By Trudy Wischemann
“Only floss the ones you want to keep” was a strange, but effective warning from a poster my friend Pam saw on a trip to the dentist 40 years ago and remembered to relate to me. I never forgot it, and it has made me a slightly more avid flosser over the decades.
After trying to buy my Christmas presents in our small towns this holiday season, I’m wondering if we might want to apply this same philosophy to our spending habits, and with the same sense of urgency. If we want to keep the businesses in our small towns that make the difference in our quality of life, we might just want to take inventory of those we most treasure and adjust our days and nights to support them.
Country Waffles closed in Lindsay right before Christmas. Once the Olive Tree Restaurant where visitors staying at the Olive Tree Inn next door could catch a meal, the real bread and butter came from the town and the countryside. Orange growers ate breakfast and lunch there; families ate dinner. In between meals, folks meeting for a cup of coffee went there, and the Sunday after-church crowd flooded the booths and tables.
Then something happened, nobody noticed what. The Olive Tree closed, then reopened as Country Waffles. I think it didn’t help that it had been redecorated in a color scheme not recognized by middle-class Anglos or working class Latinos, much less visitors to Sequoia/Kings National Parks. The downhill slide began. Now it’s over. The worst part is that I didn’t get to say goodbye to Gladys, who had been bringing us our plates of food there for a quarter century.
Every community in this valley could tell a similar story. While we weren’t looking, while our heads were turned away, toward the newest big box store on the margins of Visalia, Tulare or Porterville, another of our neighbors gave up trying to keep their downtown shop open. When we went back to say “How’re you doin’?” they were gone.
This is more than a job for the local Chambers of Commerce, though I think their involvement could be improved and helpful. This is a job for local Lindsayites and Exeterites, Woodvillians, Farmersvillians, and even Ivanhoans. We need to take inventory of those places in our towns that mean the most—the places where we go unconsciously hoping to run into someone we know or who knows us, a clerk who remembers what we bought the last time we came in—someone who remembers our name!—and participate in their enterprise. This includes services, even government-supported places like the local library, where active patrons are the only defense against closure in bad times.
So as a way of making a clean start on the New Year, take a drive downtown. Notice the places you love most. Park your car in front of them, go in the door and say “How’re you doin’?” Have a Coke, a piece of pie if you’re feeling flush. Trade them a little money for an item you’d have to drive 20 miles to get otherwise. Get to know your librarian if you don’t already, and check out a book or a DVD, buy a book off the Friends of the Library table. Pay your water bill face-to-face and say “Hi” to Yolanda. She’s a nice girl, and she needs her job. And we need her there when we can’t find our last bill, or need a payment extension, or have a question about the next meter reading. Or want to get the water turned back on.
Take inventory of your town, friends, and patronize the places you want to keep. We just might make a difference that way. Happy Day 9 of 2019…. And be well.
Trudy Wischemann is a small town advocate who writes. You can send her your small town stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.