A Drive Through the Past

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Aug 15, 2009

"To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward."
Margaret Fairless Bender

There is nothing quite as enriching as traveling back to places we once called home. Our family has always enjoyed doing that. We love to look at the old neighborhoods which include the houses we used to live in, the yards we used to mow and the sidewalks we used to shovel. 

Franklin, Pennsylvania, was such a place for us. In that small town of 10,000 or so, Evie and I began our journey together as newlyweds right after college. Our children were born there. We lived there for seven (7) years. 

41 years after we first arrived, we drove back into that same town. We parked our car in front of the two places we lived. We remembered the creaking hallway we would climb to reach our apartment in that big old house. We remembered the curtains we could finally afford after living there three months. We remembered bringing into that home our new baby son from the hospital. 

We looked at the small lawn outside our second home where I had played with our two sons. It seemed so small. We remembered the swing set. We remembered the metal shed. 

We drove by the little old church on that one way street in downtown Franklin. The building was still there but now it housed a family rather than a congregation. We drove by the "new" church we moved into along the main highway into town. That "new"church is now 35 years old. 

In the center of town stands the large, stately old courthouse. The beautiful park on either side of the red and white structure turns one's attention from its need for paint. 

We walked inside a small caf and saw on the walls old pictures that predated our first visit in 1968. As we sat there eating a simple, plain hamburger, we talked of those seven (7) years and how much they meant to us then and now. 

Before we left town we had three (3) final stops. A block away from the caf%E9 was the old District 1-0 Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Since our church was small when we first went there (eight people and no salary), I got a job in the Right-of-Way Department of PennDOT. I was a bi-vocational pastor. And just when the church was large enough to support us full-time, we sensed it was time to leave. The PennDOT offices have now moved to Oil City, almost eight (8) miles away and the building that once thrived with government highway projects now stands empty. 

One of my best friends at PennDOT was Guy Stallone. We decided to surprise him and Betty and go by their home. They had been so very kind to us and our young family. Unfortunately he was not there. I did notice several golf balls on the porch reminding me of Guy's lifelong love of golf. I later sent him a note of our visit. 

We also stopped by the Rocky Grove Cemetery where we visited the grave of our son, Keith. He and Kevin were twins. And when they arrived six (6) weeks early, their lungs were not fully developed. Because the technology 38 years ago was not what it is today, Keith only lived two (2) days. As we stood quietly by that little grave, we remembered our deep pain as well as the faithfulness of God through that awful storm. 

As we crossed the Allegheny River driving on Route 322 out of town, we were amazed at three things: how quickly the years had passed; how similar and yet how different everything seemed; how thankful we were for those years when the foundation of our entire lives was built. 

Going back always helps us go forward. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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