Can it be when it was all so simple then?

Or has time re-written every line?

If we had the chance to do it all again…

Tell me, would we?

Could we?


Personally, I prefer the way Gladys Knight asked those questions over Barbra Streisand.

But it got me thinking about how much life has changed since my childhood. A certain unsettling event I had to deal with a few weeks ago in Lincoln County while doing my job had me reminiscing about simpler times – times when we were safer.

When I was a child, the only thing I had to worry about was crashing my bike or my skateboard into a tree while avoiding oncoming cars. I wasn’t exactly paying attention back then, but then again, how many kids have long attention spans?

In my neighborhood, when the streetlights came on, you knew it was time to come home. When you did something wrong, and another parent saw you do it, your parents knew before you got home.

You knew what was happening next!

If you managed to run afoul of the law, the cops wouldn’t take you to jail, they would take you home to Mom and Dad. 

I would rather spend the night in jail and go to school from there than deal with the wrath of my parents, which is why I managed to keep my juvenile delinquency to the occasional low-level vandalism of public property.

Thank goodness for the statute of limitations!

One thing we didn’t worry about in my neighborhood back then was getting shot at, at least not yet. This was Florence, South Carolina in the mid-1980s. Gang violence and getting shot for your $90 Air Jordans, or your $75 Converse Weapons wasn’t happening there.

That was a big-city problem – and we were the same size as Troy is now back then. Florence is four times that now.

Another thing we didn’t worry about was being snatched off the streets by perverts who wanted to do unspeakable things to us. Don’t get me wrong, they were out there. They were always out there.

Maybe we just naturally ran in packs, never alone.

I looked out for my sister when we walked to the store. Courtney is seven years younger than me, and she just had to go to the store with me – and Mom and Dad just had to make me take her.

Thank God I didn’t have to suffer the further embarrassment of having to push a baby stroller to the store as well. You’re my baby brother, Brandon, and I love you kid, but I wasn’t going out like that in front of my friends!

By the time I was a teenager, things started to change. My friends were becoming parents at the same time I was still trying to master the art of hitting a curveball and trying not to faceplant the quarter pipe off my skateboard.

All I can say about the curveball is learn to become an opposite-field hitter. As for becoming a teenage parent, my parents threatened me with an untimely death if that happened, which terrified me so much that, at the age of 45 – I still have no children!

Those days are long gone in my hometown. My old neighborhood went into decline for about a decade, but fortunately, it has gone through revitalization thanks to younger families moving in.

It’s looking again like it was in my childhood.

As for the rest of Florence, it’s grown, as I said before, but can I say for the better?

We have upscale hotels and restaurants, but our crime rate has gotten out of control. One of my closest friends was murdered in a gang initiation while working in his uncle’s pawnshop part time to support his daughter. The killer was only 17 years old, and he took a $50 necklace to prove to his “people” that he did the deed.

Another former classmate was killed in a robbery on her last day at her job at a liquor store. She was about to start nursing school the following Monday.

So to answer the opening question, it’s a definitive “no.” We can never go back to those days because too many things have changed beyond our control.

I’m not just saying this about my hometown, but every hometown in America, including Troy.