My childhood hometown morphed into someplace else

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By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
I grew up to my mid-teens in the last half of the 20th century in a suburb of Los Angeles. My parents moved to West Covina when I was a year old. It was about 20 miles from LA, but rural. The population was 4,000 and our home was in the first housing tract. When we moved away 15 years later, the population was 60,000.

The orange groves were gone by then, the walnut groves were gone, and two-lane Garvey Boulevard to Los Angeles had become I-10, which we called the San Bernardino freeway. My father commuted to downtown LA. In the last few years we lived in our home on Michelle Street, it often took him almost two hours to drive home, battling stop-and-go traffic all the way. He had ulcers from working so hard. It was a status symbol then among young executives to have ulcers, a sign of their ambition, I suppose.


It was then that I vowed that when I grew up I would never take a job where I had to commute like that. And I was true to that promise. I have been stuck in rush hour traffic a few hundred times in my life, but I bet only a couple dozen were work-related.

WHAT A WASTE of a human life to spend hours a day in your car, traveling to and from work.

In those days in West Covina there was nothing in town that was much older than me. Homes and shops were mostly brand-new. The Main Street in nearby Covina was a little older, and that’s where people shopped, and on one day in December watched the Christmas parade. There was no such thing as a mall.

If somebody moved out of their home back then, there was always someone to move right in. There was no such thing as an abandoned house.

My childhood hometown morphed into someplace else
Abandoned house in Oklahoma.

So, on my childhood family camping trips into the rural West, after I was old enough to think about what I was seeing outside the window of our Ford station wagon, I was puzzled by the sight of abandoned houses. I could not imagine how someone could just leave a house to crumble away.

I remember my first visit to Boston, when I was eight. My parents took me to the graves of famous people I knew from history books — Thoreau, Longfellow, Emerson. Most lived and died in the late 1700s to early 1800s. It was hard to imagine people living there so long ago.

If I were to go home to West Covina now, I would barely recognize it. The hills where I played behind my house are now covered with luxury homes — great views of the city lights below.

Change happens, I know.

Here’s something related, a poll we asked the readers of RV Daily Tips this past week. Vote if you wish.

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Merrily Robinson

My family home was sold 2 years ago after my mom passed at 97 + 2 days!
We lived there for 61 years! BUT I live two blocks down for the last 27 years!
My birth town has definitely changed 🙁
More of my friends have moved out cuz of affordability!

Colin Grant

I spent the first seven years of my life in a small town in northern England and when I went back twenty years later the biggest change was the amount of cars. There was never a car parked on our short dead end street but twenty years made it full of cars.

Joel Hagler

A very thoughtless question…….how about us folks growing up in apartments and tenements never living in a ‘house’ home in childhood. So is an apartment a ‘home’. Who cares what happened to my 3 story walk-up 2 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn N.Y.?

Carson Axtell

My parents still own and live in the house that I grew up in, which they bought in 1963. But the town has changed a lot, and as the saying goes, “You can’t go home again…”

James Sellers

Born and raised in Benton Harbor Michigan. The airport expanded and took out my old neighborhood.

Cindy Walker

I lived in the Covina area in the late 50s and early 60s. I haven’t been back for years.

Wayne Caldwell

I’ve been back. ‘home’ a few times since I left in ’72. Obviously after 47 years, it has drastically changed. But even if our childhood homes were still ‘there’, Charlie Pride’s early ’70s song comes to mind, “It’s nice to think about it, maybe even visit. But I wonder, could I live there anymore?”. No, I can’t.

Vic L. Mazzaro

It’s sad to go back and see all the changes, I really hate it. People don’t care about homes just move in and destroy it and then leave. People don’t value nothing just use it and throw it away. No sentimental attachment to nothing. I wish we could go back and enjoy what we had when we were young.