Recently an old friend of mine sent me a message concerning our hometown. It seemed that she had gotten the chance to visit one of those mysterious places from our childhood that we held in awe. We all had them, be it a ‘haunted house’ or that old cemetery where you frequently dared one another to enter. In this case it was a building we called ‘The Guitar Factory’. I guess it had been at one time, although my mother told me it had been converted into artist’s studios. Since I knew enough artists along with my mom, that sort of put a damper on the romance. However, there was also a character to go along with it. An older man with a long gray beard who rode his bicycle through town. The poor gentleman was probably the nicest of fellows, and had to put up with our giggles. We called him Weird Beard and pretended that he lived in the guitar factory for some reason which probably made sense at age 8. Anyway, along with the astounding news of my friend’s visit to ‘The Guitar Factory’, she also sadly wrote that ‘Weird Beard’ had passed away. Her news awoke some memories of our old town which have probably been forgotten by many.
We lived in a quaint old town with quite a few characters. The kind who seem to inhabit towns small enough and old enough to have a strong personality. There was Walking Bob, Sunoco Tom, and Tiny, the village homeless lady who of course had grown up in a very wealthy family who live in the ‘Castle’. As children we never knew the stories of Sunoco Tom (who drove a huge old car with fins covered with gasoline brand decals) or Walking Bob, probably there were none, but the one about Tiny – well that was mysterious enough to capture anyone’s imagination. Word had it that her family was swindled out of all their money and she was left penniless. (I never knew if the story was really very truthful, but I like to believe it is) The Castle was actually a largish house on the outskirts of town which had since been divided into apartments. I have told my own daughters the story of Tiny, capturing their own imaginations too.
It seem to me that we all should be able to have known a place, our hometown or maybe a summer visit to our Grandparent’s, which contains mystery and romance. I don’t know if many of the kids growing up today have that. I know my own daughters don’t hear of anything like that in our own particular suburban jungle and that saddens me.