A Walk Downtown, Part 2

By Shamus Posted Sunday Apr 2, 2017

Filed under: Personal 50 comments

Last week we walked the length of Main St. in downtown Butler. This week we’re doing something a little different. We’re going to walk to school. And by “walk” I mean “click on images in Google Street View”. Our walk begins at the top of Brady Street, and we’re going to head south-west.

The walk I’m going to show you is my walk to school sometime around 1981. I would’ve been about 9.

There used to be a house instead of a parking lot there, but I can't remember what it looked like. Then again, a lot of these houses look the same so it might have been a copy of the one on the left.
There used to be a house instead of a parking lot there, but I can't remember what it looked like. Then again, a lot of these houses look the same so it might have been a copy of the one on the left.

You might remember years ago I wrote about the sitter Amelia. I won’t tell the whole sad story now, but if you’re in the mood to be depressed you can read it here. Anyway. Not one of my favorite people from this lifetime.

The point is, she lived in the house above. This is where mom dropped us off in the early hours of the morning, long before the school buses showed up. It was also where she picked us up in the late evening.

But on one particular school year there was some confusion with the school bus. I imagine the confusion was due to the fact that we’d just moved from one neighborhood to another, and yet the address where we were supposed to get picked up (the sitter’s) wasn’t either the old or the new address. See, school buses aren’t like transit buses. You don’t just stand at the stop and jump on the first one headed your way. You’re assigned a bus, and that’s the only one you’re allowed to ride.

I can’t remember how it went, but either we didn’t get a bus assignment that year, or the one we got didn’t make any sense. So Patrick and I had to walk to school.

If I’d made a fuss we probably could have gotten mom to straighten things out, but the truth was that I didn’t really mind. I’d never ridden a bus before this point, and I was much more comfortable with the idea of walking alone than being packed into a bus with a bunch of other kids.

Also, that parking lot beside Amelia’s house? That wasn’t there. There was another house there, although I have no memory of what it looked like. This spot is very near the hospital, and over the last few decades the hospital has expanded. They’ll devour a bunch of parking space to build a new wing, and then some of the surrounding neighborhood will be converted into parking.

Thank goodness someone preserved that red brick sidewalk. It really does make the corner feel like it's in a class above the rest of the buildings in the intersection.
Thank goodness someone preserved that red brick sidewalk. It really does make the corner feel like it's in a class above the rest of the buildings in the intersection.

The building with a red roof was a produce stand. Gorgeous place. I loved walking by it. Out front they had those large displays of colorful fruits and vegetables, just like the kind action heroes always plow through during car chases in movies. (Seriously, what do action heroes have against fresh fruit?) There were also flowers. There was a large sign out front with the name of the place, which was of course named after the family that owned it. I can’t remember it now, but the whole thing looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was a bit of an anachronism even in the 1980’s.

I see it’s a vacuum cleaner dealership these days. That sucks.

Across the street is… I don’t know what it is nowLooking more closely in some of the other Street View shots, it looks like it might be a real estate office., but in the 1970’s and early 80’s it was Kozy Corner, a mom-and-pop convenience store. Under that off-white paint the building is made of gorgeous yellow brick. I don’t know why you’d cover up classy brick with boring beige paint, but I guess boring people need commercial space too.

The Kozy Corner had videogames. Every Saturday mom would give me my $1.25 allowance, and I’d run up to the Kozy Corner to play the machines.

I remember they had Gorf and Star Castle. If your perception of the 80’s comes from current movies set in the time period then you might think think all videogames were things like Frogger, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. But there were a lot of titles that were popular at the time but have since faded into obscurity. I quickly learned that Star Castle was way too hard for me. It was the more exciting game, but it was over too quickly. I didn’t have the skill to make my quarters last. Gorf was gentler and thus a better value for my 9 year old selfActually I’m playing fast-and-loose with the timeline here. I remember the Gorf machine being pretty battered, so maybe I wasn’t playing it in 1981..

Either way, fifteen minutes after walking into the Kozy Corner I’d be broke, sad, and waiting for next Saturday.

Let’s head down the hill…

Not a lot of happy memories here.
Not a lot of happy memories here.

We lived here. At the time it was white instead of guacamole green. This was where I lived during the Dark Year. Other than the garish paint job and that tree, this is pretty much what it looked like. It even has the same crumbling front stoop. (Or maybe they replaced it with a new crumbling stoop? Hard to say.)

The only heat came from a furnace in the living room. No duct work. As you can imagine, this did a really terrible job at keeping the upstairs warm. Now that I think of it, the downstairs wasn’t particularly warm either.

The front stoop is ergonomically designed for maximum tripping comfort.
The front stoop is ergonomically designed for maximum tripping comfort.

In 1981, this was “The B & B”, a family-owned corner store. The owner was named Barth, just like the gross diner owner on You Can’t Do That On Television. This was hilarious to us kids in 1981. He was a portly, round-faced guy with a white apron who ran a corner store. The dude was a walking cliche!

One day I was standing out in front with a friend, just to the left of the angled white door you see above. Barth was nearby, sweeping the leaves and cigarette butts away from his entrance.

I said to my buddy, “You wanna go up to the Kozy Corner?

“Naw man. I don’t wanna climb the hill.”

“But Kozy Corner has videogames!” I said urgently. I had nearly a dollar, and it was just burning a hole in my pocket.

Suddenly I got a face-full of bristles. Barth had jabbed me with the end of his broom. I stood there for several seconds, waiting for some kind of explanation. This was yet another baffling interaction with an adult for which I had no prior experience to draw from. The look on Barth’s face suggested that the poke was intended to be playful, but the bristles had kind of hurt.

“What? Why?” I asked, when he went back to his sweeping.

He muttered something about the Kozy Corner. Apparently he resented that we were going to go to a rival store.

But I think Barth took the conversation to heart. A few months later he added a Tempest and a Pac-Man machine. His place instantly became a major hangout for the kids in the neighborhood. Including me. Once a week I’d dump my allowance into a machine, and the rest of the week I’d hang around and watch other kids play.

Here we're crossing Main St, which we explored last week.
Here we're crossing Main St, which we explored last week.

On the right is a “Metro PCS Authorized Dealer”. If you look on Google Street View, you’ll see that two months after this shot was taken in 2013, the place was empty.

This used to be a much more interesting storefront. Before some vandal put up that appalling peach faà§ade, the front actually matched the rest of the building. It had an angled entryway, facing the corner. “Village Pizza” was there for the first half of my life.

How was the pizza? I was a kid. Kids have no concept of pizza quality. For kids pizza is completely binary: Awesome pizza, or NO pizza.

Confession time:

My dad took us here on a few occasions. On one day in particular, it was just after Christmas and my brother and I had recently discovered the endless hilarity of the song Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. I don’t know how many times we had the jukebox play the song, but it was probably more times than an adult should reasonably be expected to endure. The fact that the grownups in the place didn’t rise up and end our lives right then is a testament to the fact that there are still good people in the world.

I remember putting a few quarters into the 1942 machine there, which was an early proto-shmup. I didn’t care for the gameplay, but I was captivated by the massive scrolling backgrounds. I found it kind of frustrating that I couldn’t really examine the backgrounds while also playing the game. This was one I preferred watching to playing.

Serving our community since 1900. Maybe we should think about taking a day off?
Serving our community since 1900. Maybe we should think about taking a day off?

Before the big mall showed up in 1982, this was where we did the grocery shopping. I remember seeing the checkout lines with a cashier at every register. Behind every one of them was a guy bagging groceries. Then there was another guy who would help you carry your groceries out to the car if you wanted. In 1981, this modest grocer employed more people in your average afternoon than the typical airplane hangar-sized Wal-Mart does today.

This is the point where people start complaining about whatever economic woes they believe caused this. I’m not interested in that debate right now. We’re on a walk. All I’ll say is that it was a very different time.

Also, they had a Berzerk machine. I notice I tend to remember places in terms of what videogames they had.

We’re going to hang a right at the next intersection…

Not a lot of happy memories here, either.
Not a lot of happy memories here, either.

And here we are at school. Actually, I guess there are trees in the way now. That’s new. (But very nice.) Let’s pull around to the side to we can see the front door…

This place looks basically identical to how it did in 1977, except the groundskeeping is WAY nicer.
This place looks basically identical to how it did in 1977, except the groundskeeping is WAY nicer.

If you look at the top of this post you can see me standing in front of this same entrance exactly 40 years ago.

The walk is slightly over a mile. I did this walk every day for that school year. Even in the snow. While it wasn’t actually uphill both ways, I did have to climb a pretty big hill on the way home. At the time, the hill didn’t even seem like a big deal. Dang thing would kick my ass today.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Looking more closely in some of the other Street View shots, it looks like it might be a real estate office.

[2] Actually I’m playing fast-and-loose with the timeline here. I remember the Gorf machine being pretty battered, so maybe I wasn’t playing it in 1981.



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50 thoughts on “A Walk Downtown, Part 2

  1. Christopher says:

    Wait…. opposite that sitter’s house is a ghost house!

    1. krellen says:

      Ghosts need homes too.

  2. MrGuy says:

    I see it's a vacuum cleaner dealership these days. That sucks.

    Good clean humor.

    1. TheAngryMonoogse says:

      I’m not a fan myself. I think pun humour blows.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Only if you look at the pun itself in a vacuum.

      2. BigTiki says:

        If it’s not your bag, you just have to filter it out.

    2. DGM says:

      Rutskarn’s humor has been a dirty influence on this blog.

      1. Falcon says:

        We should probably do something to sweep out this influence, before the site gets hosed any further.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    There used to be a house instead of a parking lot there

    There was a house here.Its gone now.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      There used to be a house here,
      then it took a bulldozer to the porch.

  4. Da Mage says:

    I never got the ‘walk to school’ experience. My family lives on a farm, so it was a 10 min car drive to the local primary school, and then an hour and a half bus trip once I got to high school. The road we lived on had no sidewalk, just a grassy ditch on either side and heavy traffic (like trucks) on going past, making it impossible to actually go anywhere unless it was in a car.

    I do feel I missed out on something when I was growing up just from being completely cut off unless my parents took me somewhere.

    1. Jabor says:

      As someone who also grew up in rural farmland, I remember a lot of television (and later video games, once we actually got a computer) to pass the time on weeknights. But weekends were basically jam-packed with hanging out with friends, trips to the beach or into town (I spent entire days at the library), exploring the woods with my brothers, that sort of thing. Having siblings of similar age to hang around with was definitely a big part of things though. Being an only child in that sort of environment doesn’t seem like it would be particularly fun.

      We did have to walk to and from the bus stop though, about a mile. And it was through a fairly deep valley, so you could even call it “uphill both ways” if you liked. No snow though.

    2. TMC_Sherpa says:

      I remember when my patents moved that we were a block short of being bused and two blocks short of being in a different school district.

      Prior to that the grade school was over the fence in the backyard, the jr high a block and a half away and the high school was 5 blocks.

      The grade school is gone, the jr high is now the grade school (Is jr high not a thing anymore? I feel like it’s not a thing anymore.) and the high school is…still the local high school.

  5. Syal says:

    So the message I’m getting is that if you live near that hospital, you never, ever want to go there.

  6. Christopher says:

    This time I got lost before we got to your house, but it still works just reading the post. I like this format, it’s nice to get all these bit-sized stories. At some point I’m gonna take the plunge and read the autobiography.

    Most of these arcade games I’ve never even heard of. Old-timers like Jeff Gerstmann have talked about Tempest in the past, but I searched up videos of the games in this post and this is the first time I’ve actually seen it in action. It looks remarkably exciting for a game that’s probably even a step below an NES in graphical power. Berzerk, on the other hand…

    1. Retsam says:

      I actually played Tempest a few weeks ago at an arcade bar in town; I’m not generally huge on retro-arcade games, but it’s legitimately a pretty neat game, since you control your ship with a knob that you can spin to move it quickly.

      1. Chuk says:

        I loved Tempest back then, even in the late 80s there was one at our local (ish) drive-in movie. I don’t remember the last time I played the arcade version though.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      The most notable thing about Berzerk is it’s likely the first game to have voice synthesis. To this day, I still remember it mocking me with “CHICKEN — FIGHT LIKE A ROBOT” in the most 1980s robotic voice ever. It was also probably a necessary first step for later and much better twin-stick shooters like Robotron: 2084, Ikari Warriors, and Smash TV.

  7. DGM says:

    What happened with that diner that caught fire at the end of the last part? Was everyone okay?

    1. Shamus says:

      Everyone fine. Nobody hurt. The whole street was closed off for days though. I think the building is going to come down at some point. Sad.

      1. Mephane says:

        I swear that I don’t mean this to get political, but boy am I triggered by <Adjective Period> style paragraph endings.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Interesting.

        2. Shamus says:

          It took me a long time to realize you were referring to Trump tweets. I don’t follow that sort of thing on Twitter and I’m only familiar with it through reference.

          For the record, I wasn’t deliberately using the style. I was just being terse.

          1. krellen says:

            Trump would have used more exclamations.

          2. EwgB says:

            That’s a pretty heavy dose of politics for this blog. It can’t be saved, run everybody!

        3. Son of Valhalla says:

          At least Shamus doesn’t use an exclamation mark to really emphasize his point at the end.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind”

            Terry Pratchett

            1. Pete_Volmen says:

              Which became a sad moment when he rediscovered that line after using multiple exclamation points. Azlheimer’s disease sucks.

  8. Philadelphus says:

    Having been homeschooled my entire life, I did not know that about school buses. Interesting. Though I can commiserate on the “walking a mile to school” bit from when I moved away to go to college, lived a mile (downhill) from campus, and didn’t have a car.

    1. Son of Valhalla says:

      Surprisingly, walks to school aren’t really that bad. A mile walk is nothing, really.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        My high school walk was about 3km, with both uphill and downhill sections. Back then, I had no trouble doing that in 30-40 minutes. These days however… well, it would be a bit troubling to do it just once. And I’m not even Shamus old.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        I found walking (later cycling) to and from school a pretty good thing because you have some time to mentally switch between school and not-school*, and you get some light exercise too (at the time it did not feel like exercise, today it does a bit…).
        I never used a school bus but I’m thinking those who did did not have that bonus as they were surrounded by screaming kids.

        * That is, unless you are sharing the way with somebody older and stronger who does not like you and likes to pick on you, in which case it becomes a race for survival and potentially much worse than a school bus.

    2. krellen says:

      It varies from place to place, since the school busses here actually do have defined stops and don’t really care which student gets on what one.

      1. Son of Valhalla says:

        It was the same at my own school. It didn’t matter which bus you got on, they didn’t care. A big issue though is that I did live up in the snowy mountains, which often got incredibly cold. If you missed your bus, then you had to walk to school in snow.

      2. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

        My high school has pre-defined stops, but since it is also a private school most of the kids get bussed in on certain pre-booked buses due to not living within a 1-20 minute drive from the school.

  9. MichaelG says:

    One of my childhood memories is of riding the bus to school for the first time after we moved. First grade, I think. But during the day, it snowed heavily. Coming back home on the bus, I couldn’t recognize anything, including our new house. We had moved from San Diego, California to upstate NY, so I had never seen snow.

    I remember being very anxious that I didn’t know where I lived. I finally figured it out and arrived home crying. So sad… :-)

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      I took a wrong turn on my second or third day at primary school. Noticed it at some point and went back to the correct way. That started a tradition of sometimes just trying out different routes home and explore the place. My mother was not helped by the fact that I found it incredibly easy to completely loose track of time during these excursions, taking maybe an hour or a bit more rather than the regular 20 minutes.

  10. Mephane says:

    I suppose it must be the angle and slight distortion – not just at first glance, but every time I look at it that first image looks like a screenshot from a game to me. I still secretly hope you snuck that in there to see whether anyone would notice it is not an actual photograph.

  11. Disc says:

    It feels strange watching all the differences in city planning and how the houses are built compared to what you see in Finland. For the suburbia especially, the general lack of personal driveways and garages for private houses and (seemingly at least) not even communal parking lots for residents of an area/block or a bigger building. I guess street parking is more the norm in the U.S? Also, so many of those private houses basically hugging each other makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking of living there. I mean, I’ve seen some suburbs that I thought were kinda tight with space… but this trend of, for lack of a better term, jampacking houses is like nothing I’ve ever seen, at least in modern areas. There’s some “Old Town” districts in some of the bigger cities here that might come close, but that’s literally by virtue of having the old buildings and street layouts preserved from a century (or two) back.

    1. Amstrad says:

      There’s a huge amount of variety from region to region and even town to town and block to block in terms of house style and how much space is between houses and weather a house will have a driveway or garage or not. Many houses built during the early 1900’s or earlier are of the style in Shamus’s photos, mostly close together and built before cars really took off so few driveways or garages. As you get into the 40’s and 50’s suburban development really took off and you see a different style of home, all of them with driveways and garages and decently sized areas of grass covered lawn.

    2. Bubble181 says:

      Hah, I have almost the exact opposite when I see those images. Man, all those houses are *huge* And they all have yards! And they’re spaced apart! And the streets are so wide and open! Wow!

      Of course, Belgium is known for stuffing everything and everyone very close together because there’s a lot of us on a not so big piece of land.

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      I was just going to post that I felt this looked a lot more European than I had expected, but you just reminded me that “European” means a lot of different things, too :)

      Some of the buildings along the main street, particularly the Lafayette building and the court house, but also some of the houses at the beginning of the last walk, would fit right in with some larger cities in Germany. Some of the wooden houses look a little more Scandinavian to me (more precise: Sweden. The south of Sweden, that’s what I’ve seen in person). Then, there’s also the classic US style with a veranda in front and such. I also expected much fewer sidewalks but this actually looks like something I could get used to.

      About tightly packed houses: Well, have you ever seen any large City, anywhere? Whenever I see movies shot in the US (except for New York maybe) it seems like they’ve just got too much space, as all the buildings are so low, so wide, so far spaced apart, across vast areas. Butler is actually a good deal less so than I thought, although in your typical German town of similar size you’d probably have some smaller and tighter packing in the center, where most of the large and important buildings would be (churches, town hall, court and stuff), and less homogeneous residential areas. There’d be a steeper gradient between the tight parts and the loose ones. Something like this:
      https://www.google.com/maps/@51.8730524,8.9449818,2305m/data=!3m1!1e3
      (sorry, no Street view available there…)

  12. Joshua says:

    When I was that age, the place to go for close video games was called Dane Drugs. I can’t remember all that they had, but the first game they got that sucked up all my money was Gauntlet. I had saved up $8 for an upcoming vacation with my parents (in 1985), and that money *vanished*.

    It is interesting to see all of the video games from the time that aren’t in pop-culture memory anymore, but were still pretty ubiquitous back in the day (true for music, films, and other media as well, although I think video games get it worse).

    Anyone remember any of these games? I remember seeing them at a lot of the places that only had 1-2 video games, like Pizza Hut and drug stores:

    Rastan
    Wonder Boy
    Lethal Enforcers

  13. MaxEd says:

    We didn’t have arcade machines in Moscow in early 90’s when I was a kid, but we had electromechanical arcade games. You couldn’t just go to a store and play them, though. There were a few in some cinema lobbies, but mostly you had to go to “arcade halls” (Zal Igrovyh Avtomatov), which were few and far between. The closes one to my house was at the local park, about 5 bus stops and a 30-minutes walk away. I only ever went there with my grandmother, and she would only allow me to play a few games, fearing that I would be addicted. We usually would buy 5-6 tokens, which meant I had one or two tries at each of my -34 favourite machines. The one I liked the most was the Air Combat, but Sea Combat was nice too. Unfortunately, Air Combat was very often down for maintenance – those electromechanical games are funky as hell, – so I had to play one of the inferior games instead.

    I haven’t stopped going to that hall even after I got my first computer in 1991. Sure, ZX Spectrum had better graphics and more games than any arcade hall, but those arcades provided a very different tactile experience: you did not just press buttons, but actually had to grab the handles of a submarine periscope and aim the torpedoes at enemy ships, or use a real steering wheel in a racing game, or even handle an electronic rifle in the shooting gallery.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      Those are neat! There’s a place I visited in San Francisco a few years ago, the Musee Mechanique, that operates and maintains dozens of electromechanical games alongside some early 80s electronic arcade cabinets. Sometimes that tactile element makes a huge difference. E.g. after playing the Time Crisis games with their fake recoil guns, I couldn’t go back and play light-gun games like Area 51 with no physical feedback.

      1. MaxEd says:

        Wow, some of those things are way older than the Soviet machines! I’d like to visit this museum someday.

  14. Joe Informatico says:

    Berzerk, Gorf, 1942 (its sequel, 1943, was much more fun–why drop bombs on Japanese warships when you can SUMMON TSUNAMI AND CYCLONES?), plus You Can’t Do That on Television? Shamus is making me feel old.

  15. Duoae says:

    Coming from another country and living in a suburban village when growing up really is very different.

    I walked to primary school (ends age of 10-11) every day and didn’t think about it. It was a 25 minute journey but I could take a couple of routes so I had some variation. I also picked up one of my friends along the way (which was nice).

    Senior school was a different matter though. That was a 35 to 40 minute walk to the bus stop (which was at the other end of the village to me) and it was a public bus (no school buses in my country that I’m aware of).

    Thus bus ride was a 45 minute journey which was then followed by another bus (which took 5 minutes) or a 15 to 20 minute walk. Of course the walk was usually faster than waiting for the bus so I usually walked.

    This was all repeated in reverse in the evenings. I’m lucky I’ve always been an early riser because otherwise it might have been a nightmare!

  16. Zak McKracken says:

    I bet the paint on the yellow brick building is somehow linked to the cracks in the walls.
    Either someone painted it to stop moisture from getting into the brickwork and cause cracks in winter, or they painted it, and then the moisture in the cracks couldn’t dry out and caused the cracks. or something. But yeah, it does not look good.

    The house I grew up in has an outer layer of bricks, and at some point my father tore them all down, renewed the insulation beneath, then rebuilt the brick facade and put some sort of water-repellant on. Seems to have worked, at least for the past 20-odd years.

    A few years earlier, one very cold winter evening, I realized that you could point the garden hose at the wall and cover it in a nice layer of ice. There might be a link there, too, but I wouldn’t know anything about that …

  17. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    I had to walk to primary school about 15-20 min away and it always sucked in summer especially with the 40+ degree days, although going home and grabbing an icy-pole from the freezer was fun.

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