The places that made me are small and ordinary. They occupy a place in my mind that is proportionately large to their significance to my personal history but disproportionately large to their place in the world. Most of these places are within my 23 mile perimeter of existence and are quite personal however I will tell about one spot this week.
Main street and First Avenue in Viking is probably known mostly as the location for the excellent Viking Cafe. In the seventies, it was the center of communication for me.
Every week during the summer, the bookmobile arrived at this intersection. I loved the freedom and responsibility of selecting a book for myself. It was so exciting to imagine the things I would learn and the escape I would make with each book. I typically read the type of books I read now, lots of history-mostly World War Two. I also read engineering books about road-building and airplane construction. I really planned to be a civil engineer as a youngster but my math skills were not exceptionally strong and so never chose this path. As an adult, I was able to speak with with a railroad engineer who designed trestles and he told me I really wasn’t missing out on too much.
My other portal to the outside world was the payphone which was located on the northeast corner of this intersection. I read “Popular Science” a lot back then and loved the wants ads featured in the back pages. I would write down any toll-free number to any free publication then order it at the payphone. The phone at home was closely guarded and this act would have been impossible under such intense scrutiny. Most of these publications were either military surplus catalogs, boat plan catalogs or any brochures for auto-gyros which were tiny personal airplanes. I just loved the idea of making my undercover contact and then await my reward via the mailbox.
Later in life, I returned to this intersection to see the other Viking kids. I would ride my bike in and sit with them at the old Viking Post Office. This was an old bank building with broad, concrete steps that flared out from the corner of the building. It was nice to sit there and talk smart while we listened to a single-speaker boom box. As I recall, there was a lot of Meatloaf and Boston played on those front steps. I don’t know what mom and dad thought I was doing when I took my bicycle rides but they typically included a stop at the post office.
I rarely get back to Viking although this intersection, which is familiar, also gives me a regular strong sense of deja vu. It’s like that in life, little spots and experiences ripple out over time to a size that gives them a lot of significance in personal history. I’ve got a few but none stronger than First and Main in Viking.