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Bashing your hometown? I can't hear you!

Posted Monday, May 25, 2009, at 5:53 AM

It's been more than 50 years since I lived in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

(Save the jokes, please, and the phony accent -- I've already heard all the jokes, most of them many times and nobody in New Jersey talks that way. No, they absolutely do not.)

My mother and father met there, in their late teens, before World War II. Their parents lived on the same block just two houses apart. Both of my parents were born elsewhere, but even while we were thousands of miles away, Newark and its environs was still "home."

My parents and siblings returned to that part of the country in 1969,at the end of my father's military career but I never lived there again after 1951, when we moved to Maryland, the first in a long string of other places to live, both in and out of the U.S.

Which means, of course, that everywhere I've lived in those years was someone else's hometown.

Washington, D.C.; Tripoli, Libya; Lincoln, Nebr.; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Biloxi, Miss.; Yuba City, Calif.; Burns Flat, Okla.; Albuquerque, N. Mex.; Champaign, Ill.; Platteville, Wis.; Moline, Ill.; Rock Island, Ill.; and now Marshall.

And there are many other places I've visited for shorter periods of time, mostly on business trips, but long enough to have conversations with the people who live there.

One thing many of the occupants of nearly every one of those hometowns have in common is their unrelenting criticism of where they live.

I call this the "Notre Dame Syndrome" after a resident of that city told me very confidently one day that South Bend, Indiana, was a "lousy place to live," and Notre Dame a "second-rate school." He'd lived there all of his life and he was quite sure there wasn't a more awful place on earth. But still he lived there. And he's probably still there, and still complaining.

It would be far from the truth to say I loved every place I lived. I particularly didn't care for Biloxi, mostly because the summer weather there is so terribly humid. How humid? Leave a bowl of potato chips on the kitchen table in mid-July and you can tie knots in them an hour later -- that is, unless the cockroaches, who thrive in the humidity, haven't already carried them off.

And Burns Flat -- well, it was an awfully small town in 1969, with only 250 people. It's gotten quite a bit larger since then, but it's still very small at a population of only 1,800. But there were some beautiful things to see nearby, including Foss State Park.

Maybe it's because I'm a relative newcomer -- I moved here three years ago -- that I don't find much to complain about here in Marshall.

For one thing, my mother would be quite disappointed if all I did was complain about where I live. She's been gone for almost three years, but I know she would want me to follow her lifelong lead and make the most of where I am.

"Life's a lot easier that way," she said. "Complaining about it won't change it and it sure doesn't make it better."

And there's something else, too, that I think should be pointed out.

There's progress here in Marshall.

No, you say?

Open your eyes, please.

In the health and safety areas, Fitzgibbon Hospital completed a major expansion last year, and has begun work on a cancer center. The ambulance district has a new building and the 911 dispatch center is under construction.

There is a new community center and an expanded airport that can handle larger aircraft.

ConAgra has expanded by more than 150 jobs.

Aldi moved to a larger store because of increasing business and a need for more floor space.

There's a new shoe store and other new retail just around the corner from the shoe store. And across the Wal-Mart parking lot, ground was broken on a three-store mini-mall only last week.

Two new businesses are opening on or near the square -- one a donut shop and the other a restaurant/bar. And there's a farmers market now.

Voters approved a project, already underway, to renovate Saline County Courthouse.

And that's just in the last three years.

The recession has fallen very lightly on the shoulders of the people who live here. That could change, but so far, so good.

More good things will happen in Marshall, of that I'm sure, especially if its citizens get together and work for the changes they'd like to see.

Instead of complaining about what we do not have, get up off your, uh, chair and work with what we do have and build on it. Don't wait for the stimulus package to come your way. Don't wait for someone else to start something. The people who live here are the only ones who can make things happen.

I've used this quote from Margaret Mead before and it's applicable yet again:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

And let me throw in a little Thomas Paine while I'm at it -- "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Great blog! I hate to hear people complain about how terrible it is where they live. Guess what...ultimately we CHOOSE to live where we do. We're not medieval peasant serfs who are tied to the land. I agree absolutely--Marshall has made great strides in the past few years. Is this a perfect town? No, of course not. Those don't exist. The positives of a town like this, however, far outweigh the negatives as far as I'm concerned.

-- Posted by imaloony on Sun, May 24, 2009, at 11:24 PM

I agree. I too left Missouri in 1951, returned to Columbia in 1955 only to leave again in 1956. A popular saying in the military was that the best post was either the one you just left or the one to which you were going next. Never the present post.

The recent story on the citizens who remade a road to eliminate a serious hazard on their own "gumption" says a lot about the "get things done" attitude that is prevalent in the area.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Mon, May 25, 2009, at 7:35 PM

As far as I'm concerned I love MID Missouri. My family has been her since before the Civil War.

-- Posted by salinemg on Mon, May 25, 2009, at 10:32 PM

completely agree with you ms. fairchild about hometown complaining ... it's just like complaining about school or hospital food ... no matter how good/bad it is, it's just the thing to do, complain about the food.

curious how you know the ground-breaking in front of walmart is a three-store mini-mall. i think you have some bad info there. i know the construction guys and the site is only going to be a dollar tree. if you look at the size of dollar trees around the area, the one in sedalia is about the size of the concrete slabe on the ground now, and the one in blue springs is also that size. if you know of other stores there, what are they?

-- Posted by aikman8 on Mon, May 25, 2009, at 11:52 PM

aikman8: Not sure where I heard the three-store information, and it certainly could be wrong. I'll check it out and fix the info in that case.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, May 26, 2009, at 6:28 AM

upsedaisy: You reminded me that I had planned to use that "best/worst base" comment in my blog! I spent more than 20 years of my life as a military dependent, and probably heard that comment at least several times a month. "Don't like Lincoln? Oh, it's soooo much better at Ramey!"

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, May 26, 2009, at 6:30 AM

I used to be a hometown basher...until I moved away! Now I've moved back to my hometown and realize how much I love it! I wouldn't trade it for anyplace in the world!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Tue, May 26, 2009, at 3:45 PM

aikman8: City officials confirmed today that the construction in front of Wal-Mart is for a Dollar Tree Store. Thanks for the correction!

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, May 26, 2009, at 5:57 PM

I'm surprised at this topic! Who are these hometown bashers you are hearing? I have lived in this area all my life (and that's give or take 60 years!) and never hear people bashing Marshall. Except on this web site. And those people don't count because we all know they're not real. ;-)

Really, I am serious. I very rarely hear anyone say bad things about Marshall. If they do, they're not homegrown. When people around here want to get something done, they dig in and do it. Rural people are the best for that, ya know?

-- Posted by Tori on Tue, May 26, 2009, at 7:03 PM


My introduction to the attitude Kathy's talking about was my first day here. We didn't know anyone here, of course, so we hired a local guy to help get the heavy furniture in the house.

While taking a break, he and I stood on our front porch, watching the rain come down and I listened to a long lament about what a terrible place Marshall is, how he'd left for a while but had got sucked back in and couldn't seem to escape.

I'm not sure the attitude is widespread in town, but it's there, and as Kathy notes, it's not limited to Marshall. It's something nomadic folk encounter just about everywhere they go.

I remember thinking the same thing about my hometown when I was a teenager. It was boring. It was a deadend. I couldn't wait to leave.

Went back for my 10-year high school reunion and was amazed at how the place had improved in a mere decade!

I have a hunch it wasn't so much the town's renovation as a renovation of my attitude, an improved perspective provided by time and a little more experience.

-- Posted by Eric Crump on Wed, May 27, 2009, at 5:39 PM

I don't think that rural people are "the best," necessarily, for digging in and getting things done. To me, doing what needs to be done is a mindset that has nothing to do with where you live or where you're from. Self-reliant people are everywhere - in cities, small towns, big towns, military stations - absolutely everywhere.

But I definitely do hear the negativity and have heard it wherever I have been throughout my life.

I guess the grass is always greener - until you get to the other side of the fence and find out it's just the same grass in another part of the world.

Marshall is a great place to live - the one thing it lacks is the same thing every other great place to live lacks - it's just not perfect and that's just fine with me.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Wed, May 27, 2009, at 7:16 PM

I think you two are runnin' with the wrong crowd. ;-)


The guy you hired to help probably complains about everything and not just the town. I'd venture to guess he gripes about his job, the price of gas, the meal his wife cooked, the neighbor's dog, the space program, etc.


When I said rural people are the best, that includes Marshall as a small town. I didn't mean farmers only. It's a farming area, therefore a rural town/rural people. (Although I do think farmers have an edge of self sufficiency over people who don't live in the country)

I'm still surprised. I feel fortunate that I haven't heard the complaining. I know people who moved back because they missed Marshall!

-- Posted by Tori on Wed, May 27, 2009, at 7:43 PM

Kathy-I really enjoyed this blog, although I am not a direct resident of Marshall, I do work here and enjoy the shopping and other activities Marshall has to offer. I think that people don't realize that Marshall isn't such a bad place to be is because they see it everyday. When I go on vacation and see an adorable little town where the locals seem awesome the town looks clean and charming and I mention to the locals how great it must be to live in such a wonderful town, they shrug thier shoulders and say " same ole, same ole" people tend to loose appreciation for what they have everyday. (Look at marriages, husbands and wives forget everyday that their spouse is great because the greatness of having them everyday has become repetitive and therefore no longer appears great.) But I just wanted to say I think its great that you reminded everyone of all that Marshall has to offer. Great article!

-- Posted by MBGAL on Mon, Jun 1, 2009, at 1:01 PM

MBGAL: Thank you - you hit the nail squarely on the head when you said "people tend to loose appreciation for what they have everyday." I think that's precisely what happens. For those folks, I'd suggest they spend a couple of days "vacationing" right here at home and visit some of the things they haven't bothered with in a decade or so.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Mon, Jun 1, 2009, at 3:07 PM

I appreciated your article and am not technically a native but actually LOVE Marshall! I can see both sides of it ~ grew up there and plan to retire there! Thanks for pointing out the GOOD side!

Can't wait to come HOME!

-- Posted by camille on Thu, Jun 4, 2009, at 10:15 AM

Gosh, I guess my wife and I are lucky, since we've been able to live in places we've enjoyed, have liked our neighbors, have made friends and still go back to visit. We were both born and raised in Marshall, then followed work to different cities across the country. In one, we began our family, in another we watched our kids graduate from college and in the latest, we got introduced to grandkids. It's been a good life and we've never looked back on Marshall with anything by love and appreciation for a wonderful educational beginning, learning to actually LIKE our family and neighbors and learning that it's good to help those people and to expect help back when its needed.

-- Posted by Nonnymus on Mon, Jun 8, 2009, at 2:04 PM

Kathy, Thanks for a great article. Having been born and raised in Marshall, I miss the small town feel. Living in a metropolitan area where everything is rush-rush and who can be the best at everything. You miss family which I still have in Marshall.

As for hearing how bad Marshall is, yes I have heard people say that when I visit but they don't realize what they have.

I hope to retire to Marshall.

-- Posted by ghostwriter1978 on Sun, Jun 14, 2009, at 1:16 PM

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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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