I grew up in Farmington, UT, which had around 12,000 residents at the time. I would estimate that 90% were LDS and 95% where white. So in a lot of ways, it was a pretty homogenous place. But in other ways it seemed quite diverse. The economic make-up of my particular neighborhood was mixed. A couple streets east of our house was a 20,000 square foot mansion with a heated driveway, indoor pool, indoor basketball court, covered parking for 16 cars, and an observatory. Yet the area two streets to the west of us was populated by old homes in the 1000-2000 square foot range. Neighborhoods just don’t grow that way anymore, and I regret that.
Our house had a mere 100 yards between it and the undeveloped mountains behind us. My young summers were filled with trips to the Farmington river—only a half mile away—and roaming and camping in the hills above with buddies, dogs, and motorcycles. Drive through Farmington on I-85 now and you will see monstrously huge homes on the mountainside in the spot where we used to camp. There is a big rock jutting out from the hillside that we called “Cheese Rock.” We named it that to commemorate the special time our friend showed us the unholy substance that he was somehow able to consistently squeeze out of his nipple. Note, this particular friend was born in bawdy Centerville, so. It used to take us a good 15 or 20 minutes to four-wheel in our trucks up to that steep spot. Now you can drive right up there on a paved road that ends in the gaudy residences that have leveled the slope. Then again, I’m sure people lower on the hill said the same thing about my parents when they built a bigger home above their own homes 30 years ago, and so on.
Our neighborhood was nice enough, but back in the 80’s and 90’s, the really happening place to live was a development called Somerset, lying a couple miles to the north. I drove my wife through there recently and she was decidedly unimpressed, given the way we talk about it when reminiscing. Today all I see is a bunch of regular looking homes done in the not-so-beautiful 80s and 90s Utah architectural style. But back then, Somerset was where the wealthy blonde people lived. The dads drove flashy cars, the moms were pretty and actually wore make-up and fancy outfits when they showed up at junior’s school, and the kids had Reebok Pumps, go-carts, and Doberman Pincers. There was a community pool and tennis courts. Every community has those now, but that was a big deal back then. When I was around nine I remember seeing a tall, lithe high schooler from an affluent, very Dutch-looking family in Somerset cruising around town in his new red convertible Volkswagen Rabbit. I thought that boy was Ferris Buhler himself.
Hello der jugen, does you vant ride vis dis Cherman car Volksvaagen, undt go to mine Papa’s house ver vee talk der Vittgenstein undt Eurythmics undt vee build bridge to last thousand years, ya?
To the south of us lay downtown Farmington. I drive through downtown now and marvel at what a beautiful, quaint, historic, almost idyllic little place it is. Both sides of Mainstreet are flanked by giant Elm trees (I actually have no idea what type of trees they are), and there are 100+ year-old homes, a church, and other buildings made of distinctive looking rock and other antiquated materials. It’s the type of place your fancy wife would say is “darling” to her fancy friend. But as a kid, downtown had a darker visage. Those little old houses were the dwellings of mean, tough, lower-middle class kids who had rat tails, bad teeth, Def Leopard shirts, and cut-off Levi shorts. They played pickup football on pavement with their shirts off. I used to see them when driving back home from the library or grocery store with my mom, and I half expected to spy a couple Viking ships parked nearby. Or for Ralph Macchio and Matt Dillon to materialize, mistake me for a Somerset Social and throw a few Molotov Cocktails at the suburban. This area was little more than a crow-flying mile from my house, but it seemed like a different country. I was a bit scared of those kids. The bigger ones, at least.
Two of us are cool, one we’ve never seen before or since, one is super lame, one has a smooth dad and grandpa but will go on to star in Disney hockey comedies, one looks more like a soc than any soc does, and the other guy is our 47 yr old bro who looks after us since ma passed away.
The going concern in Farmington was the amusement park Lagoon (click here to see an ad for Lagoon’s new UVSC-Themed Brothel). Lagoon is like a small Disneyland and it required an army of young, low-wage workers to keep things humming. To this end, Lagoon would set up a booth at Farmington Jr. High to recruit ninth graders on the last day of school. I remember there being a stigma associated with working at Lagoon. Not sure why, but it wasn’t a cool thing to do. Ryan worked at Lagoon. Somerset kids definitely didn’t work there. I didn’t care about the stigma; I just couldn’t accept the low pay. But there certainly wasn’t any stigma associated with going to Lagoon as a paying customer. The kids who worked hard and the kids with rich parents had season passes. As I remember, my siblings and I weren’t allowed to buy season passes, even with our own money, because our square parents didn’t want us running free in the land of endless pleasures all day with no supervision. Probably a good thing, because a teenager’s intent in going to Lagoon was to meet someone of the opposite sex, cruise on the slow, sultry SkyRide with them, and eventually go to the back fence to make out. Lagoon was magical.
All in all, not a bad place to grow up.
Tell us, friend, where did you grow up?