Last week we talked about the fact that some references claim that America is a land of gypsies because very few people are able to live out their lives in their original hometown. However, I’ve talked with so many people during my lifetime, and what most of them said about that was that they really loved their hometowns, but they just weren’t able to stay there because they couldn’t find employment or go to college there.
I don’t think that makes us a land of gypsies, do you?
However, how about me? Why am I here in Arizona, a desert state, thousands of miles from the two seaports where I grew up — namely, Staten Island and New London? Answer: Sadly, because the two places where I grew up don’t exist anymore.
Oh sure, there’s still a New London and a Staten Island, but they’re nothing like the places where I grew up. Staten Island, which was mostly open land while I was there, was ruined when New York City built two bridges to it, one from — my God! — Brooklyn, and one from New Jersey. A quiet island of mostly open land about the size of the entire Rim Country suddenly changed into just another overcrowded part of New York — with a half million people on it!
And while I was in the Air Force, some misguided people on the New London city council decided to make “improvements” that destroyed my beloved hometown — including even our house! You see, back in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, while serving in Air Force blue, I used to stop home in New London for a week or so each time I came home from overseas. At first, that was always a very happy time, but as the years went by I saw New London change from the warm-hearted, low key, happy town it had been, to one that was run by people who just didn’t get it.
I stopped in New London in 1969 with my beloved wife, Lolly, on our way to England. While there, I told Lolly that I would take her up Huntington Street, where stood the house we had lived in before the family grew small as Bill and Frank married and moved out. However, Charlie, my other brother, took me aside and quietly said, “It’s gone, Tom; torn down along with hundreds of other beautiful Victorian era houses in perfect condition.”
Hardly able to believe it, I drove over to the place where our house had stood along the central ridge of the hill overlooking the beautiful blue Thames River flowing toward the sea half-a-mile below.
And yes, all those beautiful homes were gone.
New London, by the way, is the site of the well-known “Kelo Case,” which caused 45 states, including Arizona, to change their laws on “eminent domain.” It is no longer the happy place I knew while growing up.
But how in the world did I find Pine?
Well, in 1958 while driving across the country on my way to Japan I stopped in a restaurant up in Kingman and was very pleased with its country atmosphere. Then, in 1961 while Lolly, I, and 9-month-old David were crossing the country we stopped in a restaurant in Mesa, which was all it took to convince us that Arizona was the place for us; and even though a wealthy Texas school district talked me into taking a high paying teaching job for eight years, we at last made it to Mesa in 1983, and up here to Pine in 1998!