Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Kirby: Changes may happen over time, but memories remain the same

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May you live in interesting times.

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- Chinese curse

We really do live in interesting times. Take last week.

My youngest sister was in a rental car in central Kentucky looking for a house.

She had some time to kill while attending a weekend wedding in a nearby college town, so she was trying to find a place where our grandmother had lived briefly, and where we had visited one particularly hot, activity-challenged summer when my sister and I had been put on a train at the old Atlanta rail station and shipped to central Kentucky for two weeks.

It was, I imagined, much like house arrest.

No TV. No air-conditioning. No transportation.

We were also not encouraged to leave the house or its yard for security reasons, which meant we stayed inside and read old newspapers and older magazines.

Anyway, my sister was now in her rental car riding around this town 500 miles away and looking for a structure neither of us had seen in almost 50 years.

She was having no luck, so she texted me and asked if I remembered the address.

Me, sitting at a desk at work, texted back that I did not.

I did, however, remember the house and the big trees around it. So I told her to look for the trees. A big, two-story with two big upstairs windows that faced the street.

The trees are all gone, she texted back.

Pull over, I suggested, and let me check some things.

And that’s what I found interesting.

Using the computer at my fingertips, I clicked onto Google and soon had a very low-flying bird’s view of the little town. In particular, the residential neighborhood south and west of the main street where I remembered the house had stood.

I then clicked onto the street view of the addresses and began to “drive” up and down a few streets, looking for something familiar.

I found my sister was right. All the thick, old trees that summer in the ’60s were pretty much gone

“Yr rite about trees,” I texted back.

I continued to click up and down streets and then I saw something – a familiar porch.

I had been dispatched to that porch over several days and challenged to put coats of white enamel lacquer on wooden kitchen table and chairs. Given my situation, I had painted them with the slow deliberate diligence of Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel.

There were no trees anywhere near it, but it was still the biggest house on the street. Big porch with the main door on the left. Chimney on the right.

I texted my sister the address, which she received while sitting in her car a few blocks away from it and 500 miles from me.

Now, I tell you all this, not because you have any interest in my past, but you probably are curious about yours.

Can you find the houses or apartments where you used to live?

What about the school or the church that once held some importance. Do you know what they look like today?

In many cases – thanks to computers – you can now find out.

The people in our pasts might no longer be around. But the places still exist, even if they’ve changed, and there’s a good chance you can still find it.

What an interesting time.


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