The Past Has Passed
But Sometimes We Can Revisit It In Other Ways.
At my age the passing of friends and acquaintances is an occurrence happening much too often. Not only do people pass but other things that have had a great influence on our lives also seem to disappear with regularity. I was stunned this week to receive news from my growing up days in Ohio to the effect they were tearing down my high school. How could “they” do such a thing? Who in the world do “they” think they are? How could “they” possibly destroy such an institution, especially when it was remodeled and expanded recently?
As I thought about it, I realized recently was not so recent. I was a freshman in 1952 when the expansion occurred; that’s 60 years ago! I vividly remember the construction foreman as he walked around with a handful of plans, and I also remember some students laughing at him because of his high-heeled boots, brush jacket and Stetson. I thought he was the height of fashion and found out he was actually from Texas and was only in town for the building job. His image stuck with me as I moved West and wound up dressing the same way.
All those rooms full of memories are now gone. Hopefully the memories will stay, but time even has a way of dimming that part of our past. As I thought about it, it’s not only the school that has disappeared, all of my closest friends from that time are also gone. I feel a lot like a last man standing. As I thought some more I also realized the razing of the school was just the last in a long line of disappearances. The first house I remember living in was torn down years ago to provide parking for a nearby school. They didn’t need parking space in the 1940’s, as hardly anyone drove to school. Times certainly changed.
That house sat back in a courtyard with four other houses off of a main street, which was a virtual heaven at my young age. Across that street was a doughnut shop—and I mean a real doughnut shop. It seemed to my young-age eyes those doughnuts were as big as a catcher’s mitt and all crinkly and sugary; today’s offerings don’t even appeal to me.
On my side of the street there was a wonderful little building. I think they called it a confectionary. They served up the largest 5¢ ice cream cones in the world—if you could come up with 5¢. In the back of that store there was what appeared to me at the time to be an incredibly old lady by the name of Maggie. Maggie sat at a table dipping candy in melted chocolate. She always saved the not-quite-so-perfect pieces to give to the neighborhood kids. As I look back on the experience I think Maggie deliberately sabotaged enough pieces to keep us all happy.
I spent the war years living in that wonderful neighborhood and well remember the blackouts and practicing for an air raid, even though I was still in my pre-school years. After the war an all-brick housing project comprising several blocks on three streets was built basically to house returning veterans and their families. When my step-dad came home from Europe in 1945, he spent some time convalescing in the Veterans Hospital after having been repatriated from an 18-month stay in a POW camp.
We then moved into one of the new homes, which was very small, very modest, very clean and a virtual heaven on earth for young kids as there were so many of us. It was a totally safe environment with large playgrounds, and every Wednesday evening at the administration building the neighborhood kids gathered for movies. This was in the pre-television days and we were treated to a cartoon, a serial chapter, and a feature (B-Western of course). We sat on the floor and had a wonderful time; they even served us popcorn. All this is gone now and the housing project itself is a ghetto. Do kids even have such as we did then today?
Want to really reach back? How about a brand-new 1866 Yellow Boy?
The first grade school I attended was in a well-kept little neighborhood within walking distance; there were several penny candy stores around the school and also in the neighborhood. That school was torn down decades ago and that neighborhood is also a ghetto today. On January 1, 1950, we moved a couple miles up the hill into a real house. It sat back about 30 yards behind another house and the folks in that front house owned both homes.
Their son and I went to school together for the next six years and the first date I ever had was with his sister. I spent the 1950’s in that house and what a great happy time it was. We were poorer then, I realized, however mom always kept a clean, dry, warm house with plenty to eat and I thought it was a great treat to have popcorn and Kool-Aid on Saturday night. I mean how could anybody live any better than this? I’d like to go back to that house and just walk around the house and into the woods behind it, but it can’t be done for many reasons, not the least of which that house burned to the ground after my folks moved away. Even sadder is the fact the two kids who lived in the front house are both now long gone.
After high school I went to work for a company catering to the construction industry with a large 3-story building plus a basement covering a full block downtown. At the age of 17 I was in charge of all incoming freight with trucks unloading on the front dock and boxcars and flat cars on the back. I worked outside in all kinds of weather and enjoyed every moment of that job. However, once I was married I had to find something better paying to raise a family.
All the memories of that place are under attack as it was swept aside with urban renewal. After Diamond Dot and I got married, we moved into an apartment house within walking distance of the tire factory where I worked while going to college. You guessed it, both factory and apartment house were torn down many years ago. My past has passed. I can’t go back simply because there is no back to go to. Everything is gone. Even the memories keep fading.
I felt so bad after hearing about my high school being torn down I looked forward to church on Sunday just knowing I would find some comfort there. You know what that young pastor had the audacity to speak on that particular morning? His theme was we can’t live in the past! How could he be so young and so wise? We can’t live in the past. Once in a while we may be able to visit but that’s about it. He also told us we can’t live in the future. All we have is now and we need to make the best of what we have. Most of us spend the first part of our life living in the future and the last part of our life trying to live in the past. It doesn’t work. What we have is now. However, we do have one exception to this rule.
The one exception I have, the one past I can still hold on to, is a place I spend most of my time and that is wherever there are firearms. I can’t go out today and buy a new car made the same way it was in 1911, however I can buy a brand-new 1911 which is basically the same as it was way back then. I can buy a brand-new Colt Single Action, which is also basically the same as it was all the way back to 1873, and it doesn’t stop there. I can still have a new Winchester 1894, a Winchester Model 70 which goes all the way back to the 1930’s, a Smith & Wesson double-action revolver that is the same as it was 100 years ago, basically, except for changes in metallurgy and a few minor other things. And it still doesn’t stop there either.
Thanks to replicas, I can shoot virtually every Colt percussion revolver ever made. New Remingtons dating all the way back to the 1850’s are available, even the S&W No. 3 Russian and Schofield from the 1860’s and 1870’s are available brand-new. Then there are the Sharps, Remington and Winchester single-shot rifles, as well as every Winchester lever action ever made, from the 1860 Henry, 1866 Yellow Boy, 1873 (Gun That Won The West), Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite, the Model 1876, and the powerful Model 1886. Then there is the Model 1892 (slick-little saddle gun), the ageless 1894 and even the trendsetting Model 1895—all there for my enjoyment.
We are so blessed today to have the most modern of firearms including a long list of polymer-framed pistols, AR-15’s not only in the original chambering, but several newer ones as well as .22 versions, and bolt-action rifles, which are not only better than they have ever been, but also relatively cheaper than they were in the middle of the 20th century. We have all of this and still a long list of the old-style guns. Yes, the past is passed and we can’t go back—except when it comes to firearms.
By John Taffin