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Goodbye Concord smokestack

I was suprised at how sad I was to see workers knocking down the Cowell Smokestack on Tuesday (or grainstack — whatever it was used for). Growing up in this area, it was one of the few real monuments that clashed enough with suburbia to make the landscape a bit more interesting. Ever since I was a kid, I always liked the fact that they left it there, right in the middle of the suburbs — whether it was a reminder that homeowner’s associations didn’t always rule this part of the planet, or just because it was a unique way to gauge where you were in relation.

But I’d never been to the smokestack’s base, making it a bit mysterious to me all these years. I’ve lived close enough to see it daily for a couple years now, and always meant to go explore. Then I saw them knocking the thing down Tuesday, and realized the window was closing.

So my family and I went Wednesday night, about 9:30 p.m. My wife, who grew up in Concord, also hadn’t been to the base. It didn’t take long to find; at the end of a street, in a park lit up by nearby tennis courts, just yards from houses. Where they’ve probably been wearing helmets 24-7 since the concrete started chipping off the old guy.

My kids were fascinated, especially once they started questioning the security guard. We weren’t the only ones; there were cars pulling away and pulling up, perhaps people who also realized they’d never seen the stack up close and wanted to say good-bye.

It definitely looked like it was on its deathbed. Half ot it was already chipped away. Heavy equipment filled the end of the street, fenced off to the public. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the old boy, surviving for decades as a local landmark and being destroyed day-by-day. The security guard had to chase off a couple of guys who climbed the fence and were mulling around the equipment, which really excited my kids. They said they had “never seen real crime before.” Obviously, they’ve never dealt with a credit card company.

The kids said they want to come back this week, but I think it’s a bit too sad. I know it’s a tough decision in this economy to spend millions on restoring landmarks having no practical use, but I wish someone could’ve found a way. I know it was just an old, albeit giant, concrete tube, but in the quickly developing suburbs, that should qualify as an historical landmark. Too many things we identify with growing up around here are disappearing before we even stop to appreciate them.

Posted by on June 18, 2009.

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Categories: Uncategorized

6 Responses

  1. It is sad to see the Cowell Cement stack come down. It is a part of history. Glad to hear that you took my grand children to see it before it isn’t there anymore.

    by celeste mansfield on Jun 18, 2009 at 11:30 am

  2. I can relate. I grew up and still live in Concord. My dad taught me how to drive a car under the shadow of that great stack. I heard they were talking about tearing it down, but didn’t realize it was already underway. I wonder if a person could get a chunk of it?

    by Cindy Barnett on Jun 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  3. Very sad indeed. I can remember when they were just beginning to build that surrounding development. All that was there was the smokestack and bulldozers.

    Alas. What’s next, Jolly Beef Burgers? Oh wait, that’s now El Faro.

    by heyjoe on Jun 19, 2009 at 11:52 am

  4. Jolly’s?! Oh man, I remember when Jolly’s was at the corner of Ygnacio and Civic when I was a kid. I LOVED that place. Was there a Jolly’s in Concord?
    Though you have to admit, worse things could replace Jolly’s than El Faro. That’s some seriously good food.

    by Tony Hicks on Jun 19, 2009 at 11:57 am

  5. I thought about getting a chunk too – but apparently they’re throwing all the concrete back over the fence so no one can get to it. At least that was the case Wednesday night.

    by Tony Hicks on Jun 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm

  6. I used to inspect concrete and asphalt…still got my hardhat and vest… ;)

    by Cindy Barnett on Jun 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm

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After moving to Hollywood and failing miserably at becoming a rock star (his band was once upstaged by a punk rock dwarf; another time by a salad bar), Tony Hicks has written about music and pop culture for the Times since 1996. A local boy who once delivered the Times while growing up in Walnut [...]more →