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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Going Home

The Benton County Courthouse, a
downtown landmark in Corvallis,
Oregon.
They say you can't go home again, and I suppose that's true, if home is an image of something from your past.  But, we can certainly return to some of our past "homes" to appreciate them again, and to remember what made those places special.

Although I've lived in Eugene for almost thirty years, I was born in the small town of Corvallis, Oregon.  In reality, I probably spent only seven or eight years of my life actually living there.  But, for many of the years I was away, I was longing to return.  Even now, I think of it as my real "hometown".

Corvallis is, as I said, small.  It's the home of Oregon State University and lies in the Willamette Valley.  Surrounded by farmland and not all that far from the coast, it's really an ideal place to be from.  There's thriving downtown, filled with interesting little shops and restaurants, and a riverfront that seems to be bustling most of the day.  There are galleries, an excellent public library and really lovely parks.  It's an old-fashioned town in its way.  People seem to genuinely care about their community, and have invested in making sure that it's a truly livable place.  I suspect that, like Eugene, it has a liberal bent, but at the same time it's a place where I wouldn't be surprised if the peace protesters who meet weekly outside the venerable county courthouse also said the Pledge of Allegiance.  It's a quintessentially American town.


An intriguing window near the park.

It's also a really beautiful town.  Especially downtown and around the university, streets are lined with tall, old, lush maples, their green canopy shading classic houses.  The houses may be surrounded by picket fences, or by perfectly trimmed hedges, or left open so that passers-by can admire the plantings and, on more than one lawn, sculpture.  Corvallis is an artist's town, where there is an annual "Clothesline Sale of Art" on the lawns before the towering, white courthouse.  It's also a town of festivals and celebrations - DaVinci Days, honoring inventiveness and creativity, Fall Festival, celebrating the coming of Autumn and, my own favorite, the Annual Christmas Parade and carol singalong on the Friday following Thanksgiving.  During the summer, you will find the Corvallis Community Band* playing on the bandstand in Central Park.  So large is that band that only a few of them can actually fit on the stand, many more musicians stretch out over the lawn.  Every Tuesday, hundreds gather on the large circle of grass surrounded by giant trees, blown by cool breezes.  Families, college students, what my children call "hobos" and elderly couples bring their lawn chairs, blankets and picnics out for the evening in a show of genuine community.


Central Park, looking toward the bandstand.

In fact, Central Park is almost always bustling.  Central Park is the equivalent of two or three city blocks in the center of downtown.  On one side it is bordered by an old church - now an arts center for all ages, a disused but well-preserved courthouse and another vintage house of worship painted in soft peach with details picked out in blue and gold.  There is also a huge Victorian house, long ago converted to serve as a home for Christian students.  On the opposite side, just across the street, lies the city's library.  Built of rosy bricks, the public library has preserved the charm if it's original 1931 building, which now houses a very cozy reading room, and has added a large, modern wing to accommodate considerable growth.  Another church takes up the west end of the park block, again, built of brick.  It has a rather unique, gracefully curving corner that holds several panels of beautiful stained glass.  And, finally, my favorite end of the park.  One the east side, just across one lane of pavement, you will find railroad tracks.  I will never forget the excitement of hearing the train coming through town when I was a little boy playing in Central Park.  All of the children would run through the roses that surrounded the other huge circle of grass, racing to catch a glimpse of the train.  The real treat came when the caboose went by.  The engineer always waved.  To this day, the smell of the tar on the railroad ties, heated by the sun, brings back a wave of happy thoughts.


The Corvallis Arts Center

A church overlooking Central Park.

Corvallis' public library.  The original 1931 building
is on the left.

Another lovely church on the edge of Central Park.

Just yesterday, my wife and I, along with our baby, decided to take a little day trip up the farm-lined highway, to Corvallis.  We ate at our favorite Olde World Deli - still in the same building in which my mom owned a bookstore many, many years ago.  We visited art galleries, window shopped at a great, and thriving, independent bookstore - The Book Bin, and spent a lot of time reading in Central Park.  We drove around the Country Club, hoping to spot Michelle Obama who was in town to visit her brother, the basketball coach at OSU (we did!  VERY briefly...).  And, finally, after eating at another favorite restaurant (Evergreen Indian), we took in the Community Band concert.


One of Corvallis' historic homes, just up the street
from the park.

Two more bungalows...  I think I could live in either one.
This street is lined with huge, shady trees.

Perhaps our favorite house in Corvallis.  Who
couldn't love a giant, pink Edwardian house?

The front of the pink house, with the early evening
sun setting just behind.

The pink house, surrounded by a lovely little garden.

Actually, that lovely little garden stretches the full width
of the block!  A marvelous house set in an enormous
oasis of flowers and trees.

It was a lovely day, and it was good to go back in time just a little bit.  Sometimes, things are as good as you remember them!


Roses around Central Park




* Side Story....  Many years ago, when we first discovered the Corvallis Community Band, we would arrive at the park around 6 or 6:30 in the evening, eat our picnic and listen to the band.  We had very small kids at the time, so we never planned on staying that late.  At 7:00, the band started playing...  or so we thought.  For the longest time, we wondered who would come to listen to this awful band?!  They would stop and start right in the middle of songs, they sounded of pitch...  truly terrible.  You see, for a few weeks we were under the impression that the concert started at 7:00 when, in reality, it started at 8.  We were listening to the rehearsal!  I understand that on some weeks, this pre-concert practice is the only time the whole orchestra can get together so, you can imagine, the first run throughs were pretty rough!  By the time they really start, they are very, very good.


Who wouldn't want to go to the park with this little guy?
Max and his mommy.

And...  Max and his daddy.  Ignore the date...  I still
haven't learned how to reprogram the camera.  Maybe
I should ask Max?

1 comment:

  1. that was a fun day!thanks for spending the day with me and max.

    ReplyDelete