Days Gone By
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Days Gone By
There was a special place that I remember as I was growing up. We would go outside to play in the fresh clean air where the birds were singing all around us, making us feel safe and secure. We attended a small, red, one-room school. The school went from first grade through the eighth grade. Everybody knew everybody and would help each other out whenever it was needed. The teacher was related to approximately ninety percent of the students; in fact, she was my grandmother. It was a wonderful place to grow up, feel safe, and possibly raise a family. After I turned eighteen, I decided to move to the Bay Area, hoping to find work to support myself.
In 1952, I was born in my grandmother's house, way up on the top of the mountain. My grandparents owned a small three-bedroom house on one acre of ground. The closest neighbor was one mile away. The small schoolhouse was five miles from her house and seven miles from the house where I grew up. The small community had many wonderful features. Everybody was considered family, related or not. The population was below one thousand people. As you drove through my hometown, there was a single frosty shop -- famous for its five-cent chocolate-dipped ice cream cones -- one grocery store, a parts store, and a five-and-dime store, which we loved to visit! Visiting the five-and-dime was like Christmas year-round! We loved going into the small town, running across friends and neighbors, catching up on all the local news while getting the necessary chores done.
Things in our small town started changing a little at a time. As we started to grow with the new people moving up from the Bay Area, a few more restaurants, a couple frosty shops, and several department stores joined our small town. The five-cent chocolate-dipped ice cream cones went up to eighty-five cents. As time progressed the streets were getting more crowded with all the people that moved to the mountains. Our small community of a thousand changed to three thousand. The stores were getting too small to fit the size of the community. I remember the sadness when the five-and-dime closed its doors. We had lost a friend. The local owners couldn't compete with the bigger chain stores that came to the community. The beautiful trees, shrubs and vacant lots started filling up.
Our small town had one stop sign; you could go from one end of Sonora to the next. You were able to drive straight through, without having to put up with a lot of traffic. The storeowners knew you by name. If you needed something, they were more than happy to get it for you. The streams were sparkling clear, full of fish. We had two high schools, and three elementary schools, which were large enough to accommodate the community.
As the people from all over started moving in, the town started growing. No longer were two high schools big enough. The elementary schools had to be expanded from the one room. The children now required more than one teacher. Again we were saddened to see our classmates move into different classrooms. Eventually, they had to add more buildings on the property, just to accommodate the population that was moving up into our clean, friendly town.
Our community was growing to the point where the traffic was too heavy through town. Soon the bypass was added, so the traffic could be re-routed. You could just bypass the town or you could take the exit, which would put you into the main part of town. There were four more stoplights added due to the amount of traffic. They are building a new, bigger hospital to accommodate the community.
Back then, you could walk down the street and feel safe and comfortable. You did not have to worry about locking your doors. You did not have to think that someone would hurt you, or bother any of your belongings. The small police station in our community had only a few officers to handle any problem that might come up; crime was minimal.
Then, as the community started expanding, so did the roads, stores and the crime. The traffic was getting heavier, and the patience of the community was getting smaller. We no longer had time to visit and catch up with the news of family and friends. The population grew, which brought in shopping malls, bigger grocery stores, and more people. The town grew; no longer was there only one stop sign. The streets became more crowded, and the crime started growing. The police station had to expand, and the new jail started filling up. Now you have to take time to make sure all your belongings are locked up. There is no longer a feeling of security.
I moved back up here in 1996; there was a lot of change that took place over the years I was gone. We now have to make sure our windows and doors are locked. We can no longer walk down the street and feel as safe and secure as it once was. The streams are not full of fish like they used to be. The animals are still around, but not as many as before. Now you have to drive a little farther to fish, camp, and enjoy the fresh clean air. I loved this town when I was younger. I still love it up here. Do I like the change? Not really. I liked knowing my neighbor. I liked visiting while shopping. I liked the lazy overall atmosphere of our town. Still I realize that change must come. Not all change is bad. Yes, there are a lot more people; the town has more than tripled in size. We now have a movie theater with more than one show playing at a time. If you want to see the forest, you need to get in your car and drive. We get better prices on some of our merchandise. If I had to choose, I would go back to the "old days," but overall I still feel this is the best place for me.