Monday, June 6, 2022

My Old Home Town

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I recently visited my Dad in central New York, meeting up with my sister, who came from DC. We ran errands, did paperwork, bought new flowers for Mom’s grave and, of course, went to Dad’s nursing home. He’s… fading, which is not a tragedy, considering he’s been more than ready to go for several years. The situation led to the following conversation:


Barb: After Dad dies, we’ll never come back to Liverpool again.

Julia: Well. A couple times a year to tend to the cemetery plot.

Barb: Okay. I’ll do the spring if you’ll do the fall.


This all got me thinking about the concept of home towns, because Liverpool, NY is one of two places I consider my home town. We moved there right before I started by sophomore year, and I graduated from high school there. I sang in the Episcopal church choir, and I acted in the community theater. I went to college a little over an hour away, In Ithaca. And, of course, I came back hundreds of times over the decades to stay with Mom and dad, dragging boyfriends, then a husband, then kids.


 

But the concept of moving back to Liverpool makes me break out into a cold sweat. (Apologies to Liverpudlians, who are justly proud of their home.) It’s got an eminently walkable village on Lake Onondaga, with beautiful mid nineteenth century houses and miles of gorgeous lakeside parks. It’s close to the cultural resources of a large city, and to the biggest and most advanced medical care outside of NYC. The price of houses are rising, but it’s still affordable, and Central New York has a very low cost of living index. And, not to get political, because we try not to here, but it’s in a Blue state, which makes me feel more comfortable. If it were in NH or MA I’d jump at it!


And yet… Is it because my every teen-age embarrassment and misstep happened there? Is it because it was my parents’ choice, not mine? Or is it because I spent my first quarter century relentlessly moving, and learned to never look back? (Liverpool was the eighth place I lived, and I would go on for five more moves until settling here in This Old House.)


What do you think, Reds? What do you consider your home town, and would you - if you could - go back?


LUCY BURDETTE: I consider Berkeley Heights NJ to be my hometown, as I lived there from first to fifth, and then ninth to twelfth grades. And my parents stayed there through my college years. It was a great place to grow up, with lots of kids in the neighborhood in the early years, block parties, a walkable grade school, and so on. But no family lives there now, and I can’t imagine going back. My dearest friends are now in CT and Key West, plus the mystery writing community scattered across the country. 

 

 I’ve taken John on a hometown tour (he says 3 times, I say twice), so he can now point out the place where my brother and I wiped out on a bike, where I drove the family car into a chain that wrinkled up the hood like tin foil, and where the first German shepherd pooped on the angry man’s lawn. I do kind of yearn for a town that I’d always lived in and where my relatives still live, but it isn’t going to happen so I love where I am!


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Go back? Like, live there? Ah, I’m pretty happy right here outside of Boston. I was born in Chicago, and that would be a cool place to live, kind of midwest-Boston (or Boston is east-coast Chicago) so that would be doable but feels administratively difficult. I have no real ties there, although some lovely family lives there. I really grew up outside of Indianapolis, a place that was incredibly rural at the time, more than rural (ponies, barns, bus to school, no stores walkable, and barely neighbors), but which is now chic and artsy and desirable.

 

 The house where I grew up (which was a gorgeous old  farmhouse, renovated, and quite special,with huge fireplaces and an art gallery), was re-renovated into being unrecognizable by the new owners  after my stepfather died and my Mom moved to a different suburb.  Gosh, Indianapolis itself is unrecognizable! I would not even know my way around! I have lots of acquaintances from high school there, but we live in entirely different worlds. I do feel connected when I meet someone from Indiana, and I always watch the Indy 500 and feel nostalgic about it, so some of that emotion never leaves. But I was happy to move on.

 


RHYS BOWEN:  I grew up in a small village in Kent, south of London. Our house was down a long drive in the middle of apple orchards and hop fields. It was a long walk to the village which had one row of shops and a pub. It took an hour, two buses to get to school. The only other important thing was the paper factory that my father ran. My mum became principal of the school. You can guess that other kids kept their distance from me! Except for Christine, my best friend with whom I’m still friends. 

 

But as for that idyllic village—it’s been swallowed up into London suburbs. I didn’t know where I was last time I was there as the motorway comes through it. My house was torn down for that motorway. And no ties to it for many years as my parents moved to Australia.  Our one UK connection is John’s sister’s manor house in Cornwall. I’d move there in a heartbeat if my darned children weren’t all here!


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I didn't get very far away from where I grew up--only about fifteen miles--in Richardson, Texas. When my parents built there in the late forties, it was rural, with a little main street. The town has been totally swallowed by Dallas now, of course. My parents sold their house when I was in my mid-twenties and I never really forgave them for it.





JENN McKINLAY: I have two hometowns, both are in Connecticut. Kent is in the mountains and we lived there until I was nine. Most definitely an idyllic childhood, running amok in the small village with my brother. It was the sort of place that when you were naughty, your mom knew about it before you got home because the entire town raised you. We moved to Niantic, which was on the shore, after that and it, too, was a lovely place to live, but it was bigger and had a more seasonal residence vibe to it. The high school years were fun and many of my classmates still live there. I love CT. It’s a part of me, but I never had the urge to settle there. I love AZ and it, too, is a part of me, but I expect that Hub and I will retire elsewhere. Not for nothing, but Hawaii seems nice :) 

 

JULIA: Ooo. Better make sure you have plenty of guest rooms, Jenn. I'm sure you'll be lonely and want to invite your blogging sisters to come visit you.

 

HALLIE EPHRON: My hometown is Beverly Hills. I know, fancy-schmancy, but it didn’t feel that way to me growing up. We lived in what they call the “flats”... between a more middle income neighborhood (really) south of Wilshire and the uber-wealthy enclaves north of Sunset and up in the canyons. I roller skated on the sidewalk and rode my bike all over after school and played in the elementary school playground a few blocks from the house. It was more or less free-reign childhood in what felt, then, like “any” neighborhood to me at least.


These days, there’s something about Southern California that makes me feel old, fat, and poor the minute I disembark at LAX. Car travel is a nightmare and it’s pretty much the only way to get around. If it weren’t for a beloved sister, her family, and a couple of long-time friends I’d never go back. 

 






 


114 comments:

  1. Like Jenn, I have two hometowns, both in New Jersey: Point Pleasant and Neptune. Both were great places and I have fond memories of living there, but I wouldn’t choose to go back to either. There’s no longer any family there and both have changed so much over the years that they are no longer the towns I remember . . . .

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    1. I spent many many summers at the Jersey shore Joan. Maybe we passed each other at the boardwalk?

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    2. Small world because we had very close friends who lived in Point Pleasant.

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  2. Growing up in my Brooklyn neighborhood from five to fourteen was perfect. We played in the streets, everyone knew everyone from the corner to corner. If you did something you weren't supposed to at one corner, by the time you got home, my mom and everyone's mother knew and you were punished and everyone knew. It was such a fun time. Then the city took over the block and we had to move. Many years later I went back to my old block and it was not the same. In this instance, I could never go back home.

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    1. Still can't comment with my Google acc't, but I'm hoping this shows my name at the top. Dru, a close-knit neighborhood like that is a treasure for young kids, although it can get a bit stifling for older teens. The fact the city took it away is appalling.

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  3. I was born & raised in the suburbs of TORONTO, Ontario until I left for university at 19. Steeles Avenue was the northern city limit and it was farmland & fields in the early 1970s. Would I go back to live in that part of Toronto (now called North York)? NOPE, NOPE, NOPE! It was a safe idyllic place to grow up as a kid but BORING. Now it's totally built up with high-rise condos & even worse traffic congestion than when I moved to Ottawa in 2014. The 4 days I spent commuting across North York to clear out my late dad's apartment last September made it painfully clear why I now even HATE visiting that part of North York.

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    1. P.S. I would not mind living in the mid-town Toronto Lawrence Park neighbourhood where I lived in an Art Deco low-rise apartment from 2001-2013. But as a retiree I could not afford it. Rents are doubled the rate than here in Ottawa & buying a 1-bedroom condo would cost over $800K.

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    2. Grace, I always know an HGTV show is taking "buyers" around the Toronto area, because the couple's budget is $800,000 and they're looking at normal suburban houses.

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    3. JULIA: Because the real estate prices have shot up over 30% the past 2 years, a suburban homes outside of Toronto is now more than $1 million. Within the city, average price is $1.4 million. And in my old Lawrence Park neighbourhood, a 1950s bungalow would cost over $2.5 million.

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    4. I still live in Toronto, or rather, again. I know what you mean, Grace, about North York, outer Scarborough, etc. I was fortunate to have been born in the Beach, in the east end, close to where I returned to and bought a house in 1985. Still here, and I love it, despite all the condo proliferation.

      My parents and brothers defected to other cities/countries. All my cousins found new homes in small towns decades ago. It's just me. Plus my daughter, bless her, only 1/2 hour due east.

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    5. SUSAN: I like the Beach, and unique neighbourhoods such as the Danforth, Little Italy or Kensington Market. My home in Willowdale (North York) was a generic suburb that could have been in any city.

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  4. I grew up as part of a large family in coastal CT outside NYC. Our parents built a house there on three acres in 1954 for $30k, paid off the mortgage over 25 years, and our father commuted to the city. I never really fit in there (being more interested in frogs and turtles and history than tennis and sailing) and by the time our mother died in 2004, the real estate was so valuable none of us five children could afford to buy the others out, even had we wanted to. The last time I visited the town, with two of my sisters, we drove by the family home of 50 years. The 50s colonial that had sheltered a family of seven had been purchased by a single woman who ENLARGED it. We couldn't recognize the house or the property. The big oaks and sweet gums had been cut down and the long driveway where we sledded had been edged its entire length with fancy granite pavers. The street where we rode our bikes, pretending they were horses, is now all giant McMansions that stretch nearly from lot to lot. We saw no children playing, only drive-in gardening staff. It felt eerie. I could never move back due to dollars, but I would not want to, either.

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    1. Crazy transformation! I bet you were sad about the trees...

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    2. ADK, the same thing happened to my husband's childhood home in Newtown. He took us driving past one fall when we were on our way home from NYC. It had been a lovely 19th century house with a barn his mother and her partner turned into an artist's studio. The gracious trees were still in the neighborhood, but his mother's house was utterly gone, replaced by a very large residence that hinted at the original architecture of the area... which the owners, had, of course, utterly destroyed.

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  5. Lovely memories, ladies. I had a happy free-range childhood in one of the many provincial suburbs east of Los Angeles, near Pasadena, that felt (in hindsight) like a Midwestern town except that it was contiguous with all the other suburbs. There was even a dairy farm three blocks away where we would drive through to buy glass bottles of milk.

    When I was young we had a good mix of Asian- and Mexican-Americans in with the white folks, but zero black people. Now Temple City is almost completely Asian-American. The air quality seems improved from the smoggy days of my youth, but the traffic congestion in the Los Angeles area is horrible, and I would never go back to live. Unlike Hallie, I have no family left to draw me there. I'm much happier visiting relatives in the San Francisco area!

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    1. oh I only wish our family was in SF (rather than LA!)

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    2. There seems to be a theme here of "the old home town changed beyond all recognition." Which I quite understand - but I don't want to go back to my hometown because it's pretty much exactly the same!

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    3. JULIA: I get it! Although I said in my post that the street my dad lived on transformed into a generic soulless street full of high-rise condos & strip malls, the inner suburban streeets were frozen in time. My elementary, junior high, high schools and nearby bungalow homes are exactly the same as they were 40-50 years ago. It's not the type of place I want to live, and I no longer have a reason to visit.

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  6. I loved growing up in a small suburb of Philadelphia. It was walkable and my brothers and I roamed the town with friends and spent summers at the local pool. All good memories, but my parents sold our house after I was out of college and I moved on. Now the house is painful to see - they cut down the beautiful 200 year old beech trees to build an apartment building on the property, and divided the house into apartments. I don't go back any more.

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  7. I spent the first 14 years of my life in the same small Connecticut town where my dad and his 5 siblings grew up. Being skinny and extremely awkward, I was teased mercilessly at school. On occasion, antisemitic jibes and diatribes were aimed at me and my friends frequently turned on me as well. My aunt, whi taught 8th grade history and reading told me years later that she had never seen such a nasty group of girls as in my class. WOW.

    In 9th grade we moved to a suburb of Hartford to be closer to the meat packing business my dad opened in Hartford. It was my chance to start over and I did. High school was great. When Irwin and I had Jonathan, we bought a house in the town where went to high school and we have never regretted it. I live in my hometown.

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    1. Wow, mean girls Judy--that sounds awful! So glad you found your way out of that

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    2. It's so interesting that your dad's home town was a horrible place for you, Judy, but you found your own home town to stay in happily. Having had two girls, I can say middle school girls are far, far worse bullies than boys when they want to be.

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  9. I had an idyllic free-range childhood in Westfield, NJ, able to ride my bike everywhere. We moved before I started high school. As an adult, I've lived all over the country. We're currently in Cincinnati, our kids are scattered, and we're discussing where we might go next.

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    1. Margaret, the advantage of NOT being tied down to any particular town or city is that you can weigh your options on where to go next! My mother, the master of moving, always said, "There's something great about any place you go, you just have to find it."

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  10. From 5 to 17, we lived at the east end of Montreal Island, way out of city center. There were stil farms a few miles from home. What I loved more was that I just had to cross the street to soak my feet in St Lawrence River and to watch boats.
    No way I would live there now. It is over builded, we don’t even see the River from the street.
    I love my little home in the country.
    Danielle

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    1. I love my home in the country, too, Danielle! Maybe that's the thing - it's not that I don't like my old home town, but that where I live now is so much more preferable.

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  11. My hometown is Weston, Mo. just 30 miles north of Kansas City, it’s a charmer full of antebellum homes, history on every corner. My childhood was soent roaming on foot or on my bike. I knew every person I met and called most of them aunt or uncle. Population now and then about 1200. I lived there from third grade until I went to college at 16. Yes. 16.

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    1. That’s me, Ann

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    2. Weston is a pretty cool town, with tons of history. Do they still distill corn liquor there?

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    3. College at 16! There's a story there I want to hear, Ann.

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    4. College atv26 because I started 1st grade at 5 and then skipped 8th grade. 16 was way too young to be out partying and playing drinking songs

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    5. Yes Gigi, the distillery has only grown. But they sell more bourbon than white lightening. The town’s main focus is tourist trade. Who knew?

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  12. My hometown is just an hour north of where I live now. Hamilton was a blue collar town when I was growing up, with foundries and safe manufacturers and two paper companies. To serve all that industry, two railroad tracks cut through the middle of town, right across the main street. Now the town is experiencing a kind of renaissance, with lots of public art, a thriving brewery scene, and a massive entertainment complex set to draw hundreds of millions of income to city coffers.

    Well, it's a nicer place to visit now, but there's no way I'd go back. While once I had dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles, and even a sibling and parent, now most of the family has moved on, especially the younger generations. I've called Cincinnati home for most of my life, and I guess we'll stay here.

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    1. Karen, I think I did a bookstore event in Hamilton, OH. It was in a very trendy area - lots of exposed brick and artsy stores.

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    2. Julia, Hallie has taught there a couple times, in correlation with Miami University, which has a campus in Hamilton. There used to be a very active writing community, and they had annual workshop events. If I'm not mistaken, Paula Munier was there one year with Hallie.

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  13. I did move back to my hometown after more than 30 years away. It's a very small community about 25 miles south of Rochester, NY. I'd been living in New Jersey for many years with a short stint in Washington, DC. After I retired, NJ just didn't appeal anymore -- too much traffic, no real sense of community in the sprawling suburban town I lived in -- and family was still in my hometown. So, I took the plunge and came home.

    The move has had its drawbacks. I'd forgotten just how small the place is and how much interest some people have in one another's business. Why did I buy my own house when I could have moved in with my mother? Why did I buy the house I did? Wasn't it too big? All questions I got asked by people I ran into in the grocery store -- people I knew but who weren't really close to me or my family. Fortunately, the interest didn't last long and the gossips moved on to something else!

    But the advantages have far outweighed the drawbacks. I missed most of the childhoods of my niece and nephews, but not those of their kids. I've learned to love watching t-ball, soccer, basketball and cross-country races. And I'm closer to my siblings than I ever was. Between the community food pantry and the public library, I've found volunteer activities to make myself useful and the lifelong learning program (OLLI) at RIT keeps me thinking and learning. The cost of living is lower here than in northern New Jersey so I can live comfortably and indulge my book-buying addiction. All in all, not a bad decision.

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    1. Chris, having siblings and family around makes all the difference. (For some people, I suppose it would keep them far away!) I've thought that if I move in "retirement," it might be to someplace in Virginia, since my sister and brother and their kids are all in the northern part of the state, and my son and his future family will probably be in the Charlottesville region.

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  14. So fun to read all these stories. I never really left my home town. We grew up in SE Portland, definitely an urban area. Neither mom nor dad drove, so we didn't have a car, which was very unusual in Portland. We lived near two bus lines and within walking distance of a big grocery store (which is still there, 60 plus years on). We played outside for long hours into the summer nights with the neighborhood kids and rode bikes all over. My parents both died in the 2000's in the house they had bought in 1961. Margaret (twin sis) and I went to college across town at Lewis & Clark and got jobs here in Portland when we were done. Our younger sister was in TV news, so after college (Wazzu in Pullman, Wa) she moved to Spokane, Great Falls, and then Boise. In 2010 she moved back to the Portland area, so we are all here now and we love to visit and hang out. So other than 2 six-month sojourns in the UK, I have never lived anywhere else, and never really wanted to.

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    1. Gillian, my daughter moved to Portland just as the country was getting quarantined in 2020, moving to a house on a corner with a bus stop. I was surprised at how many people rode the bus there, along with whatever the light rail is called. A friend came to visit while I was there, riding her e-bike from the train station. It seems like a great town for getting around without a car if you plan well.

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    2. Gillian, having visited the Other Portland a couple times on book business, I can readily understand why someone would spend a lifetime there. It's a wonderful city and area.

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    3. Karen, the light rail is great...if I had to work downtown, I would definitely use public transit--and we add bike lanes every day; for cyclists, Portland is a paradise. It was a fine place to be quarantined; I always felt safe walking and running in my neighborhood; exercise saved my sanity! Hope your daughter is doing well.

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  15. My early childhood was all over eastern Ohio, roughly along Interstate 70, attempting to follow my father's work. But we settled in Columbus when I was 11 and I usually think of it as my home town. I did venture out for several years, but my husband and I moved back here in 1995 and have been here since (though in a very different part of the city than where I spent my childhood.) Like others have mentioned, my old neighborhoods are almost unrecognizable now.

    As we prepare to retire at the end of the month, we are still deciding where we want to live. We used to dream of getting out of Ohio, but aging close relatives on both sides who need some help are likely to keep us tethered in this general area for a while longer. Who knows, by the time those responsibilities end we may find we no longer have a strong desire to move elsewhere.

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    1. There are two competing poles for a lot of us when considering the empty nest move. Be near the kids/nieces and nephews? Or near the aging parents? Under the old "everyone stays in the same town forever" model, I guess you didn't have to choose... although it might have driven every generation crazy after a while!

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    2. Our only son is currently in Ohio, but his fondest dream has always been to live out of the country. In fact, his perfect dream is to live on a boat in international waters. Because he has always had that dream, I have never allowed myself to expect to live out my old age near him. Of course who knows? If he meets Ms. Wonderful and marries, that might change the whole scenario. Only time will tell.

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  16. I count Willard, Missouri, as my home town. When my mother moved us there so she could teach art in the high school it boasted a population of 1,982. The school district took in a lot more territory than the town itself, including wide swaths of rural farmland. The football team barely existed, but Willard had a great band program. Visual art, like my mother taught? What was the use of that? I spent my entire adolescence there, dreaming of getting out. Since I made that great escape I have only been to one school reunion, where I discovered that almost all my school friends had scattered and I had very little in common with those who stayed.

    Back in the day, my grandparents and father lived in nearby Springfield. My mother stayed in Willard after my sister and I grew up and moved out. Now nobody in my family lives in the area. There would be no point in going back for me. Right after my husband died, some of my in-laws here in Texas wondered if I would "move home." I think they were hoping . . . But move back to Missouri? Leave the career and network of contacts I'd developed in Texas? Give up honky tonk line dancing for a place where some schools thought allowing boys and girls to dance together at the senior prom was sinful? Not gonna happen. I now live in a town I chose to live in, and I'm perfectly happy to stay right where I am.

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  17. Hank Phillippi RyanJune 6, 2022 at 9:12 AM

    It’s so much fun to read these stories! Wow—, it is so revealing, and makes me think of each of you in a much more in-depth way . What a fascinating question!

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  18. I grew up lots of places because every summer my folks farmed me out to relatives in either Upstate NY or Miami, FL both were idyllic spaces, but my hometown was Rutherford, NJ. Rutherford, at the time, was a small town where you knew everyone, everyone knew you, and they all knew your mother so you better behave. Definitely a free-range childhood. I was the only girl in my neighborhood so my upbringing was a bit atypical and I liken it to running with wolves. Wouldn't trade it for the world. We got sent outside right after breakfast or school - I did climb out my second story window on occasions when dawn broke earlier than the eggs in my mom's frying pan - and we didn't return home until the street lights came on, generally filthy and happy. These days I doubt I'd be able to find my way around town. It hasn't visually changed that much from what I can see on Google, but the area - 11 miles west of NYC is very, very different. No more farms in the meadowlands, no more dairies there, and most of the free space I remember is now development. Sigh, you can go home again, but in most cases, it's best to bring a GPS

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    1. Kait, that is a brilliant observation, and I'm definitely going to steal it and use it myself!

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  19. I grew up in a suburb south of Buffalo, NY. I love to visit, but I don't know as I'd move back there. I've become too accustomed to the mountains of SW PA (Buffalo is kind of flat). I might move back to Cattaraugus County, where I went to college. More mountains. But the taxes in NY keep me away. And while I have family there (a brother I almost never talk to and a sister I talk to frequently), all of my friends are gone. And my kids aren't likely to move up there, either. So I'm pretty comfortable where I am.

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    1. But Liz... don't you miss the snow??

      Liverpool is right on the edge of the snowbelt - another thing that keeps me away.

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    2. Julia, I get enough snow in Pittsburgh, thankyouverymuch. LOL It's not a patch on WNY, but that's okay. I'm not a snow-sports gal and we get just enough for it to be pretty without the threat of roof-collapse.

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  20. I grew up in a small town, it's still small, and I came back twenty-some years ago intending to settle my parents' affairs and then move on. But stuff kept happening and here I am still. Our town was founded by New Englanders, sprinkle in some immigrants, a free love colony, and we're a sort of independent, live and let live kinda town. What's most interesting to me is youngest nephew--he's a talented young man, working hard at his music, and yet, he says wherever he might go, this is where he'll come back to--and this road especially. His brother feels the same. We're quiet and peaceful here, people leave you alone but are right there if you need help, it's country but town is close, cities are easily reachable for travel, entertainment, shopping, and medical care and schools are excellent. What I miss? Not enough restaurants--need more variety!

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    1. Forgot to say, Berlin Heights is located in northern Ohio-- a few miles south of Lake Erie, east of Sandusky (the home of Cedar Point) and west of Cleveland.

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    2. Flora, that sounds just about ideal. I'm hopeful that the increasing ability to work from home will help revive some of the lovely towns in areas that haven't seen a big economic boom. It's definitely helping in the area of my other home town, Argyle, NY, where it's hard to find a place to buy due to the newfound popularity.

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    3. Julia, that's the thing--housing prices are through the roof around here--nothing stays on the market long and younger buyers are being priced out of the market. We are considered commuter distance from Cleveland (and Toledo), so with work-at-home options, there's been an influx of outsiders to the area. Fortunately, most of this activity is around our neighboring town of Milan, which promotes its quaint town square, Thomas Edison birthplace, etc. But we share a school district and are closer to the lake.

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    4. Flora! Berlin Heights. My husband was from Berlin Heights. I'm from Huron, but Berlin Heights is even tinier. It always reminded me of the song, "Small Town Saturday Night".

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    5. Holy smokes, Lesa! Small world indeed! My GP, eye doctor, are in Huron, and I frequently visit the library with 7-year-old grand-nephew. Did your husband graduate from Berlin Local or Edison schools?

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    6. Berlin Local, Flora, long before the schools consolidated.

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  21. I was born in Baltimore, lived in Owings Mills through age four - no real memories. Then moved to Corning, NY and had the free-range childhood so many of you mentioned. Dodge ball in the street. Walking downtown to see Disney movies or go to Woolworth's. I remember the whistle blowing at Corning Glass Works to signal the lunch hour. Then we moved to Georgetown, MA when I was in seventh grade. A nice small town. Unfortunately we moved back to Corning when I was in my senior year of high school and it was awful.
    I went to college in Syracuse and grad school in Richmond, VA, then settled in Ithaca, NY for five years of post-doctoral work. My husband and I moved to Plattsburgh, NY when I got a faculty position and we've never looked back. We love being near Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, Montreal, and Ottawa.
    Julia - I think I've lived in or near a lot of the same places you have.

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  22. I wonder how my kids will think about their "home town" - a suburb of Boston, it was very monochromatic when they grew up here, now much more mixed thank goodness. Even though the streets and houses are the same, it truly has changed in ways that aren't immediately evident if you drop in for a visit. Still, I think the main draw for them coming back is me.

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  23. Before I was six, we'd already lived in Connecticut, North Carolina, and Virginia (first Charlottesville, then Lynchburg), but I completed first through tenth grades in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My young parents restored an eighteenth-century row house in the Old City--we lived in a small piece of it while workmen slowly re-did the whole place. It had eighteen-foot ceilings with tiny skylights, marble-tile floors, and an indoor patio where my father planted all kinds of tropical plants. The roof also leaked off and on, but I don't remember that bothering me. My sister Natasha and I were city children, but we still spent lots of time out of doors, exploring parks and squares near our house, and every weekend we went to the beach with our parents. The two of us remember being very happy in San Juan in the sixties, but would I move back there now? No. As a child I didn't seem to have too much trouble managing the odd experience of being both an insider (not a US tourist) and an outsider (not a Puerto Rican--although I did speak Spanish). Today, I don't think I'd be comfortable there as a "gringuita," although that word was always used affectionately in my hearing when I was a child.

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    1. Kim, that sounds like a magical childhood.

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    2. Agreed, Kim! It sounds like the basis for one of those wonderful children's novels we all loved to read.

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  24. I was raised in the high mountain desert of the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. Measuring about 100 miles in every direction, the Valley is pre-historic lake bed and is pretty much a massive salt flat sitting atop a deep underground acquifer and surrounded by 13,000+ ft. mountains. There are some swampy areas that entertain Sand Hill Cranes in the spring. Spring fed and runnoff creeks feed the Rio Grande River which is the only major surface water in the Valley. Usually sunny, but high in elevation, around 7200 feet, temperatures are not outrageously hot but can get inhumanly cold. It is dry, and you know what they say about dry heat? Well, they say that about dry cold, too. The sky is that incredible blue that you only get at high altitudes. You can see the Milky Way in the night sky. There are so many stars that total darkness is a foreign concept. The eastern mountain range is called "Sangre de Cristo" because, when snow covered, it will often be blood red at dusk and magnificently golden at dawn. At the base of the Sangre de Cristos are because the wind blows in the Valley, picks up the sand and deposits it at the base of the mountain. Some of you may have been to Sand Dunes National Monument.

    I grew up in Alamosa, a Spanish word meaning "grove of cottonwoods" which had a population of 10,000 people in a county of 750 square miles when I left it in 1975. It had a railroad track that ran the length of town from east to west. They divided the town into brown and white. I had been long gone from Alamosa before I recognized the effect that this set of tracks had on my sense of the world and how hard it was to overcome the attitudes which those around us take for granted. It became the basis of my graduate school work which applies post-colonial theory to Southwestern water politics.

    I left Alamosa one month after my 18th birthday. I wanted as far away as possible from anyone who knew my name or how to reach my family or had expectations about who I was and how I should behave. These days, I want to go back to the mountains, but certainly not back to Alamosa.

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  25. Two hometowns here— one from childhood birth to early 20s on a lake in western CT, the other is Seattle area with the Puget Sound and Lake Washington from 25 to 45. Would never return to the CT home, no living relatives (including my parents), no childhood friends. Seattle evokes “homesick” feelings, friends have stayed in touch. But, now that I have a home in FL just steps from the Atlantic, not moving back to Seattle either. It is my joy to live so close to the water most of my life. Elisabeth

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    1. Sounds like our childhoods in CT were close - I grew up right on the Housatonic river.

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    2. Elisabeth, if I could dip my toes in the warm ocean waters off Florida, I wouldn't want to move, either!

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  26. I really consider where we live now to be my hometown. We've been here 26 years now. Both sides of Rick's family are from McKinney, and he lived here until he was 12, when his widowed mother bought the house next door to ours in Richardson. (We go WAY back.) Although suburban Dallas creeps ever northwards, our town has managed to hang on to a separate identity. Our very well-preserved (and filmable) town square help a lot, as does the historic district. And we're only half a hour from anything you could want to do in Dallas.

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    1. It's so funny, Debs, because you seem so...un-Texan to me. Maybe it comes from thinking you were English before I met you!

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  27. Love that map, Julia. Fun fact - the Children's Museum used to be the public library which is where I started my library career as a page with my best friend, Cindy. We worked there all through high school :)

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    1. I'm glad you like it, Jenn! I love maps like that - I have a bunch of places in Maine ready to go up in one of the guest rooms.

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  28. I grew up in the north San Francisco bay area. I go back several times a year since my family still lives there. Move back? I don't know. I've lived in Southern California all my adult life, so it would really be starting over in many ways.

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    1. Mark, I didn't realize how very different SoCal and NorCal are until I spent time in both places. Honestly, in any sane arrangement, they'd be two separate states.

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  29. I'm too late to say good morning but I will have another go at posting on JRW. Home town, wow, well being born in London doesn't really count in view of the number of places that I've called home but the place dearest to my childhood heart is a little parish north of London and to the east of Barnet, called Hadley Wood. We lived there in my grandfather's house whenever we were in the UK. So I imagine that Greenwood House was the house I returned to as a newborn. I was 4 when we left for Trinidad and started the travels. Back for boarding school at 12 and again living in my grandfather's house. After I left school to join my family in Ghana, I was 15, I never again lived at Greenwood House. My grandfather sold it, the family moved to Kent and that became the new family center. Eventually my parents retired to Cornwall, a tiny village called Feock, and that is where I hope to return to visit some day before I have to give up travel. But in terms of longevity, the USA has my heart. Loving the comments - Celia

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    1. You're the only person I know whose childhood is more peripatetic than mine, Celia!

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  30. Julia, we’ve noted this coincidence before - I’m a graduate of Liverpool High School! I only lived there for one year before going off to college in MI, where I married & settled. My father worked for an airline, which is what brought us to the Syracuse area in the first place. I have fond memories of CT, where I mostly grew up, but can’t imagine living there again.

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    1. Go, Warriors! (I actually had to look that up. I remember my college teams, but not the ones at LHS.) I've been fortunate enough to spend time in several places in Michigan, and there's a lot there that reminds me of New England.

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  31. Julia, I love these stories about what we consider our hometown!I still live in the same NY county where I was born and I consider the county seat my hometown since it's where I grew up and went to school. I did go away to college, but not far enough, and after I was married I moved to a different state. I've been back here for years, because this is home, even though my brother and sister have both moved to western states. I briefly lived in the far northern part of the state, in a townhouse with an HOA. That was not for me at all so I came back and built my house in the woods. My aunt has given me some family land but I'm not sure if I'll ever get to build on it.

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    1. New York State does have a way of grabbing your heart. Every time I cross the Hudson heading west, I get a lift.

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  32. I grew up in Houston, but in an interrupted fashion. I remember living in three different houses and neighborhoods. Houston is a very sprawling city so new neighborhoods meant new schools. Dad was given a new job and a transfer to New Orleans in the middle of my junior year of high school. That really busted up my high school life. I finished the year at an all girls public high school and then transferred to a private Episcopal school for my senior year. As a result I feel rootless. We moved to Houston 40 years after I left it. I was happy to see some familiar sights from my childhood but felt no sense of Yay! I'm home! It was fine for a while but I got itchy to move on so here I am in Virginia, a state with no acquaintances or relatives. Crazy, huh?

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    1. Pat, I'm convinced some places are just right for a person, and it doesn't matter if you're connected by history or blood. I had never thought about moving to Maine, and knew no one here except my husband when I arrived. Now it's my home in every sense of the word.

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  33. I was born and raised in Stamford CT, which I no longer recognize. It’s full of high rise buildings now, some streets no longer exist, and I can’t figure out how to drive around the downtown area! I’ve now lived in Milford for more than half my life, and THIS is my home. I love it here. I ended up here sort of by accident. A family situation brought me here “temporarily”, and I liked it so much that I decided to buy a condo here. There’s excellent medical care available in this area, something that means a lot to me as a seventy-something year old. I’m a birdwatcher, and there’s a branch of the Audubon Society here. My neighborhood is quite walkable. It’s a really friendly town, although it likes to think of itself as a city! Less than a year after I moved here, I had more friends than I ever had in Stamford! As an introvert, I don’t necessarily seek people out, but I found great people here. We look out for each other. That means a lot to me, since I no longer have relatives here.
    Jenn, my parents honeymooned in Kent, at a guest house. The summer of their fifteenth anniversary, they packed the five of us kids into the car one Sunday afternoon and drove us up to Kent to see the guest house. You should have seen their faces when they realized the guest house had been replaced by a gas station!
    DebRo

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Oh, no, Deb! The romance of the gas station. At least it made a good story...

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  34. I'm from Huron, Ohio, a town of about 7,000 on Lake Erie, as Flora Church said earlier, about half way between Cleveland and Toledo. I always felt like an outsider because I don't have the history there that many families do. We moved there when I was five. I started working in the public library as a page when I was 16, and I even went back & was Library Director for about 4 years. I met and married my husband at the public library there. But, we moved to Florida, lived there 17 years, then to Arizona for about 10, and now I've been in Indiana for almost 10 years. My mother still lives in Huron, and she loves everything about the town. I call it home, but that's because she's there. I think Arizona has felt the most like home to me, and I loved it, but I have no real reasons to go back. When I retire next year, I'll move back to Ohio, to the Columbus area close to one of my sisters. It will be good to be close to family again, but, other than that I'm rootless. I can't imagine moving back to Huron, as lovely as the town is. Nowadays, my mother is my only connection there.

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    1. Definitely my thinking, Lesa. I'd move back to NY state, but not back to my hometown. I didn't realize you were in Indiana - I met you at Poisoned Pen and saw you several times there, so I always think of you in AZ!

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    2. Lesa had me to speak at her library and took my sister and I out for dinner afterwards. Boy, did we talk cozy mysteries!

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    3. Her library in Indiana, I mean

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  35. Ahhh. Well. Home Towns. Gone With The Wind. Maybe we are nostalgic for who we were back then in the mists of childhood/young adulthood. Not maybe the geography. There were much less humans around back then, in my particular childhood (when dinosaurs roamed the earth). Also the world seemed vast (pre-cellphone/social media) and home towns seemed manageable.

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    1. The fact so many of us remember off-the-leash childhoods is proof it was long ago, isn't it?

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  36. My hometown of Maysville, Kentucky is a place of wonderful memories for me. It's a small town (8,000, maybe a bit more now) on the Ohio River, halfway between Cincinnati, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky on that river. We aren't Appalachia and we aren't the northern Kentucky region either. We're kind of a unique little valley of Southern surrounded by lovely little hills. It was an idyllic place to grow up. Everybody knew everybody, or at least could make a connection to someone in your family. My father was in real estate and developed the first subdivision in Mason County. My father really did know everybody. My mother taught elementary school for 20 years before I was born, and then she taught my kindergarten class in our basement. The neighborhood where we lived was a kid's paradise. In warm weather, we were out the door in the morning, home for lunch, and out the door again until supper. We rode our bicycles playing cops and robbers, played hopscotch in the street (the neighborhood was a circle of three streets off the main roads), played jacks on our porches, and so much more. There was the making of mudpies, too, when I was very young. I could walk to my elementary school with my brother and our friends. My father's real estate office was downtown, and as I got older, I could spend time downtown and have his office to go to for a ride home. Our high school was downtown, and my friends and I ate out at a little restaurant next to the school, and I always got a plain cheeseburger and a coke. Although many of us lost contact for some years after high school, we came back together in our 50s big time. Reunions taught us that we wanted to still be together whenever we could, so up until Covid hit, I had a group of friends I would see quite often, going back to my hometown and then meeting up in Key West once. I am heartbroken that I am going to miss my 50th high school reunion the end of this month, but I'm having knee surgery, and I need to have it on the 15th of this month because of several reasons. Oh, I still have family in my hometown, too. My brother and his considerable family of children and grandchildren live there, so I visit them, too. I would love to have a home in Maysville that I could visit lots, but I don't ever see me moving back there. The political climate is not one I care to live in.

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    1. Kathy, it sounds like a perfect childhood, and what better gift can parents give a kid than a great nest to fly away from!

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  38. I DID go back although I swore I wouldn't. I was so eager to get away that I graduated from high school a year early. But I came back to Wisconsin for law school, because I qualified for in-state tuition. And graduates of UW and Marquette law schools have diploma privilege-- admission to the Bar without taking a bar exam. And I had a boyfriend in Milwaukee, and a ton of friends, and my grandmother, and the family lake cottage. And I was offered a federal clerkship. And I didn't have a clue about becoming a writer. So I took the path of least resistance. And when I left the clerkship I hung out a shingle because I could.

    And then my grandmother died, and I broke up with the boyfriend, and I switched from Family Law to Publishing LAW and then my parents got old and died, and my brother got the cottage, but by then my practice was established, and I had a houseful of antiques, and I was a Commissioner on the Status of Women, and I had nine books in print. Life happens when you're trying to make plans.

    As Sondheim said, "I'm here. I'm still here."

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    1. Love the Sondheim reference!

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    2. Ellen, it's amazing to see the chain of small and large decisions that, forty year on, have led us to where we are.
      And honestly, if I had know UW grads didn't have to sit for the bar, I would have applied there back in the day!

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  39. San Diego, California. Born and raised. And yes, I would go back in a heartbeat. I moved away and lived in Venice Beach for many years (you can take the girl out of the beach, but you can't, etc.) and had wonderful adventures in Los Angeles, but it never felt like "home." I moved back to San Diego after that and spent the greater part of a decade there. I'd be there still if I could afford it. But since I can't, I try to think of the entire state of California, the good and the bad and the crazy and the beautiful, as my home.

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    1. That's lovely, Lisa. And it's tough when people get priced out of their home towns because they're so universally popular. I got to see that in my visits to Nantucket - only one kid in a family can stay on the island, taking over the parents house. Everyone else leaves, because there's no way to buy property with the money you make on-island.

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  40. What wonderful stories! I am sorry I did not get to this earlier- it was a running around sort of day.I grew up in Watertown, NY, a small city in upstate NY's dairy country and very near the beautiful 1,000 Islands and the Canadian border. My parents were not local but New Yorkers who had moved. My grandparents had moved there earlier. It was certainly a free-range childhood, coming home for lunch, playing with the other kids on the block, exploring the park, going to movies with my grandmother, but I think I always expected a future in a big cityand made it happen. After retirement my parents moved to Rochester, where my sister lived and which had more home choices and better medical care. ...and that was the end of my ties. I have lately become surprisingly homesick (???) and learned a lot. Could it be something pushing me to write about it? :-) At trun of last century it was a wealthy and proud town that produced a few national political figures.When n they established a huge park, it was designed by the designer of Central Park.When they built a library, it had marble lions and a copper dome.When they honored a local citizen with a public statue, Augustus St. Gaudens made it. And there was a still unsolved murder at the home of one of the most prominent citizens, a wealthy divorcee. Yeah, really!

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    1. IIRC, Triss, Watertown also had a very colorful time during Prohibition, being so close to one of the most heavily-used waterways for smuggling booze into the US.

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  41. You bet! And everyone has boats.It's a quick trip across the St. Lawrence River. I've heard that In winter, people could actually walk across the frozen river. ( I do remember horse races on the ice, and parking cars there, so it's not impossible.) My dad once crossed the international land border by accident on a back road. He was very surprised! Lots of stories in that region.

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  42. Wow! We lived in Liverpool for 10 years. My husband was with GE. My babies were born in Crouse-Iving Hospital. (196o's)

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  43. Sorry to be late here. I have been recovering from my Shingles Vaccine. I moved several times as a young child. However, I would consider Kensington my hometown. It is a small enclave between El Cerrito and Berkeley. It looks like a Cotswold village in England. There is a shopping area on one side and a gas station and a few offices across the street. The toy shop is now a wine shop. I could walk from my house to the tiny shopping village. My house was built in 1939 by a Swedish sailor for his young bride.

    Diana

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