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Childhood Memory Demolition Team

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Subtle as only a Texas businessman can be.

"The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried.
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died."
The Kinks, "Come Dancing"

You know that big tree you used to play in as a kid? Well, you're twelve now, so you're old enough for the Childhood Memory Demolition Team to arrive and tear it down to build a new suburb/highway/bypass/parking lot/skyscraper.

This demolition is often planned when a character is about to leave their childhood. The Memory is usually a house, an orphanage, sometimes even a small apartment building. If it's a big tree, expect a bonus Green Aesop. Whatever it is, it has great emotional value to the protagonist and friends.

Expect the young protagonist to have flashbacks and then try to protest the demolition team with mixed results. Temporary hold-offs like chaining yourself to the tree and deception will at first appear not to work. Eventually, the Childhood Memory Demolition Team will give up due to The Power of Friendship — or they will succeed, giving the protagonist the Aesop that nothing lasts forever and you should sometimes let go of things.

See also You Can't Go Home Again, It's All Junk, Death by Newbery Medal, End of an Age.

Not to be confused with the apostles of Rule 34, who tend to ruin childhood memories in an altogether different fashion.

Compare Saving the Orphanage and Community-Threatening Construction where it's more than someone's childhood memories being destroyed. Doomed Hometown is an even broader version, largely used to boot the hero on his way to a life of adventure.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Candy♡Candy. Subverted as the tree gets relocated to a rich guy whose hobby is tree climbing (no, not that one...)
  • In the Magical Play episode "How Distant the Showa Era Has Grown," a group of kids, including the son of Nononon's host family, Kazuhiko, go to play in a vacant lot, only to find it being bulldozed. The kids reveal to Nononon that this was the last vacant lot around, and now they have no place to play baseball. After they leave, Nononon uses her powers to create some ghosts that chase off the construction crew. The next morning, she excitedly brings Kazuhiko to the lot to show him what she's done, but the construction crew had come back by then.
  • In CLANNAD, there are Tomoyo's sakura trees, later also Akio's field, and Tomoya's school building. Change, memories, and loss are a recurring themes in the story.
    • Also a Key VN, Kanon has a tree cut down after Yuichi left town. It's tied to his Repressed Memories though, so having it still up may have caused problems for his sanity much earlier.
  • In Sailor Moon there was a garden and park that the girls loved that were about to get bulldozed for office space, and the caretaker who is trying to convince the big bad bulldozers to stop becomes the Victim of the Week.

    Films — Animated 
  • The mind workers in Riley's brain in Inside Out demolish old areas, like an area with princesses and castles, as Riley grows older. They also throw away old memories to make room for new ones.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Forrest Gump has the titular character watching the bulldozing of the house Jenny spent her childhood in. What make this unusual is that unlike most examples of this trope the childhood memories Jenny had there were not happy ones as her father was sexually abusive to her and her sister — in fact, when Forrest and Jenny had previously gone for a walk and came across the by-then-abandoned house Jenny goes deathly silent before she starts throwing her shoes and whatever rocks she could find at the house before collapsing to her knees sobbing. Even Forrest understood that she hated that house and what it stood for her, which is why he's the one who arranges the house to be bulldozed and tells Jenny about it (or rather, her grave since it comes after Jenny dies of what is implied to be AIDS).
    Forrest: (narrating) Sometimes, there just isn't enough rocks.
  • In The Goonies, Astoria's evil realtors want to turn the main characters' house and possibly the entire town into a country club.
  • Played with in Grosse Pointe Blank. John Cusack's character returns to his home town to find that his old house has been razed and a convenience store put in its place. He then helps demolish that building when an attempt is made on his life. Or rather his presence leads to it being blown up. He does take the effort to save the young (oblivious) clerk. Also, the Demolition Team (or Realtor) was in fact his best friend from high school:
    Paul: Yeah, I, uh... actually brokered the deal on that.
    Martin: WOW...
    Paul: Hey, I tried to get a family in there, but Ultimart made the best offer.
    Martin: Well thank you for profiting off my childhood.
  • At one point in Sniper, the title character is told that the old fishing hole in his hometown is now a parking lot. The fact that he has to be told this is a sign that he's never been back there.
  • One of the Beethoven sequels has the family keeping the dog go on a roadtrip with the father attempting to relive his (heavily Nostalgia Filtered) childhood trip. Disaster ensues (criminals follow them, one of the parks was taken over by a Japanese company, the RV loses its windshield...) Towards the end the dad breaks down since the trip wasn't that great the first time either (their dog was carsick).

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent's house (which may not have been the house he grew up in, but never mind...) is destroyed to make way for a motorway. Later that day, the Earth, which was definitely the planet Arthur Dent grew up on, was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace express route. It got better several times, but was destroyed again each time.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman did this to Frodo and the hobbits out of malice over his defeat at Isengard. He had his goons tear down trees, destroy buildings, and foul the river of the Shire out of sheer spite. Tolkien's portrayal of the Shire and what happened to it was based on memories of his own childhood Arcadia, the village of Sarehole in Birmingham, and how it was ruined by the encroachment of industrial society.
  • Played to an almost tear-jerking level in The Pendragon Adventure. Bobby's entire motive for the first book was to save Uncle Press and go home to Second Earth. Upon his return he finds that not only is his family, dog, and house gone, but every document, memento, or any miscellaneous item proving their existence has been wiped from existence. Travelers don't have histories, and Bobby goes through a Despair Event Horizon when he sees that even the tree he used to swing from is free from any rope-marks.
  • Occurs almost invisibly in The Virgin Suicides. The Lisbon daughters struggle to keep a diseased tree in their front yard from being cut down by local authorities.
  • In Lily and Dunkin, Lily learns that her favorite banyan tree, Bob, is due to be chopped down to make room for a playground. She puts a sign on the site urging people to protest and writes a letter to the mayor. When that doesn't work, she spends a day and a night tree-sitting. To no avail. Bob is chopped down the next morning.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Harper's Woods in The Wonder Years, a rather heart-breaking example too. Kevin and his friends do try to save it, but the one chance to protest it at a board meeting they fall asleep and the next one is too far away to do anything about it. Ultimately they decide to play in the forest one more time before it's demolished.
  • Night Gallery, "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar".
  • That's So Raven, "On Top Of Old Oaky". The tree ends up falling at the end. "And now Old Oaky is on top of you."
  • Wishbone, "Homer Sweet Homer". A forest with a old tree that served as a childhood memory for Joe, especially because his now deceased dad used to take him there. They manage to save it.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody have one with a Revolutionary War era tree. The tree is saved.
  • The Brady Bunch with a park. The park is saved.
  • Good Luck Charlie: The parents make a deal with their neighbor: If they cut down their tree she will agree to bring her noisy dog in at night. The two oldest kids, Teddy and PJ are had a treehouse when they were kids and they want their kid sister to have the same experience, so they are against it. In the end, the parents decide not to have it cut down, only for the tree to end up falling down. Then it turns out the annoying dog didn't belong to said neighbor; it was a Batman Gambit just to get them to get rid of the tree. This actually happened twice.
  • Mad Men has an episode highlighting how the demolition of old Penn Station to make way for Madison Square Garden was seen as this by many New Yorkers. Don, who's from Central Pennsylvania, and a few others who aren't from New York can't bring themselves to care as much as those who were raised in or near the city.
  • Inverted in an episode of Time Trax when Darien has a case in his childhood home town. Since he's 200 years in the past, none of the places of his childhood memories exist yet. The hospital he was born in, for example, was built on a lot that held a strip mall in the 1990s.
  • In Cheers episode "The Last Angry Mailman", Cliff is devastated when he finds out his mother is about to sell his childhood home, and chains himself to a pillar to stop it. Mom Clavin was originally enticed by the money, but is so moved by Cliff's passion that she decides to fight the sale—until the pillar gives out and half the house collapses, at which point they both write it off as a dump.
  • Invoked Trope in Westworld when Ford, the creator of Westworld, takes Cullen to a restaurant and she belatedly realises that not only is it the same restaurant she visited as a child, but she's sitting in the exact same chair. All the android staff then freeze in place and Bad Vibrations start as a massive earthmoving machine moves in to demolish the place. It's clearly meant by Ford as a warning to Cullen not to mess with him.
  • The Wire has a rather cynical version in "Time After Time". The whole neighborhood gathers to watch the demolition of some high-rise housing projects. Most people are glad to see them go, even those who grew up there, because they had been a focal point for some of the worst drug and violent crime in the city. Small-time dealer Poot, however, expresses sadness and nostalgia, mainly because that was where he lost his virginity. His friend Bodie mocks him for his promiscuous reputation, and Bodie says the real tragedy is that they're about to lose a prime drug market.
    Bodie: Man, why didn't you say? They probably wouldn't be tearing this tower down now. They could put a big-ass sign in the front. "Here's where Malik Carr first got his dick wet."

  • Happens in Styx's 1980 album Paradise Theatre during the instrumental break on "Halfpenny, Twopenny." If you listen very carefully, you can hear the sounds of the demolition crew setting up and a few people having fond memories of the place over the bassline, the piano, and a bell tolling a death-knell. This is set up in the song "Lonely People", where a voice at the beginning says, "I tell you, Irma...I can't wait until they tear that damn old theater down."
  • Naturally, this is mentioned in the extended version of "Photograph" by Nickelback, albeit only in the extended version.
    Remember the old arcade
    blew every dollar that we ever made
    the cops hated us hanging out
    they say somebody went and burned it down
  • "Big Yellow Taxi", originally by Joni Mitchell, covered by numerous others. They "paved paradise and put up a parking lot," although the song doesn't really specify what place the narrator was referring to as paradise. Word of God has it:
    I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song.
  • The Kinks' "Come Dancing" is about the singer remembering the old dance hall and how his sister spent her adolescence going to it.
  • The Lonestar song "Everything's Changed" is about the singer talking with an ex-girlfriend who moved away about how this has happened to their hometown in the years since she left.
    They put up a plant where we used to park
    That ol' drive-in's a new Wal-Mart
    The cafe is closed where our names were carved on that corner booth
    Yeah, everything's changed except for the way I feel about you
  • Lissie's "Mountaintop Removal":
    My darling my dear / I tell you what is wrong
    I went to the mountain / But the mountain top was gone
    Remember those trees / Where as kids we dreamed
    They tore em down years ago / And built a factory
  • The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone" "I went back to Ohio/ and my city was gone..."
  • "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" by Joe South
    But there's a six-lane highway down by the creek
    Where I went skinny-dippin' as a child
    And a drive-in show where the meadow used to grow
    And the strawberries used to grow wild
    There's a drag strip down by the riverside
    Where my grandma's cow used to graze
    Now, the grass don't grow and the river don't flow
    Like it did in my childhood days
  • Adriano Celentano's song "Il ragazzo della via Gluck" is about this:
    Là dove c'era l'erba, ora c'è una città [Where there was grass, now there is a city]
    e quella casa in mezzo al verde [and this house in the middle of the green]
    ormai dove sarà? [where could it be?]

  • Random Assault: When Alex's mom or stepmom left the abusive boyfriend, all of the Southpark characters out of modeling clay that he worked so hard on were destroyed. (Episode 1)

    Video Games 
  • The BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! event Sundays at a Distant Park reveals that Hagumi and Kasumi became Childhood Friends while playing at the same park together, but were separated when the park was bulldozed to create a community centre. When they find out what happened, they're sad at first that the beloved park from their childhood is gone. However, their mood lifts when they realise that the community centre puts on a lot of shows and events for kids, so it's still creating new fun memories for the new generation, just in a different way.
  • Beastieball: The Beastieball League is this to both the protagonist as well as Riley, intending to destroy the nature preserve they spent most of their childhood in to build a stadium in its place. Fighting to stop them is a major aspect of the game's story.
  • The Night of the Rabbit: After returning to Jerry's home after a long time skip you see one near the woods with purpose to cut it down to make way for expanding city.
    Jerry: The city looks like a huge gray wave rolling toward me.
  • Variant in Persona 3: the old couple who form the Hierophant Social Link are desperate to save a persimmon tree planted on the school grounds. (Their late son's class planted it.) Follow through their Social Link, however, and they come to accept that it needs to go for the school to expand. In the FES expansion, the Hierophant epilogue reveals that an anonymous signature campaign convinced the school administrators to move the tree to a hill overlooking the school.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Wharf Horse", Tina protests the demolition of the merry-go-round at Wonder Wharf, even letting Louise chain her to her favorite horse to keep it from being destroyed. Gene and Louise aren't as attached to the decrepit old ride (with its creepy deformed horses like "Mr. Goiter" and "Henry Human-Feet") as their horse-loving older sister, and only help her out because she's family (and for their own amusement).
  • Hey Arnold! does this in at least two episodes, once with a tree (which is saved) and once with a theater (which is also saved). In The Movie, the neighborhood is saved.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • Subverted when Timmy goes back in time to acquire the deed to Dimmsdale Flats, a place his father loved as a child. When he gets back to the present, his father promptly sells it to the developers, because he realized that his childhood wasn't as great as he thought it was. (In fact, his exact words were "My childhood stank!") The name of the company was in fact the Tearing Down Your Most Cherished Childhood Memories Construction Company.
    • Played straight in the live-action movie. Hugh J. Magnate Jr. orders his men to tear down Dimmsdale Park so he can build an oil well, in spite of Tootie chaining herself to the dogwood tree in the middle of the park. Timmy wishes for Magnate's bulldozers and chainsaws to break down, and later wishes for the park to be restored to the beautiful playground it once was.
  • In an episode of Recess, the kids tried to protect their ages old jungle gym from being demolished and replaced because it was old and rusty (thus, it was named "Old Rusty"). When the demolishers try to appeal to the parents to allow them to do so, the parents have their own memories of having played on it. They all climb up on the jungle gym in a show of solidarity. The combined weight of all the people on the jungle gym ends up destroying it, but the construction crew ends up replacing it with a model that is in every way the same, except less dangerous (and so, it was renamed "New Rusty"). So, both aspects of this trope are subverted.
  • One episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon centered around Lydia trying to save a tree she loved from being cut down to make room for a highway. When chaining herself to the tree doesn't work, she gets Beetlejuice to scare away the construction workers. When that doesn't work, Beetlejuice gets a magic rope from the Neitherworld to bring the tree to life. The tree then it quite literally gets up and walks to the playground, where it replants itself and becomes very happy when all the children start playing on and around it.
  • In the Christmas Special The Christmas Tree, Mrs. Mavilda, the owner of an orphanage, plans to cut down a huge evergreen tree on the grounds, mostly because the orphans like to play around it and she wants to keep them from going outside (she gambled away the money the town donated to buy them new clothes). What she doesn't know is that the orphans believe the tree is magical and even named it Mrs. Hopewell. When the guy Mrs. Mavilda hired to do the deed shows up, her assistant, Mrs. Kindle, and the orphans stand in front of the tree, refusing to let it be cut down. Fortunately, the mayor happens to show up and puts a stop to the tree-cutting. He even makes the tree a piece of town property so that it can never be cut down, and makes it the official town Christmas Tree.
  • There was an episode of Doug where Doug and some other boys were throwing rocks at some old houses that were about to be demolished. Doug got a lucky shot in and not just broke a window, but flattened a whole house. The guys were impressed, but his crush, Patty told him he was "terrible". It's revealed her family used to live in that house when she was little and her mom was still alive. Doug makes it up to her by salvaging the door knocker from the house, which turns out to actually be the one from the neighbor house, but it's the thought that counts.
  • In the animated Peanuts special Snoopy's Reunion, it's revealed that a parking garage was built on top of the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm in the years since Charlie Brown got Snoopy.
    Charlie Brown: They're parking on your memories!
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Shriek", Bruce Wayne fights against Derek Powers' plan to mow over Crime Alley so he'll never forget his parent's murder. Despite Powers now being the CEO of Wayne-Powers (as the name suggests, formed by the merger of the two men's respective companies) Bruce still holds significant influence among the stockholders and becomes the main nucleus of the anti-renovation movement among them, which leads Powers to hatch a plan to get Bruce out of the way however he can by attempting to gaslight Bruce into thinking he's going insane and trying to get him to commit suicide by jumping via a small radio disguised as a bandage on his head. Terry discovers the ploy and defeats the scheme, and Powers' proposal in turn is overwhelmingly voted down by the shareholders.