Surprised (again) in Suffolk

Published 7:49 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

You’d think that after a couple of years back at home in Suffolk I would be done with all of the “My how things have changed” bit and just be used to things as they are.

Long ago, I got over the fact that there’s a Walgreen’s on Bridge Road (formerly Route 17) where once stood a favorite place to eat a hamburger steak and shoestring fries. I don’t even try to remember anymore when I last saw the Purple Lady walking along the side of that road. And lost to the mists is any memory of what used to be in the area where the North Suffolk fire station and police precinct now stand, much less the office buildings and houses that are now behind them. I suppose there were fields there, or else I’d probably remember some other structure.

The opposite thing has happened near downtown Suffolk, where a great empty field and parking lot are now all that are left of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital. I wasn’t in the area when the hospital was torn down, but I think I would have wanted to be there to document the loss in photos. Sure it was an old building, and sure the new one is terrific, but when the old hospital fell, it still must have felt to many Suffolkians as if a great hole had been gouged in their hearts.

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Not all of the changes through the years have been so painful, though. A dilapidated and abandoned old school now houses a recreation center on South 6th Street. And another dilapidated and abandoned old school has been transformed into a cultural arts center on Finney Street. Graduates of both schools were thrilled to see the work put into restoring the buildings where they once roamed the halls in simpler days.

Just the other day, I discovered a change that I didn’t realize had taken place: There’s a museum where my old library used to be! I’d seen the sign on West Washington Street announcing the Suffolk Museum and pointing down Bosley many times before, but I’d never made the turn until a few days ago, when I dropped by to talk to Museum Coordinator Nancy Kinzinger about the Winterim exhibition that’s on display now.

As I drove up, I realized that the last time I’d stepped into the building was during the 1980s, when it was still Morgan Memorial Library. Somewhat shamefully, I admitted this to Ms. Kinzinger, who proceeded to point out exactly how long ago that had been (ouch!) and then very graciously invited me back to any of the museum’s many art exhibitions. The Winterim exhibition is going on right now, and from what I saw of it, it’s highly recommended.

I know I’ll be heading back to the museum very soon. Meanwhile, though, I wonder what surprises Suffolk still has in store for me?