It was with mixed emotions that I read the death notice. I heard about this, not in the newspaper as in years past. Not via a ringing wall phone with a friend on the other end. No, this notice popped up on my iPhone. It was from no one in particular, announced by the same impersonal beep that accompanies the hundreds of text messages I receive every week.
I say mixed emotions because the advance of technology has provided many opportunities and raised the standard of living overall. But there is a tradeoff. I’m not saying it is right or wrong. Just that it is.
A Guitar Center store recently opened near my house so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the announcement. The note was simple.
“Weathers Music retail store to close in June.”
Another family store closing. It really is nothing new. Several months ago I was in Eugene with my son Tim. We had some extra time so we wandered around the downtown area a bit. Memories came flooding back of the many hours I’d spent there as a kid. Saturday morning trips to the McDonald Theater for free movies, as long as you had a Williams gingham pony-tail bread bag for admission.
On some occasions my friend Danny and I would catch the old green city bus near his house. For the 15¢ fare we found creative ways to create transfer slips that would allow us to hang out downtown for an hour or so and catch the bus back home at no additional charge. You could let your grade-schooler do that back then. There was Luby’s Sports where we could examine, and wish for, a new baseball glove. Or the small cafe inside the Newberry’s store where you could sit at the counter and sip on a Pepsi. Before Dollar Tree there was the 88¢ Store. In particular I remember buying a package with at least a dozen boxes of 4th of July sparklers; for 88¢. How cool was that.
As we entered Jr High we would ride our bikes to the downtown from Springfield using the new bike trail along the river. A trail just for bikes was a new concept back then.
Now as I wandered around the nearly empty downtown with my son on a warm Friday afternoon last Fall it was a challenge to identify any of the past stores. The spaces for Newberry’s and the Burch’s Shoe store were vaguely familiar. I struggled to identify the space that was the former Fox Movie Theater. I knew we were standing directly in front of it but there was nothing on the existing building that seemed right.
Coming back to the present, my thoughts go back to that impersonal text message announcing the closing of another family owned music store. I noticed several years ago that the family owned store where I bought my first guitar in Springfield, Light’s for Music, was closed. There is a Guitar Center in the Eugene/Springfield area too.
So does that make Guitar Center the bad guy? I’m not so sure. You see, several years ago my son was able to stretch his limited cash when purchasing his keyboard, guitar and amps at the Portland Guitar Center. And that was good. Good for him. Large corporations like Guitar Center can buy in quantity and with finely tuned, computer operated, logistics systems can pass on their efficiencies and cut the price they need to charge compared to family owned shops.
On the other hand, it was the owner himself of the Springfield music store who gave me the $10 a month loan on my $60 used guitar when I was 18 and had no credit. He knew our family and knew that I participated in my high school music programs. I walked out of the store with my new ‘used’ guitar with a big smile. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened at Guitar Center.
34 years later my son is using that same classical guitar to expand his music skills beyond his keyboards.
Like I said, I’m not saying it is right or wrong; it just is.
What memories stand out to you of your hometown? Please share using the comment box below.
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