Neighborhoods are changing

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

I was nearing the turnaround point of a morning stroll one day last summer when I noticed a small pickup truck coming slowly up the road.

It was moving no faster than a brisk walk, and I wondered whether there was something wrong with the driver.

When the truck reached me, though, it stopped and the passenger side window rolled down.

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Inside were two of my favorite ladies.

“We’re just out looking at the neighborhood,” one of them said. “We used to know everybody. Now there are so many new people that don’t know.”

Both of them had owned homes in the neighborhood for a long time, and they recalled that neighbors used to get together for ice cream socials at the fire house.

Ours is a small town, and at one time everybody did seem to know everybody. They had gone to school together, gone to church together, grown up together.

Sometimes it is intriguing for me, a relative newcomer by that scale, to sit in a meeting or Sunday school class and hear the natives discuss who has been sick or has had some other important event, usually identifying the person by who she’s kin to or where he used to live.

The area around our town is growing, though, and as welcoming as it is, there are lots of people who are “not from around here.” It takes more effort to know them.

Lake Martin is responsible for a good deal of the growth, and the change is even more pronounced in the areas adjacent to the lake.

Even in an established lake neighborhood like ours, houses change hands, and new homes are built; the pace of change accelerates. Some of the people are fulltime residents; others are weekenders.

It is a challenge even to see the homes of all but our most immediate neighbors, much less know them.

Our neighborhood is strung out a mile or more along an arm that sticks out into the lake. There is one road that runs down the middle of that arm.

There are a few homes on the lower end of the road, but most of the homes are on side roads that branch out from the main road. Most of the side roads are dead-ends, so you don’t regularly travel them.

I thought of my lady friends’ wistful observation the other day as the warming weather spurred me to shake off my winter sloth.

As I walked along, cars passed, the drivers waved and I waved back. I realized that I recognize far more of the cars that pass than I do the people driving them.

Others have taken the ladies’ plaint to heart, too.

A neighbor invited some of us to her house one day last week to talk about having a neighborhood get-acquainted gathering.

She reported with some chagrin that she had recently met for the first time someone who’s lived just down the road for more than a decade.

We decided that re-establishing neighborhood get-togethers is worth a try. It won’t be an ice cream social, at least this time. Everyone will be invited to bring food to share.

The get-together will be at the firehouse just as those of earlier days.

Not everyone will come, of course. Some people will be gone or busy; others come to the lake for seclusion.

I’ll be surprised, though, if there’s not a pretty good turnout.

Most of us look for a feeling of community.

When we are away from home, we scan faces for someone we recognize.

When we’re far away from home, we go out of our way to chat with people who share some geographic identity with us, even if they’re from two states away.

Me, I’ll be happy to be able to attach names to the faces of some of those people I wave to as I stroll along.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at