For the past half century or so my best friend from high school has resided on Manhattan Island in the Big Apple, while my home is on the opposite side of the country, in a far northwest region known as Puget Sound.
Although we both were raised in a suburb of the Steel City in the Keystone State and had access to all the amenities of big city life in those days—I well remember my initial visit to NYC the summer I graduated—including late night encounters with ugly, black bugs in the bedroom! —What an experience that was!
Still, when we engage in one of our regular marathon phone calls, somehow she manages to work her traditional disapproving comment into the conversation—“how awful it must be for me to live in the Wild West where there still are Indians roaming the land.”
To which I counter: what about those “gangs of New York”?
It’s doubtful that we’ll ever agree.
While finishing a manuscript about the small town area in which I reside, I found this definition.
“America has become an overwhelmingly metropolitan nation. According to the 2000 US census, more than 80 percent of the nation’s population resides in one of the 350 combined metropolitan statistical areas.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the title of “small town” America may be considered as becoming a burdensome anachronism.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to one report on the Internet. America is more “small town” than we often think, particularly in how we govern ourselves. At the start of the 21st century, slightly more than one-half of the nation’s population lived in jurisdictions—cities, towns, boroughs, villages and townships—with fewer than 25,000 people, or in rural areas.
Planners and geographers might see regions as mega-units, but in fact, they are usually composed of many small towns and a far smaller number of larger cities. Indeed, among the metropolitan areas with more than one million residents in 2000, the average-sized city, town, borough, village or township had a population of little more than 20,000.
America’s small town government structure engenders a sense of community, even as a part of larger metropolitan areas. They also save a lot of money, principally because democracy tends to work better when government is closer to home. It is not surprising that so many consolidation proposals fail, and that, when given the chance, voters usually reject consolidation proposals.
America needs both its small towns and its bigger cities. But make no mistake about it, even much of what we call a “metropolis” functions more effectively as a network of small towns.”
Given that one of the nearby small towns is about to celebrate Independence Day in a few weeks—where folks from around the country flock to the town, with its full slate of activities, from the fun run to the fireworks, because, they say, they like the town’s small town charm—it confirms in my mind that “small town” living is best.
Steilacoom’s Main Street, a route through Puget Sound History
Since Memorial Day 2014, national and state flags have been rippling from the lamp posts lining Main Street, hung with colorful, flowering baskets that remain in place until after Labor Day.
That’s the way Steilacoomites celebrate the spring/summer seasons in its waterfront town, a place that once had sincere aspirations to become: state capitol, terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad, summer resort destination, and a few other things…after it was founded in the mid-19th century.
Tacoma, i.e., “the City of Destiny” and, later, other cities, eventually took over those roles.
Instead Steilacoom, a 2.1-square mile town, became a Bedroom Community. But that’s OK with its residents, who take pride in the 160-year history that it marks this year.
This summer, while visiting the Town on the Sound, take time to enjoy its popular Farmers Market and Concerts in the Park: two of the town’s most enjoyable summer activities.
Although Main St. is technically the second major arterial in the Town of Pink Flowers—Steilacoom’s Main Street also is one rich in history about the first town in the state—founded 160 years ago this spring. Since this year also marks Washington State’s 125th Anniversary, it’s a dual opportunity to learn more about the city’s role in early state history.
For those who haven’t already visited Steilacoom Historical Museum on Main Street or the Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Center and Museum on Lafayette Street, consider stopping by these local repositories of community history. Both sites offer overviews about why this area was settled first in the state—160 years ago.
The steep route—3/10th of a mile, from the top of Main to the waterfront below, bypasses a community center, public safety department, historic Immaculate Conception Mission Church, as well as Steilacoom Historical Museum, Orr’s wagon Shop, Town Hall, and terminates at the Bandstand in Pioneer Orchard Park, with a marker for the site of the town’s first school, plus a spectacular view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains.
Just around the corner from the intersection of Lafayette and Main streets, is Chambers Bay Road: the route to the 2015 USGA tournament at Chambers Bay. The region is gearing up now for that mega event set for next July.
Enjoy your summer—whether it’s shopping the Wednesday Farmers Market or enjoying music in the Park—very few places compare with the Town of Pink Flowers.