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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Memories from a Photograph

I love the photo at the top of this post. It says so much, and it shows that a picture truly can be worth a thousand words.

I have seen this building before, but as I was driving to Durango, CO, to meet a group for a hiking trip, I knew I had to stop and take a picture. I made a U-turn as soon as I could and drove back into the parking lot.

I love the photo's simplicity -- an old truck and an old building with classic advertising on the side. But most of all, I love the memories it conjures in my mind ... memories of a time when life was simpler and moved at a slower pace ... memories of my childhood.

The truck creates images of a rural area with dusty, rutted, unpaved roads. The sign, of course, is instantly recognizable from its colors and script. Coca-Cola Classic is my absolute favorite soft drink, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed every morning for many years until my doctor told me that I need to watch my sugar intake. So now, aside from the occasional can of 'real' Coke, I limit myself to sugar-free soft drinks.

I remember summers spent at my grandparents' place in rural southern Illinois. Days were hot and humid, and we kids were on the go from the moment we awoke in the morning. There was no air-conditioning in the house, and we rarely watched television. Instead, we ran around outside, we played with our cousins who lived down the hill, we rode their horses and their homemade go-cart. We explored the woods and the pond filled with small fish and snapping turtles.

The truck reminds me of my grandfather's old 1947 Chevy. My grandmother didn't drive, so my grandfather did all the driving. In those days, there were no seat belts or air bags or other safety devices that make today's vehicles much safer. The car didn't have a radio or air conditioning, and of course it was black (the only color available at the time) and it had a manual transmission. The car also had a huge back seat, and it smelled of age and must and dust. I was saddened when, after my grandmother died and my grandfather entered a nursing home, the car was sold. And their simple, cozy old house was sold and torn down, replaced with a more modern home.

I haven't been back to that part of Illinois in many decades. Most of my relatives have either died or no longer stay in touch. I don't ride horses or go-karts any longer, my house is air-conditioned and my car has all the luxuries I want or need. But it's nice having these old memories revived by a chance encounter with an old truck and some classic advertising.