Thursday, February 2, 2012

The New America

Gray's General Store, billed as the oldest surviving general store in the US.
While reading John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley", I came upon an interesting section that I felt was worth sharing here, in light of the growing "Buy Local" movements going on today. It reads:

The big towns are getting bigger and the villages smaller. The hamlet store, whether grocery, general, hardware, clothing, cannot compete with the supermarket and the chain organization. Our treasured and nostalgic picture of the village general store, the cracker-barrel store where an informed yeomanry gather to express opinions and formulate the national character, is very rapidly disappearing. People who once held family fortresses against wind and weather, against scourges of frost and drought and insect enemies, now cluster against the breast of the big town.
The new American finds his challenge and his love in traffic-choked streets, skies nested in smog, choking with the acids of industry, the screech of rubber and houses leashed in against one another, while the townlets wither a time and die. And this, as I found, is as true in Texas as in Maine. Clarendon yields to Amarillo just as surely as Stacyville, Maine, bleeds its substance into Millinocket, where the logs are ground up, the air smells of chemicals, the rivers are choked and poisoned, and the streets swarm with this happy, hurrying breed. This is not offered as a criticism but only as an observation. And I am sure that, as all pendulums reverse their swing, so eventually will the swollen cities rupture like dehiscent wombs and disperse their children back to the countryside.

Keeping in mind that this was written in 1962, it is interesting to see how things were changing back then. Perhaps with the help of the buy local, eat local movements, the pendulum will begin swinging the other way, to our new America.

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