“I Was Born in a Small Town…”

dcs by gibby

DCS – Photo Credit: Sheldon Gibson

Some of my very first memories of what it meant to live in a small town were my desperate dreams to escape it. I remember feeling so caged in that at times I could barely breathe.

It was TOO small, TOO boring, there wasn’t ANYTHING to do, nothing exciting EVER happened there, everyone knew everybody else’s business and therefore EVERYONE knew when you got into trouble.
Not only that, but they knew what you did, who was involved and exactly how you got caught.
AND they knew it by 9 am the next morning.

Don’t get me wrong, our kind of trouble consisted of sneaking out at night to watch meteor showers on a friend’s roof, or driving around at night before we had our licenses, spinning out in the snowy parking lots. We made our own adventures in our too-small town.

As we grew, our most dangerous tales led us driving down wine country vineyard rows in a Pinto or swiping a road cone from a construction site and then guiltily taking it back.

When things were REAL slow, we’d meet out in the middle of nowhere to throw a bonfire party where we thought we were totally hidden. AS IF it wasn’t bound to be interrupted by the police who knew us each by name, or the occasional coach dragging us out of our teenage reverie. It was good, clean fun that never amounted to much trouble, because we all kept each other honest and took great pains to make sure that we were all safe.

I realize now that our town, and the experience of growing up in it, was more than beautiful.


Glenora Wine Cellars – Autumn

It was magnificent.

The hills that turned into a brilliant autumnal tapestry.

The fog that crept up lazily off of Seneca Lake each morning.

The love of a Saturday morning football game, and the delight of the occasional night game under the lights of a rival team. (Our one-stoplight-town didn’t have lights at the football field, but these days you’d be hard pressed not to find the whole damn town at a game!)

The annual Pep Rally bonfire.

Teachers who ALWAYS had time to listen. And still do.

Our bus drivers proudly honking their horns after every victory, no matter how small.

Finding my uncle and grandfather at the corner restaurant after school whenever I needed some cash.

Walking to and from school at all hours without any fear.

Ice skating on the basketball courts outside when they froze over.

Square dancing in PE class… (Still somewhat traumatized by this)

Sledding down every hill in town.

Wading in the creek (that most people pronounced “crick”) and hunting for “crawfish.”

The roar of the Friday night races, and watching my “Uncle Bill” win. A lot. Woot, #82!

Learning to drive around “horse and buggies.”

I remember being walked home from school by a friend when kids were being horribly cruel, as they sometimes are.

I remember that same friend trying to hit me and my girlfriends with a BB gun from his bedroom window a few years later.
We’re still friends.

So many memories, and the beauty of each one resonates in the feelings that I have for the people.
Years ( more than a few) have come and gone but those relationships? They are still so strong and that’s a testament to that small town and how it raised us.

These memories have come bubbling to the surface recently, because contrary to all of my attempts to escape that small town, I am now at a point of my life where I’m desperately trying to recreate it. I’ve lived and worked in two of the biggest cities in our country, and I’d much rather find myself in a rebuilt Chevy pickup truck hauling flowers back to a little house on some land. I want nothing more than for my son to experience the freedom and the sense of community that come with growing up in a small town.

Yes, there were bad times and certainly my life was tainted with a few memories that Perhaps, one day, I will put to paper. But through it all, I always knew that I was part of something true and beautiful and bigger than myself.
But not too big… šŸ™‚


16 thoughts on ““I Was Born in a Small Town…”

  1. I’m not sure of your name, but I wanted you to know how much this has touched my heart. I’m a DCS alumni of the class of ’03. This blog is perfect, and I’m sure at least 80% of the other alumni feel the same. I’ve share this on my Facebook, hope you don’t mind.

    • I am so happy that you related to it and shared it with others! It is such a special town, full of beautiful memories for so many people. I was overcome with all sorts of emotions when my friend posted that beautiful picture of DCS and the rainbow. I just had to get the words out. Thank you!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I try to explain to my girls about a small town and they don’t get it. They also don’t understand seeing someone in that town after 20+ years and acting like you saw them in school yesterday. Thank you so much!

  3. Your testament will move many generations who grew away from Dundee but still return. Myself included. I have just left Dundee after attending my class reunion to visit with all those who are still in the surrounding area. Forty five years have passed since we graduated but our hearts and memories remain as we continue to return to reminisce about our ‘good ol days’. I, myself, would like to thank the ‘powers that be’ and the community for keeping Dundee small, safe and clean. Over the years I have returned with infant children in tow, until they were able to get summer jobs. They are now adults with their own kids and want to bring them to see where (they say) they grew up. And to experience the small community aura that still remains. Yes, they consider Dundee to be their home away from home. It’s difficult to explain to those who have never known the small town life, their loss really. To those in my generation (and older) I tell them Dundee, NY is my own ‘Little Brigadoon”

    • Diane, thank you for such a beautiful response! I couldn’t agree more. The legacy of small town life is something meant to be shared with our children, grandchildren, and anyone who we love and bring into our families!

  4. Very well said. I wasn’t born here, but my husband grew up in Dundee. I was from Monterey & corning. Your words are beautifully written.

  5. Such a wonderful article, spot on. My dad and five older sisters all grew up in Dundee from the 20’s through the early 60’s (last name Tormey if anyone’s parents/grandparents recognize the name). They lived at 7 Union St across from the Catholic Church. His grandparents owned a farm at the end of Spring street(I think it’s now a park). He would share stories of the “shenanigans” he and his friends would get into (Rapalee and Kent brothers). Eventually he joined the Navy, met my mom and settled in another small town called Lake Carmel downstate in the Hudson Valley. If you replaced Dundee with Lake Carmel/Carmel, you would have described my life growing up in a small town in the 50’s, 70’s and 80’s, with the exception of the vineyards. We didn’t have vineyards :-).

    I’m going to share your article on my alumni page, Carmel HS Now and Then, I have no doubt it will get a lot of Likes. I’ll let you now. šŸ™‚

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