Is Sedalia, Or Your Hometown, Worse Than It Was Years Ago?
I see it on historical Facebook pages about most of the places I've called home over the years. This assertion that the town or city used to be a much better, safer, nicer, caring place to live 30, 40, or 50, years ago than it is today. Yet, is that really the truth?
I was greeted with that assertion this morning while scrolling through a Facebook page on the history of my hometown outside of Chicago. It's one of those assertions that regularly gets made on that page. And it's also one I've seen on historical pages about Sedalia and Warrensburg. And after police had to shoot a man on Broadway last night, I suspect it's an assertion that will be made again on the Sedalia page.
No doubt over the course of decades communities change. Towns grow or shrink. The power players in the community change. Businesses and industries come and go. A town's needs and problems change. Of course, there's also hard data to support that crime is up or down. The town's residents are richer or poorer. Healthier or sicker. Older or younger. But I'm not really talking about that.
I'm talking about the perception of people sitting in their recliner or on their couch waxing poetically about the old days and how much better, safer, nicer, and more caring their community was.
On a trip back home I asked a couple of my friends about the assertion that my hometown wasn't as good as it used to be. They didn't buy that assertion, and as someone who spends some time there when I go back to the Chicago area, I don't experience that vibe either.
It's different. It's larger. The main drag has changed significantly since I was roaming around with my friends in 1988. And certainly, I miss the music store where I took guitar lessons. The pizza place where I worked my first job. And the record store and the hobby shop where I wasted many hours.
Yet, the hot dog stand where I had my first hot dog is there. So is another pizza place that's just as significant as the pizza joint I worked at. And yes, driving down the main drag it seems more congested than ever. But was it really less congested in 1982? I dunno, I can remember sitting in traffic in an un-airconditioned 1971 Chevelle on a steamy, hot, July day as a kid. And it was plenty congested.
I'll admit when it comes to Sedalia and Warrensburg I'm a little at a loss because I'm not a native. I can't go back to the days when The Wheel Inn was at Broadway and Limit. I can't go back to when Sedalia had the record store everyone went to. Or a time when people didn't buy groceries at Walmart. Or when The Best Western was the Holiday Inn with a Holidome.
Yet I've made friends with people who are Sedalia natives. Or have grown up in Warrensburg. And I posed the same question I did to those friends who still live in my hometown. Was it really better, safer, nicer, and more caring 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago?
The answers are interesting because the people I've asked can point out specific things that have gotten better, and specific things that have gotten worse over the years. Yet nothing I've heard makes me think Sedalia or Warrensburg or even my hometown back in Chicagoland is truly that much worse, dangerous, or less caring than it was decades ago. And frankly, as far as Sedalia and Warrensburg are concerned, I enjoy living here. And the people I find are nice and caring, and both communities have a lot to offer.
The truth is the world's a different place than it was 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago. So is America. And so are Sedalia, Warrensburg, and my hometown. Yet, I believe the vibe of a community or the heart of the community, carries on even though things change. In my experience, a lot of the good things about living in a place like Sedalia, Warrensburg, or my hometown remain.
So when I see the assertion that a town is so much worse today than it was decades ago, I don't automatically believe it. I believe that person is having a tough time with change. Or at that moment, looking at old pictures and hearing old stories on Facebook they miss the way it was. I think that's just human nature, even if the assertion isn't really true.