Photographs and memories . . .
Waverly, NY is like a thousand other small towns in the USA. It, and the surrounding communities collectively known as "The Valley" was, in my childhood, the world, for all intents and purposes. Then, in my youth, it became too constricting, stultifying, stagnant. I escaped for good in 1990 and for years would only shake my head at the thought of actually living there, not so much regretting my childhood as holding in earnest disdain my provincial ways. In our final conversation, minutes before I left for good, my father told me that Waverly was like the Secret Elephant Burial Ground. If you returned there, it could swallow you up. I know he was telling me - 25, poised to enter the nation's capital, graduate school, a whole new life I could not, then, just two months out, even imagine - that this was my chance not only to get out, but to stay out.
Then, something happened. Age offered wisdom as a free gift. With marriage, then parenthood, came the realization that I could not escape the place and time of my raising. Furthermore, the memories crowded around, reminding me of this or that place, this or that person, this or that incident. Facebook reconnected me with men and women I last knew as not-quite adults, not-quite-youth, yet people with whom I had grown up, gone to school, drunk some beers, laughed, occasionally fought, and generally experienced all my life between the ages of 5 and not-quite-18.
Finally, someone on Facebook created an open group for folks from the Valley to share memories, pictures, reminisce about things that were. You know what I learned?
It wasn't so bad, after all.
This is the old Clock Tower, the heart of Waverly's business district. An errant cigarette butt in a bar trash can took out the whole block marching from the front-and-center of the photo off to the left. A furniture store, a couple bars, and the Village Library - gone.
An image taken through the windshield of a car on a quiet morning in the 1960's, the building on the left was Dean Phipps National Auto. Along with teaching, my father worked there part-time as a cashier/clerk, usually on weekends. When he wasn't working at Kobacker's Furniture store on the ground floor of the Clock Tower.
Before my family moved to Waverly in 1970, we lived just four miles away, across the border in Sayre, PA. Around the corner from our now-demolished house on Chemung St. sat Fourth Ward School. I am the only member of my family who didn't attend this school because we moved from Sayre just as I was entering kindergarten. My sisters and brother would walk the couple blocks home each day for lunch. Like so much else - even the house on Chemung St. - Fourth Ward School is only known now in photographs and memories and a small plaque on the grounds where the building sat for decades.
This is the front of my home church, First United Methodist, Sayre, PA. It, too, has gone the way of the dodo, the Edsel, and John McCain's chances at the Presidency. The building still sits on that corner of Lockhart St. and Elmer Ave. It is no longer a United Methodist Church, however.
On the west end of Waverly is a village park, The Glen. At the top of that park, a narrow gash through the hills descending to the Village, cut by the last glacier to move through, there is this waterfall.
That's my brother in the foreground, my youngest sister's face popping up just below me. This picture, taken in the living room of that demolished house, is from Christmastime, 1968. I had just turned three.
Nah. I didn't have such a bad childhood, after all.
Lisa composes the best horror story of all - because it doesn't seem like one until the end.