The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — A local non-profit and non-governmental organization recently asked me to write an essay about my hometown of Kenmore, so I did, and now I remember why fourth-graders find this sort of thing so difficult.
If you want to send a love letter to (or explanatory statement about) your hometown, there are easier ways to do it. A video, for example. WNED-TV, Buffalo’s Channel 17, for years provided video equipment to volunteers, to record goings-on in local communities (and by WNED-TV’s calculation, “local” includes Ontario), and the work was edited and generally distilled into its series “Our Town,” one episode per location. Those who worked on the project when it alit in Kenmore and Tonawanda shared something remarkable (yes, I did a segment about Sheridan Drive and its drag racing history), about 10 years ago. We still run into each other.
Or you could write a song. Perhaps the world could eschew repeated listenings to “Pasadena My Pasadena” or “Look Out, Detroit!” but certain songs can stay in memory and can be at least as effective as, I dunno, a Hallmark card message. If you’ve ever heard a blast from the 80s called “This Town is My Town” by the Michael Stanley Band, which is about the city of Cleveland, you’ll note it never mentions the city in question, so it’s adaptable, and the song somehow never entirely leaves your brain, ever.
No, we’re not writing songs or making movies, we’re writing an essay. About Kenmore. And it’s got to be a favorable look at my hometown. And informative. Get started.
I moved here in 1978 after spending adolescence just over the border in North Buffalo (and I attended Buffalo State College, and worked for a while at General Motors in Tonawanda; I don’t get around much), and chose Kenmore in part by its compact efficiency and orderly layout. Then I discovered I could walk to most required services, including a newsstand (which is now a Walgreens); there were pocket parks and recreational opportunities all over the place, but mostly an advantage I’ve come to treasure, to wit:
I could drive to Delaware Avenue, turn one way and have all the benefits of a big city. Turn the other way and I’m in the suburbs. The advantages of both without being trapped by either.
Great, but you cannot write an essay about the virtues of your hometown by explaining how easy it is to leave.
With the possible exception of Boulder, Colorado, in the 1970s and a few small towns in Britain, Kenmore, in my experience, best combines Norman Rockwell’s small-town Americana with small-scale modernistic urbanism.
Kenmore’s commercial canyon of Delaware Avenue, for example, currently includes e-cigarette shops, a used record store, an Arab market, a Pakistani restaurant, churches Catholic and Presbyterian, a vintage clothing store, a computer repair shop, a farmer’s market seven months of the year and a few dozen other things like doctors, dentists, podiatrists and accountants, many in retail buildings closing in on one hundred years of service.
That’s also the street on which we run our massive Memorial Day parade, our stop-the-traffic vintage car show, our annual visit from Santa Claus.
This is not the sort of thing one thinks about when browsing the newspaper’s real estate section, looking for a home to buy, but it provides a comfort that almost feels like a luxury, once you have it and notice it and appreciate it.
Yeah, all that was tossed into the essay, as well as every architectural buzzword and urban planning term (like “mixed-use structure,” “self-governing,” and “transect planning”) I could think of.
Later came the phrase a writer (like me) loves to hear almost as much as “The check was mailed to you yesterday;” “It did not require much editing.”
Ask any fourth-grader with a pencil; this is harder than it sounds, but that’s how labors of love tend to be.
Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears weekly in the Record-Advertiser. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears weekly in the Record-Advertiser. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.