I grew up in a place that does not exist.

I grew up in a place that does not exist. Not that it was in the Twilight Zone, but rather just a non-descript zone unsure of its identity and location. While our address said Grand Rapids, technically we were in the city of Walker. And our school district—Grandville—somehow crossed over from that neighboring city and swallowed up our elementary school. Nearby, and technically within Walker (which was more of an area than a city one could actually point to) there was the village of Standale, which can be found on only the most detailed of maps. Where was I from? Did I ever even ask this question? Confusion abounds.
This did not lead so much to divided loyalties in my mind, but rather no loyalty all. There was hardly a city in which I felt at home. And I suspect I was not alone in this feeling. While our elementary school existed in our non-existent place, it was the only one in the Grandville school district that was not in Grandville itself. And so traveling—bussing—to junior high brought us into a city as outsiders, and brought us in as generally poorer than those from the other feeder elementary schools. The popularity contest of junior high was stacked against us. We had not played in the same sports leagues growing up as the rest of the kids and so did not have many social contacts. Being outside of Grandville, I believe in all my years before junior high, I had never been to a high school football game, wrestling match, or any other event in “my city.” I didn’t know that one was supposed to do these things.
I doubt, however, that my experience is uncommon. What was unusual about the place—or lack thereof—of your childhood?

5 thoughts on “I grew up in a place that does not exist.”

  1. Doug, I grew up in Walker, and the kids all said ‘ Where is that? ‘ from the city school of Holy Spirit. They all said I was a farmer from way out there. Of course, all my neighbor friends went to Kenowa. My friends’ parents did not ever want to drive me home from any school event, even when the school was let out because of the weather. I was only allowed to stay home from school because of illness if I actually had a fever, no faking it. My mom always said that she had to work, so go to school even if you felt bad. Not to say bad things about lovely Josephine. My dad would allow it because he would be o.k. if I said I was sick and he believed me. They would have celebrated their 70th anniversary this past week, May 29. Someday ask Uncle John about this and I am sure that you will get a mouth full. He has some funny stories about all of this. Love, mom
    James Douma jjdouma1@aol.com

  2. Doug,
    Growing up in Port Royal, Virginia was the center of American History and inspired my love for history. A little south of me was where the Baptist Minister Andrew Broaddus was born and raised and where Garrett’s Farm was where John Wilkes Booth was killed. North of me, literally across the bridge on the other side of the river was Port Conway where James Madison was born. My mom used to take us a little further North to Colonial Beach, which is the birthplace of James Monroe, where we would play in the sand. We would drive down Historyland Highway Northeast into Westmoreland County where Pope’s Creek Plantation is, which is the birthplace of George Washington and where his parents and a number of his relatives are buried. Right down the road from Pope’s Creek was Stratford Hall Plantation where Robert E. Lee grew up and driving a little further into Lancaster County, George’s mother Mary Ball Washington’s birthplace. If you are ever interested in seeing the history shoot me an e-mail and I will help you plan your trip.

    1. That is pretty cool. My twin brother is a history professor at Georgetown. He has worked also at James Madison and currently lives in WV. He’s quite interested in the area you are speaking of.
      Speaking of Garret’s Farm and John Wilkes Booth, if you haven’t you might read “The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth” by Finis L. Bates. Fascinating though not entirely convincing. A couple DNA tests could verify or rule out his theory.

      1. Thanks for the book info!
        I have heard some of the stories about it not being Booth but as you said I am not convinced. If memory serves me correctly, Booth is buried in the family section in an unmarked grave in Baltimore MD. I am thinking it is in the same cemetery as Machen?

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