When I was getting my airline ticket a few weeks back to visit my folks, I looked at my old hometown Downingtown from a google maps, eagle-eye view and realized that a small bit of me felt homesick and that maybe I should visit. All my buddies used to live in D-town. As kids, we used to ride bikes recklessly and pop wheelies on the curb in that neighborhood, but after 2002 we moved away.
The whole time I was down there I had the Boss’ song “My Hometown” running through my head.
I took a walk from my old house all the way across town to my high school. Here’s the photo trail of my journey. Starting off, here’s my house as I remembered it from 1999:
Being the nerd I am, I made this house in Minecraft back when I ran a server. We had an hour long speed build and I decided to make this from memory. To keep the house from being infested with spiders and creepers I put torches up everywhere.
Once you leave my old street, the Elementary School isn’t too far away. I remember being a kid and walking that path everyday. It’s nice when school’s not so far away.
The school itself. That’s the field we used to have field days and halloween parades. We’d all do tug-of-war and then eat ice cream. Later, when we went to junior and senior high we always cut through it.
East Ward had a fundraiser called Pennies From Heaven to build a new playground for us. As kids, we were supposed to find every loose cent under the family’s sofa and gather them together and give them to the school. We also got to design parts of the playground. As kids, we wanted everything that was ridiculous and dangerous and the contractors provided. There are alcoves to hide in, tons of slides, things to climb over and on top of, towers, monkey bars, and the list goes on. It was built before I graduated from sixth grade so I definitely got to enjoy my lion’s share of it. I remember our recess teacher/gym teacher Mrs. Herzog was usually pissed when we climbed over all the parts that we shouldn’t have in our primitive form of grade school parkour. You can see more images of the playground in the gallery below.
My elementary school from the recess area. The red brick building on the left used to be a stone building back when I was in school. That would have been the old East Ward. It was a cold and drafty building and when I was in sixth grade we had class there. My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Jenkins, was cool. I remember the first day of class. I got in line and looked at the dude. He seemed like a mean old guy, a tough teacher to please, but he was one of the best and nicest teachers I ever had. Also, his first name is ‘Glenn’ too. How about that?
Once you finish playing you can cut through to Business Route 30 and try to cross that street without getting run down by a car. If you do, the next easiest way is to cut through the parking lot of St. James Church to get to Kardon Park. One time, in high school, we stood outside of St. James Church on a drizzly November election day morning doing our duty as Young Republicans to get people to come in and vote. Before you go off and think, “Oh no, you were a Young Republican??” I did it cause my buddy was in the club. Also, I don’t think it meant too much. We’d have our “Young Republican” club meeting and then we’d jaunt off next door to the Sailor Moon Fan Club and watch subtitled episodes on grainy VHS tapes. That’s how republican we were.
Kardon Park leads to a bike/walk trail and winds all the way around Downingtown. It’s a nice nature trail if you want to get lost in the trees, which I did.
One thing I remember about Kardon Park was that when we were kids, my mom would take us there to feed the ducks. I guess we can’t do that anymore, although I didn’t notice any ducks, just some hissing geese. Probably a good idea not to feed them, since they’d just repackage it into sausage form all over the sidewalk and then walk around like they owned the place.
This is new in Kardon Park. We definitely didn’t have it there 14 years ago. At first glance it looked like a nice little monument, but when I stepped closer, I noticed that parts of the monument looked like grave markers, and sure enough the entire thing — I don’t think it’s a graveyard — is a Victim’s memorial.
Kardon Park follows along Pennsylvania Ave. Along the path are some other of the town’s parks and historic monuments. Kerr Park (below) is usually where we would go for fireworks during July 4th. There would be a town fair there that included various carnival rides, funnel cake, and booths set up that were selling crafts from local folks.
We finally get to Manor Avenue. Walking up that road gets us to my junior and senior high schools. Well, first a panorama of the little league field where I used to play baseball. I hated it. I much prefer playing ball in the street. If you can’t get hit by a car while running to second base (i.e. the manhole cover in the road), I don’t see what the point is.
Hmm, but what’s this? S.T.E.M. Academy? You know, I didn’t know what S.T.E.M. meant a few days back, but I got to hear Adam Savage talk at Maker Faire and he happened to mention it. Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Academy. They turned my old junior high into a tech academy. I’m…cool with that. Adam also proposed we add a fifth letter to make S.T.E.A.M. The A is for ‘Art.’ I agree. It’s just as important and sometimes art transforms the essence of the other four letters into something more than what they are. A nerdy story from 9th grade bio class. I was studying C++ on my own back then, and I wrote a program that would do a Punnett Square given some inputs. BTW, I had to look that up on Wikipedia, because I have no idea what a Punnet Square is anymore. But luckily we live in an age where Wikipedia is our external brain.
Downingtown High School is right behind the junior high. This sign is new. There was no West or East high school for us back in 1995 when I started there. Everyone went to Downingtown High School. That was when I got to see people I hadn’t seen since elementary school again, but by then we had already all forgotten one another, so not that it mattered too much.
Even in high school we didn’t have to drive or take a bus. When we’re old we get to do the whole “back in my day, we had to walk to school in -30 degree weather in 12 feet of snow up a (slight) hill” schtick while waving a cane at a bunch of youngun’s. I can actually lament something along those lines, but looking back, I preferred that to taking a bus, which is what my brother had to do when he started middle school. After I graduated in 1998 the school system expanded and the lines changed and broke into an east and west. My brother had to take a bus to Lionville for junior high and high school. I feel lucky that things were simpler for me.
Gallery of photos below. Enjoy.