NATIVE PLACES: A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS AND SKETCHES BY FRANK HARMON

Slightly Faded Places

This stretch of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, North Carolina—a narrow commercial strip sandwiched between the State Fairgrounds and the Norfolk Southern railway—was never much to look at. But its shops served neighborhoods on both sides of the railroad tracks with the basics of life. You could buy a washer to repair the kitchen sink at the hardware store, get your hair cut at Westover Barber Shop est. 1939 , pick up a gallon of milk from the Pay N Go,  and load a stack of oak firewood into your trunk at the wood yard. 

On Saturday mornings in the fall, men gathered at the hardware store to buy collard seedlings and shoot the breeze. Once a year, homeowners turned their front yards into parking lots and rented spaces to fairgoers. 

I love places like this. They don’t make sense economically and you don’t look for them on Facebook. They’re not memorable. But they thrive.  

Our city has spent millions of dollars building roads so you can get to  malls and shiny big-box stores. They’re like anywhere. But places where you can get 5/8-inch washers and a short back and sides are somewhere.   

Slightly faded places are part of the wealth of cities. 

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