July 28, 2020

Moving: A Long and Winding Road


The average American moves 12 times during his life. Interestingly, the percentage of us who move has fallen every year since 2000. Why? Theories include an aging population. After 45, only two or three more moves are typical. With income remaining relatively flat for the past few decades moving is a significant expense not as many can undertake. And, with more two-income households, moving to benefit one half of a couple isn't economically feasible, either. But, whatever the reason, we are more likely to stay put, Covid or not.

That was not how I was raised. While growing up, I moved over twenty times before leaving for college. Between graduation from Syracuse University and getting married, I added another four addresses. Within the first several years of my marriage, Betty and I relocated six times. 

To give weight to one of the statistics noted above, as we got older and had two daughters that deserved more stability, we were in two homes for 20 years. Our last recollection was five years ago to be very close to the rest of the family. We are likely to be here for another eight or nine before a retirement community beckons.

I decided it might be fun to recall some of the places I have called home and what I remember most about those stops on the way to my satisfying retirement. Hopefully, it will trigger some memories for you, too.

I was born in the section of Philadelphia known as Upper Darby but moved to the suburbs within a few months. When I was 5 or 6, the family moved across the Delaware River into New Jersey and the town of Haddonfield. Our first home in that town said a lot about the times. We were less than two blocks from railroad tracks that carried high-speed commuter trains from southern New Jersey into Philadelphia.

I remember quite clearly that there were no fences or safety features to keep anyone from wandering around the tracks. In fact, to get to a nearby baseball diamond, I would simply cross the two sets of tracks to get to the park. My parents knew that was our route and simply cautioned us to look both ways. Every one of our friends did precisely the same thing.

The neighborhood boys would place pennies on the tracks and wait for trains to flatten them. Occasionally someone would be hit and killed by a train, but never any of the kids from the neighborhood. Oddly, it was always an adult who should know better.

Such accidents never prompted any safety measures. I'm sure it wasn't because parents in the '50s were less caring...there was just an overall belief that kids were smart enough to stay away from real danger, and one learned directly from life experiences. Today, can you imagine letting your children or grandkids play near the railroad tracks? I certainly can't!

Our own baseball diamond
 Another brief stop on the Lowry moving caravan was the small city of Cambridge, Ohio. For exactly one year, we lived in a huge old home, complete with a wrap-around porch, spiraling wooden staircase to the second floor, a full attic and basement, and a backyard large enough for a kid-size baseball diamond.

The house was across the street from the local YMCA, housed in an enormous brick mansion where weekly Friday night teen dances were held. This was also the town where I first caught the radio bug. I visited the local station one day with my mom, and the next 40 years of my life were determined.

Even though we lived in Cambridge for only one year, I remember the friendliest group of kids I encountered anywhere. We had parties at my home at least once a month and baseball games in the backyard almost daily. I had my first girlfriend experience with a cute girl named Joanne. I was heartbroken when we packed up after 12 months and moved to Massachusetts.

For the next seven years, we lived near Boston in the suburban town of Lynnfield. Being unable to completely stop what we were so good at (packing and unpacking), we did live in three different homes in Lynnfield during those seven years! But, to their credit, my parents did finally settle in the last house, living there for almost 20 years until moving to Arizona to be near Betty and me.

Lynnfield was a typical suburban town in the 1960s. A handful of stores clustered around the town square, complete with a colonial meeting hall and white-spired Congregational church. Kids rode bikes everywhere without fear. Of course, the whole town turned out for the 4th of July parade, Christmas tree lightings, and Easter egg hunts. I remember exactly where I was when JFK was shot (gym class) and walking the mile to our house in shock.

About 30 minutes from Lynnfield was the first radio station I became involved with. I managed to land a job as their janitor, mopping floors, and throwing out the trash twice a week. Since I was too young to drive, mom was conned into being my chauffeur. I have no idea what she did while I performed my duties and hung around the DJ and absorbed everything. But, she never complained for the year before I got my driving license.

Finally, with that ticket to freedom, I was able to take a job as a part-time DJ on weekends at age 16. The thrill I had first felt in Cambridge was finally satisfied at this little station in Beverly, Massachusetts.

There were brief family stops in places as far apart as Jacksonville, Florida, and Wayne, outside Philadelphia (again!). From our backyard, we could see Valley Forge just 2 miles away, where George Washington and the troops wintered in 1777. I remember there were train tracks there too just beyond our back fence. But I was never tempted to play near them. I had lost my kid's innocence and gained an adult's fear. By now, the train traffic was an annoyance, not a thrill.

As an adult, I moved from Syracuse to Nashua New Hampshire, and then to Morgantown, West Virginia, where I met and married my bride of 44 years. Subsequent moves to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (an apartment & 2 houses), Salt Lake City (twice), Tucson, and Phoenix/Scottsdale, and finally Chandler (4 different homes) have all seen my moving boxes.

Home, sweet home, for a month in Cedar Rapids
Betty reminded me I must mention our first dwelling in Cedar Rapids. Until our home was ready, we lived for about a month in an apartment over a sports liquidator & live bait shop.

With only one car, I would drive to my new job while Betty stayed above the bait shop, trying to remember why she agreed to move here after just 6 months of marriage.

It was during a brutal winter cold snap in Iowa, with temperatures well below zero 24 hours a day...certainly too cold for her to even leave the apartment to buy food. She remembers that the only thing that kept her sane was looking forward to the TV series, Roots, which was on every night.

For someone who has stayed within a stone's throw of where he or she was born, this constant change of address must seem as foreign as speaking a different language. But, in my case, it was merely the way it was.

I learned to adapt to new places rather quickly, but not really develop many friends because we were never in one place long enough. That is a deficiency that I feel more strongly as I age. I really have no link, or even much of a memory, of the people who were part of my childhood. At times I envy those who have all sorts of Facebook contacts from childhood or high school folks who were part of their life. 

How about your history...does it involve lots of address changes, or were you part of a family that put down roots and happily stayed in one spot?


33 comments:

  1. Born outside Rotterdam. Artesia CA at 5months (Dad/Mom/5 kids). Bakersfield at age 1. Buhl ID at age 10. Boise ID at age 18 for college. Married age 19, 3 rentals over 2.5 years. Purchased 1st home age 22. Purchased 2nd home age 33....remodel (tore down walls to make a large room for my quilting/guest room) and added woodshop for hubster at age 42 after deciding this is IT! We've never come up with a reason to leave Boise....and it has grown rapidly-so apparently folks are onto us ;-)

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    1. I had business trips to Boise a few times each year in the 90's. It is a very welcoming city with a dramatic setting and four seasons. I can see why you stayed.

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  2. Love the stories. Pennies on a track- we did that. We also did sidewalk eggs.
    In Flagstaff the adult who wonder in front of trains are called suicides. Gives you pause?
    I lived in the same house for 18 years. I have two high school friends from then. My older sister has none. My husband has none (same house for his entire school career). I think people think others have more connection, but I think it is more about family dynamics.
    We moved a number of times in the military. We got out so the kids could go to middle and high school in the same place. Neither of them have friends from that time, but they do have other military friends whom they have kept close touch with.
    My daughter has vowed to never move again. Currently, she is thinking of moving from the city where her children are not allowed to go to school- probably West. I am betting, no.
    My son is military. Each of their children have been born in a different state. They plan on two more moves, but who knows. I am betting at least that many.
    I have several friends who have only moved once or twice and never since kids arrived. They are "farm/ranch" people. Maybe they are more connected to the land?
    I wonder if people don't move as much now because jobs don't require them to? Right now most of my nephews are on the move because of jobs. Otherwise, they have been in the same houses since they graduated from college.

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    1. It might be that during the era we were growing up moving to a better job opportunity was more common. My dad shifted companies a lot and thought little about moving to take advantage. Plus, there was a rather dramatic shift from rural to urban lifestyles.

      As Covid has made clear, the more crowded environments are the more dangerous. I read that there may be a trend developing of people moving back to smaller cities and towns.

      On one hand I envy people who stayed in one area and developed friends, roots, and shared experiences. But, I know because of all our moves I learned to quickly adapt and fit in. Eevn so, that didn't translate into long term friendships that survived the moves.

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  3. Wow, I don't know you keep track of all those places you've lived! I'm below average in the moving department. Bought the house I grew up in from my parents when they retired moved out. I was in my early 20s. We had moved into it when I was 2-3 years old and I lived there until I was in my 50s. Then I lived in an apartment for less than year while building the house I now live it which was more like camping in the apartment than living there since we knew it was temporary.

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    1. Your story is a good example of the "putting down roots" approach. One house for 50 years is not a very common occurrence anymore.

      I can keep track because my wife takes pictures of everything and she collected all the photos from my parents before they passed.

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  4. I'm one of those people who lives 1/2 mile from my childhood home on land that has been in my family for 4 generations now. It is rural and the only time I lived in a city was during the years of post-secondary education. I've been to a few places in the world. I think there are different places but not necessarily better. I have neighbors who are like family to me. The people in this community may gossip about you but it's the same community that celebrates your successes and picks you up when times get tough.

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    1. I certainly would like a sense of community. As I age, I know that having people who I can depend on to watch out for me, and vice versa, would be a nice feeling. Suburban life in America does not support that. Most homes in the Phoenix area are surrounded by walls, and they definitely don't make for much neighborly contact.

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  5. Great stories. I grew up in a tiny town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (1K people give or take) and stayed until I was 18. But then I made up for it. Have lived in Virginia, Ohio, Michigan again, California, then back to Michigan. Haven't returned to the U.P. although I consider it from time to time. But I just don't think I'd be happy there now - except maybe for a few months in summer after black fly season ends. Haha.

    I often think moving has gotten in my blood. There is something exciting to me about starting over. Our last home was the longest I ever lived in any home (15 years), and I started to get the itch about two years ago. At this age, though, I'm guessing it's this new home until assisted living. But we never know what life will bring.

    My mom grew up on a farm that also served as a train stop/switch in the country before everyone had cars. When I was a child, we visited my aunt, uncle & cousins in that same house and a freight train still came by on that track every evening at 7. My older cousins taught me to put pennies on the track, too, but one of my strongest memories is my mom telling me to make sure my younger brothers weren't near the tracks when the train came. It gave me nightmares for years, sure they would wander out at the wrong moment.

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    1. You tell grandchildren about the pennies episodes or living near unprotected tracks and they look at you like you are out of your mind. Current generations carry a real sense of the dangers of the world; I am not sure they appreciate the excitement and beauty as much as we did.

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  6. I grew up in a row home that my parents bought in the 1950’s located in a suburb of Reading, PA called Laureldale- for my first 21 years. We had railroad tracks about 3 blocks away that we played near. After college, I took a job based in Charlotte, NC where I lived in an apartment first, then I bought a duplex, then I built a house in a suburb of Charlotte called Matthews and then I moved in to an older neighborhood of Charlotte until 2001. Then my job took us to Texas and we bought a model home in Cypress, then we felt too far away from everything and moved 15 minutes from downtown Houston. I was in Houston for 18 years and now have retired to Black Mountain, NC outside of Asheville. There might be one more home for us.

    I keep in touch with friends from College but that’s about it. My Dad moved from our childhood home after my Mom died; he moved into a retirement type community and then into assisted living before he passed away shortly after at 88.

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    1. There are probably two or three people who I keep in touch with who were part of our life when our girls were young and we vacationed every year in Florida. Add two more from my radio days in Syracuse and that is about it from my past. I remember some names as far back as grade school, but have never really thought about reaching out to them.

      BTW, we visited the Asheville area during an RV trip a few years ago...very pretty place and much less humid than Houston!

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  7. I have moved very little over my 60+ years. I was born in the city I currently live and have only lived in other cities for college and one job (and those were in the same state - California). Boring? Maybe, but it's hard to beat our climate. Funny, though, lately my husband and I have discussed moving somewhere less crowded, more walkable. Because I'm spoiled weather-wise, I think it will be hard to find an alternative that checks all the boxes.

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    1. You have identified my major objection to a change: climate. Even though Phoenix summers are brutal, I will take extreme heat over extreme cold and snow any day. WHenever I search for a small town that fits our needs, it is usually either too great a distance from family, or a climate that I no longer want to experience. So, here we sit, at 110 degrees!

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  8. I have moved very little in my lifetime and I was born in the same house my father way born in. My father had bought his childhood home from his parents the year before I was born. When I was about 10 we moved to a new house which was very exciting at the time. I bounced around rentals a bit as a young adult but since I married in my late 20s we've had 2 houses and have been in our current house 33 years. My youngest daughter at age 35 doesn't remember us in any other house and our older daughter 37 only has foggy memories of our first place.

    It is hard for me to fathom why people would want to move so often. On the other hand I've always lived in or near a large dynamic city and there was never any compelling reason to move for career or other reasons. Now our daughters both live nearby as do our grandchildren. I don't think we'll be moving away anytime if ever.

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    1. In my case we moved often because my dad changed employers a lot. After marriage Betty and I moved to either a bigger house in the same town, or because of work.

      I actually liked moving. It was exciting to learn about a new place.

      We have been in the Phoenix area now for 35 years and 4 different homes. But, the urge to change environments is gone. The last 2 moves were to downsize or to be really close to family.

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    2. Perhaps it runs in families. My older married daughter that owns is now 10 years in her house with no plans to move (though she lived and worked in England for a year after university) and my younger single daughter that rents has been in the same apartment for 7 years. Apples not falling far from trees and all that I suppose.

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  9. Both Ken and I were raised mostly in one/two places up till the time we got married. I am on facebook and on the phone with friends from my grease school..and high school.So is Ken. I just love that I can share my third grfavorite are memories with Maryjo or a high school prom night with Sara.. and that we keep up to date on each other’s lives. That said,Ken sure did not inherit his folks penchant for staying put.We moved way too many times for my comfort,during our marriage.Some of the moves were necessary,such as moving from New Jersey to Texas for school, then on to Iowa, when the Texas school turned out not to be so good. After we arrived in Phoenix area, for Ken to work (paycheck,yay!!!) he was never satisfied and we changed houses a lot.. AND started buying homes up North,too. Not sure what star Ken has always been searching for, luckily, a few of the house, AT MY INSISTANCE, in the valley, stayed in the vicinity of Andrew’s friends and one school system.I refused to let him be impacted. Luckily, we are now in a home for going on 7 years (with that year’s experiment up North....) and I have no desire to move again.I always wanted to have one house I lived in for years and years and years.. different strokes for different folks. Hindsight: Would have built a nice moderate home with a pool, in Tempe, in the first few years we lived here and STAYED PUT!! But I can’t complain,where we have “landed” is pretty nice,comfortable, and has every amenity I need in retirement. Still, what’s WITH THAT MOVING BUG some people seem to be born with???????

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    1. The "grass is always greener" might explain the need to move a lot for some. Betty says she likes to move, I do not. It is expensive and always filled with hassles of some type or another. I hope we are where we are now until it is time to move to a retirement community.

      If she had her way we would move to the Morrison Ranch area because of all the trees, grass, and nice walking paths. Parts of it look like neighborhoods back East and that appeals to her.

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    2. I'd ideally like to live on the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, at the edges of the desert!!!!!!

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  10. I have enjoyed a combination of small towns and larger cities, having been raised in Horse Cave, Ky, moving to Glasgow, Ky as I began the first grade; graduated from Glasgow High School, college in Nashville, more college in Tuscaloosa, then beginning work in Huntsville, Ala for 4 years, with a last move to Nashville for past 49 years. Our family maintained close ties with church in each location, creating many great friendships. I remain in contact with high school friends, meeting for lunch every 6 months, and also have close friendships from college days. I was fortunate to teach college at my alma mater. Regardless of location, I have discovered the world of genealogy, reaching out to my related "strangers" from around the country. I have always admired the courage and ability of families to pick up and move to a totally different environment. It's interesting to consider where our family might locate if given any choice, but as I consider the advantages of staying in one place (and visiting the other places for a week or two) seems to hold the greatest weight with our family.

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    1. Interestingly, Betty has started getting more serious about genealogy studies. Her family was concentrated in West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania so the records are pretty easy to find. My side of the family was small and spread out, but she is locating some stuff about my side of things.

      I have always felt sorry for my middle brother: 4 different high schools because of moves. Like me, he doesn't have any friends from those days. I am sure all those moves during very important school years hurt his ability to connect with others.

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  11. Interesting topic, Bob. I've lived in only two houses during my entire life. My parents bought a two family home when they got married, so that the income from the upstairs apartment would pay the $55.00 per month mortgage. That apartment happened to be vacant when Alan and I got married, and we lived there for two years while we built our house in the mountains about thirty minutes from my parents' place. We've been there ever since. It will be 39 years this fall, and we plan to remain for the foreseeable future. We both commuted to college, and were able to build solid careers locally, so we were able to stay in a location that we both loved.

    My closest friends are a fellow first-grader and a childhood neighbor - both out of state but close at heart. Locally, all of our siblings except one live nearby. We have one young adult child living less than fifteen minutes away; the other is still living at home while launching a career. The friends we hang out with are all fellow parents we met when our kids were in school; many are former PTA colleagues. We go back to pre-school with one couple, and our boys are now 26.

    Moving can be extremely advantageous when it comes to careers but, as you pointed out, it can make it more difficult to build solid, lasting relationships. Every facet of life has its advantages and disadvantages. Alan and I probably could have earned better salaries elsewhere - Alan, especially, because he was in IT - but we've been completely content right where we are.

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    1. You relate the poplar opposite of my life and the positive consequences of staying put. At this time of my life I don't regret any of our moves. But, I do wish there were friends from various stages of that life that I could still interact with.

      Having our daughters, son-in-law, his parents, and our grandkids all within 15 minutes makes up for a lot of the friendship void. Even so, I can imagine it would be nice to have someone from my high school or college days who was part of of life now. The grandkids are growing up and beginning to mentally separate themselves from constant grandparent contact. Within five years our grandson will be of college age, with his sisters only a few years behind that. For us, life will change dramatically when that chunk of family begins to spread apart.

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    2. Oh I love that story!!!!!! Only 2 houses!!

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  12. I have lived in three different states, Utah, Mississippi and Alabama. I am still in contact with numerous roommates from my college days at BYU, but I have not seen them since then, nearly 40 years. I only "talk" to them on Facebook. When I go to Utah during my very limited vacation time, I only spend it with my daughter. I went to law school in Mississippi, and I am in contact with a couple of classmates, and also a few friends from when I practiced law in Mississippi, on Facebook only. I lived in Mississippi nearly nine years, during my 20's and early thirties. I am in contact on Facebook with classmates from elementary school and high school in North Alabama, but other than the one class reunion for high school, I have not seen them either. I now live in the southern part of the state, and before Covid, my local kids, work, and church folks are the only ones I see, and I only see work friends at work, and church friends at church. Now, I only see the kids and work folks, since church is virtual. I guess what I am saying is that other than Facebook, I am not in contact with anyone except family either, outside of work. So, maybe I am kinda a social moron.....lol? I have contemplated retiring to both North Alabama, where my oldest lives, or Utah near my daughter, but I don't know. I don't like cold weather, and Utah cost much more than here. I also like living where I can get to my other kids an hour or two, north of me, and I live living where I can drive down to the beach south of me a couple of hours, for a day. I just cannot decide where I want to retire. I am sure I will retire near at least one kid. I just do not know which one. I doubt I will hang with anyone I went to school with if I go back to North Alabama. I have always read folks retire to their home town and then realize their childhood friends have developed their own life, and really do not include them in their social circle. I really do not expect to hang out with anyone except my kids. I have also thought about retiring to Mexico because of their health insurance, but that would probably make some of my kids very unhappy. Cindy in the South

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  13. I did not make it clear, I have four kids, one in Utah, One in North Alabama, and two in central Alabama, three probable retirement choices.....lol Cindy in the South

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    1. Well, on a positive note, one of your kids isn't in England and another in Japan!

      If the relationships are good, living near grown children is the most common choice. But, then, which one, and would the others be upset?

      My parents, living in Boston, went through the same dilemma. One son was in Atlanta, one in Kansas City, and us in Scottsdale. I am pretty sure the weather had a lot to do with their final choice.

      Just as an aside, I lived in Utah and loved almost everything about it, except the periods of dense fog that could last for weeks during winter.

      Good luck, Cindy. You have important decisions coming up.

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  14. When I was 46, I moved into my 46th resident. I have now lived there for more than two decades. My father was a military officer. And, you know, when you are young and have a lot of energy and not much stuff, you can pick up and move much more easily. We kind of moved eight years ago when we bought a small winter place in Tucson. And we're kind of moving again next month when the remodel of the daylight basement in our house is completed. But it's on the same property, so I don't know if that counts. I do know life will be much simpler in the smaller place downstairs.

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    1. I have seen the pictures you have been posting of the work Art has been doing, but, I didn't realize it was where you would live part of the year. So, part of a a summer in Tucson has cured you of summering in the desert!

      46 moves by the time you were 46....that must set some sort of record.

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  15. I haven't moved as much as you have, but I have moved 16 times. We even spent a summer in Haddonfield NJ (1968) while my husband attended fire fighting training in Philly for the Navy!!

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    1. We lived on Mountwell Ave and Lafayette Ave in Haddonfield from the mid 50's to early 60'S. It was a nice town 60 years ago but I haven't been back since. I imagine it has become more crowded.

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    2. We lived on Lees Avenue,right off Haddon Avenue, in Collingswood,New Jersey, for the last few years we were in Jersey, before Ken went to grad school and we moved to Iowa and then on o Phoenix.I still have many relatives in that area! We go back(pre-Covid) and Haddon Avenue is all gentrified now!!!!! Upscale restaurants, Sushin,even!! A great farmers market under the Patco bridge..I still love Collingswood... if I ever had to move Back East that is where I would go..

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