Oneida, New York

It isn’t often we get a chance in our later years to go back to a place and people of our youth. I had that experience over the past weekend.

I grew up in a post-war time and in a bucolic place. It was a small city in central New York. At that time, it had industry to employ its citizens. It had a railroad that ran through it that separated the north and south side of the city. Trains stopped daily. It had, like most eastern cities, its wealthy, its middle class and its poor.

It had a small movie theatre where I changed the marque twice a week, and I was paid five-dollars and free movies. Not bad for a teenager in the 1950’s.

I went back to visit at the invitation of an old friend. The friend was wonderfully the same but educated with the maturity of time and the wisdom of age. My town, however, was no more. The industry was gone. The railroad was gone and the downtown buildings I once thought of as elegant were in the troughs of deterioration; even two of my school buildings were gone.

Architecture and elegance of place are a lot like our bodies. Time takes its toll on all things, flesh and façades are not impervious to the ravages of time.

What I did notice was that the city had moved outward. The elegant homes were now where farms used to be, and my small city was being dissolved and absorbed by  bigger cities nearby.

Maybe someday gentrification will change my Oneida. If not,  my memory will hold until I pass.

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