You can’t go home again

We made a visit to my boyhood home, the small town of Kent, Washington. It’s changed — it’s been commercialized and yuppified and embiggened beyond all recognition — but I thought everyone would appreciate seeing the shrines erected in my hometown to me.

Here’s my boyhood home on 2nd and Titus, where I lived for several years. As you can see, it’s now a nicely landscaped parking lot. For Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

I hope they had it exorcised before they invited the faithful to park there.


I also lived on the corner of Willis and Railroad Avenue, and this was where my grandmother (mentioned here) lived since the 1930s in a house my grandfather built. Now it’s the place to go in town if you have a flat tire.


Actually, the tire place is an improvement over what’s happened to several other of my fondly remembered childhood places — there are a surprising number of bulldozers and an impressive quantity of asphalt dedicated to eradicating the landmarks of my youth — it’s particularly irritating that it isn’t even intentional.


  1. Jackson says

    Ah P.Z. You could have your past preserved in stone if only you had grown up in the southern great plains like I did. Nothing has changed except to grow smaller.

  2. Jackson says

    Ah P.Z. You could have your past preserved in stone if only you had grown up in the southern great plains like I did. Nothing has changed except to grow smaller.

  3. Alex Whiteside says

    To misquote Grosse Pointe Blank, “You can never go home again… but I guess you can pray there.”

  4. says

    I completely agree. I grew up in the Kent Terrace apartments in the East Hill area of Kent, and the apple orchard I used to go to with my dad is now a Target. :(

  5. says

    The wheel of change keeps turning. I grew up in nearby Renton, specifically, a neighborhood called Rolling Hills. My fondest childhood memories were of exploring the undeveloped wooded areas all around us. Now it’s all big homes and strip malls, and there are small hotels and a convention area near the downtown shopping square. Although Philip Arnold Park is still going strong….

  6. says

    I’m sorry your places of memory have changed so. Still, since change is the price of progress and life – stasis of your nascent environments being so much more attainable had a life-ending meteor blotted out the sun for a few months or years – relegating the way we remember things solely to our memories doesn’t seem like too high a cost.

    Besides, there was a fence that I never could see over when I returned to Wichita last time; now I can. So even for the stuff that sticks around, your perspective changes on it. Things never are the same, even when they are the same. If they aren’t changing, you are.

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    Be well, my cephalopod-centric friend, and drive back to MN safely.


  7. Molly, NYC says

    . . . and of course, the tree trunk carved with the words PZ Myers kilt a skwid.

  8. says

    What about all those movies about homes/hotels built on indian burial grounds..? This must be something like that. A church built on a PZ Myers developmental ground… I bet the pastor has frequent nightmares about being devoured by a bearded squid… and at the tire yard, some say a demon visits every other week… robosquid.

  9. khan says

    There’s a drag strip down by the riverside
    Where my grandma’s cow used to graze
    Now the grass don’t grow and the river don’t flow
    Like it did in my childhood days

    (Words and Music by Joe South)

  10. Bob Munck says

    My old house, in Hot Springs SD, is still there according to Google maps, and the street appears still unpaved. However, my grandparent’s house is now the Mammoth Site, a paleontological dig in which the remains of about 100 mammoths and other ice age animals have been found. I remember finding a huge tooth, what seemed to be a molar about an inch across, in their backyard when I was a kid.

    Apparently a sinkhole formed about 25,000 years ago (the area is geologically active, as you may have guessed from the town’s name) and various animals fell into it over a period of a thousand years.

    So your boyhood home moved forward in time; mine moved back.

  11. says

    So, I guess they paved paradise and put up a parking lot. Oooohh bop bop bop bop.

    My boyhood home in Hallock, MN is still standing, but…the people that bought it from my parents had these big plans to restore it to its 1896 floor plan. They got the fun part done, 20 years ago; all the tearing down of walls and breaking stuff. Then they ran out of money. It is now a hulk of a house, a white elephant, soon to be a “haunted” house.

    Much better than the parking lot of a church.

  12. says

    You can’t go home even when you parents are living in the same house. Moving away changes you, changes the way you relate to your environment. Eventually they move, and that’s even worse, because you see familiar things re-arranged in an unfamiliar environment. It sucks!

  13. Keanus says

    My childhood home–a southern railroad house on concrete blocks of about 1200 sq. ft.–was unceremoniously cut in half, jacked up on trailers and hauled off to goodness knows where (this in the Houston suburbs). The new owners then built a new house of about 5000 sq. ft. with a circular driveway, a three-car garage, a two-story front porch and a pool in the back yard (where I used to catch frogs after a heavy rain). The old neighborhood hasn’t seemed like home since.

  14. Wildcardjack says

    You think it’s bad that they are filling up your childhood places with new construction?

    My problem is that every time I go back to my old haunts I find out too late they have moved the offramps!

    That, and my hometown has now been invaded by Californians who hated various aspects of SoCal and decided to bring what they thought were the best parts with them. Thus, it’s like a Californian colony with all the bits of California they liked and disliked.

    I never need to go to California, I just need to go home.

  15. JJR says

    Visited my childhood home in Columbia, SC recently. I was able to pick out our house, though the paint-job is completely there. My old elementary school is still there (I only attended 1st grade before we moved to Houston, I think), too. In the 1970s, it still looked straight out of the 1950s. Since then, it’s been thoroughly modernized and looks like any other suburban school. The neighborhood looks more or less the same, though the residents seem to be more elderly retirees than in my day. I didn’t remember much of downtown Columbia, which has changed a whole lot since the 1970s anyway, though I did remember the old Gamecock basketball arena (which is used now for concerts and other venues, having been replaced by a newer facility).

    Our first apartments we lived in when we came to Houston are still there, but the neighborhood is a lot scarier now. Ditto the townhouses we moved into next. After that, we moved out to Sugar Land, being among some of the first residents in this subdivision. My old Presbyterian church still stands on the west side of Houston, though the demographics of its congregants have no doubt changed.

  16. says

    Hey, PZ, did you go to K-M High School? I graduated in 1969, the last class before they built “the new school.” There must be several more now. I lived in a nameless early suburb on a numbered street, but our house had woods behind it. I attended the Grace Brethren church up the hill — which pretty much put me off religion for good. I went back to Kent about ten years ago & I didn’t recognize the place. A strip of 7/11s, gas stations & car dealerships had erupted along the rural highway I used to drive along to school.

  17. Lee says

    Gertrude Stein said it best, when she went back to her childhood home and it was gone:

    “There is no there there.

  18. Will Von Wizzlepig says

    Kent has been a place to escape from as long as I can remember.

    It’s an ugly suburb.

    It didn’t occur to me as a 5th grader, moving there, that just a few years later I’d be eagerly awaiting some chance to leave and never come back. Even then, changes were happening that took the slightly-wooded quiet ex-farming region into its new life as trashy strip-mall and apartment hell.

    I still have family there, and it has grown larger and suckier, but it is still a dump and a dive. Possibly its only redeeming trait was Kent-Meridian highschool, and the great teachers I had there. Thank Santa for them. Or the easter bunny.