There is something magical about watching a city grow. It doesn’t happen over night, and if you’re not watching carefully – you might not even see it. For almost two decades, this Boone baby has admired the changes in Columbia.
I’ve been here for a while. I caught pizza dough from the bearded men at Shakespeare’s before it was a chain. I rode my Big Wheels across Stephen’s College’s wobbly bridge before it was reinforced. I stocked Cool Stuff’s shelves with the world’s largest underwear and Jesus action figures, when I worked there one summer. I gorged myself on strawberry milk and raw cookie dough from Eastgate grocery store before it was replaced. And though occasionally melancholia sets in that an old favorite is gone – the living organism that is this city always morphs into something even more beautiful.
The greatest thing about Columbia though, is that it never forgets its roots. Every change that happens is celebrated and mourned in the same breath.
Take the Daniel Boone Regional Library, for instance. When I was young, it was small. They shut it down for a year and housed the books in an IBM building. After all the changes, they grew and grew, and now, they are a focal point of glass and art. A modern sculpture installation by renowned artist Albert Paley greets visitors at the front door, while the well-known “flying french fries” stationed in the parking lot across the street waves people in. Inside, the spirit was the same. It still felt like a little, homey book-nook. They kept their roots, and even invited other Columbians inside by serving Lakota’s coffee and Upper Crust’s baked goods in the lobby.
As stated on Central Dairy’s website, the dairy brand became a household name when it was started in Columbia in 1920, by Dot Sappington. The beautiful, stone Central Dairy building downtown, was built in 1927, according to the National Register of Historic Places. When they moved their ice cream to Jefferson City (sob!), the façade was kept and an appliance store went in. Although Central Dairy is no longer a Columbia eatery, they are still engrained in our history. Recently, too, a huge mural went in above the building, that shows three cows enjoying a Missouri morning. Of course, in true Central Dairy fashion, there still remains a pink cow for strawberry ice cream and an orange striped cow for Columbia’s own, Tiger Stripe ice cream, just above the Alpine Shop.
The Rome, a perfect third date place, had the best doggone pasta around. And though their old awning no longer stands, and their building is gone, the new apartment complex that is going in may have the restaurant be replaced in the first floor. According to the Rome’s website, they are “currently closed during building renovations.” New heights, but old date nights.
Even the so-called “Garage Mahal” that rose up in the Columbia skyline, took care to keep the town’s spirit. If you take the stairs, you will see each window has been colored a certain shade of blue. The blues were taken from photos of the Columbia sky, and each window has the time and date it was taken, along with words of wisdom laid out in in careful white letters.
Booches still closes on Sunday and will never, ever serve fries – but they’ve added more seating for families and college kids. Sparky’s ice cream still boasts creepy clown canvases, but now, is open 365-ish days a year.
The city is changing; it’s true. Buildings are taller, companies are bigger and now everyone has to learn to drive in a diverging diamond, but Columbians are doing a grand job keeping the old and the new. One is not more important than the other. Memories are sweet, and they deserve preservation. I am proud of my city for growing with dignity, and expanding without ever losing our roots. Call me a Columbia kid for life.