Saturday, May 31, 2008


For some reason or other the word "quaint" really grates on me. The usual words accompanying it - rustic and old-fashioned - also bother me. All of them mean basically the same thing to me - frozen in time.

The word has been used here a few times, by myself in a somewhat sarcastic manner at times, and by others. The Buffalo Pundit used it recently to describe the Four Corners and Clarence Hollow. It's a big marketing tool word too.

The Town of Clarence is not static. It is constantly evolving, while at the same time trying to preserve the traces of it's roots. Quaint is Lily Dale - nothing much has changed there for over a hundred years. Clarence doesn't fit that description.

It can be a bit disorientating to cruise down a road not usually taken and see the build-up that has taken place. Going down Thompson Road a few years back I was struck by all the new builds. It produced a feeling of "Where am I? Where did all the farm houses go?" Maybe I just parked some in my memory that weren't there, substituting another country road for this one. Maybe.

Subdivisions where there used to be fields. McMansions sprouting like so many weeds. The place where I grew up looked nothing like this. And my version looks positively urban compared to that of previous generations.

It was all downhill after Grant City went up opposite Transitowne Plaza (at Main and Transit, for the new folks). Next thing you know Eastern Hills Mall was built, and now Transit Road resembles one big strip plaza, with Main Street panting in the wings.

The only area that still resembles my youth somewhat is the northern-most part of town. That too will change once the developers get their shovels in the land that still is considered agricultural at this time. However, since when it's not farmed the land looses it's exemption (per town legislation), more will hit the dirt, so to speak. Can't really blame the developers - that's what they do for a living. Can't really "blame" anyone. Change.

Yes, Clarence used to truly fit the definition of rural. No more. You used to drive down Goodrich from Main for a good 3 miles without seeing much evidence of habitation. City folks coming out to visit for the first time wondered if they'd ever find a town :) Then again, most of what is now considered the second ring suburbs where like that, even Amherst.

Before it was despoiled by gaudy things like cars and electricity, Clarence was quaint. Before becoming the haven of developers, later day Clarence could even be described as quaint, a little bit anyway. Now it's a rapidly changing place that considers the places and people of our youth, things we took for granted, as so much history.

I remember when the Four Corners had a tavern and there were rooms to let along the side, and when Eshelman's was run by an actual Mr. Eshelman, and when Bratt's across Clarence Center Road was run by Thelma and Mr. Bratt. And I'm not even that old! (no eye rolling please)

There's still one oasis amid all the progress. One place where nothing really changes - the Beer Tent at the Labor Day Picnic! Oh yeah - and the clam chowder, barbecued chicken, and the food in general. The Parade...and the bandstand...Labor Day in Clarence Center. Then it's back to life in the present day world.

Like Jan Hartwig said, "That's life; the only thing that's for sure is that things change."

Change - the only thing to do is hang on for the ride.

"Life is a culmination of the past, an awareness of the present, an indication of a future" - Charles Lindbergh

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