When The Mister and I first moved to Peabody, I thought it was about the smallest small town I had ever seen. I had no intention of living here very long. I noticed early on that residents had some odd habits and traditions.
One of the first things I noticed about local folks was that no one seemed to know the names of the streets. Since they are named by numbers from 1st St. to 9th St. in one direction and named mostly for trees for 14 blocks in the other direction, I thought it was odd that people could not remember the names. I came from a large enough community that there were many neighborhoods and hundreds of street names. I never knew a majority of them. However, not knowing the names in a community that stretched into a grid 9 blocks by 14 blocks just seemed silly!
The strange thing was that after a year or so in Peabody I realized that I couldn’t remember them either. Guess what? I still have to stop and think about them. The problem, of course, is that we are so small we just know where everyone lives. We do not need street names or house numbers. About the only folks who need them are the ones delivering packages, merchandise, and letters.
All of this was brought home to me Monday evening when conversation at the Peabody City Council meeting turned to the care of the abandoned alley between Olive and Vine St. from Division St. north to Fourth St. Tossed into the mix was discussion of an additional length of alley between Walnut and Vine Sts. that accommodates a drainage ditch for the storm drain system. As the conversation about who maintains that stretch of overgrown vegetation progressed, a couple of council members looked confused about the location.
Finally someone whispered, “In back of where ‘Rainbow’ Bain used to live,” and suddenly everyone was on the same page.
I have lived in my house since 1976. It has not had too many owners since it was built in 1904. I doubt there are many Peabody residents who can name the family from whom we bought it. Having lived here for nearly four decades, it has our family’s stamp on it and, even without a number anywhere on the front to indicate the address people still know it is ours. It is kind of fun to think that when I am gone, 507 N. Walnut St. could be known for a while as “the old Marshall place.”
There is no particular point to any of this except that it is a part of small-town living. As a former big city transplant I once thought it was odd behavior. Now I live it and as long as I remember Rainbow Bain and dozens of others like him, I am still in the loop – not a bad place to be.
— SUSAN MARSHALL