21.7.05

Death of Smalltown USA

Terry Teachout writes about the changes he's seeing in Smalltown MO. I was inspired to write to him, and then thought I'd share with the rest of my "vast audience":
I've been mourning the death of my two smalltowns (one in upstate NY, one in northern VT). The local department stores have closed, replaced by Wall-Mart or Lord & Taylors or some other "name"... the diner "proudly serves Starbucks"... the local radio has been bought and programmed by Clear Channel... and the charm and character are just seeping away. On the other hand, where I live now (so small there's no supermarket) also has no fishmonger, cobbler, jeweler, stationer, greengrocer or butcher. These are all things I had living in the Big Bad City.

I was in O'Hare last month after a conference and heard a little boy say, "Look, Mom, they've got McDonald's here just like at home!" It saddened me because isn't the joy of going someplace else NOT to see the things you see at home - to experience the new and slightly different yet still somewhat familiar?

Enjoy what's left of your Smalltown. Who knows how much longer it'll be there?
Along with the constant need for us to be plugged in and reachable, I think this is the second insidious thing that's ruining Life As We Know It. Small is better.

Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below.

1 comment:

Sherri said...

I live in what was once a cluster of rural/farm towns, now becoming suburbanized. One of them -- Mount Dora, specifically -- is MARKETING the whole small town thing. It's set off the main highway on what USED to be the 441 tourist road (in the 40's and 50's). All the usual brand names are a mile or so away on the highway. Once upon a time it was all little boutiques and antique stores, one REALLY old fashioned pharmacy, and various eateries. Slowly bigger names have come into town, but it's not that bad. We still have independent bakeries, a bookstore, clothing stores, and various other locally owned/one of a kind shops.

But that's the whole marketing angle at work. IF Mt. Dora wasn't making money being a "small town", they'd have a McDonalds and a Starbucks on the corners with the (only) two stoplights...

The other two towns -- Tavares and Eustis -- are struggling to keep their town centers alive. Tavares is ok because the county seat and all the municipal buildings are there. When the Hospital moves to new digs on the highway, though, Eustis almost dried up and blew away. Where once citrus groves and scrub oak lined the 4 lanes of 441 (now being widened to 6 lanes), we've got all kinds of new building going on -- the little Wal-mart moved to become a Super Walmart, they just built a new Lowes, a Target is going up, Office Depot, etc etc...what we used to drive (20-30 minutes) to get at the local mall is now scattered along the road in huge freestanding buildings. And houses are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. OF course, we live in one of those communities built where a grove used to be some 15 years ago, although now that ALL the groves are going, we are thinking -- what the hell, let's just move somewhere completely urban. At least they have TREES, parks and SIDEWALKS...(yeah, in these "rural suburbs" you MUST have a car to get ANYWHERE -- no sidewalks and no such thing as "walking distance")