You Can't Go Home Again

I didn’t grow up ‘poor’ but it sort of looked that way. This was in SW Florida, where I spent my child to late teen years. It was the 1960s, and my neighborhood was literally ‘mine’. What I mean was that my father had originally own the tract of land where the neighborhood eventually stood. My father was land-rich, but bank ‘poor’. Our neighborhood was anything but fancy; some houses were old, like mine, and some were relatively new.

My father’s house sat right next to a little trailer park, where retired people lived, many for just the winter months. This little trailer park was certainly not plush in any way, but it was also certainly not trashy. In fact, the whole neighborhood reflected a little sign my father had in our living room, ‘Come in, sit down, and be welcome. Our house is clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy’. Boy, that really said it. That, in many ways, was my childhood.

As kids we didn’t have the internet, or much technology at all, but we certainly had a real life. For years growing up, I came home from school, tore my school clothes off, put on my play clothes, and went off riding my one-speed bike with 4 or 5 friends. We stayed out for hours, which was sort of what we were expected to do—make our own fun and stay out from under foot, both at home and out among the doings in our community. Dinner time came and we all peeled off home, starving to death.

We were never in danger from any ********* adults, or in fact in much danger at all because we had COMMON SENSE. On the weekends, the guys played football, basketball, or baseball—sometimes spending all day and even into the evening. We only stopped to eat. Talk about ‘good, clean fun’.

One thing that happened many Fridays is a particularly poignant memory. In the little trailer park, the men would go out on Fridays to go deep sea fishing. Unlike now, it didn’t cost them an arm and a leg, and my dad and I were invited over to enjoy the resulting ‘fish fry’. Fish of all types, and something called ‘hush puppies’ (cornmeal, with onions and spices, deep fried)—wow, I can still taste it! What made it so special was the fellowship of a group of people sharing what little they had—still brings a tear to my eye.

Our public schools were also safe, and they actually taught use facts, thinking skills, and good citizenship—all outlawed by our current ‘progressive’, ‘no work necessary’ K12 system, where the inmates are in charge of the asylum (I have Doctorate in Science Education, I should know). My primary school, in particular, was something that I saw parents in New York City—years later—paying a fortune for. It was pristinely safe, with teachers who really cared, and a hands-on principal.

Thomas Wolf wrote that ‘you can’t go home again’. Well, for me, that became all too true. When I was in my late teens, a super highway was put right through my neighborhood, leaving only two strips on either side. That was bad enough, but the population that this new highway interchange brought to the surrounding area was devastating. Low-income housing and convenience stores eventually came to dominate the district. Needless to say, everything went downhill from there.

Now, much of this city is a trashy place, with dangerous and ineffective schools, and an economy controlled by retired, wealthy people who neither want to support local education with higher taxes, nor want the local ‘trash’ have access to their life styles—other than to cut their yards, or wash their cars.

If I had to go back to that city—which was once right out of ‘The Wonder Years’—to live and work, I’d probably kill myself.

God, this is NOT a challenge--please don't send me back there again.

But growing up there was right out of Mark Twain.
Southpaugh Southpaugh
18-21
Apr 23, 2012