The Way Things Were
A frequent time traveler through Alice’s Looking Glass of the Sixties, I’m inclined to
chase memories that lead me on a wild goose chase through the myriad twists and turns inside those tunnels to
the past where I pry loose a stone or two. I'm gonna tell you a story, I'm gonna
tell you about my town. Oh, Lincoln, you're my home (oh,
yeah)…Lincoln, located in northeastern Rhode Island, and named in honor of our sixteenth
president, Abraham Lincoln.
Quite honestly, Lincoln was a quiet place to
grow up during the Sixties, which is precisely why I’ve pried this stone loose to turn over and examine closely,
the better to conjure traces of a simpler time. I
see Lincoln Community School (circa 1922) standing the way it was on Breakneck
Hill Road rather than the office park of today. Climbing those cement steps leading to the wide front
doors seemed like a monumental hike similar to accessing Lincoln Memorial (by the way, another school in the town on Lonsdale Avenue bore
that name). Once inside, you were safely confined within the institutional womb of celery green walls. Lots of
copying arithmetic problems from a slate chalkboard the length of the wall behind teacher’s desk, and rote
memorization of facts and poems were the rigueur of the day. These regimens are trumped by my sensory
recollections of inhaling the inside of a brand new box of Milton Bradley crayons, and savoring the flavor of
paste doled from a jar onto a scrap of newsprint. Hitting the bottom of the soap dispensers inside the girls’
lavatory dispersed a generous amount of abrasive Borax powder which produced a luxurious amount of lather as we
rubbed our hands together under the faucet. The
clean fragrance lingered long after washing…
I see St. Jude’s on Front Street the way it was—a humble abode before its reconstruction into an
amphitheater-in-the-round with a monstrosity of a pagoda-like roof. I remember gathering in the old basement with fellow
Christmas carolers and sipping on hot chocolate with marshmallows as an antidote to reveling in the bitter cold.
We could idle the evening away because in those days we weren’t deluged with an avalanche of homework. Come to
think of it, we didn’t get any and don’t seem to be any dumber for it!
You could always sit down for a home cooked
meal at Rusty’s on Breakneck Hill Road. If you wanted burgers, fries, and a
sundae or shake, it was Edward’s at the corner of Cobble Hill Road and
Smithfield Avenue, the asphalt stretch into the cities of Pawtucket and Providence. My dad took us there mostly for ice cream. Don’t ask me why I
once and only once ordered a sundae with chocolate ice cream topped with strawberries. Well, the establishment
that was once Rusty’s has repeatedly come under new ownership with different names at breakneck speed.
Edward’s just keeps getting seedier and seedier,
but you can’t beat their ice cream!
I suppose I don’t miss the junkyard relics
strewn along Cobble Hill Road, most of the acreage now dotted with
impressive homes. Junkyards seem to be a relic of the past. Looking back over the shoulder of nostalgia, it
might not be a bad idea to embrace some things, the way they were.
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