Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hometown remnants


Tuesday's trip back to my hometown and other parts of southwestern Ohio yielded more than one post could contain, meaning I have a few other photos and reflections to add.

A note on the pictures: most of those taken in my hometown were shot pseudo-surreptitiously. Usually I sat in my car and snapped them quickly so as not to draw attention to myself. It didn't feel right to stand in front of other people's homes and near the school while aiming the camera. How strange to feel so exposed in such a familiar place.

The top picture is of one of my places of teenage employment. I had a few jobs prior to this--mowing the church lawn, working at the family business, umpiring Little League games-- but the library job in Brookville, about five miles away, was probably the first one for which I had to interview. I started it prior to my senior year of high school and quit sometime in the late fall/early winter. I already had a lot on my academic plate plus the stresses of the college search. If I'm being completely honest about my reasons for quiting, I should mention I was also angry that the head librarian was blaming me for misshelved books when I was certain it was a co-worker and the patrons themselves.

Except for the internet stations, the small library looks pretty much the same as it did years ago. I stopped in to use those computers to try and secure the basketball game ticket that my mom had yet to get. The friendly staff set me up since I no longer have a Dayton Metro Library card. (One must reserve a station, so I had to be assigned a visitor's random user number and PIN.) Who knows what they must have thought I was doing as I navigated the internet while using my cell phone to walk my mom through the ticket ordering process. It helps if you envision this scene with Dunkard women and children browsing the stacks.

Beyond my second home's backyard

Certainly I wasn't so bold as to go into the backyard to take this picture, so you need to imagine an empty field in front of that house rather than a dead patch of grass. The Dunkard family that used to live there (or still lives there for all I know) was a little more liberal in that they drove a light blue pick-up truck instead of a horse and buggy. I don't think the truck had a radio in it, but I don't remember. Their children, who dressed traditionally, went to school with me until they were permitted to be pulled out, which I want to say was after eighth grade.

Ball diamond in the neighboring park

This map should clarify the area we're talking about. The farmhouse was at the south end of the alley that extended the road that ended at our corner and was parallel to the community park. This diamond is a stone's throw from the yard on our home's west side. My dad, brothers, and I would sometimes take batting practice and shag flies on it. At one time it was used for Babe Ruth League baseball, but I think it was mostly for organized adult softball games when we lived there.

On the right in the distance you can see the building where the village offices were moved to. It used to be the community center. I can remember spending many Tuesday evenings there when my grandmother and great aunt served food to Rotary members while we played in the big back room. Tennis courts are next to it. In my later high school years I spent a good deal of time playing my dad and a brother on the concrete surface.

Not pictured but to the left of the diamond is the Hunters Club. Honestly, I don't really know much about it, but I recall that they would shoot clay pigeons on some Saturday mornings. It seems amazing to me that they would shoot so close to a park and homes, but unless I have a faulty memory, they indeed did this. Contrary as it might seem to where I grew up, I've never fired a gun and may never have held one.

I don't have any more Phillipsburg pictures left, but I have some others from the day trip that I'll post in a future entry. Library photo aside, it feels appropriate to let everything about the village stand on its own.

I didn't think I had this much to say about the place, but why wouldn't I have lots to write about the formative location in my life? Although my family no longer lives there, I have a feeling that I'll visit again at some point to cover the parts of town that I didn't photograph.

This process can be bittersweet, but it's useful as a way of understanding myself and for you to get to know me. From time to time I struggle with feeling like a fraud--as a professional, as a film critic--and I imagine that a large part of it stems from my roots. I'm not ashamed of them, but I feel it is necessary to respect them somehow. They are the hands that have shaped me, even if they are invisible.

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