I recently took a rather traumatic drive through my hometown of Brunswick, Maine. I spent my entire childhood--age 4-18--in that town, but I haven't lived there in 23 years. My parents moved away a couple of months after I graduated high school and on that day, I took a mental snapshot of Brunswick and hoped it would never change.
Last week, I drove by my old high school--which hasn't actually been used as the high school for about 20 years--and it is in the midst of being torn down. A gaping wound at the end of one wing provided a clear view over a pile of bricks and into the gym, backboards and bleachers still intact. Another gash revealed my 10th-grade biology classroom and the hallway outside, still lined with black and orange lockers.
From ages 4-18, I spent more time in Dayton Arena at Bowdoin College than any other building, besides my home. I drove by it last week and there, nestled among the majestic pine trees and brick buildings of campus, where the old barn's maroon cinder-block edifice stood for over 50 years, is a flat, open spot surrounded by chain link fence. A quarter mile away, set alongside the rest of Bowdoin's state-of-the-art athletic facilities, it has been replaced by the brand new, LEEDS certified, Sidney J. Watson Arena, named after Bowdoin's late, great, hall-of-fame, hockey coach and athletic director.
One piece of nostalgia that would have helped improve my mood that day is the original Dayton Arena Zamboni that cleared the ice for many of my youth hockey years--purchased in the fifties and retired in the eighties--that is now proudly displayed on a platform over the door of the new arena. Alas, a quick stop by Sidney J. Watson rewarded me with nothing but locked doors.
Add to all of this the demise of Bill's Pizza, a sandwich shop a couple of towns over, in Yarmouth. Bill's was a constant in my family life from the time I was 5. When I was a tot, it was a tiny, blue, cinder block building snug beside the northbound lane of Route 1. Sometime in the late 70s--coincidentally on the same day a new pizza place was opening just down the street--that little blue building burned to the ground and Bill's soon became a larger, brown building set comfortably back from the road.
I didn't keep the receipts, but I'm pretty sure that, over the course of my life, I have eaten at Bill's more than any other restaurant. Between italian sandwiches, pizzas, whoopie pies, raspberry tarts, chips, taco boats, meatball subs, [and the list goes on], I have gladly spent thousands of dollars in that place...and now it's gone...like the high school...like the arena...like the Howard Johnson's on Pleasant Street in Brunswick where we used to drink milkshakes and play cards at one in the morning...like the Dairy Joy at the end of Church Road that I used to ride my bike three miles to, just to get a banana split and turn around and ride home a little bit heavier.
I have great memories of all these places (and some not-so-great memories of a couple of them, too), but I am sad that I will never actually see them again, never set foot inside them, smell them, hear them, experience them. I am sure that some--if not all--of them will show up in my writing, in one form or another. And I will certainly tell my daughter about them and work hard to make sure that she has places like these in her childhood. Places that are special to her, that she can cherish, around which she can form lasting memories--and even legends.
What important places from your past have gone away? What do you miss most about them? How will you keep the memories of them alive? What are the stories?