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My Home Town

Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2009, at 5:00 PM

I was born in the Boot Heel and grew up on the east side of the state. My parents moved to Saint Louis in 1951 where I spent my youth immersed in the culture and history of the Mound City as it was called back then. As soon as I was out of the house I moved about the country for sometime but I never really put down roots anywhere. When I was first married my wife and I lived in Saint Louis County. When my third daughter was born I decided to move to St. Francios County to accept a job. Several years later I bought a new house and started putting down roots and working on a dream. I lived in Flat River, Missouri for over twenty-two years. We lived in the same house all that time, the girls went through the school system from Kindergarten through high school graduation in the same school system. I owned a business that supported my family and eight others. These were the families of the men who worked with me in my construction company. It seems that some things revolve around my third daughter. She moved to Marshall to be with here husband attending Missouri Valley College. My youngest daughter was attended the local college in my southeast Missouri home town and then went to nursing school. We would come up to Marshall to visit my daughter and experience the community. I don't mind telling you that I fell in love with the Marshall community the first time I saw it. I finally moved to Marshall in 2002 after my daughter had her first baby.

Being from the Southeast part of the state I have always considered it my place. And Park Hills, Missouri ( what it is named today) as my hometown. I guess you could say that I had my feet in two camps. Living in Marshall, Missouri and always feeling like I was not really at home because my hometown was almost four hundred mile away.

Last weekend I had the occasion to return to Farmington, Missouri to attend the wedding of my nephew. After the wedding I decided to drive over to Flat River- Park Hills to cruise around town and visit some friends.

There's an old saying that "you can't go home again." I can tell you that for me it is true. It was depressing, the town is on the verge of losing it's largest employer. The landmark chat dunes (some over three hundred feet tall) are being leveled. The businesses around the business district are in terrible shape and the town felt terribly vague to me. All the neighbors had grown older and some I didn't even recognize. Other neighbors had died and some had moved away.

Later, I returned to the motel in Farmington for the evening. The next day as I drove back up to the Saint Louis area I started feeling apprehensive. It seemed that the people were moving to fast to get back to the I-270 bottleneck that turns it into the "Great Interstate Parking Lot." To add to the gloom it starting raining and there was a six car accident in the center lane. As I sat in traffic I found myself regretting the Saint Louis experience, the crowd, the vague surrounding that I could still recognize and the awful feeling of feeling out of place.

When I finally broke through the traffic I jumped off the interstate for different roads to get back to Marshall. When I could see the Saint Louis mess in my rear view mirror I started to feel less apprehensive and more at home in a way that's hard to describe. As I drove along listening to the radio a song by Bruce Springsteen called "My Hometown" came on the radio. As I listened to the music it hit me. Emotions that I haven't felt for a long time flooded over me. I realized that I wasn't leaving my hometown I was going home. I was going to Marshall, Missouri my adopted home town. I wasn't born in Marshall - I chose to live there. I loved the community, the people and that's were my roots were now, and all of my stuff.

When I finally arrived back in Marshall to familiar surrounding, waiving to people I knew and knew me I finally felt at home. I just wanted to take the time and say thank you to the City of Marshall, all of the people of Marshall and Saline County for allowing me to put down my roots next to yours and continue working on my dreams.

As always, I'm John Q.


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Thanks Slater, as one who has lived the experience you know the feeling. I appreciate you comments and and you are very welcome.

-- Posted by John Q. on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 7:59 PM

Thanks, JQ. Thanks for letting us see some of what's inside you.

I was born and raised in Slater, and I've been gone from there for a long time (49 years in October).

Every visit back there I see change in the same direction that you mentioned - the place has become foreign, just another dumpy little town, but for me it's home and always will be, no matter how much it changes.

Those who haven't had this experience have missed out on one of the best feelings there is, the sense of belonging, and I feel very sad for them.

-- Posted by Slater on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 11:33 AM

Small world, indeed! The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I'm not sure I knew the Rosenstiels. Might have known of them. In a town that size, just about everybody knows *of* everybody else, even if they aren't actually acquainted.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Fri, Aug 21, 2009, at 9:05 AM

Eric: Small world. My wife just got back from Oelwein. She was visiting Jean Rosenstiel a native who moved back home. You may know some of the family though I believe they are all older than you. Marty Rosenstiel is the youngest of Jean's siblings so you may have been acquainted with him. I believe he still lives in Oelwein.

I don't know if it is solace to you or not but my wife's take was that it is just a sleepy little country town. The wildest thing she ran into was drinking beer at the V.F.W. where people talked about the same things in the same ways as they do in small towns all over middle America. Course she is not heavy into meth or anything like that, so chances are she would not have noted the seamier side of Oelwein. She did bring some really good sweet corn home.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Thu, Aug 20, 2009, at 1:08 AM

I knoooow what you mean, Larry. Just recently, I came across this book review of Nick Reding's "Methland"

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/books/...

That's my hometown they're talkin' about! In grim detail! The review even mentions a doctor who's the son of our family doctor while I was growing up. But the town Reding writes about doesn't sound like the town I grew up in -- or if it does, it sounds like only the worst aspects of it: "ghoulish orgies of domestic violence, toxic explosions of backyard crank labs, psychotic episodes at Do Drop Inn."

Good grief! How ever did I survive it?

Compare that with the Oelwein Chamber of Commerce perspective: http://www.oelwein.com/

Even that view bears little resemblance to the town I remember, which was a little shabby, a little battered (got beat up by a tornado in 1968), the biggest town in a little county and a good place to live, but kind of boring (from a teenager's perspective, anyway).

But whether Oelwein is a pit of despair and depravity or a bright, thriving community, I cannot say for sure. I haven't been there since 1987. Went to my 10-year class reunion and haven't found a compelling reason to go back. It was interesting & all. It's fun to see what's changed and what hasn't. And I wouldn't mind doing that again if I was in the neighborhood. But the community I grew up in had not stopped while I was gone, and when I got back, I no longer fit in. I was just a visitor.

I can't remember feeling particularly sad about that. But I was young, too. Had places to go, people to meet, couldn't be bothered.

But when we moved to Marshall we were, in a way, going home again. Amy is from a small town, too, smaller even than Oelwein. Marshall is bigger, but in many ways it's like Oelwein, a small town surrounded by farmland. And now I think we *could* have gone home, literally, but if you really want home to be home, you can't do it as a visitor. You gotta get nestled back in, reconnect with old neighbors, meet new ones, join a church or a service organization or write letters to the editor or become a regular at a coffe shop or a bar or get involved in some other way.

I guess that's what home is, no matter where you are.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Wed, Aug 19, 2009, at 8:38 PM

When I was younger I always thought of Marshall as a Black Hole, it sucks you in and won't let you out. I still feel that way, but it has always been home and will always be home.

It doesn't have the big city problems...nor the traffic issues.

-- Posted by Scarpetta on Tue, Aug 18, 2009, at 4:32 PM

Did you mean "St. Francois County"?

Wikipedia reports St. Francois is named for the St. Francois River, which in turn is probably named after Saint Francis of Assisi. The original peaceable kingdom, Dude.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Tue, Aug 18, 2009, at 4:31 PM

Larry,

From one who's family goes back to the early settlement days of the county. You are more than welcome to put down roots here. Saline County for all it's warts it is still a great place to call home.

But I do agree that coming home towards the county is a relaxing trip. Just coming across that county line from even a trip to Columbia for Doc's or pleasure always brings a smile.

Saline County always feels good just like a favorite pair of jeans or shoes!

-- Posted by salinemg on Tue, Aug 18, 2009, at 12:15 AM

WonderJim, thanks for the comment and the link. I watched most of the videos. At my age I can really relate to the song "Glory Day."

-- Posted by John Q. on Mon, Aug 17, 2009, at 11:38 PM


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John Q. Public
LARRY MAXWELL
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Larry Maxwell is a retired businessman who often writes about topics related to faith and religion.
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