In the spring, I went back to my hometown of Salt Lake City for a grandparent’s 80th birthday party. It was too short of a visit, and I left with a desire to return soon.
Part of the visit included updating my memory banks and comparing the SLC-That-Was to the SLC-That-Is.
I suppose noticing changes is a fairly common thing when people return to their old towns after being away. I can imagine people comparing how San Francisco or Oakland has changed in the past 10-15 years. In fact, I remember my high school history teacher bemoaning the changes to his small town of Roswell, Ga. after its population exploded during the 1980s.
I kidded with my family that I was catching up with what’s new so I could hold my own in a conversation. In reality, my family and friends have been quite generous in sharing information about what has changed over the years.
There were all these little details — oh, they opened up a new highway to Ogden; they shut down a historic building with a prominent nightspot; they’re still working on that replacement for the old downtown malls; the city has a soccer team and it has a new stadium; etc.
Amid the changes, I also tried to remember items that had gone missing in the past few years (and before that). During my trip last summer, I noticed that there was only one Union Pacific shield on the old UP depot (which has been integrated into a mall). The other shield had been on the opposite side facing the freeway — the holes for the mounting brackets seem to still be there.
Because I’m a huge dork who wants to recall as many of these little details as possible — here is a not-inclusive list of some of the changes to landmarks I’ve noticed in the past eight years:
- Three shopping malls have been demolished. Two of them were standouts in my memories of downtown — the Crossroads Mall and the ZCMI Center. The other one, Cottonwood, was OK at the then-outskirts of town, but had a nice comic book store.
- The Gateway Center opened (which appears to have prompted the other closures/re-envisionings of shopping).
- The Hansen Planetarium relocated from a great old house across from ZCMI Center to the Gateway (and is now the Clark Planetarium)
- The large pale blue map of the Earth at the airport’s Terminal One is still there, but now a TSA security line runs over it (no more rushing to mark where Salt Lake is and where our family is going).
- Rancho Bowl was torn down (I suspected, but my uncle confirmed it when we were driving on North Temple).
- Another bowling alley off of Redwood Road was torn down.
- Japantown looks so small among the other downtown developments (I also learned it’s called Japantown).
- The communities of Bountiful and Centerville have changed a lot as well. Old landmarks are torn down (like Five Points) or completely renovated (like Slim Olsen’s). New shopping centers too.
- Of course, the drinking laws have changed somewhat over the years.
Here are some things that changed before 2000 (when I still visited often):
- Derks Field was rebuilt into Franklin Quest/Franklin Covey/Spring Mobile Ballpark.
- The miniature golf course at Ritz Bowl was removed.
- The swimming pool building where my mom took me for water lessons in 1982 closed and apparently cleared to make way for the LDS Conference Center.
- The light-rail system, TRAX, opened (although I didn’t use it until 2008).
- Man, I didn’t realize how close the Delta Center was to the old Buddhist temple. I also didn’t realize that the Salt Palace was also across the street.
Then, there are some things that I seem to remember, but can’t verify:
- The skating rink/ice company in Sugar House burned down.
- Wasn’t there an outdoor skating rink outside the KSL broadcasting center? I know it’s now at Gallivan Center.
While I’m trying to compare the new city versus the old city, I realize that my efforts will inevitably come up short. My memories of the past have begun to fade (mom had to correct me about where the swimming pool was) and my recent surveys have been brief.
There are past and current realities, but I guess they will be different from the SLC of my mind.
Photo: I don’t have a lot of digital photos of Salt Lake City, so this July 2008 photo of me in front of a giant poster of American Idol contestant David Archuleta at Murray High School in Murray, Utah will have to suffice.