Change hits home during visit to past

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

Where’d my hometown go? I thought about this as I looked around the city I lived in as a kid.

As I drove around my hometown of Roanoke, Va., last month I noticed a lot of stuff was gone, a lot of stuff had changed.

Now I know Roanoke is pretty far from Clovis, but this isn’t a story about that faraway place, it’s about coming back to the old hometown.

Those feelings I had, well, they’re probably the same as anyone would have if they’d been away from Clovis or any hometown for five, 10 or 20 years.

Anyway, I was visiting family and had a chance to explore the town where I spent a lot of time growing up. This is where I learned to ride a bike, play baseball, was a Boy Scout, learned to drive a car and went out on my first date. There seemed to be a memory down every street, around every corner.

I went to the old home place, a white house with green shutters on the north side of town. My mom had sold the place over 20 years ago. When I was a kid the house had a view across a huge, wide-open field and off in the distance were the Blue Ridge Mountains. That view was gone now.

Instead, as I stood at the edge of where that field once was, I was looking at the back side of a movie theater and a steakhouse.

I don’t know who lives in the old home place now. It doesn’t look like it used to. They cut down an elm tree that was in the front yard, but they left the maple growing on the side yard. It had started on its own from some seed blown in from somewhere when I was in high school. My grandmother staked it out so I wouldn’t run over it with a lawn mower. Now it’s a big, strong shady maple.

We drove around the neighborhood. Really, all that seemed to have changed was that the trees seemed bigger. Were the trees bigger? I guess 20 years can do that to trees.

Changes were everywhere … what wasn’t gone was older, remodeled or re-somethinged. The town’s first indoor shopping mall, where I used to hang out, was now an auto parts warehouse. A modern art museum had sprung up downtown. My elementary school was now a Montessori school, my junior high school was now called a middle school.

On the last leg of our trip, The Lady of the House and I stood on a pier jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico near her hometown of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“You know,” she said, “I don’t have much sympathy for you, about how your hometown has changed.”

“That’s cold,” I laughed.

“See all of that?” She was pointing back to the shore, to Okaloosa Island. “When I was a teenager this was just miles of empty beach along a two-lane road. All that was here were a couple of restrooms and some picnic tables. Look at it now.”

The two-lane road was now a four-lane boulevard, lined with bars, restaurants and tourist shops.

There’s an old saying that there are only two certainties in life: Death and taxes. I say there are three: Death, taxes and change. You just can’t stop things from changing, and it doesn’t do much good to wish things wouldn’t.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: