Thursday, August 6, 2009

There was a time, time is a river

There was a time, maybe 30 or 40 years ago, when I could have told you who lived in every single house on the street. Back then, in fact, I could have gone down all the streets in town, and rattled off names for 90 percent of the people living there.
But time is a river, and as Marcus Aurelius understood, we should “reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away.”
I went back to Dolores several years ago now, to the river town where I grew up and my parents still lived at the time.  My dad and mom moved away several years ago, and my dad died in 2013.
Much of it was the same. But I don’t get back as often as I should, and started thinking, and walking, and trying to remember then.
Down on the corner, during Mass at the little Catholic church (Our Lady of Victory), it was possible for me take in a little different perspective — as I was never Catholic until long after leaving Dolores.
The church was always there (since 1901 at least), at the end of the street, but I don’t recall ever setting foot in there before. They welcomed me, and gave me a prayer card.
“May the Lord watch over you and guide you on your journey…his saints and angels protect you on your way… no harm come to you and may you reach your destination in peace and safety.”
Amen, I say to that, brother.
From there I wandered ‘downstream’ toward the Hollywood Bar. I was hoping to run into someone I knew and thought I had better chance in that direction. Unfortunately, the Hollywood was destroyed by fire in August of 2012.
On the way, past the bank and what used to be the post office, the old Forest Service buildings, Bud’s Auto, etc… Couldn’t help but notice that the Food Market was no longer open and was a residence or something, at the time.
Traveling back in time I remember my mom sending me after milk, bread, a can of corn, cigarettes, or what have you -- and I would just sign a ticket and she would settle up later with the Cattles who owned it at the time. The transaction would, of course, take place at one of the two busy registers, on the oiled-oak floors, on Saturday when she made her regular grocery run.
Past there, Doc Merritt’s office was off to the right and then, what used to be the drugstore. Ah, the drugstore. What a great place? I can still smell the frequently burnt popcorn for which you redeemed for a card that Mrs. Myrtle gave you from Doc’s office. I can still hear Edith Brown scolding me and chasing me out for looking at Playboys up front.
Across the street, also on the hill side, (in a three-main-street town like Dolores, everything is either on the ‘hillside, ‘or ‘riverside,’ or on ‘railroad,’) was the empty lot where Taylor Hardware used to be. The steel railing near the curb that appeared one day when I was still in high school remained, but that was pretty much all that was left, even a few years ago.
Looking toward the hill and across the alley, the shop was still there and a late-model truck was parked. Gene, I would guess?
I walked down there and turned the knob, but hearing all hound hell break loose, and two giant Rottweilers appeared to dance in the window, I backed away slightly.
Indeed, Gene appeared soon to see what the dog racket was about, and introduced me to the friendly buggers.
We meandered back through the double doors and Martha was there too. We talked for a while about Dolores, and Rico, and they let me take a look upstairs in the attic, (If you were having trouble locating 6” black stove pipe, I bet I know some folks that still can help you out) and showed me photos from then and earlier.
It was starting to rain when I was getting ready to leave so Gene gave me ride home but first took me upriver to see how they moved Merton’s house across the street and Shelby (their daughter) was finishing a new house on the larger lot it left open then. Apparently, Merton and Wilson Brumley had moved a number of houses on that block up from McPhee in the 1930s, so it had been moved before.
He dropped me off at my parent’s house then, but I had already decided to pick up where I left off later when the rain stopped.
And later, I did, drifting down through town past the Hollywood Bar (it being ‘rodeo week’ in Cortez, there were only a couple of barflies I could see, and no one I recognized, so I didn’t go in) I tried to remember way back when shops such as Tade’s were still in Dolores.
Tade’s, when I was really young, was about the only place where a kid could get a cheap birthday present in town if you were to get invited to a party. I remember the fenced off raised platform at the back of the store where you might find a G.I Joe or something, that might be acceptable for such an occasion.
And there was the busy Akin Mercantile, where a person might get groceries, or a pair of out-of-style Levis, snow-mobile gloves -- or you may stop in the back and ask Monte “How’s your meat?"
V.T. Boyd and his son-in-law had the lumberyard down there at one time, and the Sawmill Run restaurant. Going way back, there was another bar in the Del Rio building, the “Hoffbrau” if memory serves me correctly.
The old Rio Grande Hotel was still there, of course, but the building where Bill’s Emporium (the site responsible for uncountable hours of misspent youth playing pool and arcade games) was now an art gallery and Taylor’s track warehouse has been converted to several different businesses.
What used to be the liquor store (and barber shop) looked like a fun, happening place in a new role as a brewery.
Not many remember when John Lambert, the one-legged blacksmith was on the corner and the newspaper was in the middle of that block … or even when it was in the old Exon Mercantile building.
Later on that visit, my Dad and I drove out to the Heritage Center because I wanted to take a look at where the main road in to Dolores once meandered over the river on a silver-painted, steel bridge and snaked its way up “Ritter Hill,” (I wondered out loud at the time, if those Ritters were any kin to the Governor of that period) past the big old barn, and what was once called the “Three-Cornered Store” over the hill and on out toward the plywood plant and to Cortez and beyond.
Finally, on our way back to my parent’s house, I asked my Dad to swing over by the river and the ‘Big Rock.’
The sand bars were in different locations and I didn’t see the usual collection of river rats throwing dives into the current off the rock that I recalled from my youth. No one was lounging in the sun, or high-stepping it across the hot rocks and gravel between the river and the road.
There was a time, maybe 30 or 40 years ago, when that river would have been full of kids near the ‘Big Rock’ on a hot summer day.



Anonymous said...

Rob, thanks for taking me back home with your writing. Dolores was such a special place to grow up! I am a little homesick. I wish my son had lived there as a child. He and his cousins still list summers in Dolores as their favorite memories.
Deb (Stephens) Miller

Anonymous said...

Interesting how that river runs through all of us who grew up in Dolores. It was a great place to be a kid. -- Ellis Miller

Betty Bowden Kitlica said...

There you go again, walking in my footprints. Except when I was there, the Food Market was owned by Keat and Viva McEwen, Doc Merrits was NEW as was the drug store, but Edith still worked there. Taylors and Akins hadn't burned down yet, the Hollywood was there with the same barflies in it, and Tades was Shaws Department Store, there was Frode's, another drug store with a soda fountain, then a couple of cafes. I get lost on what was where and when, but I know it was all there at one time or another. I remember we had a picture of main street taken sometime in the late 40s, we tried to get all the places names, but there were overlapping names, cuz there was no way that all those places could have been on that small block.

Mary Ann Findley said...

I remember the only time in my life I shop lifted from the Rainbow Pharmacy. Edith Brown kept waiting on everyone but me, so I just left with the fingernail polish that I wanted. I went home and showed my mama thinking she would be proud of me!! NOT!!! She sent me back down the street to tell them and to apolgize. I waited and waited and finally just snuck the polish back on the shelf. Mama made me tell about it in Sunday School when I was older!!

Anonymous said...

Great story! I used to live in the house with the caboose car, by the school and I haven't been back since maybe 1981. It was a great place to live!

Diane Campbell

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rob. Now days people move in and out so quickly you might not ever meet them. My niece and nephews now live in my Grandparents house on 7th, but there are no children for them to play with. They never play on the hill unless I drag them. I miss the sense of community that Dolores had when I was small. All you kids that lived on 7th and Hillside, the bridge clubs, nile, masons, etc. I grew up in Cortez, but was always at Grandmas and Grandads. I miss all of you kids. I wish you would all come back and buy a retirement place in town.