College Town Blues

In October of 2021, I revisited my college town of North Adams for the first time in over 10 years. There was no reunion scheduled, but I did have some nostalgia for the former mill town where I spent a solid 5 years, first as a student, but also as a real-time resident. I worked night shifts in the camera room of the local newspaper, I had a few apartments and lived my life almost entirely off-campus. I felt like a local, but I had also been visiting the Berkshires for years on annual foliage trips (a requirement among most New England families). As a delinquent teen in the 1950’s, my grandfather was frequently sent to nearby Shelburn Falls to work in the kitchen of his grandmother’s boarding house. So every fall, he would load up the car and bring me and my cousins on the three hour drive across Massachusetts, winding along Route 2.  We would stay at a mountain top motel and stroll down Main Street, admiring the glowing movie house marquee. I had good memories of the place, and was excited to go back. But the town hadn’t aged well, and I left feeling like my sense of nostalgia had hidden what had been there all along. North Adams, and much of the Northern Berkshires, is vulnerable to the same things as much of small-town America. The beautiful Victorian houses that stood along the street that led to the campus of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where I lived on my own for the first time in  my own apartment, were mostly shuttered, facades cracked by the brutal winters and years of neglect. It was hard to make photos. But what I did capture felt true to what I remembered, and what I learned about a place I once called home.