Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The One Thing I Did As A Kid No One Does Anymore

My old stomping grounds: Pilot Butte Cemetery
Today was a good day for the simple reason I went back to my roots: I walked places. I dropped the van off at the shop to get a state inspection and for an oil change then walked 20 minutes home. Later on I walked the 20 minutes back to pick it up. Then I walked to work. Later on I walked home. It was cold, the wind was blowing and it took an hour out of my day to get everywhere, but it was great.

It was just like when I was a kid back in the day in Bend, Ore. Maybe it says more about my age than anything else, but I must be one of the few people in this country who walked to every school he attended -- starting in kindergarten. I was telling one our daughter's teenage friends the other day how I walked to Trinity Lutheran kindergarten -- a whopping two blocks -- and crossed a highway to get there. Of course, Highway 20, or Greenwood Avenue as its also known, carried a little less traffic in 1974 than it might now. But our daughters' friend was horrified that a 5-year-old kid would walk across a highway. Her horror is misplaced. I grew up in a different time, a different place. I consider myself lucky.

When I hit first grade I walked to Bear Creek Elementary, meandering through Pilot Butte Cemetery to get there. I was saying how much I enjoyed the walk to school. Maybe not every single day -- before global warming it used to snow in Bend as I recall -- but I just loved having that quiet time before and after school. I got the blood pumping -- it might pump more today if I was walking seeing as how a cougar was spotted in a nearby neighborhood last fall -- and got some exercise and got an education along the way. By the time I hit middle school I could have given you a walking historical tour of Pilot Butte Cemetery, including where to find the grave of a Civil War veteran and the grave site of a man born in 1845, the earliest birth date of any tombstone I had cataloged in the graveyard. To this day I have a soft spot for graveyards.

Miss Nesting, Mrs. Flanary, Mrs. Shepard, Mr. Powelson, Mr. Moore. My teachers at Bear Creek from 1st-5th grade.

From Bear Creek Elementary I matriculated to Pilot Butte Junior High. It was a longish walk to what's today known as a middle school. A couple of blocks down 11th Street, across Highway 20/Greenwood Avenue -- oh, the horror! -- then snake around the northwest flank of Pilot Butte. A lot of the time a few of my buddies, RB "Rand" Smith, Brian "BT Express" Thomas and Brian "Schwartz" Fleck, would assemble at my house and then ride our bikes to school. Either way, it was a great way to start and finish the day, from my perspective. I had a little adventure dodging cars on Highway 20 -- I never stopped when I crossed the highway and figured, rightly, the cars and trucks would yield -- a little communing with nature navigating the trails snaking through the juniper trees and sagebrush and then, of course, the exercise.

After three years in junior high it was off to the big leagues and a half-mile or so walk to Bend High School. I recall getting to school on some days with frozen hair. Seriously. I wouldn't wear a hat -- things have changed since then, obviously -- and would often leave for school with wet hair. Again, back before global warming it got cold in Bend in the winter and there were days I would use first period to thaw out my hair. Sometimes I would run home for lunch and then run back to school. Of course, there were plenty of times my homies and I would hit Sweetheart Donuts down on Third Street. Those were the days. I remember spending 35 hard earned cents on an eclair donut from Sweetheart Donuts. Can that be right? What does 35 cents get you anymore? Certainly not a donut.

The days of walking to school are long gone. Times have changed. In addition to the occasional cougar that might be prowling around, there's all the other stuff you have to worry about. For starters, I bet there's a little more traffic on Highway 20/Greenwood Avenue these days, especially considering there's about five times as many people in Bend now than when I grew up there. Then there's the general concern that a little kid walking alone through a cemetery might get abducted. That's definitely in play. Or that walking to school in snow might somehow constitute child abuse these days. Would Ma and Pa Sabo get busted for child abuse for letting their kid walk to school in the snow?

As I was walking back and forth through metropolitan Gloucester Point this morning, it brought me back to crisscrossing northeast Bend from the mid-70s into the late '80s. I go back to what I wrote earlier. I was a lucky kid.

To get an idea of what my walks around my neighborhood are like lately, check this out: Gloucester Point walkabout

*Author's note: A special thank you to Katherine Cockrum for snapping some photos of my old stomping grounds today and sending them to me. As a side note, her brother is none other than my longtime Bend homie the BT Express himself. And her husband is my friend and former Bend High School cross country teammate, Joe Cockrum. God bless you all.

9 comments:

  1. Very cool post... loved every minute of it! Smiling.... :) k

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    1. Smiling along with you Katherine. Thanks again for all your help!

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  2. Beautiful memories. Sometimes (always) I long to let my kids have the same freedom that I did as a child. It is a constant battle round these parts.

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    1. Thanks Christina. I know the battle well.

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  3. I had forgotten you too grew up in Bend. What a great small town it was "back in the day." Since we lived well out of town, on O.B. Riley, it was transportation by bike for me, rather than walking. But the nonetheless we didn't need activity (step) frackers to keep us from being sedentary. Thanks for taking us down memory lane. A few weeks ago as ran by Bear Creek Elem., Bend High, and up Pilot Butte, in the snow, and around the newish traffic circles. Good times.

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    1. I agree with you Jeff. I really enjoyed growing up in Bend. It's changed so much now I really have to try not to get lost in parts of it. Haha. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a note. God bless you all.

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  4. Still here, 43 years and counting, about to become a grandmother to a 4th generation Bendite. The town has changed to a city and the days that Matt speak of, much to my dismay, are long gone. Thanks for the walk down memory lane Matt! Cheers!

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    1. Hey Christine, thanks for dropping a note and for joining me on remembering the "good old days" in Bend. Take care. -- Matt

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  5. You sure put the lie to old Thomas Wolfe. Now I'm feeling nostalgic for Columbus, Wis.

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