Rundown building brings back great memories

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 2:25 PM

D. Louise Brown

“It’s an eyesore, isn’t it? It ought to come down.”

The comments bring me out of my reverie. Apparently, I’ve been staring a long time at the ramshackle building, and the stranger sitting on the next bench at the train station must think my study means I’m pondering its dilapidated state.

He’s wrong.

I smile back at him and say, “Well, it’s certainly seen better days.”

Folks leaving town via the train spend their waiting time sitting on benches that point their faces directly toward the backside of the old train-station-turned-restaurant, which is now boarded up. They ask each other mostly rhetorical questions.

“Why is that ugly thing still standing?”

“What are they going to do with it?”

“Is it even safe?”

They have a point. Turning my thoughts back to the building, and setting aside the pleasant thoughts I’d been mulling over about it, I study it with objective eyes. It’s scary.

Two stories high, its white paint peeling off like flaking skin. All accesses, including what must have once been a coal chute, are boarded up with thick, no-nonsense slabs of particle board bearing NO TRESPASSING signs. No signs are necessary; the boards are enough. But tumbleweeds can’t read, and dozens of boards are pressed tightly into the space under the back porch, creating a formidable barrier.

This place is definitely not fire proof. In fact, it looks like it could go up in a mighty conflagration in no time flat, fueled by the thickly crusted grease catcher on the roof.

Black gunk trails down the roof all the way from the catcher to the roof’s edge, crossing what’s left of a patchy reminder of tired, worn shingles scattered in random, broken patterns, more nails than shingles. Rivulets of water have pried a pathway down through the shingles, sliding sideways around the curled edges. Sagging, useless electrical wires run from the roof to nearby poles,

This is not your everyday “Welcome to Our City” monument.

The backside of the building is a stark contrast to what’s happened just over the roof on the other side. The city fixed that part up real pretty. They bulldozed the neighborhood, piled up mountains of dirt, re-configured the place until it was unrecognizable, and installed a new highway system that lets people zoom right on past in their rush to shoot onto the freeway. Newcomers unfamiliar to the place, like the one sitting next to me, must wonder why this greasy, peeling dinosaur of a building is still standing.

I wonder too. But my wonderment is crossed with reflections back on the restaurant, and the meals once served there. That grease catcher worked overtime, because inside that building, for a couple of bucks, you could order a huge breakfast guaranteed to lube your insides — eggs, hash browns, bacon, ham, sausage, and the biggest, best scones ever created, with plenty of honey butter. All served on a platter — not some wimpy plate.

And yes, they’d make sure your hash browns were crispy. And your eggs were just the way you asked for them. And, you could have homemade biscuits instead of the scones if you wanted, but you could tell the waitress was dying to ask you, “Why?”

The guy next to me doesn’t understand the cause and effect that brought this place down. Throw a freeway entrance up in front of any business and it will go silent. Like this one.

And when nature starts wrapping her fingers around an undisturbed structure, well, it ends up looking like this one.

That guy is right. There’s no future here. But oh my, there sure was a great past. Make that repast.

You can contact D. Louise Brown at

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