A trip through a small American town reveals civic pride


On a route designed to avoid freeways and major cities, we recently traversed much of western Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

It takes you through cities far from the big metropolises, their international airports, or even the demographics that appeal to the likes of McDonald’s, Sonics, and Chic-Fil-As. I only remember seeing one golden arch on the road, this one in Alba, Oklahoma.

These are communities that seem to be totally autonomous. The best have small town centers, maybe two, no more than three blocks away, with local restaurants, maybe a hardware store or two, a place to grab a beer while watching a game – probably the Huskers – a gift shop, an antique store. The local post office was always well run, a local gathering place. Somewhere there was a local grocery store; it’s a long journey to the nearest national brand store. And churches, lots of churches. And, yes, there were taquerias here and there.

Apparently every town, regardless of size, had a well-maintained park, flower beds even though the smallest towns could only handle a single splash of color, the best example being Lemon Park in Pratt, Kansas. Bigger than 100 acres, Lemon Park has walking trails, a playground, ball fields, a scenic pond and trees, lots of trees, a treasure in flat Kansas. It is in a town of 7,000 inhabitants.

What a testament to civic pride these places are. I’m talking about places like Pratt and Alba, and Red Cloud, Nebraska; Grand Bend, Kansas; Ravenna, Nebraska and Dannebrog, “Danish capital of Nebraska”. No trip this fast to one place makes anyone an expert and these places undoubtedly have their problems. (I don’t want to be there in January!)

But the well-maintained parks, bustling city centers, the patronage of local businesses, the upkeep of homes, are a testament to the pride in where you live and the value residents place in their community. It is an example of civic pride that we can all learn from.

Nick Jimenez has worked as a reporter, city editor, editorial page editor, and editorial page editor Emeritus for the Caller-Times for over 40 years.

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