We all contributed to the end of Main Street

Published 7:26 am Monday, October 26, 2009

I walked out of my house one October evening. The fog seemed to be settling in. Darkness surrounded me. My footsteps echoed in the darkness as I made my journey to Main Street in my community.

I peered into the fog looking for lights that would guide me to my destination, but there were none. What had happened to the beckoning lights that had always guided me to the center of town? I decided it must be the fog blocking the light. I looked around and saw shadows hovering near me but no one seemed to be there. I traveled on feeling very alone in the fog yet feeling that something was urging me on.

I stopped. Where was I? It shouldn’t take this long to get to Main Street. I peered through the fog. There seemed to be buildings surrounding me. I moved to my right and put out my hand. I touched something hard and cold. It felt like the smoothness of marble on my hands. Could it be? It was. It was the theater, but the theater was dark. There were no neon lights announcing its name. There were no children rushing in to view the latest and greatest movie. There was no smell of fresh popcorn permeating the air. All that I could smell was the mold crawling up the side of the building and rotted air flowing out through the broken doors.

Email newsletter signup

I turned into the fog and stumbled over the curb. What had happened? I made my way through the fog until another shape arose in front of me. The shape stretched long and far down the block as I felt my way through the fog and darkness. I was on Main Street but all the buildings were dark. Where was the bank, the dime store, the hardware store and the grocery store? The buildings were silent as I crept along the street occasionally tripping over broken glass from the windows or a brick that had fallen from the walls.

At last I stopped. I turned around and looked for someone, anyone that could explain what had happened. I sat on the curb in front of the drug store. A mouse scurried by with a piece of rotting food in his mouth. I didn’t jump as the mouse ran by me as I normally would. No scream came from my mouth, only sounds of disbelief that the stores in my community were all gone.

I closed my eyes and I listened. I could hear whispering or was it my imagination? I heard teenagers laughing and chatting as they entered the drugstore to have a chocolate malt and hang out with their friends. I could hear the traffic as the cars cruised main street and made a U-turn at the end of the street and then repeated their path. I heard the car horns and the greetings. It was Friday night and the stores were open and people were shopping and stopping to chat on the street.

I opened my eyes. I had imagined all the noise and the people. They were all gone and it was silent. The fog settled in and surrounded the buildings that had once been Main Street USA.

I struggled to my feet and started down the road to the place where my father’s shoe store had been. The building was gone and in its place was a vacant lot with a tombstone. I brushed off the words on the tombstone. On the tombstone were carved the words “Here rests small town Main Street USA. It lived a good life and gave a courageous fight to the end.”

I looked down and there by the tombstone was a tattered journal. It had no name, and it had no author. The fog seemed to part so I could read the journal.

The journal read: It is time to put this community to rest. I cannot struggle anymore. The money for the school ran out and so people left for bigger schools. The merchants could not offer the prices and goods that the bigger chain stores could offer, so people left for better prices. Even if we did offer the best prices, people still left for the excitement of the shopping malls and the big city. Our quiet streets could not pull them in. One by one we died. The flower shop, the gift shop, the hardware store, the movie theater and the banks just died. Each time we lost one of them, people would mourn yet they did little to help us breathe life into these buildings and these stores. The people became excited and upset about us leaving for a little while and then they would go back to their own ways and forget about visiting us. We got tired, we gave up hope and here we are. The end.

I put the journal down and walked past the former buildings remembering each and every person who owned and worked in those buildings. I remembered my first chocolate soda. I remembered Sid, the manager at the movie theater walking down the aisles jingling his change in his pocket. I remembered the first car I bought at the car dealership. I made my way past the old school standing tall in the mist of fog and imagined the ghosts of children past. And I felt sad because I had contributed to the death of Main Street.

I traveled far to save a few pennies on cranberry juice and bread and milk. It was more exciting to turn on my computer and order prescriptions and gifts. I voted down a new school because I didn’t want my taxes to go up. And I didn’t support the local restaurants because why should I spend money in town when it is more fun to visit the hustle and bustle of the city for something to do on a weekend? I definitely had contributed to those broken windows and boarded up buildings.

I found my way home through the fog missing the trick-and-treaters that normally would be out on Halloween. They, too, must have found the warmth and safety of the malls better then the streets of small-town Main Street USA.

The fog started to lift. I looked down the street and could not believe my eyes. Main Street was still there. The bank, the theater, the grocery store, the hardware store were still there. And the trick and treaters were going up and down the street celebrating. I could hear the church bells ringing and the high school band practicing on the football field. It wasn’t too late. It wasn’t too late to save main street USA.

I got my purse and made the happy jaunt back to Main Street to start my shopping. I didn’t appreciate what I had until I thought it was gone. Happy Halloween, MainSteet USA.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send e-mail to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net or visit her blog at www.justalittlefluff.blogspot.com.Listen to KBEW AM radio 1:30 p.m. Sundays for “Something About Nothing.”