I was thinking just the other day of my youth here in Norwich and the many changes which have taken place in thirty-plus years, especially in the downtown business district. I used to revel in the freedom I had as a child, playing football in the library park, exploring every square inch of the city on my bicycle and generally having an absolute blast. One thing that sticks out in particular, however, are the many local businesses where I once visited and shopped, if my funds allowed.
A favorite haunt of all us kids, which has been gone for decades now, was the now-legendary (at least to me) Hayes Street Ice Cream Parlor. I can still remember the darkly-stained wood that made up so much of the interior but – and I don’t think I’m alone here – what I recall most fondly were the best damn root beer floats in all of creation. What I wouldn’t give for a taste of one of those right now (or anytime really), which got me thinking of the other memorable locales we used to frequent in our youth.
Another favorite stop for us kids – The Copper Kettle, which featured candies and sweets of all varieties and descriptions. Some of our favorites back in the day, if I remember correctly, were the now-famous Sour Patch Kids; those fruit-shaped hard candies, known today as Runts, that came in the shapes of bananas, cherries, oranges and limes; any type of chocolate covered gummy candy, which always went fairly quickly, and of course, gummy worms.
We also loved the Corner Cigar, even though it sounds like a strange place for young children to be hanging out (it was a tobacco store). However, we weren’t there for smokes or cigars, we had more important purchases to make, namely baseball cards. Trading baseball cards back in those days was like trading on the stock market in modern times. That breathless anticipation when one picked up a new set of Topps baseball cards was unlike anything else back then. The Corner Cigar was also where my love affair with comic books first began, one which has ebbed yet never disappeared entirely as I’ve grown older (see my ‘Embracing my inner geek’ blog and you’ll totally understand).
Then there’s one location I can’t think about without feeling a touch emotional, the old wooden playground at Perry Browne Elementary. Emotional because I was there in sixth grade when we built the thing. I’ll never forget sitting in the school’s cafeteria poring over the architectural plans for the proposed playground, it was just too cool. My father was with me that weekend, with a host of other kids and parents, to put the whole thing together and the end result was truly magical. In addition, my artwork was one of five pieces selected to grace the inner walls of the maze-like structure. My only regret at this point is the fact I was unable to save that elementary painting of a knight in shining armor striding purposefully toward his castle (at least that’s what it was supposed to portray, I wasn’t much of an artist really).
I’m sure there are others places I’m forgetting but hey, this was twenty to thirty years ago. All in all our community has remained, for the most part, quite safe and kid friendly. In fact, if I were to ever have children I don’t think I could ever find a better place to raise them. Nor would I want to.