A few years ago, at the Moxie Festival parade, I stood on the sidewalk by Holy Family church with one of my high school classmates. We were recalling places from the past, maybe talking about the old dump at the end of the Edgecomb Road or Robert’s Pharmacy on Main Street. We might have been laughing about the time our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hunnewell, sent one of our classmates out to count the bricks in the back of the old grammar school.
What we called “the old grammar school” was the same building my father calls “the old high school.” The building was preserved and repurposed into housing; I like walking down Campus Avenue and remembering fourth and fifth grade. Sometimes, I try to imagine what it must have been like when my father was a popular high school student there.
That day at the Moxie Festival parade, my friend Jeff and I vowed we would continue referring to the old places we knew by their old names. Damn it all if no one knew what we were talking about.
I haven’t seen Jeff since that day. I wonder if he knows I’m living in Lisbon Falls. I spend quite a bit of time walking through the past and in deference to our vow, I always think of these places by their old names. When I go to mail a letter, I’m going to “Dunton’s Department Store.” I walk by the “Town Office” on the corner across from the library, past the offices of The Lisbon Enterprise on Union Street. Yep, we had a newspaper in town once. I might stop at Tony’s Sunoco and pick up a bag of chips, then I walk back down Davis Street and look at the houses to my right and wonder what might have been on my left back in the days when the train used to run along the river to the Worumbo Mill.
It’s a surreal phenomenon, in the still quiet of early afternoon right before the school bus rumbles through to drop off a cargo-hold of students. I am walking through history; I can almost hear the tapping of the leather shoes on the road beside me, from men and women walking home from the mill or Samson’s Supermarket.
The past leaves all kinds of tree-like shadows. That’s why I’m an advocate of studying history and preserving pieces of it. I’m sad when I see the careless destruction of old places and old things. Every bulldozed brick speaks and vibrates with the energy of other times and people. If you’ve ever sat in the shade of a large tree on a hot day, you know how refreshing and cool it is, in spite of the heat.
As I round the corner of Davis Street and start climbing Blethen Street’s little hill, I look up and see the house I live in. There are stately oak trees rustling along the road and gracing my beautiful back yard. The Perron family lived in this house my whole life until the day they sold it to me. My mother went to high school with Mrs. Perron and I went to high school with Mrs. Perron’s daughter, Sue. I dimly remembered visiting here before Mr. Perron built the garage and the addition to the house.
Wasn’t there a sandbox out back?
It’s okay if no one ever refers to this place as “Julie-Ann’s House” or “the Baumer House.” When people ask me where I live, I tell them “I live in the Perron House on Blethen Street.”
That’s just fine with me. Damn it all if no one knows what I’m talking about.