Just when I thought it was safe to walk, jog or run down memory lane, reality chipped away at my childhood innocence once again.
I realize I’m north of age 60 and the only constant in life is change. I suppose death should be included in there somewhere and maybe a few taxes.
Be that as it may, all I am asking of Father Time, Mother Nature or whomever is in charge of human fate, why can’t I have one, just one, thing unchanged from boyhood?
Another piece of my youth is gone. Sent to a dusty history bin by technology and what many call progress.
The Daily Record, the newspaper of my childhood back in Lawrenceville, Illinois, and the second paper route I undertook in professional life, is no more. Well, the paper is no more the way I remember it as a boy back in 1964 when I read my name in print for the first time.
The once daily newspaper is now a weekly printed edition with a daily reporting presence online. I fear the day when a newspaper becomes something I no longer can hold or touch while the aroma of newsprint drifts away forever.
I went through this with my cherished hometown Sun-Commercial but at least I have the chance to hold and smell it five days a week still.
As a college graduate with a journalism degree, I understand the change — there’s that life word again — happening to the newspaper industry overall these days, but this does not make it easier to endure for a once fourth-grade kid who devoured the news sections of the old Chicago Daily News and Daily Record before the sports and comics. I’ve loved the smell, feel and information of newspapers for almost 57 years and refuse to turn loose of them — literally — without a little resistance to change.
Perhaps I’m not being totally truthful about why the latest newspaper transformation grieves me so. It has to do more with another part of my past going kaput.
Like the houses and mobile homes I once called home in both Lawrenceville and Vincennes.
Only two of the eight Lawrenceville places I can remember living in still stand, and one of those is leaning to the right apparently ready for a wrecking ball. Every Vincennes house I once resided in is now extinct except for the current Carroll Castle.
Most of my Illinois and Hoosier adolescent homesites are green spaces; one is the center of a paved parking lot and another part of the Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency Room entrance. A house I lived in 25 years ago is now below dirt and gravel where semi-trailers rest between hauls.
It’s not only homes that are missing from my past.
The Good Samaritan Hospital building where I was born is among the dearly departed, along with the hallowed halls I once walked in Lincoln High School; the old school is a parking lot and my first homeroom in that building is one of the tree islands decorating the darn thing.
St. Lawrence Elementary, whence I received a proper Roman Catholic education with minimal ruler-to-the-knuckles contact for six years, still stands but no longer is the school of my boyhood. The Cleveland junior high school I attended remains but the section where I spent the seventh grade got razed back in 1990s.
Much of the baseball field I watched my beloved Cleveland Indians lose dozens of games on during my impressionable teenage years isn’t even on land any longer. Almost all of the demolition rumble from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium got tossed into nearby Lake Erie to create an artificial reef.
Yes, dear readers, part of my boyhood is now swimming with the fishes.
Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio’s Pizza?
Come to think of it, dear old Lawrenceville, where have you gone Ida Mae’s Grocery, Wolfe’s Market, the Spot Café, Newt’s Barber Shop, Western Auto, Avalon Theater, Abernathy Hardware, Paris Bakery, TOPPS baseball card bubble gum, Midway Drive-in, Hudson’s Food Market, Jilly Cleaners and the Eagles Little League team? As for you Vincennes, where might I find Uncle John’s Kiddieland, Charlie’s Burger Barn, Big J’s, Allison Drive-in, Frostop, Bonomo Banana Turkish taffy, Burger Chef, New Moon and Rainbow Beach with sand?
Hey, I just remembered the place where I learned the finer skills to be a newspaper guy is dead and buried under a Vincennes University parking lot. Stout Hall seemed like home — morning, noon, and night — during my two years at VU, but ceased “publication” decades ago.
Of course I understand nothing in childhood is as innocent, pristine or serene as one often remembers it. Time and memory have a way of smoothing out the rough spots and covering up the blemishes of our youth.
Still, just once I would like to take a walk, jog or run past something from my boyhood that has not, well, you know, changed a bit.
Doug Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.