Fond childhood memories fade as town deteriorates

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This past week I ventured to a small country cemetery in Kansas where my grandparents and great grandparents are buried. As I exited a busy blacktop highway and drove down those gravel country roads my mind began to wander. Memories came back to me about my grandparents and the small community in which they lived. I realized I was lucky enough to have fond childhood memories implanted by my grandpa and grandma.
When I neared the cemetery I passed over a new concrete bridge that had replaced the old steel girder bridge that once spanned the Republican River. I slowed and immediately glanced over its edge. I spotted the area where grandpa helped me manipulate my cane fishing pole to pull in a one-eyed catfish. While it may not have seemed like a fond memory, the previous day we had taken raw chicken “innerds”; put them in a glass jar; capped it; and set the jar in the July sun. Gramps told me the stronger the stink, the bigger the fish. Of course, I had to open the jar the next day just to test his theory. He was right. When we returned back to town we had a pretty nice string of fish.
More memories followed later. After visiting the cemetery I decided to venture to the nearby town and see the old home place where fond memories were made. Let me give you a short background of this small rural community that once had a vibrant business district, school, churches, library, rail passenger service and even a hotel. The town is now one step away from a ghost town. Four businesses now make up the “main drag.”
My grandparents once operated a grocery store where I watched him cutting meat, restocking shelves and grandma serving as checkout gal. After work we walked two blocks to their neat white bungalow where grandma had a big bowl of peaches and homemade sugar cookies waiting.
All these memories vanished this time when I turned down the street to relive original homestead memories. The once white bungalow was now grayed by peeling paint. I am sure my grandfather, who always meticulously mixed linseed oil with his paint, had brushed on that final coat decades earlier. The front porch was crumbling and the house itself had a hole in the roof. Scrub trees overtook once well-groomed flower gardens. The library building was closed. My great grandparent’s home has been razed and more than four business buildings were boarded with several others simply just caving in.
That’s when another striking memory came back. I had taken my mother to her hometown some 30 years earlier and as we drove throughout the community she said, “I don’t want to come back here anymore.” That remark puzzled me, but now I think I see her reasoning.
”Mom, I don’t want to come back here anymore either. My once fond memories have taken a severe bashing.”
RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

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