Main Street, USA · 26 September 2009

I did not realize how unique it was for a town to have an old-fashioned main street until I read The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. He found his own small town to be one of a vanishing part of Americana. Part of the reason that I did not know it was so rare is because I have had the privilege of driving down two main streets for over a decade.

I have been traveling between Monroe and Duvall every day during the school year for over ten years. Main Street in Monroe has changed over the years but it has kept an old fashion charm that makes me want to stop and walk around. I used to stop in at the florist to buy flowers for my wife and I took the boys to the jewelry store before Christmas. Those businesses and others have moved or closed their doors. Others have moved onto the Main Street. And still others, like the antique shop, bike shop, and newspaper office, have remained constant through my commuting life through Monroe. It is no wonder that I never realized what a unique experience I had driving through an old fashioned Main Street all these years.

Alexander’s book made me realize that quaint downtowns are not so common anymore. Superstores and outlet malls pervade the country. Large chains operate even in small towns like Monroe. Even Duvall has had small shopping malls and chain stores invade as the small town grows up.

When I first started teaching in Duvall, there was little sense that the town was more than just a few traffic lights on the state highway. Now, there is little doubt of a vibrant downtown after a renovation and rejuvenation this past year. Surely, some of the curbs and center islands in the street make people slow down as they enter and leave the town. But the crosswalks and art make a statement about the town and its heritage. The shops, whether old or new, seem to be more inviting with the new curbs, asphalt, landscaping, and street lights. People have trick or treated on Main Street at Halloween but there seems to be more people window shopping at the shops along the road since the renovations have taken place. Maybe it is just the weather. But I hope that the shops in Duvall are getting the benefits of having that quaint Main Street experience that seems to be getting rarer as time goes on.

I know that I just give my own impressions and perspectives in my weekly writing. I have not quoted any statistics or done any interviews to support my views. But I have enjoyed my commute through two main streets for the past decade or so. I have enjoyed the opposing forces of consistency and change. All in all, I have enjoyed seeing the vibrancy of the shops and the people on Main Street. And I have enjoyed life in Smalltown, USA.

© 2009 Michael T. Miyoshi

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