Saturday, July 14, 2007

Little Big Town

I have just realized that I made a mistake in the previous post. I did not grow up in a town with a population of 3500. It was 7200. That's what I get for proofreading quickly. Actually, I didn't grow up IN the town. I lived about ten miles outside of town...way out in the country...but it was the closest community I could claim for a hometown. It's where we shopped, visited family and worked.

When I was growing up it literally was a one stoplight town, and the light became a yellow flashing light at 10pm. The only fast food in town was a Dairy Queen that closed down for the winter months and a homegrown drive-in called "Crown Burger". We had a BBQ joint that seated about fifteen people and served cold bottled Pepsis from a cooler by the front door, and a movie theater that folded in 1977. I believe "Star Wars" was the last movie that played there. We had two grocery stores, an old Ben Franklin store, a Western Auto and three funeral homes. And there was a church on every corner. After all, it is the buckle of the bible belt.

I didn't mind growing up in a small town. It's a very secure feeling to know every street and road. Everybody knows everybody and even if you don't, you recognize their family name. You know who folks are when you walk down the street. You generally have one crazy guy roaming the streets, but no one's afraid of him because everyone knows him on a first name basis. I can't imagine growing up anywhere else. I was raised during a time when kids could roam the roads for hours on their bicycles and never have to worry about strangers. You could wander away from your parents at the community 4th of July picnic and not cause a panic when you didn't show up again until after the fireworks. Hitchhikers were still safely thumbing their way across the countryside when I was coming up. It was a peacefuly, easy feeling as The Eagles liked to sing.

A lot has changed in hmmm-something years. A gambling boat came to my little town several years ago and brought with it a fair amount of properity. It's a little big town now. There are several stoplights and at least a dozen fast food places. There's even a McDonalds. The old BBQ joint has a new owner because the old owner got elected mayor. The food is just not the same, but it's worth the warm fuzzy memories to slide in there and grab a small cheeseburger with pickle and onion. There is still a church on every corner, and the funeral home is still where all the old folks go to socialize. The population hasn't changed much because the casino brings in visitors who leave as fast as they arrive. I think that helps the community maintain its small town feel. I hope it doesn't ever grow so large that it loses that charm. There just isn't enough of that anymore. I live about thirty minutes away, so I don't get there that often, but I like knowing that it's there...just in case I need a cheeseburger and a memory.

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