But I was trolling someone else's blog - he was waxing nostalgic about his hometown as it was some 60 years ago, and it got me thinking of the changes that have come about in my hometown, which happens to be West Peabody, Massachusetts.
One thing you should know about Peabody is that, like any other town I suppose, it's very much a product of the time during which it came into its own. For West Peabody, that was the late '60s and 70s - which is the exact epoch of my pre-pubescent youth.
West Peabody, situated as it was 18 miles north of Boston, was thought of as the sticks. When my parents moved there from the much more sensible city of Everett, complete with its zero-lot-lines and double- and triple-decker houses, the sprawling ranches and 1/3-acre lots must have seemed one step away from farms. Over everything, West Peabody was quiet. My father recalls vividly that the two things he had the hardest time getting used to was the lower ceilings of the house they'd bought, and the eerie, everlasting quiet that was the suburbs. He, after all, spent most of his adult life living on the same corner as a bus stop; the difference must have been startling.
In a lot of ways of course that kind of suburbia still remains; my little corner of it has changed very little. Most of the houses are still the same color as they were; indeed of the five houses that comprise my parent's closest neighbors, three are occupied by the same people that occupied them in 1970. But there were a few differences, which serve as a quaint reminder of how things used to be:
- There was a guy who would walk a pushcart down my street, clanging a triangle. He was the knife sharpener; what a way to make a living. He was not a young man, either, and he had a lot of ground to cover. He was one of the first casualties of the throwaway society to which the US transitioned in the middle '70s.
- There was a grand total of one Chinese restaurant, and that wasn't even in Peabody: The Bali Hai in Lynnfield. To this day it remains my favorite Chinese joint, to the eternal disgust of my wife, who, as they say, ain't from here. When another restaurant opened in Peabody, the now-offensively-named Oriental Jade, we wondered why on earth anyone would open a Chinese restaurant so close to the Bali Hai.
- The main street that connects West Peabody to Peabody proper, Lowell Street, was at one point such a quiet sleepy street that one could walk -- hell, one could saunter -- across the street with complete confidence that nobody was coming any time soon. Now (and for the last twenty years) it's choked with traffic and crossing the street against a light or not in a crosswalk is beyond folly; it's outright suicide.
- One of my most amusing memories is looking out my window at the garbagemen coming up the street - and my 5-year-old self would (remember this was 1972 or 3) flash them the peace sign, and they'd flash it back at me. The stop signs in our neighborhood all had the word "War" spraypainted at the bottom. My dad would use that as an excuse to run the stop sign. I remember protesting one day and he said "It says 'stop war,' not stop the car." I also remember being satisfied with that rationale. And even in deepest suburbia, there were hippies: Our neighbors three doors down, the News (you out there, Danny? We all hated you), had an odd relation who would show up in an ancient blue Saab and would, on early mornings, lean against it and play the flute. I remember liking him, thinking that the rest of his stuck-up douchebag family could stand to be more like him.
- And of course, my Dad was a hale, strong, funny bastard with an ever-present twinkle in his eye and a shit-eating grin on his face that made you think he had the world by the short-and-curlies, my Mom was young and pretty, and my biggest responsibility was coloring inside the lines - and you can bet your ass that I miss those things way more than the knife sharpener guy.