Memories… A journey back in time
Only it is not the same
As we age, we tend to relive memories of days past.
We too often say, “remember when?”
When we started this Airstream journey and full-timing on the road, it was to create new memories, to venture to places we had never been. But something happened while we spent the summer back in Anacortes, WA, a longing to visit places that reminded me of wonderful memories from a time long ago — took hold.
Our first memory-stop was Kimball, Nebraska. A small town in the the SW corner of the state, close to Colorado. I don’t have any memories of this place, I was around one years old when my parents left, but I have always had a curiosity of what it might be like, this small town where I was born. We added it to route as a quick drive through and that was enough to say, “been there, don’t that.” Like so many small towns today, the downtown area was small and no longer utilized as much. My dad remembered the RV/Mobile park where they lived and so we did a quick drive by. I don’t know what it was like back then, but now it is run down and sad looking.
A “second frontier” started when oil was discovered in 1951. This brought hundreds of people to Kimball County. At one time 28 “producers” were operating within the city limits. The town bustled with improvements, paved streets, added schools, businesses, housing additions, and expanded every governmental entity. Within a decade the population was nearly 5,000.
— Read more about Kimball’s history
Having seen enough of Kimball, we traveled on to my next memory location — Sterling, Colorado. Sterling is a small town in the NE corner of Colorado. As a child, my maternal grandparents lived there and we visited often. Up until I was about eight, I would spend my summers with my grandparents. Grandpa owned a Chevron gas station where I would hang out all day and have quality time with him — my beloved grandfather. I loved spending time there. I was in charge of cleaning the gas tanks, I am sure grandpa assigned it to me to keep me occupied. Like many gas stations in the 60’s, he had two bays where he worked on cars, I wasn’t allowed in that area when he was working but I would watch through the door. I had access to all the bubble gum I wanted. And, it was here, where I was exposed to my first television, grandpa bought a small 13” b/w to keep me entertained.
My grandma worked at the diner at the Woolworth counter. My fondest memories are of that counter. My sisters and I would jump up on a stool and swing our little legs as hard as we could to make the stools turn. We always ordered a V-Split (a banana split without the banana.) I would watch as my grandma busily flittered from hungry patron to the next, always amazed how she did it.
My uncle and his four kids lived in Sterling. We were all around the same age so we would spend a lot of time playing with our cousins, something I think most kids today do not get to experience — that closeness of family.
The downtown area seemed smaller to me now, my husband says it is because I am taller. My memories of a bustling downtown with people and cars everywhere clashed with the quiet and more reserved area of today. I found myself missing what it once was and sad that today’s generations do not know what they are missing. Unlike most small towns though, this downtown area is still somewhat active and not rundown.
My family lived in Denver, the BIG city, but the childhood memories of Sterling will always be my favorite. I felt more at home in that small town.
The first inhabitants of the plains were the Indians — Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfoot, Sioux, Kiowa and Pawnee. They survived and even thrived. The first non-Indians were French-Canadian trappers who passed through the area on their way to the beaver-rich foothills of the Rockies. They stayed only as long as there was a demand for the pelts, and then moved on. Explorers such as Stephen H. Long passed through what is now Logan County on June 26, 1820. He referred to this area as “The Great American Desert.”
— Read more about the history of Sterling.
From the place I was born to where I started my married life — this was the last memory-lane-stop on our memories route. My husband was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico, from 76–78. We were very young when we married and Clovis was not exactly the dream location to take a new bride. It was hot, dry, and to a young woman — oh, so boring. But it is where our life started and where our two boys were born, so it was worth seeing how it changed.
We stayed two nights at the Travelers World RV Park, just a couple miles from the base. I asked them how long it had been there, she answered, “since the 70’s, only under a different name.” Rving was the furthest thing from my young mind back then so I didn’t remember it.
We only remembered areas of where we lived but not “exact” addresses so we didn’t locate our first apartment. We hardly recognized anything. The only thing that stood out was the State Theatre on Main Street and the first McDonalds in town where we fed our first son his first french fries. The base has grown since then and the gate was now accessed by an overpass over the highway. When we were stationed here, it was small base, the Commissary was only a little larger than the average 7/11 store. Housing was limited then, now just outside the gate there are several neighborhoods of brand new housing.
Although a common name, this State Theatre, which was opened January 3, 1940, featured some uncommon and unique, colorful signage. Its centerpiece was a huge circular column that was covered in glass brick on the front and was trimmed in red and blue on its top. Attached to and protruding from the column was a vertical support that had State spelled out in individual white letters on red circular backgrounds. The theater is still open today, but instead of movies, features live musical acts.
The town has grown some, boxed stores and restaurants are now available, including a Starbucks. Unfortunately, downtown (like so many small towns) was no longer the vibrant central location it was in years past, instead it was quiet and many of the buildings were run down and loosing their once gleaming luster. The small stores of JC Pennys and Sears have been replaced and many of the stores now try to cater to tourists. But the brick in the street is still there.
It was in Clovis where our two sons were born and those two memories alone makes Clovis a special memory to carry with me always.
In the late 1920s, world-renowned Cannon Air Force Base began when a civilian passenger facility called Portair Field was established. Since then, Clovis has stepped into a diversified economy that has spurred the growth of our modern colleges, healthcare facilities, and businesses both personal- and corporate-owned. — Read more about the history of Clovis.
My friend, and author Kathleen Kaska, recently wrote an article about her Home Base, even though she no longer lives in Texas, about how important that connection to family and the place where she grew up still is.
I immediately felt a connection to her story.
One of my regrets is that my children did not have that same connection to family like I did. They grew up away from relatives and grandparents, barely spending any real quality time with them. Once we moved to Washington state from Colorado, they had more of a “Home Base”, but it was really more of a steady location and it was a large city, not a small community.
My affection for these places are what makes my memories of a time long ago, my most treasured memories. Now that I am older, my wisdom makes me more grateful for those times and I have renewed appreciation for those memories of a time long past.