daily prompt

This used to be my playground

So the daily prompt asks us to talk about a place from our past, or childhood that has been destroyed… how does that make us feel?

Google maps image

Google maps image

I grew up on and around a place called Mare Island Naval Shipyard and the city next to it, Vallejo, California. Insomuch as that’s where I spent the majority of my remembered childhood years until I got married and moved away. Then my husband, who was in the Navy got transferred back to Mare Island, and I spent some of my adulthood there. It’s a big part of my past is what I’m saying.

Mare Island Naval Shipyard is no more.  It was dismantled as a shipyard in 1996… wow, was it really that long ago? Huh. Now it’s part of Vallejo I guess.  I looked it up on Google Maps, and wow… it’s changed. See that green up in the left hand corner? There are huge patches like that all over the island now that used to be densely packed houses like the bit in the middle. I lived in at least three of the houses that were once in those patches of empty space. I lived in one or two of the houses that are still standing (I think, my memories of where I lived when I was a kid are foggy). But I lived in at least five houses in my time on and off that base and I know that fersure three of them are… Gone. Gone like they’d never been. See the patch in the bit of green in the middle with the blacktop? That’s where the school used to be. The school I went to when I lived on base. The school my kids went to when my first husband and I moved back to Mare Island. Changed into a rec center.

Gazebo with missles

Gazebo with missiles

That patch of white up in the top center of the google maps picture… that’s where the Rec center — called Owen Center — used to be. We walked up there every day during the summer to go swimming. Mare Island was hot in the summer, and it only cost us a quarter to go swimming. Plus it was made of concrete (everything was made of concrete), so it was cooler than staying at home. We’d walk up Captain’s Row (those dots of white on the right are colonial style houses were the officers lived) because they had tree lined sidewalks not like us peons with no trees. My mom used to clean those houses whenever people moved out. It was hard work, they had to be spotless to pass inspection — even our houses had to be spotless to pass inspection when we moved out, but that’s a different story. Anyway, I understand people can get married in those mansions now. Well, at least they didn’t tear them down. Back to memories. We’d walk down Captain’s Row to Owen’s center to go swimming because… weather. There was a little park on the way and if we were feeling froggy or didn’t have the money for swimming, we’d mess around there. The gazebo in that park is where I learned to love the rain, because the sound of rain pouring all around me while I stood inches from it is just… magical. Okay, it wasn’t much of a park, and there were all kinds of reminders that we were on a Naval base, but still, I liked it. I dunno if it’s still there.

spooky by day, terrifying by night. We loved it.

spooky by day, terrifying by night. We loved it.

We also messed around in the bomb shelters. From what I understand, the bomb shelters are still standing. History and all that. We knew, intellectually, what the bomb shelters were for. We understood their purpose and everything, but to us kids (and later teenagers) they were just… there. Big, concrete blocks with metal plates over the openings. The metal plates were more often than not pried off and the bomb shelters were open to all. These were the stuff that ghost stories were made of. We found all kinds of things inside — blankets, used condoms, empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, clothing (mostly socks), magazines. I was convinced that one day we’d find a dead body in one of them but we thankfully never did. They were the perfect place to hide one, in my mind. We, of course, weren’t supposed to be anywhere near them, but that didn’t stop us.  It’s not like they were guarded or anything.

Tiny, but beautiful

Tiny, but beautiful

So anyway, most of the Mare Island I knew is gone now, according to Google Maps. Mare Island itself is basically a museum now because the place is ripe with history. There are tours and everything. One of the places they didn’t demolish was Saint Peter’s Chapel, and I’m glad because it is one of my favorite memories. It was the chapel I went to as a teenager when I was a bible thumping Christian. I sang in the choir, I went to Bible study. I met my first boyfriend. The chaplain was great. Life was good. I won’t bore y’all with why it all changed, but it did. The thing is, I’m glad they didn’t tear it down. I understand from this article that people can book it for weddings (like the admiral’s house mentioned above) and that there are tours. I’m lucky in that this was my place of worship (when I worshiped). The stained glass windows are beautiful and the place seeps with age and grace. It’s old by American standards but young to the rest of the world. Still, it’s beautiful and worth saving. I’d be sad if it disappeared.

hometown tshirt

hometown tshirt

Which brings us to the second part of the question… how do I feel about the gone-ness of my childhood stomping grounds? Eh, as I’ve mentioned before. Everything changes. Nothing is permanent (even Saint Peter’s Chapel). I mean St. Pete’s isn’t a place of worship anymore, is it? Not exclusively. Now it’s a place of tours and weddings… I don’t know if they hold services there anymore, and if they do, I think the energy probably isn’t the same. Hell, the energy changed when I was still a member of the congregation. How do you work in choir practices around wedding rehearsals? All of that nervous energy. >>>shudder<<< I remember being able to walk in any day of the week so long as there wasn’t a service and sitting in the quietness that was the chapel. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to meditation. Can’t do that now, I bet. Anyway, it’s still beautiful and I’m glad it’s still standing but I’m equally glad it’s no longer my chapel. As for my old childhood stomping grounds, and those of my kids… well, I’m not the child that lived there anymore, why should the places I walked remain the same? Time marches on and brings everything along with it. Such is the way of the world. Being upset about it doesn’t change it. I felt a momentary sadness at seeing it all razed to the ground but I understand that nothing stays the same, and I never expect it to.  Okay, I’m a little nostalgic… I did buy the t-shirt to the right. Vallejo is where the rest of my childhood took place, and it’s changed nearly as much. There just isn’t as much written about it — it’s not as historical, you know, well, except for the fiasco that was Marine World. ^_^

Just because, the titular video:



5 thoughts on “This used to be my playground

  1. These Daily Prompt walks down memory lane are really getting on my nerves. Does anyone who has grown up and has a life spend that much time reviewing childhood? Really? I think someone at WP has unresolved issues.


    • Thanks. I haven’t been there since 1994, like literally two years before they closed it down. I drove passed it once a couple of years ago on my way to somewhere else and thought about swinging by but decided to let it stay in my memories where it belongs.

      Liked by 1 person

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