My Hometown

A few days ago two young women who grew up Kinder, the small town in southwestern Louisiana where I also was born and spent my childhood, decided to create a Facebook page dedicated to former and current citizens’ memories of the place.  As of this writing, more than eight hundred have joined the group and contributed well over two thousand posts, not counting associated comments.  The numbers reflect how beloved Kinder is to those who at one time or another in their lives, called it home. 

Many of the stories which people have told are laugh-out-loud funny.  Some are poignant, others moving or sad.  For those of us who knew that place in a particular time, the experience has been akin to attending a family reunion.  Through our reminiscences we have brought back from the dead parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends.  We have conjured a Kinder that itself has been irrevocably changed by the passage of time.  By the disappearance of the American railroad as a major form of transportation and by the Interstate highway system that in part replaced it.  Speaking only for myself, participation in the Facebook group has been like jumping into a time machine and returning to a town and an era that our younger citizens sadly can scarcely imagine.

For many years I have thought about writing a novel about Kinder as it was in the 1950s and 1960s when I knew it best.  In those days, not all of the roads were paved, few people had air-conditioning, the older folks still spoke French, and kids could roam all over town on their bicycles without fear.  Saturday afternoon double-features at the local movie theater were 15¢ for children under twelve, and teenagers sat in the back rows so they could make out.  The whole town turned out for high school sporting events, football in particular.   No novel, no movie or TV show has ever depicted life in small-town Louisiana as it actually was, and is.

But that’s a book that in all likelihood I’ll never write.   To Kill a Mockingbird initiated the Southern childhood nostalgia literary sub-genre in 1960, and when I read the book soon thereafter at the age of twelve, it already reminded me of Kinder despite the fact that the story took place some thirty years earlier and in a culture that bore only a remote similarity to my hometown.  Over the years other writers have contributed their own memoirs to the genre, in many cases enriching it, though no one has done it better or to greater universal acclaim.   It’s a quirk of mine, I suppose, but in my own writing I try to avoid treading into the territory of a master at the craft and in this particular case believe that I would find myself under a very large shadow indeed.

No matter.  I have my memories and am privileged to share them with some of the very best, salt-of-the-earth people you could ever find anywhere.  Not only is that enough, it’s everything.

UPDATE:  Based on anecdotal evidence, groups like Kinder’s have proliferated across Facebook over the past few weeks.  My old prep school (class of `67), The Academy of the Sacred Heart at Grand Coteau, Louisiana, now has two Facebook groups dedicated to alumnae reminiscences.  I must say, though, that personally the Kinder group remains the most fun, engaging, and emotionally moving.  And yes, it’s still going strong.

8 Responses to My Hometown

  1. Awesome commentary, and the group site isn’t even a week old. Several communities started doing their own walk down memory lane, per capita, we’re hanging with sites like Westlake and Lake Charles. What an awesome way to gather all those humorous stories and anecdotes all in one group. Thanks Laura and the rest of the originators. There’s lots more to tell, some older generations, and even some of the younger ones still have yet to have a say, I say, go for it, get stories from your mom and dad, your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and even those who have moved afar off. Thanks again for the commentary, Pam, found out a couple days ago we’re related somewhere in the Marcantel line. hi5

  2. You’re right, David, Laura et al. deserve a heartfelt round of applause for organizing the group. It has given all of us who are scattered hither and yon a chance to reconnect and touch upon common ground that we otherwise might not share. And yes, the “little `uns” certainly have their own unique perspectives on our ever-changing hometown. We’re hearing from them as well as from us oldies.

    Thanks for writing, “cousin.”

  3. Wonderful, commentary. I was born in Kinder, grew up in Kinder and still live outside of Kinder (6 miles). Oh how the times have changed. We used to know everyone but now you are scared to wave, not knowing if you would be followed or not. If only we could turn back the clock. I would love to have my Mom and Dad back and lots of the old folks. Thanks again….Paula Young Walker.

  4. Wayne Clark says:

    Pam,
    A very fascinating article. This week has been a walk down memory lane. Laura had a very good idea to organize this group and probably didn ‘t realize that this was going to effect so many people. For us that left Kinder after high school for college, service, or work, hearing the memories that so many people posted, brought us and our families back home. I don ‘t make it down to Kinder much anymore since my parents are both deceased, so this has really brought me home. Although the town looks a little different since I left in 77, it’s still the small town that I grew up in and I’m proud to say I grew up there. This has been like a Town Reunion via Internet. All I can say Kinder, keep posting the memories. Thank Pam for writing this article.
    Wayne

  5. Yolande Parker says:

    I have also noticed that people who are friends on facebook of people from Kinder have started their own pages for their community. This idea is growing like wildfire on facebook.

  6. Mark Karam says:

    Pamela

    Thanks so much for the eloquent words that described the place that we were fortunate enough to call home. I imagine that if there was a little heaven on Earth, it could be reminent of residing in Kinder, especially during those formidable years.

    I find it ironic, that the most sincere responses are from persons, like myself, that have moved from Kinder, for either career opportunities, or economic or family reasons. Nonetheless, what appears to me, is that by leaving a place like Kinder, we may have come to realize even more, of what we had. That is especially apprapo in my situation, in that I would never have appreciated as much of what we experienced, had I not have left.

    Nonetheless, I am fortunate enough to visit from time to time. And in the ture tradition of the people of Kinder, when I return and visit residents that still reside there, it is as if I had never left. That is, I will alway be a native son of kinder, regardless of how far I traveled or for how long I remained away. I will always be Mr. Albert’s (Karam) son and no matter what has transpired, I will always have a “home” in Kinder.

    Mark Karm

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