvaged. I mean, think of all those stories of nature recovering just from the reduction in activity from Covid?

Venetian dolphins and Sarasota Manatees were never happier!

McSCOTTY said...

Colin: I think that 500 million number that is sometime quoted comes from the Georgia Guidestones that were erected around 1980. This has a new set of what could be described as the 10 commandments and was put there by a group that want to remain anonymous. A man using the pseudonym R C Christian commissioned the stones etc. but there is no scientific reasoning for that number and the stones have pretty much become part of the worldwide conspiracy theory on the new world order etc . Many scientific papers ( the UN population growth team etc) state that the world’s population should level off around 9 billion and decline after 2100. Then again they also state that the world can only, with ease support between1.5 and 2 billion people and up to 4 billion if we are sensible and careful. So that’s 1.5 billion then 😊.

Charlie: That's pretty amazing that in a world of over 7 billion people you met the BaB/ BiBA guys in your local area - come the "Colin Culling" that may no longer be an option :) I didn't realise a "hossier" was the name for someone from Indiana (that's to Wikipedia for that)- Colin would be a Taffy (living in Wales - although think he may be English) and I would be a Jock! but in both cases don't ever say that to our faces lol.

Colin Jones said...

Paul, I've never heard of the Georgia Guidestones - I invented the 500 million number because it seemed the right amount.

I too have often heard the prediction that global population growth will level off by 2100 but where is the actual evidence for such a prediction? I wonder if there's a lot of wishful thinking going on.

Kid said...

Older people may be the biggest users of the NHS (though I'd like to see the statistics as all age groups use it at some point), but they've also been the biggest financial contributors (via taxes and National Insurance) to it over their long lives and are surely entitled to benefit from it as and when required.

And the Tories may have got 'only' 43.6% of the vote in the last election, but that means the remaining percentage were divided in who they supported, so all the other parties got even less a share of the vote on an individual level. For instance, Labour got 32.2%, Liberal Democrats got 11.5%, and the SNP got 3.9% (according to BBC figures). Those figures total 91.2%, of which 47.6% didn't vote Tory - but that means 59% didn't vote Labour, 80% didn't vote Liberal Democrat, and 87.6% didn't vote SNP (in Britain as a whole, not Scotland, which is part of the UK remember).

Of course, according to one of your commenters, anyone over 60 seemingly isn't entitled to have an opinion on how the country is run, so their vote presumably shouldn't count. It will be interesting to see if he feels the same when he finds himself numbered among the ranks of the aged.

Redartz said...

Greetings all,
Just a few comments, before we start down a political wormhole. We generally try to avoid politics here, obviously that is not always the case; and some topics such as this week's lend themselves to a more political interpretation. Such was not my intention, and I take full responsibility for any slippage off the path. We're quite open here, and try to keep a pretty light hand on the tiller (pardon my metaphor mixing). In this spirit,please allow me to refocus the discussion on our halcyon hometowns and what remains of them. Many thanks, everyone; and hope you enjoy the weekend...

Kid said...

I'm not actually political and am completely unpartisan - all politicians are useless in my view. It was more the misinterpretation of what the percentages meant I was addressing rather than the political aspect. For a response to some aspects of your question, rather than retype it here, you can read it on my Crivens blog under the title of 'They Say You Can't Go Home Again - But Do You Ever Truly Leave?' There are quite a few others that touch on the subject too.

Redartz said...

Kid- thanks for your comment above; I know we all have some differing outlooks on some things,but that you all are great at maintaining reason and civility. This is truly appreciated (and why I drop off Facebook from time to time).
And, thanks also for the tip on your blog; I shall certainly check it out.

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