Recollections From Small Town America

Reading the local news on a park benchGrowing up in the late 1950s, “village” meant “small,” and if there was any doubt, a one-block business district removed it in a hurry. The “village limits” measured a mile square, and before the big shopping malls and mass merchants, the local business association promoted the hamlet as “The Square Town,” the epitome of a cozy, rural lifestyle and personalized, hometown customer service.

For most residents, the concept of town extended into the rural countryside. Over time, the town’s population grew, and when  burgeoning expenses forced the local school districts to consolidate, the boundaries bulged farther. Fascinating characters walked the streets, held village or township office, and tilled the surrounding farmlands. And all provided sufficient grist for the matrons’ gossip mill.

When a natural disaster, human peril or personal tragedy struck, family feuds, religious differences and political affiliations disappeared, or so it seemed. Street dances beside the covered bandstand on the village boulevard marked joyous occasions and community celebrations. The townspeople shared an unspoken bond, an unmistakable sense of belonging.

In the 1960s, Midwestern small town life assumed a generic, “anywhere in the USA” flavor, much like the idyllic circumstances depicted in a Norman Rockwell illustration. Despite an earnest desire to maintain a realistic image, the “Small Town…” essays sometimes wax nostalgic, a product of a youthful innocence that overlooked the warts and discarded the blemishes, but such are everyone’s memories of the “good old days.”

The “Small Town, Anywhere USA” essays are available for print publication in non-competing markets, either on a stand-alone basis or as a continuing series. Accompanying images are limited, depending upon subject matter.

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