“Let’s go to the corner.”
Although it was long ago and I was but a child, not yet old enough to drive a car, but old enough to ride my bike using no hands all the way there, I hear the words in my mind.
All the way there was probably not much more than a few city blocks, but it was a gravel road and to get to the corner you had to cross a highway, which even in those days, if memory serves me correctly, was busy.
I think of those words, “let’s go to the corner,” every time I drive by that old corner store, which I do quite often as it is in route to my daughter’s house.
The store is falling down, sticking out like a poor wounded appendage on the prairie landscape, a desolate eyesore, interrupting the fresh face of spring as it slowly springs to life, nodding and quivering and shaking itself free of winter’s clutches.
Some of its windows are gaping holes, others are boarded up and the whole place cries of desolation and loneliness.
But, it wasn’t always like that.
And every time I drive by, I see, in the camera lens of my mind, the flash of a memory and the way it was.
It was a busy store, thriving and always full of customers. It seems to me that the door had a bell that jingled when you walked in and I think there were stools around a short counter.
They must have sold newspapers there, because I remember the storeowner saying my brother could tear a newspaper apart like nobody he ever knew, reading it from cover to cover.
I remember thinking, “is that a good thing? Should I be proud or embarrassed?”
The store also had a meat counter with a glass case, which, for some reason, I found quite fascinating.
In those days you could buy a bottle of pop and a chocolate bar for less than a quarter if you were lucky enough, of course, to have a quarter.
The corner store was part of the small town I grew up in. The town should probably be referred to a hamlet as it had not much more than one street and pretty much all of us lived on that one street.
To me, at least, the hamlet boasted some, if not all of the necessities of life.
It had a school. The school, when I was growing up, only went to Grade 6 and then, all kids, even those of us who were less than brave and did not want to, had to go to this great big high school.
The great big school housed all the kids from all the little one-street towns nearby as well as all the farm kids who lived in-between.
They called it amalgamation.
I didn’t like it. I liked coming home for lunch and playing catch with my dad or my brother in my front yard, which, with a little imagination, could easily be turned into a ball field.
The town also had two grain elevators, at least it did until one of them burned down, and then, a few years later, the second one disappeared too, along with the railroad tracks and the station house.
The general stores were probably the last to go.
But in my mind’s eye, I see it all again.
The way we were.
The store, alive and full of customers, my brother, sitting inside, the pages of a newspaper scattered in front of him, and me, riding my bike, no hands, down a gravel road on my way to the corner.
And then the image is gone, and I’m back to the present.
But I remember. And I can only hope I will always remember.
The way we were!