Small Town Main Streets Are Coming Back!

Wells Main StreetSomething About Nothing by Julie Seedorf, published in the Albert Lea Tribune August 4, 2014

The words “Small town main streets coming back” are making headlines on television, radio and newspapers across the United States.

I heard the news on the radio one day. Apparently we are getting tired of the urban sprawl and shopping malls and returning to our roots. Old main streets in small and large communities across America are being revitalized by mom and pop shops, arts and culture and unique niche shops that have locals and tourists coming back to the main street of America to shop.

I noticed the comeback recently as I have visited small and large communities in the area. I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Mills, Northfield, Shakopee, Bricelyn and Kiester. Even tiny Walters is a destination to eat with diners coming for the great food at R&R Roadhouse Bar & Grill.

Driving through other small communities I have noticed the change in their main streets. No longer are the dilapidated historical buildings an eyesore. Many now stand proud having been restored to their earlier glory, or to a state of beauty that fits in with the historic nature of the buildings.

Well-taken-care-of buildings on main street America reflect the pride of the community, the heritage and the people that now have a vested interest in the community, and that is, its residents.

As I drive through the main street of Albert Lea I stand in awe at some of the old architecture and beauty of the buildings and dream of the past. I notice the change in the buildings as they are being brought back to their former beauty and treasured and cherished as a part of history.

We live in a throwaway society. Those who lived through the Great Depression were savers. They threw nothing away because there was no money to replace things, and that attitude lived long past the time that the Depression was over. People my mother’s age had stuff, but much of the stuff were not things of value.

Families today have stuff. They have their electronics, their toys, their clothes and the list can go on. They don’t keep it unless there is a little hoarding itch in their bodies. Things are dumped in trash, sold on a garage sale, and interests move on to the next best thing.

Homes are built alike and buildings and stores look alike in the strip malls of America. I recently visited a restaurant in a strip mall and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a fine dining restaurant, but it didn’t have the ambiance that a restaurant in an old restored building such as Jonnie Beans, Club 57 and the Starfire Restaurant located in the refurbished Miller-Armstrong building in Waseca has.

The strip mall restaurant won’t be remembered after it is gone. The strip mall will be another building on the landscape, probably torn down for something new to replace it. We are no longer valuing our new architecture. We are building throw away buildings.

I have to tell you that there is a different feeling walking down a main street in a small town that has valued their buildings and promoted their buildings as much as they have their businesses. Perhaps it is because I remember small town America that I feel this way, yet, I have to believe even those younger like the feeling of the atmosphere of the old buildings.

Exploring the main streets with my granddaughters is something we like to do. They admire the brick buildings and ooh and ah at the stores we visit that have been restored back to the original decor with the tin ceilings and the brick walls. These children learn to value the history of America every time we frequent a place that has taken a look at its roots, and tried to get back a little of the history.

What sparked this column about the main streets of America? As I listened to the broadcast on the radio of the re-emergence of Main Street, I happened to be driving down the main street of New Richland after a visit to Northfield.

I lived in New Richland for 10 years and I was checking out the community and reliving old memories. New Richland, small as it is, takes pride in its main street. The trees that line the streets lend a welcoming shadow to the buildings that were painted and updated and restored. It screams the small-town cozy feeling of the warmth of the past, welcoming and comforting to those who might walk the street.  I noticed the revitalized New Richland Library in a building that I previously remember being in pretty bad shape, but the beauty was restored. As I was listening to the radio I was admiring small town Main Street. Good job, New Richland.

We can’t save all of the architecture on Main Street, but those that are saved are bringing back Main Street USA. That’s what the program said. People are coming back to the main streets with the restored buildings and businesses that have relocated in these buildings.

There’s one other thing I noticed while visiting Main Street in many small communities, and the revitalized mom and pop businesses in larger cities, that is, the greeting you receive. You won’t find the friendliness, the helpfulness and the customer service that you get from mom and pop in the big-box stores. There are no generic greetings from Mom and Pop or their employees whether you are a regular customer or a stranger. Mom and Pop on main street make you feel like you have come home.

Visiting with Diana Sullivan at Lady Di’s Antiques and the owners of the new Vintage, Shabby, Restored, Recycle store in downtown Shakopee, I felt as if I were talking with old friends and in a much smaller community such as my hometown instead of a metropolitan area. Eating the rolls from the bakery in downtown Shakopee that had been there for 35 some years, reminded me of the bakeries such as the former Fran’s Bakery and the Wells Bakeshop in my hometown of Wells. Visiting the small shops in Northfield gave me the same satisfying experience. It was worth wandering off of the chain store train to come back to the value of the past when customers were your friends and family, and were important.

Who wouldn’t want to visit a community that shows pride in the history of their buildings, shows pride in their businesses that fill those buildings, and lends history and friendliness to your visit? Welcome back, small-town main street. You were missed.


Who Is The Bully?

I am going to weigh in on something that has been happening in my local school district. I am NOT going to tell you whether I agree or disagree in this situation because I don’t want it to take away from the message that I want to get across. But I did need to weigh in on something about the situation that has been bothering me.

A young lady, a junior in our school district, forgot that she had a pocketknife in her purse and on a school search it was found. The young lady was suspended for a month, literally the rest of the school year because the school has a zero tolerance policy. The parents and many local residents are upset because this girl has never been in trouble and has been an A student. According to her and her family it was a mistake, she had been working on her boyfriends farm cutting bales and had thrown it in her purse and forgot about it.

Because many feel that the consequences were too harsh the family and friends have taken it to the media, picketed the school in her support and have started a facebook page for her support. There is talk of a lawsuit. That is the good part of our society in that when people feel something is not right they can voice their opinion.

This is my problem with some of the things that are happening right now. Whether I agree or disagree with the school boards decision, some of the things I am reading on this Facebook page and by comments in support of this young woman in the media scare me. Many of this young woman’s supporters advocate that the school board are bullies. I have seen threats encouraging people to follow the school board and possibly do them harm. I have seen the comments that call the school board names and call the school board bullies. If there is someone that seems to disagree with the people supporting this young woman, on the comments on the Facebook page and in the newspaper, they are bullied, they are called names and they are attacked. Many of the people that make the comments in support of the school board decision are attacked verbally.

This is my point to those that support this young woman. If you want to win the people that make the decisions and others that make a decision over to your side, don’t call them names, don’t bully them. Use rational facts and rational conversation. I don’t know how colleges choose their students but I would have to say if I was looking at the comments that I am seeing from many of the supporters I would definitely take a look at that when I was making my decision. Many of the friends comments are very disrespectful to anyone that does not agree with them and has an opinion supporting the school board. Bashing is not the way to get the decision changed. If I were a member of the school board and I saw and felt the bullying that is happening right now toward the board I definitely would not reverse my decision.

People have a right to have an opinion about the Zero Tolerance policy, one way or another. This is America and yes we have freedom of speech but what you can say and how you say it can stop the conversation in an instant. I would listen to someone that is respectful. We learn from others opinions that are different from ours. We may change our opinions from something they say but I stop listening once the bashing starts.

Again, I am not giving my endorsement in this post either way. I want it to be about rational commenting. Those that manage the Facebook page for this young woman should put a stop to it right away. I did  see when I was reading this page that one person that made a rational comment about her view was told she was the only negative comment on this page. I thought her rational statement was the only positive comment I saw in a long line of bashing.

And now I imagine I will hear some bashing too. I hope not. I only want people to stop and think before they write so that if they want someone to take their point of view seriously that they make the comment in a respectful way that does not bash those that are making the decisions. It might actually change the minds of those that are in power.

I didn’t post this girls name but I will provide a link to read the story.

A Hot Time Comes To The Old Town This Summer!

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf -Column published in the Albert Lea Tribune, April 28, 2014

Our past, good or bad, shapes our future. This year my community will be celebrating our past as we go forward to the future.

The United South Central School District will open a new school in the fall. The United South Central community comprises Bricelyn, Kiester, Freeborn, Easton, Walters and Wells. Before we go forward into the future, we are going to celebrate our past with an all-school reunion on Kernel Day weekend, Aug. 16.

As a former Wells-Easton graduate I am excited about this weekend. It will be a chance to connect with friends and acquaintances from outside of my class of 1968. It will be a time to walk through the old school and remember our high school and grade school memories and listen to the stories we all have to tell that others might not be aware of.

It will be a time to remember those we loved who are no longer with us but whose spirits live in our hearts forever.  I have heard some comments about those who aren’t sure about attending this reunion because of past hurts or insecurities.

I would tell them that this is a time to heal those hurts and make new memories the same way our children and grandchildren will in the new school. USC  is moving into the future, not letting go of their past but embracing it and coming together so we can move into the future.

I had a conversation recently with someone who has been hurt in the past and isn’t sure about possibly reconnecting with those people who caused the pain.

My advice to this person was that they should attend. People have changed. Life circumstances change all of us, and we might miss something wonderful and moving if we continue to hold on to those old grudges. Come and make new memories that will overshadow the old. I hope they come to the reunion and make peace with those things that still fester inside of us.

I may meet the person that in 10th grade who told me I was ugliest girl he had ever met. I am sure he doesn’t remember that comment, but I do and I have let it go.

I am amazed at the weekend that the reunion committee has planned for people who will attend this celebration of the past of all our communities. The reunion committee is made up of people that have a vision. They may be looking at the past, but they are doing so with the tools of today. This committee has utilized social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and they have created an app for your phone, also.

The Facebook page “You might be from Wells if you remember” is 900 members strong, and the stories are alive in anticipation of the reunion.

The tentative reunion schedule is set up. There will be a pre-reunion kickoff at the Flame Theatre, a short program and the plans for the weekend will be outlined. This will take place on the evening of Aug. 14, a Thursday. Following the kickoff, comedian Roger Radley will perform two shows.

On Aug. 15 there will be many class reunions held. Christina Wood Wilson, a 2003 graduate, will display her work during the weekend.  Also, Led Penny will perform. “Mr. Jones,” a movie directed and written by USC alumnus Karl Mueller, will be shown at the Flame.

On. Aug. 16, it will be time to say goodbye to the old Wells school. Many memories will be shared as young and old tour the school and listen for the whispers of words of former students and teachers in your mind as you walk in the hallways, and as you pass by your favorite places and spaces that meant so much to you.

Join those from the your past and your present as we meet for the reunion lunch, gather in the afternoon to listen to the reunion pep band led by Bruce Van Bronkhorst of the class of 1962 and look at art and memorabilia from the past and stay for the variety show.

That evening, the Wells Kernel Day Parade will be alive with sentiments of the past. You will see the history unfold as the parade passes by.

I am excited to see old friends, the displays of former graduates who have careers in art, movies, books and other such things that they will display to let us all know the lives they have carved out for themselves from their humble beginnings in what is now the United South Central School District.

I will be sad to take the final walk through the old school, whose future might be in the wrecking ball of time. I will be sad that I will no longer be able to walk the old halls and sit in the old auditorium, which holds so many precious memories for me. The phrase that keeps coming to my mind is, “You can never go home again.” This community will still be home but part of what made it home will be gone.

In my sadness is excitement about remembering the past, cherishing the coming together of those who shared that past and moving on to a future in a new school that will shape the lives and the future of our young people. One day there will be a 100 year reunion for them and they will be able to see those in the past cared about their future. Who knows what the future graduates of United South Central will accomplish. We can only imagine.

“Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present and what to plan for in the future.”

— Arnold H. Glasow 

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