Monday, August 27, 2007

Travelogue to Nowhere

#286 Travelogue to Nowhere

The country is full of industrial-revolution era towns and cities, most of them unmemorable and interchangeable. They’re tombstones to a bygone era that could be our ultimate un-doing.

Tall, red-brick buildings. Railroad tracks. Wide streets. No traffic, vehicular or pedestrian. No trees. Stores that have changed hands 90 times in 100 years, but still have the original engraved signs on the doorsteps or the tops of the facades.

This could be Springfield, Ohio, or Manchester, New Hampshire or Red Hook, New York. That it happens to be Tyrone, Pennsylvania is immaterial.

Nothing ever happened here, or at least nothing you’d know about unless you’re the town historian. Doesn’t matter. In combination, places like this once formed the second tier of industrial America.

Detroit, Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh. These were the centers of industry. But in large measure, they depended on places like Springfield, Manchester, Red Hook and Tyrone. That’s where they made the things that were put together in the big centers and came out as paper and steel and coal and cars, trucks and battle tanks. Or they were the places that produced the clothing everyone wore or the shoes… or the blankets and bedspreads.

Some optimist re-opened an abandoned paper mill in Tyrone. Some optimist opened a grad school in Manchester. Maybe you can hold your breath long enough to see how well these operations survive.

Some of these places are quaintly run down. Others are just run down. You wander around places like this and you wonder “what do these people do for a living? How do they make ends meet?”

If it weren’t for the gas station/convenience stores, there’d be no commerce at all.

On a Saturday mid afternoon, the lone real estate office is closed. The guy who runs the aquarium store is sitting on the stoop, smoking. The woman who runs the dress boutique is in a rocking chair, talking with a non-customer.

There’s a bank on the corner. A VFW hall that could fall over at any moment. You have to wonder what war that was built after. A freight train rumbles through town. It looks empty.

Some of these places are more out of the way than others. You have to wonder why anyone goes there who doesn’t make a wrong turn somewhere during a trip to somewhere else.

In the meantime, in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, broad and well-paved streets – Denver-style wide. But unlike Denver, no safety worries crossing against the traffic light.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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