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11/24/2003

 
| Time Can Change Me, But I Can't Change Time



As each year passes, and I continue to grow older, one lesson in particular comes up time and time again; things change. What you know and love today may very well be gone tomorrow. And that, dear reader, is just a fact of life.

I was again reminded of this lesson a few weeks ago when I went back to my hometown of Rochester, NY to surprise my parents with a 30th year wedding anniversary. Since my parents did not know I was in town, my wife and I decided to get a hotel room at the Hyatt in downtown Rochester. I had time to kill before the surprise party so I decided to walk around the streets of Rochester.

I was shocked at what I saw.

Next door to the hotel was Midtown Plaza. This was the very first indoor mall in Rochester. For years people from all over the area would travel to downtown Rochester to shop at Midtown Plaza -- this was a very big deal. Christmas time at Midtown Plaza was even more of a big deal. The mall would be decorated to the nines -- it even had a special indoor Christmas Monorail! Across the street from Midtown Plaza, is Liberty Plaza. A large department store -- Sibley's (the western New York equivalent of Macy's) took up an entire building. Right next door was another large department store -- McCurdy's. A large metal mast, called the Liberty Poll takes up the middle of the plaza, and was lit up with special lights at Christmas time. When Sibley's moved out of the building in the early 80's it was replaced by a boutique mall called "The Mill" My cub scout troop went on a field trip there one Halloween to visit their haunted house.

This is not what I saw when I walked into Midtown Plaza in 2003. It was all but abandoned. Nothing but borded-up stores. There were a few smaller stores open for business -- but devoid of customers. The floors were dirty. The escalators were turned off. The mall was a shell of its former self.

Across the street the old Sibley's building is now a satellite campus for a college. The other buildings are closed. The Liberty Pole still stands, but it now lies in deserted commercial district.

It was a sad thing to witness. A part of my childhood is gone; a fond Christmas-time memory that a new generation will never now.

Remember Woolworth's? Or, as my grandmother called it, "The Five and Ten." When I was a kid my grandmother, who lived with us, would go months without leaving the house. Then one day she would announce it was time for her to go shopping. My mom would take us to Northgate Plaza, one of those 1950 type outdoor malls, where they had a "Five and Ten." The big treat for me was that my grandmother would spring for lunch at the Woolworth cafeteria. I loved those fruit punch/lemonade machines that had a clear tank and the punch would keep recirculating itself over and over. . .

Woolworth's is gone now -- and so is my grandmother, and most of her generation. Northgate Plaza now is pretty empty. A few big discount chain stores, a card shop, a Radio Shack -- that is pretty much it.

Another fond memory growing up was going with my dad on payday to the Eastman Kodak Bank. My dad worked at Kodak as long as I can remember and going there was neat. You would walk down this long tunnel, with one of these huge Kodak pictures on the wall that changed every month. The building that held the bank had everything -- a cafeteria, a sit down restaurant, a gym, a theater, a swimming pool, meeting rooms, even a place to take tours. I would wait in line with my Dad (and he always knew someone waiting in line -- which I thought was neat.) Then afterwards we would go to the cafeteria and I would have a piece of pie or something or other. I was fascinated because they had paper straws (as opposed to plastic) Then sometimes my Dad would take me to the trophy room -- which held every sport trophy Kodak had won over the years. My Dad explained to me that at one time large factories like Kodak had their own sport leagues -- with very good competition.

Today, Kodak is a ghost of its former self. Jobs are leaving at a very high rate. Digital technology is making film production irrelevant. Kodak is selling off property in Rochester. Most jobs there are temporary ones. Gone are the sport teams and the broadway quality musicals for the employees. The Kodak cafeterias are now run by private contractors -- the bank is now an independent entity. In 20 years it is doubtful Kodak will have much to do with Rochester.

Things change. . .

Now don't get me wrong -- the suburbs are exploding with new growth. New businesses and new stores are popping up all over the place. These will create fond memories for the next generation, and when my kid is my age he or she will probably reflect with saddness that those too are gone.

Yes, things always change. So enjoy what you have right now.


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