Small Town U.S.A.  

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If you don't live in California then you have a better chance of understanding what a small town is. I grew up in a town of about 11,000. That is considered small by California standards. Don't get me wrong there are some that are far smaller, but it's still pretty small.

This town was great when I was growing up. I'm a child of the 70's and while I wasn't much into long hair, as a kid it was a pretty great time to grow up. We had small town department stores, and small town shoe stores, there were no convenience stores, just mom and pop markets. You could get a bottle of soda (not pop) for 10-25 cents. The best part being that when you returned the bottle you got a dime back. There was even this really cool soda bottle called the pop shoppe and when you returned a flat of them back to the store you could get half off of the next purchase of a flat. For those of you unfamiliar a flat of sodas would be 24 bottles in that time and place, not sure if it still holds true. In fact I'm not even sure you can still get a flat of sodas.

We had a great baseball park. You could use it for baseball, football (no soccer back then), softball, and the occasional jogger would run through the park as well. We had long winding park trails and at different intervals there were exercises that you could do. One with a chin up bar, and then maybe the next one with cut telephone poles where you stepped up and down off of them. We had a pond in the park and back when California picked people over fish, we could actually ride a raft from one pond down the canal and over to the other pond and still be in the park. Night ball games were awesome. The town turned out for Little League, and in fact they turned out for softball and football too. It was more than a sport, it was a chance for all of us to get together and relax. Say hey to each other and share a coke. Watch the ball game and cheer on your kid, friend, brother, or cousin.

The best part about my small town was every April we had an Ice Cream Social. If you don't know what that is I'm gonna tell you. It's the time when everybody gets together at the park. We all bring ice cream and drop it off at the big tables that were set up. Now a lot of the people in this small town made their own ice cream, but to be honest we didn't care all that much. All this ice cream was put out on tables and there were a group of people behind these tables. Now the people behind the tables were usually the women from the Historical Society or the Italian Club. They were all old (really old like late 70's early 80's). They would serve up ice cream in these little plastic bowls and hand them out to everybody that came up to the table. This didn't cost anything. Everybody donated something to it. If you couldn't donate some ice cream or bowls, then you were there because being part of the community was important. You still enjoyed the ice cream and the jokes and of course if you were a kid you got to be involved in one of the many carnival style games they had going. There would be a band playing mostly old fashioned big band music and there were always a few people that decided to dance a little bit while we all enjoyed our ice cream and played. This would go on all afternoon and into the evening. Most of the time, there would be at least a couple hundred people left in the evening and if that happened you just knew that a barbecue was coming on. Now this was a little less organized but nonetheless it was together.

Somebody would bring out the barbecue and suggest they were gonna make some burgers. Then the next thing you knew somebody else was gonna make some hot dogs. Then somebody else said "Hey I'll go get some chips and buns." Then somebody else would be getting something else and something else and pretty soon it was a block party but this block was a couple hundred strong and taking up a good 1/4 of the park. We would eat hot dogs and burgers, and drink those pop shoppe soda's and tell jokes and ride our rafts back and forth between the ponds. Our parents would sit and visit with each other. Funny thing, but nobody drank alcohol at these events. At last not where any of us saw. There weren't a bunch of drunks getting in fights, and there weren't any gang bangers stabbing each other. There were just families coming together as friends to have a get together.

Our town has grown up since then. Unfortunately it hasn't grown better. We had an ice cream social about 4 years ago. Only about 20 people showed up and they charged $2.50 for an ice cream. They wouldn't even take our ice cream and use it, saying that there was a liability issue (Whatever). We didn't buy ice cream and we didn't stay. We didn't know anybody that was there so what was the point. They were all sitting in their own little groups and didn't seem to want to make any acquaintances. I was a bit sad over the whole affair.

The department stores are gone now, so are all the mom and pop markets. We don't have the pop shoppe any more, and most people don't even know what a refundable soda bottle is or what it looks like for that matter. The ball park still has games, but the only people that get in the stands are family and friends for that team. Oh there might be a few diehards like me, but for the most part, you see mom's and dad's, brothers, and sisters. That's not a bad thing, but I sure would like to see neighbors and school friends too. They still play softball on a couple of the fields, but the football teams don't practice here any more. The other fields are all filled with soccer teams now. Travel Soccer, travel baseball, travel softball. That's the new craze. Play the same sport all year round, whether your kid wants to or not. Because after all how else are they going to get the big shoe contract right?

I guess I get a little bitter when I think of what we have traded. I realize we traded James Department Store for Wal-Mart. We traded Dominici's Market for 7-11. I don't have anything against the big business (well not much at least). I just wish for things to be a little bit more like they were. I guess it's sorta silly but I long for those days when moms and dads brought there kids to the park on that late April Saturday afternoon. They put out those big tables and struck up the band. Games were played and friends were made. For one full day, we were more than a town, we were a family.

Small Town U.S.A. I miss you................

This entry was posted at Thursday, March 11, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

13 comments

I miss those times, too. (and being young)

March 11, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Ms. Anthropy ...yeah..the being young part too...lol

March 11, 2010 at 9:32 PM

It’s amazing how we always find something to like and adapt our tastes with the changing times. I totally agree that things in the old days were pretty simple but good.

March 11, 2010 at 11:06 PM

Wow for the first half of that story it was like watching the Sandlot in my head and then all of the sudden it snapped to the present and no one is friendly anymore and political correctness ruined what use to be the poster of American life.

My Thoughts

March 12, 2010 at 12:35 AM

That whole thing sound so wonderful...you brought back many memories, and a longing for things to be like that today.

March 12, 2010 at 5:33 AM

Never had that but I do live in a small town which is nice. We can walk to these smaller stores on main street or hop in the car, go about three minutes the other way and there's Walmart.

March 12, 2010 at 7:28 AM

J..I have to say that there are definitely things I like now, but what I don't like is that we have become impersonal...Nobody wants to be friendly just because anymore, or at least that's what it seems.

Jerry...I reread my post and realized that it does sound a lot like Sandlot, and you know what our town was a lot like that movie too....yeah the present is surely not the friendly world I grew up in.

Joe...Yeah me and melancholy go together a lot more as I get a little older..

Ian..Gotta say just stick with the walk to the smaller stores..To hell with Walmart and there ilk..:/

March 12, 2010 at 8:42 AM

You just described my dream town. I've always lived in metropoles, where no one knows their neighbours. I was awed over your description of the Ice Cream Social...it looks extraordinary! So cool, so refreshing! I would've loved to be a part of an activity like this that turns in a real party in the end!

I really loved that post; it makes me dream..:)

March 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM

That sounds amazing...

My grandparents used to make ice cream all the time... it was so yummy...

I've never lived in a town like that, but I would love to. Stupid WalMart.

March 12, 2010 at 8:47 PM

When I was growing up in Northern California, my town was medium sized with small parts.... Then they decided to start building....

When we moved to Southern California, we were literally in one of four housing tracts with a bunch of orange groves around us, and they had just built our home....

We had two big stores that we about a ten mile drive from us.... A Toys'R'Us and an IKEA.... Other than that, it was all orange groves.... Pretty soon after we got down here, most of the orange groves were destroyed, the Toys'R'Us and the IKEA are only a small part of a huge mega mall.

I'd like to have the old american indian street fairs that I went to as a kid back....

Hey, I'm lucky if I can get my neighbor to wave back when I wave at him....

I Think It's Interesting

March 12, 2010 at 10:48 PM

Makes me think of the song. "Those were the days my friend I thought would never end." And now instead of taking the kids to the park to socialize with friends and relatives, they would rather stay glued to the tube watching some gory movie or getting bleary eyed playing Xbox blowing peoples heads off for hours on end. I think this is a big part of why it seems like no one is very friendly any more. They spend too much time watching violent movies and video games??? Instead of going camping with Dad or fishing and hunting, or to a baseball game. I'm I wrong?

March 13, 2010 at 6:13 PM

I love this post. I love right outside of Nashville, TN. We are far enough away to not feell like a big city but close enough to enjoy a fine dinner and a show at the theater (no, not movie theater). I love being able hear the crickets, see the stars, have lovely encounters with deer, foxes, and other animals.

March 15, 2010 at 6:36 AM

Aww Bendigo. you described something that sounds so perfect to me. So very perfect.

It's too bad that a lot of kids these days wont ever get to experience something like that.

Awesome post friend.

March 17, 2010 at 12:11 PM

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