Childhood Memory Spaces

How Enduring Memories of Childhood Places Shape Our Lives

by Roger C. Aden (Author)
©2018 Monographs X, 210 Pages


Childhood Memory Spaces: How Enduring Memories of Childhood Places Shape Our Lives explores the places adults remember from their childhood. More specifically, it examines the questions "what kinds of places do we remember?" and "why do they linger in our memories?". The answers emerge from a variety of sources, including scholarship in cognitive science, environmental psychology, geography, communication, etc., but they are illustrated primarily through the over 100 stories told by adults who still vividly recall the places where key facets of their identity developed. Those stories reveal both that the answers are significantly more complex than one academic perspective can explain and that profoundly personal narratives can highlight their complexity in ways that scientific and social scientific research alone cannot.
This book meets a need to integrate related, yet independent, lines of research in the natural and social sciences—doing so with a decidedly humanistic touch. Specifically, the book offers an interdisciplinary exploration of how place, memory, and identity intersect as we craft our life stories while seeking what Kenneth Burke called equipment for living with the challenges that life presents along the way.
Weaving theory with personal narratives, Childhood Memory Spaces underscores a fundamental relationship: the stories of our lives are entwined with place, and we understand these stories (and ourselves) by reflecting upon the ways in which these memorable places have shaped, and continue to shape, our lives.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Remembering Places
  • Remembered Places as Equipment for Living
  • Overview of the Book
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2: Foundational Memory Places
  • Sites of Ritual
  • Transcend the Everyday
  • Alive in Our Memories
  • Gaining Perspective
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3: Places of Adventure
  • Sunshine Codeluppi
  • Elaine Hancock
  • Stephanie Hoover
  • Michael James
  • Jennifer A. Mateer
  • Willo Oswald
  • C. Thomas Preston, Jr.
  • Amanda Hailey Spivak
  • Jon Weinlein
  • Suzanne Werkema
  • Alexandra Wilson
  • Jason Woodman
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4: Places of Sanctuary
  • David Bemer
  • Celina Flores
  • Claudia Fridley
  • Laura Gallitz
  • Margaret Hosky
  • Karly Rae Jones
  • Rita Kirkland
  • Max Lent
  • Jerry Miller
  • Robert Razzante
  • Leann Smith
  • Darla Smyth
  • Sarah Stoughton
  • Rebecca Mercado Thornton
  • Stephanie Tikkanen
  • Andrew Wood
  • Notes
  • Chapter 5: Places of Community
  • David Baxter
  • Tom Costello
  • Carmen Eccles
  • Nancy Franz
  • Angela M. Hosek
  • Shaughan A. Keaton
  • Mary Loe
  • Olivia Mirich
  • Harold Rubin
  • Anna Seethaler
  • Casey Viccari
  • Michael J. Weaver
  • Mike Wheeler
  • Barbara J. Williams
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6: Places of Outdoor and Family Connection
  • Nancy G. Barkalow
  • Betsy P. Chaput
  • Paige Collins
  • Dana Garay
  • Ashley Gasparini
  • Ethan Gates
  • Linda J. Girton
  • Jamie Grooms
  • Jeff Howard
  • Melissa Kelly
  • Mitch Longo
  • Laura Martz
  • Lynnsey Nicolai
  • Jan F. Olsen
  • Sarah Parsloe
  • Kate Pellegrini
  • Harold A. Perkins
  • Brittany Peterson
  • Mike Pinali
  • Madison Schlosser
  • John Conner Zimmermann
  • Notes
  • Chapter 7: Places of Generational Presence
  • Marty Acevedo
  • Anonymous
  • Tiffany Bey
  • Paige Brunori
  • Tiffany Bulea
  • Annemarie Conlon
  • Margaret Dermont
  • Massa Alrayes Dunnaville
  • Morgan Harkey
  • Elizabeth Harper
  • Harrison Hightower
  • Alexandra Lindway
  • Anna McGuire
  • Rosalyn McPherson
  • Zach Meyer
  • Patrick Pantloni
  • Saundra Curtis-Patrick
  • Linda L. Reeves
  • Laura Robson
  • Kathleen Sarconi
  • Shane Shuba
  • Brooke Simons
  • Emily Stout
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8: Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Subject Index
  • Name Index

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The inspiration for this book comes from my mother, Harriett Aden, whose story appears in the introductory chapter. She shared her love of stories, her desire to experience places, and her childhood jigsaw puzzle of the United States with me. All of these have no doubt influenced my desire to learn more about how places, memories, and stories converge in our quest to learn more about ourselves, others, and the places which shape our lives.

I owe a huge thank you to all of the individuals whose stories appear in part or whole in the pages that follow. Without their willingness to share their memories, this book could not exist. Through their stories, I have learned much, and for that I am grateful.

My work was supported in many ways by Ohio University. My academic home, the School of Communication Studies, offered supportive colleagues, a semester’s leave to work on the project, and access to students willing to share their stories. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity contributed financial resources and introduced me to the wonderful resource called ResearchMatch (thank you, Chris Hayhow), sponsored by Vanderbilt University.

Finally, I thank my family—my wife Christie and my daughters Brittany, Chelsea, Emmy, and Ellie—for taking me to places and providing me with memories that will, hopefully, last a lifetime.

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“Human identity is somehow tied to location.”1

Some years ago, my mom gave me a wonderful book for a Christmas present. In Once upon a Town, Bob Greene tells the amazing story of North Platte, Nebraska’s efforts during World War II to greet and feed troops heading off to war as they passed through town on the train. “Every day of the year,” Greene writes, “from 5 A.M. until the last troop train of the night had passed through after midnight” the people of North Platte came to the train station to show their appreciation. “The numbers,” he continues, “are almost enough to make you cry”; the town’s 12,000 residents served six million soldiers during their brief 10-minute stops in North Platte.2

Greene’s account revisits not only the remarkable efforts of the town’s citizens, but the everlasting gratitude of the young men who spent just 10 minutes of their lives in a small Nebraska town’s train station. On page after page, the soldiers, now senior citizens, shared with Greene their vivid memories of the people they met in North Platte and the sensory experiences of the place known as the Canteen; many of them, Greene notes, would suddenly break into tears as they recalled their experiences in the Canteen. Edward J. Fouss, for example, stopped at the Canteen as he traveled on a troop ← 1 | 2 → train from the east coast to the west. Even at age 81, and living in Oklahoma, he told Greene, “‘I still see the town.’”3

What, I wondered, would make someone hold on to such a memory for so long? And, how could a mere 10 minutes in a place generate such a profound impression that those memories would elicit powerful recollections of sights, smells, and sounds—even tears? In pondering those questions, I realized that I have my own set of memorable places from my younger days. Like the soldiers who could recall with precision their experiences in the North Platte Canteen from six decades prior, I remember a handful of places from my youth that have somehow found a permanent place in my soul.

As I was growing up, my parents would take my younger brother and me on hikes up Scotts Bluff, a prominent landmark for pioneers traversing the nation along the Oregon and Mormon trails in what is now the Nebraska panhandle. On other days, we would explore the small set of badlands on the east side of the bluff or the other sandstone rock formations across the road. On occasion, we would venture farther west on a day trip to visit Fort Laramie, which is now a national historic site in Wyoming, but in the latter half of the 1800s was the last chance for pioneers to rest and re-stock before they crossed the Rocky Mountains on their pilgrimages west.

We didn’t venture far from home in my younger days, but like a Dr. Seuss character, I imagined the places I would go when I was older. I came by this wanderlust naturally because my mental travels were prompted by my mom’s circa 1950 childhood puzzle of the 48 United States that I incessantly worked (while wondering what secrets the symbols on each state represented; Nebraska’s piece featured the not very alluring set of an ear of corn, a stalk of wheat, and a pig) as well as her View-Master slides of scenic and historical places across the United States. My feelings were probably not unlike my mom’s, who shared this account with me:

My favorite place as a child growing up in Scottsbluff, NE would have to be the enclosed porch of my grandparents’ home which housed a bench style rocker. Hours and hours were spent on that rocker—sitting with either or both of my grandparents, with my mother or playing with cousins who came to visit.

My grandparents sat on that rocker—talked, sang, read—together and often included me. When cousins came to visit there was always a time when we sat in that rocker either giggling over something or pretending to have a grand adventure.

The most special moments, though, were those with my mother. My mother was widowed when I was 10 and we lived in the basement apartment of my grandparents’ house. Sunday afternoons were our special times together and I would “help” her work a crossword puzzle or more often “take a trip.” ← 2 | 3 →

My mother bought a View-Master for me and it was this pastime which took us to visit places we had heard of, but never seen. Mom and I would look through our choices and decide where we were “going” that particular day.

This was our window on the world—our first view of a skyscraper, the monuments in Washington D.C., the giant redwoods of California, the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, the caves of Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the rocks found in Garden of the Gods in Colorado, the oceans—what wonders the world held. All of this was available to a 10-year-old girl through the workings of a View-Master and the attention of a loving parent.


X, 210
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. X, 210 pp.

Biographical notes

Roger C. Aden (Author)

Roger C. Aden (Ph.D., University of Nebraska) is a professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University. He is the author of three other books, most recently Upon the Ruins of Liberty: Slavery, the President’s House at Independence National Historical Park, and Public Memory.


Title: Childhood Memory Spaces
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