Auld Lang Syne - Memories of an Old Neighborhood and its Residents
In 1995, when my wife and I moved into this neighborhood, we were most likely the youngest residents. It was an old neighborhood that began in the 1950s when the Augusta Country Club sold its “lake course” to a developer. For all of those older residents who lived here, it was where they raised families. It was a place that allowed for the convenience of being close to downtown where you worked and shopped on Broad Street, yet felt like you were in the country because of all the old trees and wildlife. And during those early years, this was out in the country. Columbia County was nothing more than a bunch of farms and dirt roads and this was the far western fringe of Augusta. Our house was built in 1956. It had had one family and the older widow was moving to Brandon Wilde because she was afraid to stay alone anymore. When we moved in the first thing that I noticed were the pencil markings on the door frame to the kitchen. Scribed with the markings were the dates and names of each child that was raised here. Height markings made in a busy house within a growing neighborhood of children rapidly changing from babies to teenagers. There were two bathrooms. One with blue tile and one with pink. I assumed that was the pattern for these older homes…basically having a separate bathroom for the boys and girls. In the kitchen, was a 1940s-era gas stove which had been a wedding gift to the widow and her late husband. Pine walls adorned this room and the den. To our left of our property lived a widow who loved working in her yard. She cherished nature and all the wildlife and would tell us stories of her past and late husband who used to play in a band. Many times we’d come over to her house and sit in the living room while laughing about her childhood memories and exploits of her youth. She loved her grandchildren and kept treasures for them in a large box that looked like a collection from a natural history museum. Inside were feathers from hawks and cardinals. There were shells and bones. Colorful stones and pieces of wood that were unique and detailed. She kept old bird nests and like the contents in the box, kept many special stories of how each piece came into her possession. Just around the corner was a husband and wife who always threw a Christmas party for their street. We were not exactly on their street…two houses off of it to be exact, but it didn’t matter. We were always invited. And at this party, all the older residents and some younger ones would gather for memories and good cheer. The wife would create hors d’oeuvres from recipes that were past party favorites. Sausage wraps, cheese dips, and sweet cookies. Her husband would always create his homemade spiked eggnog which had us all glowing by the end of the night. It was a tradition that we all looked forward to. Especially, since we could waddle home about a block away after indulging in the sweets and spiked nog. I used to walk the neighborhood on a regular basis. Usually, those walks were a priority since our young bullmastiff had plenty of energy at the time. Occasionally, on one of the side streets, I’d see an old man who walked with his cat. The scene always made me laugh. But, sometimes made me sad. I can still picture his shape silhouetted by the street lights, and walking slowly down a hillside with his old cat and trusted friend following a few feet behind. If I walked in the evening, I’d be treated to the smells of dinner being cooked at each house. Sometimes, I’d see a neighbor washing dishes in the window and she’d stop the drudgery of scrubbing to come out and “catch up” while exclaiming about how big our dog had gotten. If I walked in the mornings, on one of the other streets that had a large hill I would see the retired school teacher attending to her yard plants. She would talk about the days of old and how there used to be so many children in this neighborhood. About the rare snow storms and how all the kids would use her hill to sled on cardboard boxes, garbage can lids, or whatever flat object they could find. My dog at the time, Red, passed away. To be replaced by another, and another one after that. One by one, the old faces of the neighborhood disappeared too. The walks became quieter. New families with young children moved in. Young people with careers ahead of them, with busy lives and a first home in this “established” neighborhood. Now, 28 years later, we are probably the oldest ones in this community. I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with many of those older residents. When I walk the neighborhood now, I picture the old oaks which have been trimmed and cut back to make way for power cables and street lights, as young trees. Full of bright green growth and an open sky above them. I imagine seeing those older folks as young couples. Washing their bright, finned cars on a summer day. Perry Como playing on the radio and escaping through the kitchen screen window. Polka dot dresses and a time long ago.