Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Place names the place. A nod to Proust, but when you read it as a statement it says that places name themselves.
Maybe that’s true a lot of the time. Places like Big Rock or Bella Vista probably have a big rock and a nice view. My own town is named Cool, but it isn’t that cool in the usual ways we mean it. Cool as a state of mind, yes.
I spent part of my childhood in a suburb called Bridgeton. Break it down and you get Bridge-town. But there was no bridge, other than a couple of overpasses from one side of the highway to the other. Maybe some bridgelets here and there over creeks, but certainly no bridge worth naming a town for. When we lived there, in fact, it really had no characteristic that would warrant naming it for. It was probably nothing but corn and alfalfa fields before they started developing in the area.
We lived there for, I’m guessing, about four years, when I was fourish to eightish. My consciousness pretty much surfaced while we were there, so I have many more memories from it than from our places before that. Still, I can’t come up with a local bridge they might have named the place for. There’s a bridge across the Missouri River now (opened 1993), but there wasn’t one back in the day so you get the feeling they said we need a bridge here because, Bridgeton!
A better name now might be Malltown. Or, since part of the airport drifts into Bridgeton, it could be called Runwayville. There’s also a Walmart Supercenter. No town would name itself after that.
But wow, now that I look at the actual map I see that my old street isn’t even in Bridgeton. I’ve been operating under a misconception. Seems like I actually grew up in a place called Maryland Heights, which is nowhere near Maryland and has no heights.
I think I’ve made my point.
I grew up in an area named Valley View which is accurate. Our street was Lone Tree which isn’t accurate, and I recognized the inaccuracy even as a little kid. The neighborhood was FULL of trees. Go figure. I live on a street now named after an historical figure who lived in the historic manor house across the road, so I guess that makes perfect sense.
I grew up in Detroit on a street named Grandville. It was grand but the ville part was questionable. Fun post, Kevin.
Thanks, John! In the same vein, Grand Ave. in St. Louis ain’t so grand anymore …
You ought to see Grand River avenue.
I grew up in Prince George, British Columbia and now live in Victoria, same province. Both named after royalty, but couldn’t be more different. In between, I lived for 12 years in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Those names are derived from the Cree language.
My question is, Who is Alberta? 😉
Good thing I checked Wikipedia before saying “a feminized version of Prince Albert’s name.” No — she was one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, and I don’t really know why the province was named after her. I think of Alberta as the Texas of Canada — oil and people driving pickup trucks too fast.
Makes me think of all the housing developments in my area … Oak Grove, Fox Run (to make up a couple), only the developments don’t have oaks or foxes … at least not to be seen. I guess place name should suggest a state of mind but I’m so literal, I expect to see oak groves … ;(
I’m with you. If they mowed down the oak grove to build the houses, that’s sick.
That’s normal around here 😕