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Backtracking (02/28/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Traversing the outskirts of my childhood home, I realize I can go back in memory only...one has no right to trespass on the lives of others.

As I sit looking out our living room window, nodding off, on a sunny winter day recently, I noted how quiet Second Street S. has become since all the teenagers have grown and gone. I bring to mind that this plot of land, in my hometown of Lewiston, has been familiar territory to me all during my 65 years. Not always appearing as it has for the past forty-some years, this development, that holds me close to its throbbing breast, as wife, mother, and grandmother, was once a cornfield.

Our present home’s proximity to the site of the former LHS football field is eerie. I’ll tell you why later. Along a wall of snow fencing, corn stalks rustled in autumn breezes. Just feet from those southwest outskirts of Lewiston, enthusiastic, local fans of all ages cheered for the hometown boys on the football field. Beams from tall, skinny light poles that swayed in chilly breezes flooded the action.

Football games for my pals and me, in junior and senior high, meant giggling and girl talk, ogling the boys we had crushes on, and sneaking off by the cornfield to smoke cigarettes someone had snuck from home. At any moment one of us would “just die” if one of the guys looked our way. Always gathered in an energetic group, giddy girls eagerly hoped that special fella, either on the field or hanging out with his buddies, would ask to take her to the sock hop following the game or downtown to Lewis’ Cafe on Main Street.

Those girls who wore a class ring around their neck or on their finger, with rolls of white tape wrapped around it to keep it from slipping off, were already going steady. Breaking up was a traumatic experience for steadies. What began as “I will be true to you forever” became, as the teens grew another grade older, “I think we should start dating others.” And nothing would ever be the same again. Our hearts, it seems, have to be turned inside out a time or two to understand true love’s commitment.

Our Lewis family lived under the spell and allure of those swaying poles of white light during sports events played down on the school field. As I said, this plot of land has been familiar territory to me throughout my lifetime. Beyond those dense rows of corn, the ball field, and a 12-grade school stood our family’s two-story on South Fremont Street, its gray slate shingles, forest green trim, and an enclosed front porch sporting Mother’s cheery morning-glories cascading up the south side, stood tall and sturdy, overshadowing the huge back yard garden. Its familiar squares of light glowing through the darkness guided me home, a shelter from teenage angst.

In summertime, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, local baseball teams competed with other towns. Lewiston’s splintery wood bleachers were packed on game nights. Kids would run up and down the plank seats, raising heck and a few eyebrows, as fans were continually stepped over, jabbed in the back, and bombarded by the tomfoolery of youth. A concession stand took care of 25-cent allowances, spent on Baby Ruth and Nut Goodie candy bars, licorice sticks, root beer barrels, Wrigley’s Gum, Tootsie Rolls, and Cracker Jacks. A sugar high!

The announcer’s spirited voice on the microphone, which often belonged to one of Lewiston’s former mayors, Roger Laufenburger, traveled on beams of light, flooding our upstairs hallway and bedrooms on game nights. I remember restless dreams flashing in and out of a distant din of clapping and cheering.

As I was finally allowed to meet my friends at the ball games, I took the well-lit shortcut across our long back yard, through a field of clover, and down to the scene of action.

P.S. I married the last guy who took me to a sock hop, the one who built our home where rows of corn once taunted, “You can never go back!”

Janet Burns’ ancestors founded the town of Lewiston. She can be reached at



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