Last week my sister and I visited our hometown for the stated reason of checking on our mother’s well being. At least that was the excuse I used. We actually did perform our ‘due diligence’ looking into her health, finances and general state of mind. Another reason was to attend our high school’s homecoming game and visit a few folks we grew up with. It was also my sister’s 30th high school reunion so she was off on her own quite a bit with all the festivities. During my alone time I walked for several hours around the town I once roamed decades ago mainly on foot or bike until I earned my driver’s license.
Although founded in the early 1800s and developed into a tourist resort thru the 19th century, the town as I recall it was mostly built during the early to mid 20th century.
This was also the first time I’d visited since passing the 50 year mark (I’m 51). I began to notice things I don’t recall ever seeing. I described it to one person afterward as watching something you care for very much as it dies. Northeast Florida’s sub-tropical climate seems to have worn out all the familiar homes and buildings. They seem limp and weak, covered with vegetation or mildew. Although the weather cooperated I encountered few other pedestrians out on business or pleasure. The downtown shopping area, like too many other small towns, is almost dead. Probably due to the Wal-Mart 12 miles up the road.
Stopping to chat with one newer resident now living in (and having renovated) a house just three doors down from where I grew up, they mentioned in five years the town would be completely different from the way it is now. In order to survive and thrive I have to agree. I could cite many examples with evidence that the town has been slowly dying since the early 1960s. I hope I live long enough to see its rebirth.