Greg Bassett: Looking at Salisbury’s changes over 36 years

My son left for college just the other day.

(Oh no! The editor is about to go all Harry Chapin on us.)

(Relax, there’s no need to document in a column my assorted missed-parenting opportunities for the world, a la Harry Chapin.)

After dropping Willie at the airport, I was riding back into Salisbury and began thinking about the city I left when I departed for college in 1978. The Salisbury of that Friday morning, I realized more than ever, is a lot different than the one I left 36 years ago.

Salisbury Mall was the hub of all community activity; the Centre at Salisbury had never even been imagined.

The Route 13 Bypass only ran from north Route 13 to east Route 50. It didn’t yet go to Fruitland to the south or toward Hebron to the west.

Beaglin Park Drive wasn’t yet connected between Parkside High School and Parkside Apartments.

There was no Arthur Perdue Stadium. The Civic Center was still an ash pile from the blaze that consumed it (my high school graduation was held at Maggs Gymnasium, on the Salisbury State College campus — which was a lot smaller than it is today).

There was no Walmart North, or Walmart South; no Applebees or Red Lobsters or Chick Filets or Ruby Tuesdays. There was a Nichols in Fruitland, a precursor the the Walmart phenomenon.

Ponzetti’s was right where it is, as was Cherokee Lanes, Giant Food, the Polar Bar, Baskin Robbins, Arby’s south and Burnett-White Tire Center.

There were phone booths all over town.

Go-Getters was a bus station, Rita’s Ice was a gas station, the Trinity Church annex was a police station and the Cannon Building on Camden Street contained a radio station (WJDY).

Pat’s Pizza was a gas station too, and so was the Wendy’s at College Avenue.

There were two McDonald’s in town: one across from the college, one across from the Perdue plant; neither yet had drive-up windows. There was a Gino’s and a Burger Chef, but no Hardee’s, Wendy’s or Sonic.

The Salisbury Police Headquarters was a city trash incinerator with a huge smokestack. The old water tower on Lemon Hill was still white.

The county’s jail was in the county’s courthouse, and so was the sheriff’s office and District Court.

A very smelly fertilizer plant was where Brew River Restaurant is now. The Dresser-Wayne plant still made gas pumps, the Campbell Soup plant still made Swanson Hungry Man Dinners, the Open Road plant made recreational campers and Crown Cork made containers.

There were two separate movie theater buildings downtown, as well as two in the Salisbury Mall and two in Shopper’s World. There were two popular drive-in theaters, one on Northwood Drive and one in Delmar (it would have been very bad to have been caught visiting the one in Delmar).

We ice-skated on Schumaker Pond (winters were cold then), water-skied on Johnson’s Lake, swam at Leonard’s Mill and played tennis nearly every day at the City Park tennis courts.

Lastly, the airport terminal where I dropped Willie didn’t yet exist. In 1978, grand gateway to and from Salisbury was a rather uninviting room beneath the old control tower.

I can only wonder what Salisbury will look like to my son, 36 years from now, should he happen to be driving around the town in 2050. I also wonder if he’ll be sad from feelings of nostalgia, or elated from the realization of progress.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent.

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