August 12, 2005
When we were little kids my mom would very often drop the “I remember when…” phrase as the beginning to stories about her life as a child. We would be in Reno shopping for buckle-up oxford Stride-Rites and she would say something like, “Oh, I remember in high school when there weren’t any houses out here and we would come out to the stable on Baker Lane and ride horses out through the fields. Things have just changed so much.”
Maybe that explains my constant story-telling to the under-aged captives who have no choice but to listen to a similar theme as we drive from various activities and practices past the landmarks of my childhood.
From Coleman Road south on Venturacci, I point out the houses that have sprung up where corn fields had grown for as far back as my memory goes. “I remember when the school bus came down this road to drop off the first and second graders at Northside and we were eye level with the tops of the corn when we looked straight out the bus windows.”
“I remember when they moved the train depot to Williams Avenue and turned it into a restaurant, when you went to the Rusty Spur for the best steak in town, my first “grown-up” job was being a clerk at Kolhoss Grocery on Maine Street and people came to buy cigarettes for a dollar-four. We got school clothes upstairs in the Penny’s building right across the street, and on the last day of school every year we got to have the PTA Day Parade.”
My kids are amazed by the stories and they say horrible things like, “Mom! Did you live in the olden days?”
The other night after a city council meeting a small group of concerned citizens were gathered out back of city hall, solemnly chatting about the changes that have come with Fallon’s booming growth. They were resigned to the realities of development coming to their neighborhood, accepting the inevitable transformation of their world. An impromptu session of “Remember When” started up, that for a “sense of place” junkie like me, was pure oxygen.
They talked about when Dairy Queen was on Maine Street and as kids they would cruise the parking lot. Since we did the same thing in the 80’s when I was in high school, I was amazed to know that they had done the same thing back in the real olden days.
They remembered when Hillyard’s drug store was on the corner, and the Starvin’ Marvin’ restaurant was in the pie shaped property where Auction Road comes into Williams.
And then they talked for a while about the old fair grounds, which used to be on Williams Avenue, between Venturacci and Auction Road, and the Dry Gulch—where every Labor Day everyone who had ever gone to school here went when they came home and you had to go down and see all the people you grew up with.
They told about the hay palace that was built every year at the county fair, and the stock car races that used to be held in the arena at the fairgrounds right down town and how the kids would play under the grand stands and collect the empty soda bottles.
I remembered that my 4-H sewing club in fourth grade was held in Dry Gulch on Wednesday afternoons after school and I had to walk there all by myself from West End, and that year I made a little blue apron that I still have.
It’s funny how we are shaped by our landmarks and the shared memories of a place—the people we knew there, the experiences we had. Even though these places may have a different meanings for each of us, having collective memories of the places we have been is a very real part of who we are and in a large part what makes us a community.
And the beautiful thing about Fallon is that it doesn’t take a long time to become a part of it. New memories are made every day, and the things we do now—the places we meet and the times we have together are going to be “the olden days” before we know it. Progress marches on, but we do a good job of reminding each other of where we’ve been and preserving the memories that define us.
My life has been defined by this community. I felt a part of it early on, and it felt good to know where I fit in the world. Perhaps the one permanent memory etched forever in the place that makes me who I am, is the reminder I saw out of the school bus window twice a day until fifth grade. The neon cowboy sign at the Lariat Motel burning an image of “God Bless American” boldly and permanently into my conscience. For me it’s the symbol of where I belong—God Bless Fallon.