Nostalgia doesn’t fit a reverse chronological format, so I’ll refrain from indulging in sweet stories of pig-tailed cherubs wearing gingham, skipping about in the late afternoon sun. I did enjoy my trip to my hometown after these many years, but it didn’t seem all that much different than the towns I visited in Missouri, or Vermont, or Arizona, or any other of the states in which I’ve lived. My mom enjoyed the photos I brought back, though, so that’s a goodness.
Kettle Falls hasn’t changed much. Any new development tends to be along the highway rather than through main street. The only change was the addition of a median with trees down the street. Oh, and to shame big city libraries, this little town’s tiny little library offers free wireless.
The old grocery store was still standing but, like most of the businesses, closed. I spent many a penny on candy in that store during its time. When I was about a year old, my mother had gone into the store leaving my brother and me in the car outside. My brother released the brake on the car and managed to hit another car before we stopped.
The old Assembly of God church I attended is now painted a bright blue and is a union hall; I imagine the union workers are timber company employees. Timber is still the big trade item in the area, though the old saw mills are gone and the new ones burn ‘cleaner’. Not so clean, though; I saw too many dead fir trees, most likely killed by acid rain.
When I lived in town, I and a friend used to climb Gold Hill, which formed one side of the main bypass highway. In my mind, I remembered it as steep and rather expected it to be less rather than more. However, my childhood memories do not lead me false–it is a steep hill, and a tough climb. Yesterday, I could barely climb the road much less the hill.
And Ralph’s is still Ralph’s. Every town has a Ralph’s, and while Ralph’s lives, the town still exists. If you grew up in a town like my hometown, you know what I mean.
In the country outside of town, the road to my old house hasn’t changed much. A few more homes, but the area is part of the Colville National Forest system, which has kept growth down. I stopped at the old bridge crossing the Colville river as it made it’s way to the Roosevelt. This is about two miles from my old home, and hasn’t changed even a little in 40 years.
I followed the old dirt road below our old house, where I spent most of my time growing up. How odd to see the land more wild than when I was a kid. Along the sandy shore next to the Roosevelt lake, I noted footprints: skunk, deer, and dog. It was the dog that sent me back to my car: dog prints without a matching human are never a good sign.
I almost passed the house I lived in until I was nine. My old science teacher bought it from us, and his widow still lives there. Sometime in the last few decades, they moved the driveway from the right side of the house to the left, took out the fruit trees, and cleared the forest behind the garage. It’s the same garage I almost burned down when I played with matches as a kid. I’d post a photo, but it’s a garage and posting a photo of a garage exceeds acceptable sentimentality. So I’ll just post a photo of the house, instead.
There was an nice looking, sightly older man mowing the lawn when I pulled up, and I asked him if I could take photos of the house, as I used to live there once. I identified myself and he offered to get his mom, but I didn’t want to disturb her. When he said ‘mother’, I asked him if he was my brother’s friend Mike, astonished to see the mature man where last I’d seen a teenager. He was visiting from his home in Hawaii, of all places. He was one of the many Mikes that were all of an age (it was an uncommonly popular name). Odd thing is, all the Mikes that moved away, lived, all the Mikes that stayed, died before 25.
I missed getting a picture of the sign leading into the town– Kettle Falls: 1255 friendly people and one grouch. Oh, in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m sure I’m related to the grouch.
It was interesting seeing the place, but I felt no connection with the area. As they say, you can’t go home again.