I live in my home town of almost 100,000 people.
A lot has changed in Red Deer since my early days when the vintage cars I now admire at shows were new and on the streets.
It was a safe sleepy little city of about 20,000 people when I was a kid and I really miss that sense of small town charm.
These days the downtown area has become a much different place from my childhood when it was literally the center of our civic universe. It was a time when all of the big retailers were downtown and had not yet migrated out of the downtown core while morphing along the way into charmless mega-stores with an army of unhappy employees who hate their jobs.
The vibe found in Christmas songs like ‘Silver Bells‘ and pop tunes like Petula Clarke’s ‘Downtown’ was a real part of our downtown area. I saw my first color TV in a big downtown department store and I will never forget that feeling when I saw Saturday morning cartoons in living color for the first time in that store.
These days the downtown core is a much different place because it is a world of courageous business owners attempting to do business in a new world of crack-heads and hookers as part of the ambience of the new downtown. The city and the business owners have done their level best to put lipstick on a pig, but the fact is the downtown area here is no longer a safe place after dark.
Our downtown now has muggings and a hooker stroll to give it an inner city feel when the lights come on and a place where I felt completely safe as a kid no longer offers the same comfort zone-in fact far from it.
I have no idea how to cure the problem completely, but I do know how a car show changed the game for a few hours on a recent Saturday night when a charity car show took back the streets for a few hours. The cars were of the vintage variety and so was the feeling that my hometown’s downtown could bring back the vintage charm of our downtown for a few hours.
That’s why it felt as if I had stepped back in time while I watched the cars just like the ones from my kiddy memories cruise on the downtown streets just like they did in my childhood. There were many of our local hotrod legends on the street that night who were doing the same thing decades ago when they were young hot-rodders looking for a race and babes in no particular order.
Most of these guys found plenty of both during their younger years and I was a young kid who admired their success in both areas. The night of the show, I was standing on the sidewalk locked into a time warp that had transported me back to a time and a place when downtown was the coolest place in my childhood universe.
That is the ultimate power of a downtown car show in a town where the downtown has undergone a radical change-and not for the better. The night hours got a little later and the vintage rides headed back out to the suburbs while the downtown shifted back to its new grim reality.
The car show idea for the downtown core was a great idea for the worthy cause of cancer research, but it was also a great idea for those of us who remember when the downtown was a much better place and those vintage rides were the kings of the street.
Thanks for the memories and I already look forward to the 2014 show.