Small-town values in America
Some call it “Living at the time of the Walton’s.” I call it “Living now in our small town.” And this is the way it is …
Nothing embodies America more than the sedate settings of small towns across America. Indeed, Western New York is fortunate to have a rich variety of small towns, hamlets and villages across this region of ours. You will find small towns in the bends of flowing creeks, near glistening lake waters, and at the base of green meadows and tree-covered hillsides.
These small towns blend perfectly into the landscape. They add immeasurably to the character of this beautiful scenic environment. Such is the scene in which my wife and I have lived from the time of each of our childhood days. My wife Elaine, lived her childhood days in Springbrook town of Elma, and graduated from East Aurora High School. I am a native of the Boston/Colden area and attended a one-room school house (Boston 7)for eight years and then high school in Springville. My wife and I have lived in East Aurora, then Fredonia, and now reside in Gowanda. I have been associated with the State University of New York at Fredonia for more than 55 years. Each of these towns is truly endemic of the beauty and charm of Small Town, USA.
A “bird’s eye” view of these towns suggest that a ten-minute walk in one direction will take lead to downtown Main Street and a 20-minute walk in the other direction, will take you past meadows, woods, and beautiful farm land. Directions given to an occasional visitor will usually give as a reference point the traffic light, a stop sign, or the village bank. And, when you go for a walk for exercise, others will pull over and ask if you want a ride. In fact, living in a small town … is somewhat like living in a large family. Teachers in the local school system will often remember when they taught your parents. And Friday night football games are where people go to visit and socialize as well as to root on the home team. Almost everybody knows everyone. Knowing how to “do things” is like “currency” here. The nice part about living in a small town, when you don’t know how to do something, someone you know does know how to do it; and people are eager to help.
Join with me as we catch a glimpse of several recent personal small town experiences: I took my car to the local auto repair center for inspection. The owner of the center noticed that I had mistakenly affixed my registration form from our other vehicle on this vehicle and vice versa. He offered to carefully remove the stickers and affix them properly. He did so without charge. Then, there was the time I was walking to the post office, about a mile from home, and an unexpected downpour of rain occurred. A very gracious resident of the village came to her front door and offered me the use of her umbrella. Then again, there was the time when our local pharmacist took the time to call my wife to inform her her current prescription was running low and needed to be refilled; they also offered to deliver the medication to our home.
I am reminded too, of the time when I went to our local hardware to make a purchase but discovered that I have left my wallet at home. The owner suggested that I take the item with me and stop in next time I am downtown to pay for the purchase. During the Lenten season, a favorite of our family is fastnachts donuts. I inquired at our local supermarket bakery … no luck. But, the next morning, a full array of fastnachts were on display. Incidentally, our local plumber is no more than a telephone call away and is usually responsive within the day. The local police will often patrol down our street at anytime day or night. And, if I happen to be outside, the officer will always give a friendly wave. My wife is a fine seamstress but she needed assistance with a pair of sheer curtains. A locally well known seamstress came to her aide. Upon her return with the “fixed” curtains, her husband was accompanying her. The two of them went about the task of hanging the curtains, perfectly. And so, that is the way it is … living in a small town USA.
The USA is a great country … the folks in its cities, farms and small towns jointly interact as a great society of a creative and thoughtful people. Truly … decisively, untiringly, and daily … American Exceptionalism is at work! It just cannot get any better than that.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia.