Back in the last century, 1955 to be exact, a folk singer named Pete Seeger wrote a song born of the “Ban the Bomb” movement and the never-ending cycle of war, death and those left behind to repeat the folly.
A decade later, the revival of folk music collided with “hell no, we won’t go” protests and became an anthem for the anti-Vietnam War generation.
Mr. Seeger named his tune “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Remember the words?
“Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?”
It goes on to answer its own questions as the verses are revealed.
“Where have all the flowers gone? Young girls have picked them, every one. Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?
“Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing? Where have all the young girls gone, a long long time ago? Where have all the young girls gone? Gone for husbands everyone.
“Oh, when will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?”
There are three more verses. The lyrics suppose the young girls picked the flowers for the boys who became their husbands who become soldiers who go to battlefield and then to graveyard, every one.
What becomes of those graveyards? The musical answer suggests the futility of it all.
“Where have all the graveyards gone? Gone to flowers, every one” as the next generation of young girls and their soldier husbands play out the never-ending story.
The irony posed in Mr. Seeger’s lyrics fit another cycle of absurdity of loss playing out in our town right now.
The ongoing demolition of gracious and historic homes for which Chagrin Falls is famous.
They are the reasons why people want to move to Chagrin Falls but not into its old houses. Developers and builders are only too happy to oblige by buying them then painting targets on them.
The latest candidate for rubble is the landmark house at the top of Grove Hill which, according to its recent buyer has, overnight, lost its value from the half-million dollars to a worthless wreck that must be torn down.
The math makes perfect sense when you consider the new property owner turned demolition applicant is a developer to whom a half-million dollars is chump change, considering the profit from three new houses he can squeeze onto the vacant land the bulldozer left behind.
Back to the late great Pete Seeger. In addition to being a much loved singer-songwriter, he was a dedicated preservationist whose activism saved the Hudson River and resulted in passage of the federal Clean Water Act.
He died in 2014 at the age of 94. Wonder what he might have to say about our “only in Chagrin Falls” demolition epidemic?
Let’s try to imagine what he and a few other songwriters might come up with. To the tune of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” might go something like this:
“Where have all the old homes gone, built so long ago? Gone to bulldozers, sad but true. When will they ever learn?
“And what did all those dozers make? Gone to useless rubble Bubble. It’s so predictable. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
“Now where has our Bubble rubble gone? Long time passing. Gone to landfills everyone. When will they ever learn.
“And what about the old home’s lot, long time stabilized, that clay hill lot split into many. Houses on every one, slip slide’n’ away, slip slide’n’ away.
“When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?’”