Today – according to my hometown paper – Portville, N.Y., is having a party to commemorate its 175th birthday. That means it was born before Ronald Reagan.
I caught this news in a hard copy of that paper, which my father brought down to my current residence in South Carolina about a week ago. Coincidentally, a friend brought to my attention a blog post I wrote about Portville in 2007 – when I was living in Wilmington, N.C., for college.
I think I missed Portville the entire time I was there.
Anyway, here is that post. (And here’s a link to [part of] the Times Herald article to which I referred: http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/article_881d9c6c-c76a-11e1-a25d-001a4bcf887a.html.)
And I go back in my mind and stay asleep in my dreams just to feel that cold town one more time. I’m sitting at my aunt’s house on Brooklyn Street, my back to the Dodge up on a dyke they built after the flood of ’42 to keep the water from spilling into the town again (but it did – in 1972 – and one of my teachers said the waters pushed air-filled milk cartons to lift the roof off Spring Hill). I’m being a ninja in the uncut grass,catching glimpses of some old railroad bridge upstream from the Allegany and wondering what it’s like down there in the rushing waters of the Dodge where I was prohibited from going without someone else. Years later I would ride with teenage football-playing buddies down through that same water in canoes and by that same house and not think anything of it because to theme I was back then, I would never leave that town and nothing would ever, ever change.
For as far as I knew, for the same length of time as my childhood spent tickling the present of then, for as many days as I was young and for all I was concerned with, I would always be riding down Prosser Road on a Huffy bike with MattMcBride. We’d hit all the trails that were posted land and look for mud and grime and filth, fight with Preston Lotter’s trashy slew of comrades that grew up to be racists, smoke cigarettes way back in the woods until we swore we heard the cops, flirt with neighborhood girls who didn’t notice and stop by Jim Baughman’s house on the way to the Cider Mill to pay for peanut butter doughnuts with dimes we stole from a floor. They were 30 cents back then and we were all alive. It’s not funny how things – all things – change.
Backdropping my life was a town that was crumbly. It suburbed a city that was brittle with the past, but we saw as so nice. Each sat in a world that sickened our river and polluted Lake Erie. I’m not sure which got it first, but the toxins those waters took came from the factories between them – and those factories polluted our minds. Some fathers came home irate with their jobs and cracked open beers before snubbing the moms. They ate Bison dip on some local chips and put salty lips on the bottles they sipped. The bottles would go into garages in bins where they’d roll around before heading down town in the beds of their pickup trucks. Our fathers got five cents apop.
Now they say those lights on the old football field are bright, though the teams, they just aren’t the same. The voice of the town told its young ones to leave – and that is what they did. Deep down inside, although I’m one of its listeners, I still hear it speak.