I’m On A Rant!

It’s Friday, the end of the week. The world is spinning around us with reports of strife, bad news and so on and so forth, and if you don’t know what so on and so forth means, look it up. Yes, that might be a little snarky. I had someone tell me once I don’t write enough snark. On another note, I am plunking this out with one finger because I have an injury on my right-hand ring finger and though it is a small handicap to deal with, it does hamper my words. I  downloaded a new speech to text program but I haven’t mastered it yet, maybe I never will,  the one plunk method takes more time.

Now that you have an idea about the attitude you might get the direction this post is going.

In my latest mystery, #ASmallTownCanBe #Murder, I write not only a murder mystery but about the nuances of small towns. I live in a small town. I have been a small-town girl all of my life but there are some changes that make me sad. Communities in rural areas have to fight for their identity and survive with ambiance and coziness in a world sacrificed to ideas of people in offices far away that have no idea adding us to their growing number of generic businesses is not only bad for the survival of the community but for their own bottom line as well.  When you become a number in the line your identity ceases to exist. At that point, even the line may disappear. When we don’t seem as profitable as the big city we are like the baby thrown out with the bathwater, and as residents, we have to fight harder for our mainstreets to survive.

We do survive in my community. We reinvent ourselves, pick up the pieces and move on. What brought about these thoughts is a couple of recent experiences. A few weeks ago an editorial in a Twin Cities newspaper mentioned that Mike Bloomberg, the presidential candidate, visited a farm outside of our community. The writer lamented that Bloomberg should have taken the time to stop in town and visit with the rest of us to get a good picture of the joys and struggles of rural America’s main streets. It mentioned what we had lost in the past years. The writer had a good point as we have lost to the changing worldly ambitions of businesses. I took a small issue with it because I felt we also gained so much and are alive and well, moving forward.

This past week I had experience with a corporation that has been contracted to pick up garbage in our city. That is the other thing that brought this column on. You see I wanted to discontinue their service in favor of a local business. A year ago when I called to cancel they lowered their rate so I stayed. In the meantime, I found a neighbor that was paying almost $30.00 higher than what I was paying. Their service kept going up and they didn’t know if they called and complained their bill might be lowered. It was then I realized none of us are probably paying the same amount for the same service. This year my bill went up and I decided to go local and not with the service the city contracts with. My surprise was how much it was going to cost me to discontinue that service and have them pick up my container. However, I wouldn’t have known this until I got the bill as it was not readily given to me in a dollar amount until I asked. It was almost as much, save for a $2.00 difference, as my three-month bill. This shouldn’t have surprised me as many of the big corporations such as cable and telephone charge you a disconnect charge, This is how I knew I grew up in the small-town world when hidden charges were not part of the small-town landscape.

It goes farther than that. A nationwide chain came into town and our dry-goods store closed. One of our banks that were in our community as long as I can remember was sold to a larger bank. The old bank employed many people and the new bank cut most of the staff, and if we need support we have to call another state. A larger chain bought our hometown’s bustling drug store that was also a gift shop and had the original old fashioned soda fountain still serving treats.  The drug store hours have been cut so much that the working person cannot get in there with those hours. And the soda fountain is shut down along with the gift department greatly minimized. It is no longer about the consumer.  We used to have more than one gas station. An Iowa chain came in, bought land, bought the other stations and closed them down. Those are only a few of the changes that happened when big businesses try to change the landscape of a small town. They haven’t looked into the faces of their consumers because we are a number on their chart instead of a face that is familiar.

Now that is the bad news of my rant. I and I imagine you, get tired of sitting on the phone to get service. I think we get discouraged because we feel we are not heard. I am telling you if you want to be heard, shop in a small community at a locally owned business. You will be heard. You will experience what customer service really is.

In my community when we needed a new school we built one. Our meat processing plant closed down. Our city worked hard to get a new one in place and it has provided employment and good wages. You will find it hard to get a parking place downtown on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as our local thrift shop entice people in town and out of town to shop. They might take time to visit one of our locally owned eating places or the coffeehouse or take in a movie at our theater. The library is always busy with readers, speakers and different project days and evenings. Moving on down the street our locally owned hardware store has reasonable prices and the flowers at our locally owned flower shop will make you ooh and ah.

Our liquor store is building new. Our new industrial park is starting to fill up and our craft and quilt store is in the process of moving to a bigger building. You can have your choice of different denominations of churches and if you need to pick up a gift the local funeral home also has a room of unique items by local artisans. Locally owned for generations, there is no better place to let them take care of the loved one you have lost. There is so much more to our community with a grocery, beauty shops,  newspaper, exercise facilities,  depot museum,  veteran’s memorial, parks. golf course and a swimming pool along with senior care facilities and senior housing, trucking firms, plumbing, electrical businesses, car repair and I could go on. Yes, we have more.  And yes, we still have another locally run bank. And our local window company can make your house warmer with the right windows.

The best part of a small town is its people. They care about each other. The business owners care about their customers. We don’t give up, we regroup and move on. Did I mention we are a community somewhere around 2200 people? It is not the numbers it is the heart of the community. When one hurts we all hurt. It is what makes a community unique.

Large corporations don’t understand that our bottom line is people and that is what makes a business in a small community a success. We have to tolerate the changing business climate in the larger world. We don’t have a choice with some things. I will admit to ordering online, usually things I can’t get in town but it isn’t the same.

My long rant is done. I might also add we have our local utility too and that too is a blessing. We know them and they know us. The same can be said for our local emergency services such as fire and ambulance. And for the garbage company that seems to be playing with our heads and finances — I wish I would have known your garbage bin was such an expensive object I would have painted it gold to match its value.

If anyone knows Mike Bloomberg, tell him to come back and see a successful, small community. We are the heart of America. He missed out but don’t you. Come for a day. come for a season, we will give you a reason to come back.

P.S. We have building lots available if you want to stay for a lifetime.


Julie Seedorf is a former columnist and now is an author of eleven cozy mysteries. To find out more about her books visit  julieseedorf.com

Accept It! Small Town Newspapers Must Change.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel week of May 19.courier sentinel

Small town newspapers have been around for decades. It is fun to look back through the archives of small town newspapers and read the announcements and the way they were written. This is the announcement of my grandfather’s first wife’s death.

Mrs. Jerome Young who lives about six miles northeast of town in Freeborn County, died on Wednesday morning of last week of lung fever. The funeral services were held Friday. The deceased leaves a husband and four children to mourn her death. Mrs. Young was a fine woman and very active and progressive. Her death is a terrible blow to her family. This was in the Forum-Advocate, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1907.

In the same paper was also this note exactly as it was written; run-on sentence and all: “Last Friday the Basket Ball girls were all at the depot and ready to go to Lake Crystal, the train was late so before it came Mr. Barnes received a telephone message telling the girls not to come on account of the rain. The game was postponed until Monday.”

The Forum Advocate was filled with news about what the residents of the community were doing, who they were visiting, whether they were traveling as is the case of E.O. Oren and Alex Enochson.

This little tidbit was their little news of the week: “E.O. Oren and Alex Enochson left Saturday Evening for New York on business. Mr. Oren had started a car of dressed poultry ahead and expected to reach the metropolis about the same time the freight did.”

Writing has changed since 1907. Newspapers have changed. If you look back in the archives of old newspapers across the decades you would see the change in the way the newspapers reported the news. Those newspapers might also give you a glimpse through their changes of the progression of changes in the way people live their lives. If you look back at the past, you may see the reason newspapers in 2014 must change it up another notch.

No longer do people want it reported in the newspaper when they are leaving town. It is not safe. The Internet has also changed those hometown tidbits. We already know what is happening in the lives of the people we care about because of the convenience of social media. Communities have gotten smaller and people’s worlds have gotten bigger.

We, in the southern Minnesota area are very fortunate to still have small town newspapers such as The Courier Sentinel, the New Richland Star-Eagle and the Wells Mirror to name a few. We are still fortunate enough to have bigger community’s newspapers still going strong, such as the Albert Lea Tribune.

As the small town newspapers struggle to stay successful in this competitive news world, they are making changes that occasionally upset their readers. Change is hard on everyone, but for small community newspapers, the changes must be made to stay in business. These newspapers must reach out to a broader reader base outside of their communities. Newspapers rely on advertising and with small communities there is not the broad business base there once was, so newspapers must appeal to those also outside their area in order to sell advertising.

Communities used to be sufficient within their borders. Our small towns had clothing stores, grocery stores, shoe stores, restaurants, lumberyards, car dealerships, churches and people to support these businesses. These businesses advertised and the local news was reported. Small towns were happening.

As much as we want our area newspapers to stay the same, if you look back through history there has been change in the newspapers formats and there has always been resistance to change. Life is change. Every single day when we open our eyes something about our life is going to be different.

I like to look at the change in area newspapers as progress. I love reading a story outside of my little world that broadens my learning and my knowledge of places and people. I love reading a story in a newspaper that challenges my thinking whether I agree with it or not.

Newspapers now have an online presence. They have a Facebook page. They need to keep up with social media to survive.

When I used to read my local paper when I was younger, the local stories pertained only to my hometown. It was a time when businesses were thriving, schools had double the kids we have now and life revolved around activities only in our community. I was content with that. As I look at what is happening now and the possibilities for our young people to learn more about people halfway across the continent, I think perhaps I missed out. There is so much good to learn from others stories.

That is my opinion. The next time you pick up your local paper and the stories reach out and are about others in other communities, you can thank the editor for expanding your world or … you can be upset because the paper isn’t about only your community or your interests.

The choice is yours. Does the community newspaper tradition grow into the future or will its obituary report its death?