“I WENT BACK TO OHIO / BUT MY CITY WAS GONE / THERE WAS NO TRAIN STATION / THERE WAS NO DOWNTOWN.”
Chrissie Hynde was writing about changes to Akron when she penned and recorded this song in 1982. I wonder if she knew it was to be prophetic of Kent. The town I came to be around in 1976 is slowly fading off into the realm of “That used to be…”
When Denny’s closed, few people appeared to give it a second thought; most of us were beyond the age of closing the bars and then drinking coffee and having breakfast at 3am. But it was the first in a string of places that many of us came to know and love that have since passed by the wayside. The College Street Library (it had a few other names, as well,) must have served one too many underage drinker and became a parking lot. Cheers became FedEx/Kinkos when they expanded. The Stuffed Mushroom, a foreign car garage and a few galleries were lost between the replacement of the Crain Ave. Bridge and the new Sheetz. The building that was Long John Silvers for years and years, and then an ice cream store and, finally, a cell phone store, was demoed to build the first Sheetz. The Dog House was there one day and gone the next.
None of these are nearly as iconic as the recently leveled Robin Hood Inn. Even the old Kent Hotel is being changed and renovated and developed into something new. Sadly, a living icon of Kent also has now passed away, Bob Wood, dead of a heart attack at 65. Captain Brady’s, his long-time haunt, became a Starbucks a few years back.
Change and progress is expected, needed, absolutely necessary for growth. Maybe part of the fact that I am turning 40 this year makes me feel that some of it happened too fast, and maybe not for the greater good. All of these are missed in some way, some by many, especially Bob, even if his passing is still fresh.
I want to see Kent prosper, it’s just sad to see so many memories fading into obscurity. Some of these losses are minor and will never really matter to most people, others are hugely significant. The coffee at Starbucks will never be as good as the stuff from Brady’s. The hipsters and others who hang out there will likely never be the artists, such as Bob Woods, who hung out there, making art, or poetry or just playing cards.
The Acorn Alleys, new bus terminal, and other new business are marvelous additions to the city. I don’t know that they’ll ever become iconic, as they’re already seeing tenant churn. I hope that we’re left with a few icons to admire. If Ray’s, or Mike’s, JB’s or Taco Tanto’s fall by the wayside, great connections to the past will be lost forever.