Muri and I moved to California in 1971. We had been living in Rhode Island for about three years but had visited college friends in Santa Monica and found California very much to our liking. Our best friends were native of San Diego and when they decided to move back home, I began to look for work in California, eventually finding a position at Honeywell Marine Systems in Covina. After a year or so, we bought a house in Yorba Linda and settled happily into the Southern California lifestyle. Old friends would ask, Don’t you miss the seasons? A runner in those days, I’d think of running in shorts and a singlet in January and answer, Not really. The houses are so close together, they’d say, Don’t you miss having some space around you? Nope, I’d say. I don’t know how you stand the traffic, they’d say. I couldn’t drive here. I just plan around rush hour, I’d say. And even with the traffic, I can be in the mountains or on beautiful beaches or in the theater district in an hour or two. I’d rather have lots of places to go than have it be easy to get nowhere. What I did have to admit, though, is that I missed the quaint little Southern Connecticut towns. I missed driving into a familiar place and knowing it would look the same as it has for fifty … or even a hundred years. Then one day, back East on business, I drove into the center of my old home town of East Haven expecting to be swept away with nostalgia and … well, the town fathers had redesigned Main St with wider streets and a plaza in the center of town. The Old Stone Church and the Library and the Town Hall were just as they always were but the streets were wider and there was a plaza in the center of town. Not only were Holcomb’s Drug Store and the movie theater gone, the building that housed them had disappeared. Farther down the street, Tolli’s Pizza was gone. They were all Old Haunts from my high school days.
Of course, in sixty-nine years, you get to see a lot of Old Haunts vanish. On one visit we found that the hayfield behind my parents house, home field for neighborhood baseball and football games, had been filled with houses. On another visit, Muri and I tried to find Chuck’s Steakhouse (which had played a significant part in our early courtship) but that, too, had disappeared. At the University of Connecticut we searched and searched for Muri’s old dormitory, only to find it had been torn down, and Our Bridge by Mirror Lake … where we got back together after the last of our break-ups … had been modernized so much we weren’t sure it was Our Bridge. Our favorite Rhode Island restaurant, the Fore and Aft, is no more. For 23 years, I drove to Hughes Aircraft Ground Systems in Fullerton, CA. It was my best Big Industry job … and now the site is a shopping center. Sometimes, Old Haunts just change decor or change names, but that pretty much disqualifies them as Old Haunts. The Bobby McGees where we partied on New Year’s Eve for many years with our Yorba Linda friends is now a Japanese seafood restaurant and sushi bar. Definitely not an old haunt for me.
On my way home from a doctor’s appointment this morning, I decided to stop at Java Joe’s Coffee House, one of the places Muri and I have been known to spend an afternoon, particularly since our Border’s Bookstore bit the dust (It’s now a Sprouts). There were no cars outside and a handwritten sign … LOST OUR LEASE … taped on the inside of the front door. Java Joe’s had been there for at least 20 years. It’s unlikely anyone will really grieve its passing but it was enough to precipitate a wave of nostalgia in this old guy. We keep our Old Haunts locked in the Old Memories corner of our hearts where they can never change and it’s a shock when we find they have. It makes me feel older. But once the shock passes, I can lock them up again to be visited, just as they were, at will. I can hit that home run again in the hayfield, and meet Muri in the snow on Our Bridge, just as it was. And that keeps me Younger, at least in spirit.
What Old Haunts do you remember?