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Don’t it always seem to go

September 3, 2007

that you don’t know what you’ve got
till it’s gone.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

Forty years ago this was a factory town, surrounded by some of the best agricultural land in the world. It was a middle class town, because working class was middle class.

Housing was affordable. That didn’t mean that prices were lower than the mind-boggling sums demanded in neighboring communities: it meant you could afford it.

People worked here, where they lived. Mostly, they made things– canned goods, glass, steel… more unpleasant things, like paper; scary things like chemicals and petroleum products. If there was some kind of fallout from what they made and used, physical danger or toxic waste, they were the first to experience it. If it destroyed the environment, we saw it– or smelled it– in our own backyards.

There were some gradations in income levels, of course. They weren’t startling. We lived in the same neighborhoods, went to the same public and parochial schools, the same churches. Some were new to the community, from out of town or out of state; many had ties in the area that went back two or three generations.

It wasn’t a famous place. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful place, though it had its lovely secrets. It was a real place, however, and people paid attention to it, and to each other.

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