Has anyone else returned to the “old neighborhood” after a long absence? Were you surprised at what you found?
As a retiree, I can now attend the family superbowl party a few states away and having no schedule worries, I spent several days RV-ing there. At one stop I found myself near my old stomping grounds with a half-day to kill.
Since it’s been 35 years, I decided to visit the old neighborhood and schoolgrounds. My first reaction was “Holy Crap what happened here?”. I drove into a blighted area featuring tattoo parlors, smoke shops, and plasma donation centers. The only recognizable business was a closed and boarded Walgreens. About the first stop sign, I was approached by a couple begging for gas money. I had trouble finding my old house due to changed (and 1-way) streets but eventually found it using a phone app. The area looked like part of a post-apocalyptic movie scene, and I was afraid to even get out of the car. I tried to take a picture of our old house, but the sketchy looking group hanging out front made me rethink it. Our little house was barely enough for the 4 of us back in the day, and now I counted 6 cars crowded into the driveway and yard.
I drove past all 3 of the schools (elementary, middle, and high) and they weren’t much better. One had gotten a front “facelift” but the rear was the same old buildings. One was being torn down. Before leaving, I drove by the first apartment MizPullin and I rented after getting married. It had deteriorated as well.
One odd thing I noticed was every dwelling had twice as many cars as when I lived there all those years ago. The driveways and yards were full and the apartment parking was overflowing onto the surrounding streets. I’m not sure whether this represents people owning more cars, of more people in each dwelling.
Mundane and pointless I suppose, but wondering what others have encountered when returning home after many decades away.
I own the property I grew up on. The old home was replaced in the mid 1980’s with a newer model but the rest of the neighborhood hasn’t changed that much. Some of the old outhouses are still around, even. The main road in is now paved with two lanes instead of one lane gravel, but the other roads are unchanged/worse than they were back then.
My parents still live in the house I grew up in, though there have been renovations throughout the years that have changed the footprint of the place. The consistently surprising thing for me when I go home (rarely) is that the house is so small, even with the new additions. Six of us lived in less than 1000sf. The neighborhood is unchanged, my elementary and middle school are still the same, and while the high school was demolished a few years back it was rebuilt on the same site with the same exterior.
The town center has been built up over the years, but it still retains a lot of its small-town feel. I can easily find my way around, walking or driving. Go much further out of town and I might have some trouble, though- the surrounding areas have become much more congested.
I spent a year on sabbatical in my home town of Philly. One weekend two of my kids visited and took them around to the old neighborhood. Aside from the fact that the house looked tiny, not that much had changed really. Then we drove to where my grandmother lived then and where my mother grew up and again not much changed, except that my grandparents had an enclosed porch and the enclosure had been removed. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that since the enclosure made it possible to use year round. Very recently I googled the elementary school that both my mother and I had gone to (with a number of the same teachers) and discovered that it had become a charter school and gone back to being a K-8 school. I was in the last 8th grade class ever at that time.
The West Philly neighborhood had changed from being totally white to totally black as far as I can see. But it seems to have remained mostly lower middle class or upper working class.
I took my family home 18 months ago and was actually surprised how much was still the same. All the schools I attended have been rebuilt, but there are many of the businesses and stores are the same. Of course there are new things, but I could show my kids the old neighborhood.
I had the opposite experience. I drove to Milwaukee for a Brewers game and detoured through the old 'hood.
Our little non-descript house had been rehabbed by a young couple who clearly have taste and money. Our “yard” was broken cement, now it’s a nice lawn with nice landscaping. The whole neighborhood had gotten a facelift, and it looked like a lot of couples with young kids have moved in (I’m used to muttering “Damn millennial hipsters”, I guess I can say it ironically in this case). Hmmm, those cute kids in the strollers might not grow up shoplifting, vandalizing houses and boosting cars like they did in my day…
The nearby “one intersection that had a grocery store and two drug stores” is now an assortment of a bakery, a chocolatier, a t-shirt shop, a family Italian restaurant and a coffee joint.
I rail against gentrification in places like SF, but here’s a case where it was an improvement.
My parents live in the house I grew up in. When I go to visit them and see the neighborhood, it looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was a kid. The schools look the same, the houses mostly look the same, a couple stores have changed but not by much.
I am currently sitting in what was my brother’s bedroom growing up =) Since my parents and brother are dead, I inherited everything [bwahahaha?] and have actually legally owned it for the past 2 years.
Small town - when we decided to move my roomie in here to keep someone in residence as I flipped back and forth to deal with the cancer treatment being done in Connecticut, literally half an hour after she unloaded a momvan full of stuff and went to the grocery store the grocery ladies knew who she was snicker It is the sort of small town that your mom always knew you did something before you got home because people would call and tell her.
Some stuff has changed - houses sold to new owners so the people I knew were no longer living there, an additional building in the school complex, some of the stores changed around [the Rex-All turned into a Walgreens and moved from main street to next to where the IGA moved to] We got a Tractor Supply and a Dollar General! And lost the post office [why I don’t know, the population didnt decrease or anything]
And surprisingly, a lot of the kids that grew up here are still here as adults. Not that many escaped. And some of the cliques still exist.
Whenever I visit Anchorage, I go by the house I grew up in. It’s changed little. Many of the houses near it have been replaced with larger ones, but the neighborhood hasn’t really changed a lot. The elementary school is still there. My middle school was torn town decades ago, and that area is all commercial now. The high school is still where it was. I moved back to Alaska in 1998 after a 30 year absence, and while things had changed and the population had ballooned, it was nothing shocking to me.
These days, of course, one can ‘visit’ one’s old neighborhood via Google satellite and street view.
Since I live less than an hour away from the house I grew up in (from the summer before first grade, to the day I went off to college), and since we sold it to a younger couple who still live there and who were friends of my parents, I’ve visited occasionally over the years, most recently 3-4 years ago.
The neighborhood looks pretty much the same. Main thing that’s changed is that there are WAY fewer kids now, between house prices being a bit steep for many younger couples, and older people not moving out because it’s one hell of a nice neighborhood.
The neighborhood where I grew up almost 60 years ago is essentially unchanged. The only difference is the small modifications and additions to the houses, and the fact that all the original huge trees are dying from old age, an haven’t been replaced, making the area feel much more open. This was a middle-class neighborhood when I grew up, and still is, but property has gotten very expensive, so people tend to take good care of their houses.
The surrounding area is also pretty static, although traffic has become miserable.
I haven’t been back to my family home for about fifteen years, ever since my mom died. My brother lives there still, and has never lived anywhere else. I can tell from Google earth satellite view that his hoarding tendencies have turned the backyard into a forest of sheds, no doubt filled with yard sale junk. If he goes before me, I guess I’m going to have to deal with that (shudder).
Google street view shows that my neighborhood hasn’t changed much, but I do see more security screen doors on houses. The demographics of that town have changed to heavily Asian, and I see many terrific-looking restaurants up and down the commercial streets that used to house A&W drive-ins and Chicken Delights and Woolworths.
Alas, it’s only open to the public on the first Monday of each month, so we weren’t able to do more than drive by when we were out there.
Back in the early 1950s, it was a house that a young but upwardly mobile couple could afford to buy, probably with a little help from their parents. Now, even a crummy house on that lot would surely go for well into seven figures.
ETA: The big change in the neighborhood is, all the houses are gated with privacy fences. Wasn’t like that in 1958!
And if you click through and see the pix, that pool in the front yard can’t be as big as the photos make it look. You know how everything looks bigger when you’re small? Even when I was four years old, that front yard seemed tiny.
The lady who bought our house on the river 25 years ago sold it 2 years ago to someone.
Who promptly tore the entire thing down. 1st owner there had rebuilt ours over the base frame, but I guess it had a lot of deterioration anyway. Or this couple wants to build a McMansion there, like several of our neighbors have. Last I checked it was still a hole in the ground.
When I was in my teens, my friends and I spent a lot of time getting stoned and running from the cops. I went back to see them for the first time, when we were all in our mid-40s. It was a 4th of July evening, and we had some fireworks. We decided that the most responsible thing to do would be to go to the top of an old quarry where we used to hang out 25 years before. Bottle rockets, etc. would cause no harm in an old quarry and look cool at night, right? What could go wrong?
The way to the rim of the quarry was a path through a forest. As we arrived, we saw a fire at the edge, and we figured it was kids partying, just like we used to do back in the day. We got a little closer and saw huge flames coming from the ground at the rim of the quarry. It was an odd sight, almost supernatural. Like the proverbial moths to the flame, we drew a little closer, our mouths agape, and we realized someone had dumped and ignited some kind of flammable liquid, and the ground was on fire.
Just as we were recovering from our surprise, a few fire trucks and police cars pulled into the quarry below and shone spotlights in our direction. We instantly realized we were going to be blamed for the fire, and we had beers and pot with us, so we ducked down and quickly found the path back through the woods to our cars. That’s when we saw a group of firemen and policemen coming our way, their flashlights probing the darkness between us and them. We dropped down, put our arms over our heads, and hoped for the best, tyring to hide among the waist-high ferns that carpeted the forest floor. Somehow, they walked right past us and didn’t see us, or maybe they saw us and laughed themselves silly at the sight of 40-year-old men cowering in the middle of a dark forest.
When they were far enough away, I stood up and yelled at my friends, “I come back for ONE visit, and 25 years later you guys are exactly the same!!!”
So, to answer the OP, you can go back but you’d better be careful.
The Woodstock neighborhood I lived near when I first moved to Portland almost 25 years ago is gentrified AF now. Used to be a nice quiet working class neighborhood of mostly older people and the main shopping street was comfortably shabby. Now it’s wall to wall trendy restaurants and shops and the old folks died off and younger hipsters with families have bought up the houses. Not sure it’s an improvement, but a couple of the restaurants are good and Otto’s is still there to get a cheap grilled brat onna bun in summer so I guess it’s okay.
The neighborhood we moved into when it was a brand new development in Marin county still looks basically the same aside from way nicer yards and landscaping. The neighborhood in Sacramento we moved into when it was a new development almost sixty years ago was originally a small enclave of streets with vast fields surrounding it and now those fields are more housing developments, can’t say I can call that an improvement. The school I started kindergarten in is still there though, doesn’t look a whole lot different. They added a few classrooms but basically the same.
Our first house after we got married in 1982 was quarters on Ft. Bliss(El Paso TX). Driving back from New Mexico last month we though we’d stop on base and drive by the house. Had to go the MP’s and fill out paperwork to get a pass to enter(post 9/11 I guess). Drove to the old house and it wasn’t there. Not only was the house gone but the street and neighborhood were also gone. Replaced with a whole new neighborhood, houses, streets, everything. Quite a shock. It looks nicer though and has desert landscaping v. the grass we had to mow so must save a ton of water