Looking To The Past

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, January 17, 2013

Have you ever found yourself trying to remember the look and feel of the interior of your first car?

Maybe you like to close your eyes and visually remember a walk through grandma's kitchen?

Or the number of steps from the edge of your childhood bed to the family living room-where the furniture was, the height of the bed, what the knob of the selector switches on the TV looked like exactly?

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Mundane things, to be sure; unimportant to or for anyone other than rekindling your own memory. Maybe, I guess, I wax too nostalgic about such things and maybe I live too much in the past, but such nuances help bring the past to life.

Still, as much as I try to recall, gaps are occurring in those old visuals, whisked away like dandelion petals by the currents of spring air.

Recently, for example, I tried to revisit a walk inside of the old Prince Edward County courthouse building. The courthouse we see from Farmville's Main Street is the same on the outside. It is essentially as it was when originally built, but it was totally reconfigured on the inside in 1999. So, now entering the main entrance at the front of the building there is an east hall with offices to the north and south, in the old days, the halls on the ran north and south with offices to the east and west.

If it sounds confusing, it is-rather about as much so as trying to remember where everything was. Though I didn't frequent that building often, I do remember that the General District Clerk's office was on the top floor, circuit court clerk's office in the basement.

What did they exactly look like?

Tiny, I suppose, as well as having industrial-colored paint left over from some big government project or battleship. The courtroom offered a rear entrance that screamed something half a century ago.

And, one oddity, a painted glass door detailed that the office of the school superintendent was there.

How strange it must have been to have had the superintendent, responsible for the education of students, housed in an office miles away from the school complex. While I don't remember the Prince Edward superintendent actually taking up space there, he at least must have at some point in the past.

Behind the building and through a separate entrance was the Extension Office. And, of course, next to the road was the separate health department.

These are, of course, the basics. What I work to remember, however, are the hues of the memories, the texture of the floors, the exact configuration of the offices, what it was like to walk into the courtroom, the pictures that hung on the walls and path through the maze that made up the circuit court clerk's office.

I suppose it's a good question to ask why anyone would want to remember such things. The best explanation is that it's simply because it's gone.

There is much that has changed around us.

While we lament the loss of Roses Department Store, old memories take me back beyond Southgate Shopping Center to the brick building on the corner of Main and Third Streets-to the lunch counter at the back of the first floor; the toy department downstairs. I'm left to wonder such things as where Santa greeted the children, how the candy counter was configured, and what they displayed in the windows.

I suppose all of the missing pages could still be in the memory book somewhere under a pile of dust, but perhaps a friend of mine is right who suggests that we forget things when we get older to create more memory space. It's sort of like a DVR recording over old recordings, I guess.

I took interior photographs of Prince Edward's new courthouse before it opened, just didn't think about getting pictures of the old one before it all changed.

And I take some comfort in knowing that, in forgetting, I wasn't alone. As I went to other sages, I found they, too, could not remember the exact location of a particular courthouse office.

Guess we're all too busy making new memories.