People say you can’t go home again, but I never understood why.
I have spent the last few years building a life in a city for my higher education, travelling to different countries and dreaming as big and as far as my heart would allow, always knowing my hometown would be there to welcome me back at a moment’s notice.
Turns out, home isn’t always where you left it.
In our small community, things have certainly changed. We have always moved slowly in Havelock – so slowly, in fact, not even a traffic light was necessary – and most of those who live here have been doing so their entire life. Generations of families have seen these same fields and walked these same paths – there is no place around that has deeper roots.
And yet, only few truly understand the essence of what has made Havelock such a wonderful place to live.
My childhood was the absolute best – the community was alive and thriving, with a wholesomeness most people only get to observe in movies. It was like growing up in one big family, having people constantly coming together in times of joy, sorrow or to lend a helping hand.
I remember growing up and spending summers at the Boys and Girls Club; meeting up with local kids to ride our bikes to Charlie’s; grabbing a donut at the Irving or Leaman’s before school; going to the Wishing Well to rent movies; waving to the men at the Feed Mill or Garage as I passed them by; and always remembering to be on my best behaviour because, no matter what, my grandmother would somehow find out if I did anything unbecoming within a minute of my doing so.
The people here all looked forward to SAT days at school and the Hunter’s breakfast in the fall. We picked out our Christmas trees at Lee’s, waited for Santa at the monument and dared one another not to jump at the Wishing Well haunted house. We were over the moon to be in the Canada Day parade and incredibly anxious, come sorting day, when we would become either a Golden Eagle, Cool Cat, Bee Gee or Bomber.
These days, it’s hard not to think about how much of this is lost: the two buildings making up Havelock school no longer stand, the Feed Mill no longer runs, Leaman’s has transformed into the Ridge while the Irving is gone completely, and there isn’t a trace of the Wishing Well left on its lot. Charlie’s has most recently closed its doors, the Boys and Girls Club struggles greatly to survive and parades and traditions are now less commonplace.
Havelock, as I’ve always known it, is nearly unrecognizable.
But that’s only part of it.
Before my time, Havelock had even more establishments flourishing in its midst. It had a railroad and bus service, cheese factory and pop factory, meat shops and dress shops. It had a bank, hotels, co-ops, the cement plant – it even had a flippin’ movie theatre.
With all that has since dwindled, it’s a sad thought indeed to wonder what more will be taken from our beautiful community as we sit in limbo between all that was and what we fear may never be again.
Yet we do not sit here alone.
For many small communities, it’s becoming harder and harder to survive. Ma and Pop shops are becoming extinct and fewer people choose to stay put as they become busier and more isolated than ever. For most towns, this trend is not a new phenomenon, but something that has been long coming since the day of their first big closure.
But with this foresight comes the chance to preserve our community.
The people of Havelock are resilient and the families of the Keiths, Prices, Steeves, Alwards and Coreys have such a deep love and appreciation for the memories made here that they will always stay loyal to them.
Our sense of community has yet to be extinguished.
We think fondly of our picnics, carnivals and horse shows, rips on the four-wheeler, Sundays at church, ball games at the fields and concerts at the Hall. We know what it’s like to be a small town kid, swimming in the river, jumping in mud holes and loving the smell of cow manure in the spring (even if we know we shouldn’t). We know Casper the Ghost and a trick horse named Scout, if you can’t find it at Charlie’s, you simply don’t need it, and no matter where we find ourselves, it will always take a community to raise a child.
Our collective memories live on in Havelock.
Our town staples may disappear, but our love for them will not. We have the chance to start anew, to bring new life into what was and to commemorate all of the things that came before us as one community.
And while Havelock may not stand as we once knew it, one truth remains: these memories will always be there to welcome us home.