Neighbors: There's something special about your old hometown

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

There’s always something special about your old hometown. Many of you have written Neighbors about them.

Now, as 2018 is about to become a memory, it seems appropriate to give you this poem.

It was written several years ago by Colleen (Donahue) Witte, of Sugar Land, Texas, for her book titled “Little Fragments, Little Crumbs.” It offers her memories of her youthful days in Hannaford, N.D., near Cooperstown.

It was sent to Neighbors by Colleen’s husband, Thomas Witte.


The Town on the Hill


“You can’t bring it back like it was” they say,

Of that town that sits on a hill,

Where I lived those days as a little girl;

Where my memories past are living still.


Ah, but I still bring it back and live sometimes

And play as in days before

When in memory I hear how Mama would call

My name as I came through the door.

Where could I have lived that was better than there

Where everyone knew my name?

You could count on the people — so familiar the place —


For all of it stayed the same.

Those genuine people would greet me with cheer

As to school I would make my way;

And folks would stop and give you a ride

On a cold and freezing day.

The summers were hot and the grass was green


And the birds would sing all the day.

Children would bike and swim in the creek —

“Til late in the evening they’d play!

All wet with sweat and the smell of outdoors,

I’d run in the house to get

Some ball or hoop or other such thing

For the sun hadn’t gone down yet!


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“Mama, please, can Ginger spend the night?

Can we sleep out tonight, Mama, please?

We’ll not make noises late in the night

Nor run through the town at leave!”


There, neighbors were neighbors who came to your door

And kindly offered their help and more

To a family stricken with illness or grief

Or a family poor, needling relief.

And my daddy smelled sweet at the end of the day

When he’d shave and clean up in the sink.

He would make all the sadness of life go away

With a smile, a touch and a wink!!

I remember the feel of the hot cement

On my tender, bare feet

And the feel of the sharp and jagged rocks

On the newly graveled street.

The sun shining down on a new-mown lawn

And the birds singing in the trees.

I was free and young and full of life

As only a child can be!

Dear God, had I only known back then

Just how precious those people were

That You sent my way, in my childhood days

In the time of my budding years.

I can’t bring it back — can’t thank them now

For many are now gone away —

Either far, far away or gone to the grave

Where none can hear what I say.

Such a careless child I was back then

Unworthy of gifts You had given.

I scattered them all like the autumn leaves —

For this, is my thoughtless heart riven.

I ask Thee, my God, Thy grace to bestow

On those I did so long ago know,

And to bless the little town that sets on the hill

And to call the dear souls that I treasure still

That they honor and love You and do Thy will —

To see You and find You — their hearts to fill.

Thomas, while sending in Colleen’s poem, also tells of her family.

Her parents were the late Jim and Marjorie Donahue, of Hannaford. Her maternal grandparents were Albert and Louise Johnson, also of Hannaford.

The Ginger mentioned in her poem is her lifelong friend who was born the day after Colleen in December 1948. Ginger’s parents were the late Al and Bernice Aalgaard, Hannaford.

Thomas says Colleen lived in Hannaford from birth until after she graduated from high school.

So there you have memories of and a salute to Hannaford, to which Neighbors sends a salute too, as well as to all those old hometowns out there.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email

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