“The Future Knows When The Past Is Tired”
When I look around this small town where I’ve lived for the last 55 years, it’s not hard to see it through the same eyes of when I was a kid. I couldn’t have had a better experience growing up here, and possibly so much so that it has kept me from taking the leap that so many have and moved on to bigger and maybe better places. Life is funny when we look back through those same eyes, full of nostalgia, all the while the future is happening every second around us. With each blink of the eye, the future creeps in, pushing those memories further behind us and dulling the edges ever so slightly.
We’ve seen these changes throughout the years here in town as every small town has. But when driving down the main drag each and every day, those changes seem to happen at a pace hardly recognizable. For someone who hasn’t been here for years, a drive down highway 4 through town may seem drastic. What used to be is included each time we hear I remember when.
There’s talk of pulling up the red bricks along the five blocks of Mackenzie street and replacing this stretch with a new surface. I understand both sides of the conversation of keeping the brick versus how much Mackenzie needs repaired. What’s not to love about the history, effort and appeal of a brick main. I’ve written plenty about growing up here and how this town influenced my upbringing. Even when describing to anyone who might ask where I live, I explain how we cruised main street and hung out at the pool hall. I brag about the freedom we had and the friends I grew up with and how some of my fondest memories happened on and around these same red bricks. I think you catch my drift, and maybe you’ve said the same.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Mackenzie street is tired and has been getting rougher in recent years. Obviously, if there were an easy and inexpensive way to repair the brick it would have been done. When the bricks were originally placed, traffic wasn’t anything like it is today. Trucks are bigger and heavier now and the traffic just isn’t the same as when we were cruising main back in the 70’s. You would have thought those bricks would have worn out then with all the back and forth we did on that street.
But, with everything I’ve written and remembered about this small town, it isn’t based on red bricks. Although Mackenzie street was built on a good foundation for the bricks to last this long, it isn’t about the bricks. We are the bricks. This community of those who live or once lived in and around White City is Mackenzie street. Each brick along those five blocks represents every one of us. I know not all have fond memories of living in White City, and for some it was just a step along their journey to where they are today, and that’s OK. For some it’s a multi-generational family of farming with their life’s work planted and ranched each year on the outskirts of town. You drove to work, brought your kids to school, and opened shop on this street, And for someone like me, who’s memories and appreciation for how I turned is priceless, thanks to so many of you who are still here with me. WE are the bricks that make up the five blocks of Mackenzie, and that won’t change.
I’m OK with leaving the bricks in place and I’m also OK with replacing them with a smoother surface. In a perfect world we could correct the issue and keep the brick. I also know that no matter the surface on Mackenzie, there isn’t any cruising down the main drag anymore, but I still have the memories. Keeping the brick won’t bring back all the businesses of a once flourishing small town but some of those old business owners still live here. That same road that took so many away to follow their dreams will also bring them back no matter the surface.
Looking around us, the change is inevitable. I love the bricks on main street because it’s a piece of this town that’s genuine. And the fact that this discussion is happening tells me there are plenty of folks that are passionate about this. I get it. Like I said, if the bricks stay I’m good with it. If the decision is to resurface it, I’m good with that as well. Maybe the bricks can be incorporated into a sidewalk around the park as a reminder of a community that appreciates it’s past – I don’t know.
When I drive through town and hear the familiar sound of my tires rolling over the brick, and my mind’s eye sees the store fronts and the familiar faces from 1975, it always takes me back to cruising on a Saturday night. I’m also dodging the ripples in the bricks as I’m trying to get down the street. For me the memories will always be here, and for everyone who built this community brick by brick, past and on into future, it’s a job well done.