Letter to a small town newspaper when the city was debating whether or not to tear down an old water tower
"Just relax and keep the bow of the boat pointed toward the water tower." These words ring eternal in my memory. My uncle placing my little hands on the wheel of the boat and turning away, trusting me completely. I remember there were clouds in the sky, a stiff wind, low swells. The bow seemed to want to point everywhere but toward the water tower. Every time I looked to see if my uncle was watching, the bow would veer sharply starboard. He wasn't watching, I was big enough now.
Today, only the water tower remains. How could I possibly choose whether or not to tear it down? It cannot be called historical, it has little significance. It cannot be called valuable, it is not needed. It cannot be torn down, it is a part of my childhood Charlevoix. (I won't open the subject of climbing the water tower. Of course we all did it. I made it about eight feet up but swore in class the next day I made it to the top).
The heading "Water tower decision postponed again" [June 9,1993] was not simply a statement of fact, but a summary of the feelings of many Charlevoix residents. The destruction of the water tower would be the extraction of a physical link to our childhood. How could we destroy a link to our childhood?
When the water tower was built, it was not just a means of maintaining city water pressure, it was a symbol. It meant you were incorporated, you had a city council (I bet it was controversial), you had taxes, you were a city. It implied order, commerce, a school system, jobs. My father's generation recognized this. My generation took it for granted. My children won't notice it. The water tower is no longer a symbol, it is a relic.
I have considered many times the day when I would take one of my children to the wheel of the boat and say those words. Will it be as important to them as it was to me? Was it the water tower that gave me the lasting memories or the love. Maybe the water tower isn't the important part. Maybe it's time to tear it down.
Copyright Peter Jay Smith 2005 Return to helarc.com