Exploring the past with Google Earth & Google Street View

Did you know?

I think it was the movie Logan’s Run where the camera pans the city and we see that McDonald’s has bought everything—McDonald’s Auto Dealership, McDonald’s Groceries, McDonald’s Drug Store, McDonald’s Gas Station, and, of course, a McDonald’s burger palace….

If I were to lay odds on something like that happening within the next fifty years, I would go 2 to 1 on Google, and 3 to 1 on Apple (Apple’s problems with the iPhone 6 might cause me to redo those odds….).

I didn’t jump on the Google bandwagon until 2008 when I started blogging. Previously, I was MapQuest instead of Google Maps, Yahoo! search instead of Google search….

Zoey the Cool CatTwo really cool Google programs that I discovered a couple of years ago when I started blogging at WordPress are Google Street View and Google Earth. Using both of those programs, from the comfort of my home with Zoey the Cool Cat resting comfortably on the printer, I was able to visit all the places I had ever lived. I didn’t remember all the addresses, but with Street View, I didn’t have to. I just had to remember what streets led where.

Here are the places where I lived for the first 18 years of life on Earth:

802 West Alice Avenue; Kingsville, Texas; 1955-1956
This was my maternal grandparents’ house and where we were living when I was born. Both of these grandparents were teachers, and I had my grandmother for English in ninth grade. One of the reasons I chose not to go to Texas A&I University in Kingsville was because, by that time, my grandmother was teaching required freshman English at A&I, and my granddad was teaching required physical education. After my experience in ninth grade, I was pretty determined never to have a relative as a teacher again….
802 West Alice Avenue, Kingsville Texas

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

728 Santa Barbara Drive; Kingsville, Texas; 1956-1959
This was the first home I remember, although all I remember is that the birds used to fly into the windows (barely visible) under the roof eaves at the front right. I felt so sorry every time I found a dead bird. They did get a proper funeral from this little boy.
728 Santa Barbara Drive, Kingsville Texas

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

302 Inwood Drive; Palestine Texas; 1960-1961
My dad got a promotion with Missouri Pacific Railroad, but it required us to move from Kingsville to Palestine. I remember that I used to love running up and down the front steps to the street.
This was the house we were living in when my dad killed himself because of my mom’s indiscretions. I spent 43 years looking for this house and finally found the address in 2012 on my dad’s death certificate, available online at ancestry.com. No one could (would) tell me the address because I had been lied to all my life about my dad’s death. I suppose they thought that if I found the address, I would find out the truth about my dad’s death.
302 Inwood Drive Palestine Texas

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

185 S 100 W; Brigham City, Utah; 1961-1963
This was where we moved after my dad’s death. (This is the current address; I don’t know if it was the address when we lived there.) Mom’s family were Mormons living in northern Utah and southern Idaho.
This house was directly behind Food Town grocery store, which became Food King and is now named Smith’s Food King. Food Town/Food King is where my juvenile crime career started.
Mom turned to alcohol to deal with my dad’s death, which meant that we three children got neither love nor discipline, much less food. I stole lots of food from Food Town/Food King. Back in 1979, when I went to a family reunion in Utah, I went by and made restitution to the best of my recollection.
185 S 100 W Brigham City Utah

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

626 S 600 W; Brigham City, Utah; 1963
After mom remarried, we moved into the house where my stepdad and his family had lived for several years. We stayed only a few months before moving to a new home that was big enough for two adults and seven children.
I don’t remember much about this home other than it used to have a big, beautiful tree out front where I used to sit and read—Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children, The Secret Garden.
626 S 600 W, Brigham City Utah

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

301 Englewood Drive; Brigham City, Utah; 1963-1965
This is where we moved after mom remarried. My stepdad also was an alcoholic, so life wasn’t any better as far as love, discipline, and food went. My oldest stepsister and I were physically and verbally abused—endlessly—and I can’t say that I was unhappy to leave the family when my wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965.
301 Englewood Drive, Brigham City Utah

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

420 West Alice Avenue; Kingsville, Texas; 1965-1973
Back to Kingsville, and just four blocks from where my family was living when I was born.
My wise old grandmotherThis was my wise old grandmother’s house. Granddad worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad several hundred miles away in Taylor, Texas. He came home every other weekend, so it was up to my wise old grandmother to give me love, discipline, and food, and turn me from my juvenile ways. I think she succeeded.
The house still has the storm shutters (hurricane country) which my granddad and I installed in 1968 after Hurricane Beulah blew Kingsville apart in September 1967.
I also planted the two oak trees in the front yard at the same time because Beulah destroyed our mesquite, ash, and hackberry trees. I chose oak because oak and palm trees were the only trees to survive Beulah, and I disliked palm trees (still do).
420 West Alice Avenue, Kingsville Texas

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

All of the pictures are from Google Street View. You have to admit that they are decent pictures for historical purposes!

Google Earth is a free program and a lot of fun.

Google Street View is simply part of Google Maps, so when you go to Google Maps, after entering an address, simply click on the picture that shows up under the address; the picture has “Street View” in the lower left corner to help.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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31 thoughts on “Exploring the past with Google Earth & Google Street View

  1. ViewPacific

    You’re fortunate. I’ve done similar searching of my past and have discovered the most of my tracks have been covered. (No, not train tracks). Many of the places where I lived have been torn down or converted to something else. It’s helped me see the truth in the saying – you can’t go back. I’m not sure that I’d want to go back to the past, although it is interesting to visit once in awhile.

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  2. DailyMusings

    What an awesome post. I love Google Earth and Google maps, but I have lived in the same town for 50 years, and the house I grew up in was torn down years ago, before Google earth was around. Such an interesting history and I am glad your grandmother adopted you from what sounds like a rather hellish childhood.

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      1. DailyMusings

        ah just another myth that has been disproven- we are all just human flesh and blood despite what beliefs we may hold. Alcohol can most certainly bring out the worst in people- I have seen it in my own family too.

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  3. Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

    Russel Ray, you are a brave soul. And I think after all you have been through, you are very interesting because of it! Whew! I like the google map way of tracing your path. I really do. Would make a good little zine. Also I like your reference to “Logan’s Run,” a movie I refer to occasionally and no one knows what I am talking about. Great post!!!!

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  4. Pingback: How Do You Visit The Past? You “Google Street View” It… | Steve Says...

  5. Naomi Baltuck

    HI Russel,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us, and in such a unique way. My mom used to take us on The Terror Tour every time we visited her in Detroit, which meant crowding us all into her car with a gas gauge that didn’t work and a back door lock that didn’t work, and then taking us around to every house she ever lived in, most of which were in the inner city of Detroit.
    My heart really goes out to you–I was eight when my father took the same course of action, albeit for different reasons. I’m sure you had a much rougher childhood than I, but even if you move on as we all must, it leaves its mark.
    Best wishes,
    Naomi

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      After working in Detroit from May-November 1994, I can imagine what that was like. While I was working there, I actually walked from downtown Detroit to Farmington Hills on 10 (Lodge Freeway). It was really depressing because Detroit already at that time was failing.

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      1. Naomi Baltuck

        There are still places along Grand River that have been boarded up since the ’67 riots. It’s very sad, because there were and still are some amazing things in Detroit. I have fond memories of canoeing on Belle Isle, checking out stacks of books from the elegant Main Library in downtown Detroit, admiring the medieval suits of armor in the Detroit Art Institute. But the two houses that I lived in were in neighborhoods where every other house was burnt out or boarded up, with trash scattered all over the streets. It’s a better place to be from than to live in, but it’s where my folks are buried and it still tugs a teeny bit at the roots when I read about it.

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          1. Naomi Baltuck

            Yeah, it’s very sad. You were pretty brave to be out walking around in some of those neighborhoods. There are blocks in my old neighborhood where there are more burnt out and boarded up homes than occupied ones. But in between the last visit and the one before it, I think there was some improvement. A once vacant lot a couple blocks down now has a community garden growing in it, and there were some signs of home improvement here or there.

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  6. Photos With Finesse

    That’s quite the bio – glad you succeeded despite the early years. That was a lot of fun! I just went and ‘visited’ Fort St. John where I lived for 7 years from 1969 to 1976. The houses have barely changed. Yet all around the primary house I lived in Calgary (1976 to 1983), there are additions and extensions on nearly every house – except ours. They’ve even kept paint and trim colours the same!

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  7. philosophermouseofthehedge

    What a great personal history idea. Amazing all your houses are still there. My main kid house was bulldozed. Palestine! I’ve decided every living person has some connection to that place – being a big RR town probably is the reason. My parents retired there. I probably passed that house at one time or another ( you know how big the place is)
    Oaks are always the best choice for trees to plant – we’ve planted them/had them at every house. Just wonderful trees to climb

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