Sunday, April 24, 2016

REMINISCING: How Things Have Changed

Sometimes when I’m talking with my kids about something I did in my youth, they get confused. Some of the things I mention no longer exist, or have changed dramatically. Likewise, when my parents talk about the “good, old days,” my siblings and I end up having questions about their stories. As an historian, I sometimes know of what they speak by simply having read about it during research I’ve done. So, what has changed? Do you remember some of these things? Are they any other stories you can tell me about them?

Both my grandmothers lived in Lyndonville. It’s not really that far away, but as a child it seemed like the trip took forever. One thing I always watched for on the way home was the stone quarry overpass just outside of Gasport. When we drove beneath it, we knew we were almost home -- just around the curve and up the hill. Alas, that old building and the overpass are gone.

Stone quarry overpass on Rt. 31 east of Gasport
Photo from Jennifer & Jesse Bieber.

One of the other memories of driving home from Lyndonville was going through downtown Medina at Christmas time. As kids, my brother and sister and I loved seeing the decorations draped across Main Street with their lights twinkling in the winter dusk. At the same time, there used to be a Christmas tree of lights on the Fisher-Price building that we could see from Route 31. Seeing those decorations and counting all the houses with holiday lights was a great treat for us kids.

As I’ve said in an earlier “Reminiscing” article, when we first moved to Lockport, there used to be a traffic light at the corner of Walnut and Davison. Another thing about Davison was that it used to end at Akron Road. The section between Akron Road and Lincoln Avenue was still undeveloped. I quite clearly remember when they started putting in the extension of Davison. I was afraid of thunderstorms and they were doing some blasting when they put the road in. I thought for sure it was thunder and completely freaked out.

On Lincoln, at the end of Davison was this huge quonset hut building with “GMC” stenciled on the end of it. It was years before I learned that it used to be the hanger for the Lee Airport. I guess I figured that out just before they tore it down to put in the Rite-Aid. When I was playing baseball for Lockport Little League at Ray Lee Field, you could still see where the runway was behind the diamonds. Later, as they added more fields, the last glimpses of the old airport disappeared.

Hanger at Lee Airport, where Rite-Aid is now located.
Speaking of baseball, I used to play Little League for Golden Trucking. We were not a great team. We weren’t even a very good team that first year. We won one game. The last one. Against the best team. I guess that was a little redemption for a long season of losses. When I was old enough to move up, we had a “draft” tryout at the Kenan Center. Somehow, although I was a terrible player, I made it to the Majors rather than the Minors. Maybe it was my heart. I did give it my all. I was still terrible.

In our rolling around town when we were kids, we ran across some ruins that attracted our attention. The old cotton batten plant between South Street and Elmwood Avenue was long gone when I was a kid, but there were still concrete pads and holes that led into the ground. There was a path that ran through the center of the area for those people going to or from Roy B. Kelley. The real interesting parts were off that path.

There were some square shafts that led underground. I don’t think they really went very far, but in our minds, there was a whole hidden world beneath our feet waiting to be discovered. In all reality, the holes were only a couple feet deep and mostly filled with the detritus of years of abandonment. Additionally, across the street was the Health Club, which had been a part of the cotton batten plant. It was closed when I was a kid, but locked doors were no impediment for curious kids. Anyone remember sneaking in there?

There used to be a pretty big park program during the summer. I went to Kibler Park to play soccer in the summer. We had games against teams from other parks around the city. We used to ride our bikes or walk across town to some of our games and thought nothing of it. Today, kids barely walk to school on their own, even if they live close enough to walk. Times sure have changed.

7-11 used to be one of our hangouts, and we didn’t always have to use the sidewalks to get there. Sometimes, we’d jump the creek at the back of Mott’s Field and take the trails over to the store. There were a whole series of trails behind 7-11, and some hills. I think there was a group of kids who used to ride mountain bikes through there. Those were the trails we used. Looking at the satellite view, I noticed that those trails are gone. Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday that we’d run to the top of the trail and jump down one of the hills.

There have been a lot of changes in just my time as a kid in Lockport. For some of my readers, I’m sure there have been even more changes. I know that before the house was built where my parents live, there was an empty lot with a pond, and Bob-O-Link Lane was not developed. It was probably just as cool of a play area for neighborhood kids as Mott’s Field was.

Change will continue to take place, no matter how much we try to clutch onto some of our most cherished memories. Each change can bring new memories, not only to us, but also to succeeding generations. I hope this column gets you thinking of some of the great times you’ve had around the area. I’d be more than happy to listen.

Craig Bacon likes to talk about what used to be, and what can still be.