Thursday, January 13, 2011

Riding The Merry-Go-Round Of Time

I don't know what others think about when they think about Time, but today... today I think it's a kind of merry-go-round... a merry-go-round clock that takes us past the same places again and again, but those places are all a bit different with each pass.

For the first 20 years or so of my life, it felt as if I had a seat on the painfully slow-moving hour hand. Each new school year stretched out before me like an eternity. When I was in third grade, I couldn't imagine ever being as big or sophisticated as the kids in the sixth grade classroom on the other side of the building. Some hours in my own third grade classroom seemed to last an eternity. I can distinctly remember being told one day that my aunt would be coming by in ten minutes to pick us up at our home to take us to hers and then feeling as if those ten minutes would never, ever come to an end....

For the second 20 years of my life, it felt as if I was riding the minute hand. Although Time still seemed to drag occasionally (such as when I was terribly sick and each minute seemed to contain an eternity of torture), it also seemed to occasionally whiz by (such as when I was spending the last few minutes with a close friend in college just before the start of a long summer break). By and large, however, Time seemed to be moving along just as it should be - fast enough to satisfy my need for new experiences, but not so fast that those experiences were here and gone before I'd adequately explored and enjoyed them.

Now that I'm well into my third 20 years of life, it seems as if I'm riding the sweep second hand, constantly being pulled away from moments I'm not done with and pushed into a future I'm never prepared for....

I think it was Einstein who first said that the faster things go, the heavier (or massier) they get. Something similar seems to be happening to my brain as Time seems to accelerate.

The past (as Faulkner said) is never dead; it's not even past. It leaves (I now say) bits of shrapnel in us - memories that stick and accumulate and combine to create a sort of heaviness (or massiness) in our heads. When on their best behavior, these memories serve as a kind of ballast that gives us added stability as we go through rough times in the present. They also graciously teach us lessons and provide us with insights that third graders can hardly dream of. At their worst, however, memories can turn increasingly ugly and malignant until the day comes when we're so weighed down with them, we fall off the merry-go-round clock and Time races on without us....

In recent years computers and the Internet have allowed me to better organize, research, and perhaps understand the memories that I have. If nothing else, they have allowed me to better appreciate the kaleidoscopic light show that's been playing in the background all through my own personal little ride through Time.

Here now, for no reason in particular, is some of what I've seen....

This is an aerial shot of part of my childhood neighborhood, circa 1955 (just a few years before I was born). It's one of the very few aerial shots of Toledo I've ever come across and it just happens to have been taken from a spot almost exactly above the first home I can remember and lived in for 8 years. What are the odds?

Not that it matters, but that's the intersection of Central and Cherry there near the middle of the lower edge. Cherry is the street that's running left and right. I've been told that it handled nearly 30,000 vehicles a day back then while Central handled at least 10,000. Unless I'm even worse at math than I suspect, that works out to some 1,200,000 vehicles a month - and more than 12,000,000 every year. It's as if the entire population of Ohio streamed into and out of my immediate vicinity more than 8 times during the 1960s.

And I spent more time than I care to calculate watching that population go by, wondering where so many people were coming from and where so many people might possibly want to go.

Virtually no one ever stopped (or even slowed down enough) to tell me, so I'm left to wonder still....

This is a blow-up of the lower right corner. Regular eagle-eyed readers might recognize The House with The Tower that I wrote about (and shared pictures of) here and here.

I believe that the two houses to the left of The House had already been torn down by the time I was gazing upon this scene from the same angle (just 100 yards or so closer to the earth).

The duplex on Cherry St. directly across from The House is where I lived when The House was razed in 1974. The upstairs porch is where I stood to take the pictures of its demolition.

Here's what that duplex looked like circa 1945. By the time I moved in some 25 years later, the streetcar tracks had been paved over and the upstairs porch had been enclosed - two classic examples of mid-20th century progress for you to sit and drool over in awe now.

Although I was quite young at the time, I was the member of the family most responsible for our moving to this place. We needed to move (for a variety of reasons) and I noticed a For Rent sign in a lower window while riding the bus one day. I told my mother about it, but she blew me off, saying that the sign seemed to always be there and that this must mean there was something wrong with the place. I persisted, however, and eventually got her to at least call. It turned out that the landlord (who lived downstairs) also rented out other nearby property on less traveled roads and the sign was sometimes for them - but not this time. We soon toured the place and took it - for $110 a month. It seemed outrageously expensive at the time, but it was worth every dollar. It turned out to be the nicest place I ever lived in Toledo.

Here's a shot of it that I took using my silly little Kodak Instamatic camera in 1979. We'd moved away to another part of town 3 years before, but I'd convinced my brother-in-law to go back one more time just to check on things. As awful as this shot is, I think one can see that the upstairs porch is clearly enclosed. It's nice to have a photograph that shows that my memories aren't entirely the stuff of dreams....

The TV tower was for the downstairs tenant - not us. Although the landlord had promised to allow us to connect to it, that never happened. This might not have been a big deal in most cities, but Toledo's TV market was pretty much overshadowed by Detroit's. It seems like everyone else in town had an antenna to bring in the signals from The Motor City just 60 miles to our north. The TV tower right outside our dining room window allowed our landlord to even bring in Windsor's channel 9! We had rabbit ears that did only a fair job of bringing in our two local VHF channels. Until I learned more about Vietnam and Biafra, I thought this was one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the world....

This is another shot I took from the duplex porch. The House with The Tower would have been just to the left of the Marathon station if it had still been there. Since this shot was taken one Sunday morning in 1976, however, it had already been gone for 2 years.

What *is* there is the apartment I lived in for the first 8 years of my life. That apartment was in the upstairs of the red building to the left of the (right) Marathon sign.

I don't know how many people on earth may have had the privilege of living in a home that allowed them a clear view of their earliest childhood home, but - if you ever get the chance - I'd highly recommend it. It's like living "Our Town" and then getting to see it performed by other people. Which is to say it's like living life with the suspicion that it's all a play, then taking up residence in a place that effectively reduces your earlier residence to the status of a stage set.

(On rare occasions, the blue sky above that stage set was visited by the blimp that I wrote about here. Even though that blimp didn't have any lines, it always managed to steal the show.)

Here's another shot of my first home (along with some of its closest friends). I took it in 1979 at about the same time I took the one above of the duplex. I'm very glad I did now - it's one of the very few shots I have of its exterior - but at the time I wasn't so sure. I fully expected the guy in the Cadillac or Lincoln coming up behind us to stop and blow my head off. It was, shall we say, a troubled neighborhood. I just naturally assumed he was dealing drugs or a pimp or both, and I couldn't imagine him smiling for my camera. Somehow, I got away alive.

Not everyone was so lucky. I've since learned that on Feb 10 of that year, a 29-year-old woman was shot to death in the bar that occupied the first floor of my old home. Apparently she had accused a man of taking $20 from her, so the guy naturally started shooting.

Living to be 29-years-old seemed to me to be quite an accomplishment back then.

Now it seems much more like dying while walking home from the last day of kindergarten....

This is the only photo I've been able to find of the front of my first real home. It's supposedly from 1937, but I have my doubts. There was a hardware store downstairs for most of the time we lived there. When it closed in 1967, it had supposedly been run by our landlord for more than 40 years. He told me at some point that there had been a Kroger's there before; I found this proof of that claim just a few years ago. Supposedly the hardware used the same front door that Kroger's had. There was maybe a 6" high by 18" wide mini-door in the lower part of the heavy wood frame that some long-ago bread company supposedly had used to deliver fresh bread every morning before Kroger's opened. Small grocery stores like this apparently dotted Toledo every few blocks in the 1920s and 1930s when cars were relatively few and people actually walked to get what they needed. By the time I'd come along, they'd all been replaced by Super Markets and the old stores had been taken over by carry-outs, bars, and - at least once - a hardware. The bars seem to have lasted the longest.

For what it's worth, I'm sure the door on the right that we used for 8+ years is the same one that's in this photo. Faces may come and go in my mind but doors have a way of staying put.

The awning was long gone, however. But the ancient metal gearbox someone used to stick a handle in and turn to raise and lower the awnings remained. Maybe the metal frame remained, too, more or less permanently stuck against the building in the up position. Vestiges of another time, barely noticed while I lived there 50 years ago, and now suddenly popping up again in my mind as the merry-go-round of Time rolls on and on.

Alas, I have no idea who the shadowy figures in front of the next building may have been. But I hope they got to enjoy some of that fresh Kroger produce all the same.

There's a lot more I could say, but for now I'll just say this: Long before I sat and stared at The Big House on Cherry St. and realized that I would never get up into its attic and The Tower, I stood and stared at those attic vents above my own home and realized that I'd never get up into the space that existed above my very own head for most of my life. It couldn't have been much of a space, being far too short to stand up in, but I would have really enjoyed catching a glimpse of it all the same.

I came close once. The access panel was in the ceiling of the front closet of the other apartment, not ours, so coming close is pretty remarkable in and of itself, I guess. The lady who took me to The Moose Lodge (as recounted here) lived there at the time and (as I may have mentioned) kept an eye on me in her apartment for an hour or two after I returned home from school for the day. One afternoon, for some reason, we were in her closet, I saw the access panel above my head, and I asked if I could go up and take a look. Of course she said no. But it was at least a no coupled to an explanation. I can't quite recall what the explanation was now, but I think it had something to do with dirt and bugs, maybe even bats. That both further aroused my curiosity and repulsed me. I'd never thought about bugs and bats possibly living right above my head while I slept. I didn't entirely appreciate having to think about it after that. Maybe sticking my head up into that attic space would have calmed my nerves; maybe not. At this late date, it seems safe to say that I'll never know.

As luck would have it, I *did* eventually get into the attic of the house that was right across the street from this Central home of ours, but that's a story for another day. The merry-go-round of Time is now spinning me in a very different direction.

May all YOUR spins be happy ones.

(Just don't brag about them if they are.)


  1. Remember when oil companies had to lure in customers? "Instant Money At Marathon." Christmas glasses at Marathon. BC glasses at marathon. Them were some good glasses, the ones with BC characters. Thick bottoms held the cold. The sides were thin, tho. I remember one of them shattering when I cubes (the kind you cracked out of the ice tray) melted, shifted and expanded. Wait, I think I remember more than one busting that way. Maybe that's how they all died.

    Do you remember jelly that came in little juice glasses? Whoever designed those understood reduce, reuse and recycle. Probably learned that from the Depression. Our depression babies aren't learning anything except how to type with their thumbs.

    That's the smallest Kroger I ever saw.

    The faster I go, the heavier I get. I'll have to think about that for a while. Slowly.

  2. I'm also riding that same faster-ever-faster merry-go-round of time, but after reading this, I feel I've been spun back to a slower pace of time, once more. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts and pictures of little DJ's world - I really liked this, particularly the part where you compare your world to that of "Our Town." :-)

    I wonder if your current home has an attic which you've explored, and if so, if it at least partially satisfied that heightened curiosity in you?

  3. I feel like I'm too young to comment the way I want to. However, I really enjoyed the trip through your Toledo.

  4. "Christmas Candle Burning Bright, light our happy home tonight."
    That was Marathong commercial, too, wasn't it?