Welcome to New Newcastle

November 10, 2015

By Pat Detmer

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When my grandnephew was a baby and did his best sleeping in a moving car, Newcastle Niece and I took a local driving trip to view all the new home developments. We called it “The Construction Tour.” Two years later, Jack can sleep without the rocking of a vehicle, but growth is still a huge topic of conversation. No less than The New York Times recently wondered if Seattle could keep its soul while it morphed into a Pacific Rim power, and we’re sitting right at the edge of it. Hardly a day passes that I don’t drive around a Newcastle corner and say out loud, “What the hell? When did that happen?” Previously, crane-spotting was relegated to the occasional Great Blue Heron at Lake Boren, but now there’s a crane where cows grazed and one where the Brick Plant bricked, while the new middle school currently looks like a stage backdrop for a Taylor Swift concert.

DetmerColumn 20151000Given the confluence of current events, I understand that constant change and suburban density are going to be a part of our lives whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable. But rather than condemning it, consider the flip side.

The Sainted One and I recently visited Quincy, Illinois where I was born as was my mother and her mother before her. We still have family there and periodically go back to renew our grave-visiting badges. We flew into St. Louis and arrived around 6 p.m., then drove to Quincy and arrived around 1952. Very little has changed. The houses are still grand, and you can buy a Georgian manse on an acre for less than a home in Olympus. The roots of huge street trees buckle the sidewalks, and the restaurants that I visited as a college student are still open and serving food guaranteed to put you in an early grave.

There’s a comfort in that, but a lethargy to it as well. The only fresh, new buildings are plowing into corn fields east of the city, but they’re big box stores and chain restaurants that could be Anywhere, USA, while the charming downtown near the Mississippi River and the town square languishes. Brave folks are buying brick buildings built in the 1800s and opening restaurants there, but it’s a struggle.

So as we fume in gridlocked cars or impatiently stand in line, we need to remember that flip side. Yes, it’s reassuring to know that when you go around a corner, you’ll see much the same thing that you’ve seen for the past 70 years. And here? When you go around a corner, you just never know. And that’s not all bad.

Hey! Maybe we’ll get our own zip code and post office!

You can reach Pat Detmer – who still reserves the right to say “What the hell?” as she drives through town – at www. patdetmer.com

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