I started to back out of my driveway (actually a private city right-of-way) the other day, and what did I find blocking my way but a bicycle and cart, one of several in the alley and garage across from me.
Not only that, these bicycle carts were attended by some very attractive, vigorous-looking, tanned young men with big white smiles.
I said, “Are we getting a boardwalk, too?” Their answer, “We’ve requested one, and we’re putting in a surf shop on the corner.”
I still see them frequently, driving passengers around town, and storing the carts in the garage, and shake my head in wonder at this town.
When I first came here, nearly 30 years ago, I think we were burying power lines along Market Street and working on the early stages of the Carroll Creek project.
It seemed that the majority of the residents had been born here, coming from multiple generations who were born here. They knew each other, dressed and lived conservatively, and knew everything there was to know about the history of each structure in town, not to mention the detailed history of the area. Arguments at the Historical Society involved such assertions as, “My grandfather did not know Stonewall Jackson! I told you he just knew his adjutant, and saw Stonewall sleeping in church.”
These people, in my experience, were kind and friendly. They weren’t exactly ready to make a best friend of a newcomer, as their social lives were complete, having begun in childhood. I was happy to meet them, and to learn about their home. I, a bit more peripatetic than they, found their multi-generational history fascinating. They, certainly my children’s new classmates, thought my children were pretending, when they said they had just come from the Philippines.
In any case, I loved it here. I loved the beauty, the historic structures, the trees arching over the streets, the cleanliness and the quiet.
Downtown was a bit shabby, with some empty stores, one department store, one hardware store (a 200-year-old one, at that), and a dime store. The Olde Towne Tavern was a short walk from my home, and we used to joke about being able to crawl home easily, from brick to brick, not that I ever really behaved that badly. I was just used to living in the suburbs.
I bemoaned the loss of the “real stores.” most already gone upon my arrival, and their replacements, first sleepy antique shops, and then tony gift shops, designed for middle-aged couples or visitors in search of an outing.
I can’t say I really regretted the increased restaurants. I feel really spoiled that I can walk to so many fine places to eat.
I also loved the old tannery buildings, and assorted, faded industrial buildings near Carroll Creek. Even today, my eyes widen in surprise as I look at the streetscape, and see the lights in our new, large office and condo buildings.
Our city leaders over the years have actually done a very good job of developing the city into something beautiful and attractive for tourists and residents alike. In order to live, a city needs to grow and develop. Beautiful old buildings should be re-developed into viable structures, or they’ll disappear completely.
Our festivals, such as In the Streets, First Saturday, the Arts Festival, not to mention the marathon, help to keep the city alive and vital, especially in the absence of “real stores” and family weekend shopping downtown, a thing of the past. Fortunately, the Fourth of July Celebration remains, though changed.
So, I know I shouldn’t complain, or even be wistful, because things evolve, and cities are no exception.
We’re not Frederick anymore. We’re Historic Fredericktowne, with demographics that support a Starbucks and a Subway.
I keep looking though, with just a hint of dread, for the morning boardwalk cleaning crews and the Zamboni with the monkey.