I know many of you may be thinking what an unusual topic for this week’s blog. Not sure if it was the recent visit I had with Granny who is 105 and all the changes she has seen throughout her lifetime or while I was “Takin Time Out” this past week thinking about my childhood and how fortunate I was to live in a wonderful influential small tight knit community. How many of you had the privilege of growing up in a small town? Or perhaps you had the opportunity to visit relatives or friends in a small town. Maybe you actually lived in a small town within a big city. For example New York City has China town or Little Italy. There was a distinct energy that today, I personally feel is missing. Maybe it is the sense of connection, being a part of something small with tighter relationships. I always think of the sitcom “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. As you drive across America today it is sad to say the individual flavor I experienced has been lost to the commercial thicket of fast-food drive thru that serve up prepackaged food, to big-box metropolis of one stop shop and even mega churches projected on a big screen has taken the place of a pastor leading a small congregation to one pastor with assistant pastors reaching out virtually to anyone anywhere at any time.
The lost art of MAIN STREET, where we once experienced being able to be a true entrepreneur. Unfortunately, we have settled for the new normal; big business superstores own us. I know many of you will argue superstores have been able to lower the price, you have the ease of shopping for everything under one roof while having your oil changed and tires rotated, make your banking transaction, getting your nails done and haircut, weekly shopping…oh and let me not forget grab a quick bite to eat as well. Yes, I call that convenience but I also would say the quality and personal satisfaction has greatly declined. Enter the doors at your own risk. How many of you have to dart back and forth from motorized wheelchairs, to supersized shopping carts and tired screaming children. Not to mention unique outfits on supersized well maybe I won’t go there. Personally, I am not a BIG fan…yes I usually have to make one trip a month to the superstore but I have to literally psych myself up each and every time and try to go very very early in the morning. I miss small town MAIN STREET America. You drive through any small town and most have store fronts boarded up, there may be one or two shops but for the most part it is a ghost town. How did we allow this to happen? I know interstates and by-passes hurt many small towns that catered to the frequent traveler. Big business, self-service and greed have impacted it too.
Cheers to the small towns and those locals who fought or made a conservative conscientious effort to fight the general decline of MAIN STREET America. It took hard work from activists and preservationists to acknowledge and help preserve the few cities and towns that have maintained a vibrant MAIN STREET and local merchants. MAIN STREET is where you admire architecture and sample the local flavor of the community. I find it ironic a few suburbs in the area I live are trying to bring back that same setting. Most start out with a Town Square and then proceed with a MAIN STREET where storefronts on the first level and residential living areas above. For the most part this is working but again the storefronts are usually the large chains. I miss the distinct individual Mom and Pop type setting.
Growing up in Southeast Colorado, we had one MAIN STREET that was right smack dab in the middle of town. It is a part of highway 287 so all traffic goes right through it. We did not have a stop light just a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. It was vibrant and alive we had two car dealerships; two pharmacies which included soda fountains, multiple independent merchants from clothing stores, shoe stores, dry goods, western wear, dry cleaners, gift shops, flower shops, beauty salon, hardware, auto parts and let’s not forget the local pool hall. The gas stations actually pumped your gas, checked your oil, washed your window and you charged it on a tab not a credit card. Speaking of fountains, how many of you remember “forget me knots” with fresh squeezed lemon and crushed ice, vanilla Pepsi or a suicide where you take each of the syrups and add carbonation whew that was deathly. It’s a wonder we ever survived. I miss the good ole days, there was competition yet it seemed a bit more simplified. People truly cared more about their community than themselves and not just what’s in it for them.
We attended church three times a week, Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. They taught me the importance of being a part of a church body and later my relationship grew stronger and deeper with my Lord and Savior just as 1 Peter 2:2 states, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” The church and their leaders laid a strong foundation. Fortunately, my Mom and later my Dad played an important role by making sure I was in the house of the Lord. Mom played the organ or piano whenever the doors were opened. There were a few short months she actually would attend the Catholic Mass and play the organ for them then high tail it to our little Baptist Church where she played and we always sit on the second pew on the left side of church. I remember when the pews didn’t have cushions; they were polished and slick, the hymnal was placed in the back side of the pew in front of you with the missions envelope and guest register with a pencil and communion cup holder. We opened with singing a few hymns, the choir would sing their special and on occasion we would have a solo or duet, the preacher would preach, have a time of invitation then we sang the doxology prayed and then the pastor and his wife would go to the back of the church to greet each member of the congregation and shake their hands. We would visit briefly and then head home traveling down MAIN STREET for Sunday lunch. It usually was pot roast, potatoes, carrots, gravy, Jell-O salad and hot rolls It was always served on the green Frankoma pottery dishes. We lived on a ranch so the pattern fit well with our lifestyle.
One of my girlfriend’s parents owned a clothing and shoe store; she had a slumber party one night in which we slept downstairs well let’s say stayed not sure we slept much that night in their actual store. It was so much fun we modeled clothes had a style show and the best part we crawled into the window display with the manikins and pretended we were one, then waive or wink at the local drunks who were leaving the bar next door. Their reactions as we moved and then froze were priceless. I still laugh about the good times we shared!
MAIN STREET was where all our annual parades took place, whether it was the local fair in August, Homecoming in the fall or the annual Christmas parade in December. A time for the community to gather and watch the band play, the creative floats pass by or elected Queen Parade Marshall and local dignitaries waive from a convertible. Candy was usually thrown to the children and you didn’t worry where it came from or someone getting hurt. Another great memory, once we were able to drive was dragging MAIN STREET, how many tanks of gas did we spend just driving up and down honking at each of our friends as we passed by? We only could pick up one or two stations on the radio our favorite after dark being KMOA out of Oklahoma City…we would pull over in the IGA or NAPA parking lot and roll down our windows to visit with our friends or switch out passengers. I truly have fond memories of my days on MAIN STREET.
As I travel I always like to try and find the MAIN STREET in the town I am visiting. It may not actually be called MAIN STREET but it is the place where the locals hang out. Even if I am traveling down the interstate I like to veer off and go a mile or two into the town and discover the anchor and distinctive MAIN STREET setting. There may be a local park, an old theatre, shops, bakery and restaurants. I love to find unique little shops with local artists or eclectic things. We live close to Grapevine, TX and they do an excellent job to provide the atmosphere I am expressing, twice a year they have big events one is MAIN STREET Days in the Spring and Grapefest is in the Fall.
The romance of Route 66 the Will Roger Highway is probably one of the oldest and most popular it is known as the MAIN STREET of America or the Mother Road. Hmmm…Come to think about it for those of you who have visited Walt Disney parks whether you are at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom, they have created an atmosphere when you take your first step as you enter the park , it is right onto MAIN STREET, USA with charming store fronts; you are immediately transformed into a world of nostalgia, fantasy and magic. What about you, what is your take on homespun MAIN STREET. Is it worth the drive, “TAKIN TIME OUT”, to exit a few miles and experience something unique, quaint and wholesome. Or do you prefer the fast paced mega big box metropolis?
While “Takin Time Out” this week, why not explore even if it is on the internet some of America’s Greatest MAIN STREETS…here are a few you might like to check out:
- Salado, TX
- Fredricksburg, TX
- Wimberley, TX
- Grapevine, TX
- McKinney, TX
- Georgetown, TX
- Eureka Springs, AR
- Hot Springs, AR
- Natchitoches, LA
- Sausalito, CA
- Annapolis, MD
- Collierville, TN
I would love to hear from you as well and you’re favorite MAIN STREET, USA. I am sipping on my cup of Hot China Tip Green tea; I feel a sense of pride when I am able to support my local merchants. “Shop Local, Eat Local, Spend Local and Enjoy Local – Support the Local Businesses, who support the area where you live, work and play!” (or visit) Until next time my dear friends….Enjoy a little more of MAIN STREET, USA