REQUIEM FOR A SMALL TOWN
Farm vehicles crowded the town on Saturdays.wo roads now bypass my little town, but once upon a time US23 ran right through it. Greyhound buses brought people and small freight.
The streets were lined with tall, old trees, and church bells rang loud and clear on Sunday mornings calling all to church. Everyone walked to their destinations.
Children walked to school, from High Bottom and the lower end of town, regardless of the weather. Hot, cold, wet, you donned the right clothes and walked.
Perhaps we became accustomed to walking during the gasoline rationing of WWII. I know it didn’t hurt us, and we met friends, picked flowers, shared secrets, laughed, and talked.
There were many small grocery stores between home and school and if you passed one where your parents “ran a bill” you might pick up a snack and said “charge it”. The proprietors didn’t ask who we were, they knew. Everybody knew everyone.
If you were fortunate enough to have a little money in your pocket, you made a stop at the corner of Madison and Main Cross. Arch and Bess McClure ran a shop there with a unique feature, two doors, one on each end of the store. You could enter on Main Cross and exit on Madison.
Railroad tracks dissected the town and had warning lights at the Madison street crossing, but no arms or barriers. Other crossings were naked of warnings. You rolled down car windows, stopped looked and listened.
99% of business was “downtown”; started at the railroad tracks, down Madison St, turned left at Main cross and ended at Perry Street. There was no traffic light at this turn or anywhere else in Louisa.
Four department stores, one bank, several restaurants, a pool hall, barber shops two grocers, dentists, lawyers, two hotels, one church, service stations on almost every corner, snack shops The little town was full. Perhaps it was too full.
A proposed bypass was approved, and many stately trees were destroyed along Madison St. to do this. A few businesses moved to the new “mall” that erupted there. Chain restaurants opened. The High School name changed to Lawrence County High School and moved to what was once farmland. Homes were constructed in this area. The town began to shrink.
A second bypass was needed to widen US23, smaller roads were constructed to join the two and new business and homes arose in the area. The town spread out, city limits changed, and the “downtown” was almost eradicated.
There have been some improvements made to what was once the downtown area. Trees planted will grow, in the next 30 to 40 years, to resemble what was once. Flower boxes and planters give color to a few businesses. It doesn’t look as empty as it did once.
There are no people walking the sidewalks, greeting each other, stopping to talk, kids riding bicycles, dogs sleeping in the shade, store windows decorated for upcoming football game. There is no smell of fresh popped “corn” from Ern or Hack’s before a movie. The feeling of togetherness has been replaced by one of distance.
It is progress, needed progress; but it saddens me to realize how much has been lost to this thing called progress. Would our lives be better if we were not divided by electronics and distance? Would we treat others differently if time moved more slowly and we took time to really look, listen, and learn from others? I don’t know if there is an answer to that.
There is one thing that I do know for certain. I am eternally grateful that I knew and lived in that little town before progress reared its ugly head.