Thursday, July 24, 2008

My city was gone

I can’t remember when Blundale, Ga., ever was much of a town. It was before I was even born. Heck, it was really before my dad was even born. Even when he and his parents moved there in the 1950s, Blundale was well in decline.
But it was still sad to drive through the old town over the July Fourth holiday and see how time has continued to wear it down.
Blundale, Ga., is no more.
This little teeny-tiny itty-bitty town was on the far northern edge of Emanuel County. In its time, it had a little downtown, with a sort-of main street and a store and railroad depot for the Wadley Southern Railroad. The railroad stopped running in the ‘50s, leaving only a raised berm that had been the railroad bed; I remember my father walking me over there as a small child and showing me where the tracks had been and telling me how the train had come through every afternoon.
Now, even the berm is gone. The ongoing widening of the highway folks there just call “Number 1” has wiped out what remained of it.
I drove between the orange barrels and turned off into Blundale’s little downtown. You couldn’t miss Miss Pumpkin’s house – an old Victorian with a huge wrap-around porch – now covered in vines and surrounded by 10-foot tall brush and weeds. Miss Pumpkin’s real name was Lumpkin, Delmar Lumpkin, and she was living in that house when my grandparents moved to Blundale from Swainsboro in the mid-‘50s. Her husband had been a supervisor for the workers on a huge nearby farm, my grandmother recalled. When I was little and she would visit with my grandparents, I called her Miss Pumpkin, and Miss Pumpkin she remained to us for the rest of her life.
Next to Miss Pumpkin’s house was the old Blundale store. It had been abandoned well before Miss Pumpkin had passed on. It, too, was grown up, weedy and forlorn.
There were a few houses about 100 yards down the way, and some people were outside cutting the grass. I would have stopped to talk but I had a long drive back to Warrenton, and a cloud was on the horizon, and I opted not to bother them on July 4th.
But saddest to me was my grandparents’ house.
The grass was all grown up. What little I could see of the backyard looked to have weeds and grass practically as high as my head. Someone had plopped a chain link fence back there, but to hold in what, I’m not sure, ‘cause there was nothing to hold in back there but weeds and what looked like a child's inflatable swimming pool. The tin roof was peeling back over part of the old garage, which will cause it to rot from the rain inside. I couldn’t see the old smokehouse or the old store building in the back, much less my granddad’s garden behind it -- it was too grown up.
At least the row of crepe myrtles are still there, in full pink bloom in the summer sun.
I wonder if my granddad’s gourds are still hanging from the wire across the backyard. I wonder if those spiky plants my grandmother brought from Florida are still back there. And the place where my father buried his two dogs behind the old store, and chiseled their headstones for them by hand out of rocks he found.
Two songs are in my head as I write this. The first is My City Was Gone by The Pretenders:
I went back to Ohio
And my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown …
I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Slowly swirled past
Like the wind through the trees.
The second, I’ll close with. It’s I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home by Bill Monroe:
I’m on my way back to the old home
The road winds on up the hill
But there’s no light at the window
That shined long ago where I lived.
(I’ll try to blog again some more later on about my trip to Emanuel County for the Fourth.)

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