Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Ruins

One thing I have found remarkable during my trips to Ireland has been the presence of ruins almost everywhere. Ireland has a long history of builders, stretching back thousands of years to the days of the creation of the great stone circles; you cannot go very far without running into the ruins of a castle, cathedral, abbey, monastery, church, farmhouse, or old stone shack. Nanticoke, on the other hand, was little more than a summertime fishing village used by the Nentego Indians, who left few artifacts, and has been occupied by post-Columbian immigrants for a little more than 200 years.

Still, we have a few things that can pass as ruins, though they're more likely to be referred to as "dilapidated, abandoned, burned-out old buildings that should have been torn down years ago." One of them is the old Duplin Mill, later the MacGregor Shirt Factory, finally known as Skatarama.

Skatarama Posted by Hello

I don't know when this building was built, but I'm going to try to find out. My grandparents met there when my grandfather was a foreman at the Duplin and my grandmother was a line worker. When I was a little boy I always thought of it as a great castle smack in the middle of town. It's a huge building, filling the length of an entire block. It lay fallow for years after its factory days had passed until it was turned into a skating rink in the late 1970's, in the final days of disco.

I learned to skate there, and smashed my knees a lot of times. My cousin broke his arm there. They always had the best arcade games. I probably last skated there sometime in 1981 or 1982.

Back in the fall of 1992 some newlywed friends were visiting from out of town and were looking for something to do. I idly suggested that we go skating, but we never got around to it.

A fire broke out there early one Sunday morning in October of 1992. It spread rapidly, eating up the wooden skating floor and the shag-carpeted walls and the leather skates with their polyurethane wheels. It burned intensely, melting and charring and consuming everything in its path. Remarkably, half of the building survived - there had actually been two businesses situated there, Skatarama and Bowlarama, apparently separated by a good fire wall. Bowlarama re-opened shortly afterwards, but the Skatarama side has remained a rotting hulk for the past twelve and a half years.

Skatarama, again Posted by Hello

This building is one of the milestones on my walks with Haley. We always pass through an alley that runs behind it on the homeward leg of our journey. Last Monday we had just crossed the road away from the ruins when we heard a tremendous slam from within, as though someone had suddenly thrown the lid of a dumpster closed. Then the noise continued - a series of slams and rumbles that went on for several minutes, or so it seemed. I don't know what happened, but it's likely that something collapsed inside and set off a chain of collapses within the structure.

Last Friday, as Haley and I picked our way along the icy sidewalks in front of Skatarama, I noticed something odd hanging from the closed gate of the place. Upon closer inspection I saw it was a red bandanna. Why is it there? Marking gang territory, maybe?

Haley and Red Bandanna Posted by Hello

There was one other bit of "ruins" that we encountered on this trip. In order to get the longer shots of Skatarama I had to cross the street to position myself in front of the cemeteries that face the building. Cemeteries are something else that fascinated me in Ireland, although our own aren't too shabby. But in this case the thing that caught my eye was the patch of yellow-brick road that paves the alley between the two cemeteries.

Yellow Brick Road Posted by Hello

The streets of Nanticoke were once all paved with yellow bricks - at least, those that were paved at all. This short alley is possibly the last remnant of these old roads. The other bricks throughout the city were not removed, but were simply paved over more than 30 years ago, so sometimes deteriorating asphalt will break away to reveal yellow bricks below.

The past may be gone, but the Ruins remain.


Anonymous said...

The pictures are quite nice, you
should post more.

D.B. Echo said...

More are on the way. I need to take the roll of film in to be developed today!