By Nina Keenam
Nothing exists there anymore. All the houses that hung precariously on the hilltops and lined the roads are gone. So are the company store, the Southern Railway Deport and the post office. No sign of them today. Just trees. And weeds, with a few wildflowers here and there.
I couldn’t even decide on which hilltop an elementary school I attended for a year was located. All those places actually existed in the past, but no more. Fortunately, I still have mental pictures of these places where I lived and went to school.
It was the same with my husband. Years ago when we visited his hometown, he said Joe Bell Mountain had shrunk. From his childhood perspective, it had towered over the town. To him, it looked as if the streets were too narrow and the house he once lived in “about a mile” from the school was only three blocks away. Everything was different.
Years ago, we made those discoveries by taking a sentimental journey with a couple of friends. The husband had grown up near our communities. He managed to find the site of his mother’s house in the mining camp where he lived, but several dusty roads he loved roaming were so overgrown they were unidentifiable.
Sometime after we had all left those places, there was a drastic change in the economy as a result of coal mine closures.
People moved elsewhere to make a living.
I reminded my husband a lot of strip mining had occurred in that area. Maybe that affected the mountain he remembered. Too, when he walked that “mile” to school, his legs were much shorter. I was not very convincing. He had shaken his head in disbelief and taken another hard look at the mountain from where we WERE standing in front of a cafeteria.
We visited another community where I had lived to find that the hill I could never get my bike up without pushing was not nearly as high as I thought. Perhaps I had part of an explanation for that. Then I was functioning with a hole in my heart that was not discovered (and corrected) until middle age.
Well, I think all this sort of proves the old saying, “Time changes everything.” It is absolutely true that a lot of things will never be the same. When I grew older, my mother’s egg custard was never as good as when I ate it as a child. The pizza I sometimes have delivered to my door is not as delicious as the piping hot ones delivered to our quarters on Saturday night in Germany. And, to me, no hot fudge sundae has ever measured up to those I often enjoyed with a friend at a Birmingham “five & dime” lunch counter during my teen years.
I’m glad all these memories are stored on the” hard drive” in my mind.
So far, they still live on, so I can reflect on them now and then.