Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Just Another Point of View: Is my life being erased, or do we just like to tear things down?

The first clue I had that my life was maybe being erased was many years ago, when I decided to show my girlfriend the house where I used to live in Albany. It was 1966, and I was going to point out the big house on Ellsworth Street that had been turned into an apartment building, one where my mom, dad and I shared a basement unit in the late '40s.

She was not yet the other person who lives at our house then, but somehow I believed she would be eventually (which turned out to be true). So I wanted her to see where I lived before we moved to the coast. But there was no house there. On a street still overloaded with huge Victorians, not to mention a Catholic church just a couple of blocks away, a convenience store occupied the space that once held my childhood home.

I was shocked.

That place held so many vivid memories for me. I knocked over the Christmas tree there (a traumatic thing for a 2-year-old), and after a long dinnertime standoff over a helping of asparagus (my dad said I wasn't going anywhere until I at least tried it), I left a neat little pile of vomit in my plate and was never required to eat asparagus again. Upstairs, in my Grandma Kelly's apartment, I encountered my first favorite record, a rousing orchestral version of "The Star Spangled Banner" on an RCA Victor 78. And in the backyard, I was once trapped in a boat-size New England Fish Company box by a giant spider until my mom finally came and whisked me out of danger.

I never claimed to be a brave kid.

But I was surprised to find, a scant two decades later, that the old place was gone.

That was a scenario that would repeat itself over the years. Our house up Scott Creek was torn down shortly after we moved down the Alsea River by Gerald Smallwood, who built a place big enough to hold a family with three or four kids.

And a visit a couple of years ago to another of my homes, just four miles from Waldport, revealed a recent fire had destroyed a good share of the "dream house" my folks built in the early 1960s.

Thanks to the magic of Google Earth, I have since learned that the places we lived in Millington, Tenn., in the summer of 1968, as well as the trailer park we moved to in Pensacola, Fla., had both been eradicated. In both cases, you could see from satellite photos where they used to be. They just weren't there any longer. To make the point even more stinging was the revelation that both of the naval stations I was assigned to during my three-year stay in the South are also long gone.

Then, last summer, came the final straw. While I was visiting Waldport for my 50th class reunion, it became clear that all three of my childhood schools — Waldport elementary, junior high and high schools — had all been torn down. It's not entirely a bad thing, of course; not one of them would have survived even the most paltry of tsunamis — and now all three have been relocated up on the hill known as "Waldport Heights."

Now, at least, the kids who continue to call that place home stand a chance of surviving the big waves that the experts tell us will come, sooner or later.

But it is a bit sobering to realize that most of the places (homes, schools and other landmarks) where I spent so many years no longer exist.

A few years back, during a vacation in France, the other person who lives at our house and I stayed in a hotel that had been there more than 1,000 years. It was a chambers d'hote in the small walled city of Dinan. On that same trip, we toured the Basilique du Sacre Couer atop the hill overlooking Paris' Montmartre district, and we couldn't help noticing that the marble steps leading into the church's side entrance had been used so long they were worn down like wood or soft soap.

It has to take a long time for marble to wear down like that, I thought. Of course, I can't be sure, because we have a habit of tearing things down long before they have a chance to get that old.

Mikel Kelly used to work for a bunch of different newspapers. Now he's retired and dedicated to a life of hollering, "Get off my lawn!"