What it’s Like Living in a Small Town


I think sometimes people get this stereotype of small towns. We’re all low middle-class farmers with seven teeth and are about 20 years behind the times in fashion, education, and technology. For example, I wonder how many of you think I have to go to the public library for internet access, or that we all have dial-up modems (Ok, DSL connections are actually fairly recent) or something here. We get real television stations, too. We even have big box stores, movie theaters, and professional sports teams in the area. It isn’t as isolated as you think. I do probably have to drive farther than you to get to any of those places, but that isn’t necessarily a design flaw, now is it?

If I told you that my town has only one part-time police officer that we share with the next town over, what would you think? That it would be a scary place to live? Let me tell you, the last time we had what you might consider a break-in around here was when somebody got drunk three New Year’s Eves ago and accidently drove into the front porch of Pastor Mike’s house. They didn’t even have to do a lot of investigating to find the culprit, as Lewis was the only one with a smashed-in front end and needed stitches above his eye.

Because it is a small town with one part-time police officer, we have to rely on each other more than other places. Which is a fancy way of saying everyone knows everybody else. But having to rely on each other is better than you realize. If your car dies on the side of the road, you can bet the next car that passes you is going to stop and help. Heaven forbid there is an illness or tragedy in your family, the neighbors start organizing meal deliveries, store runs, transportation if you need it, and prayer circles if necessary. You are never really alone, in either in your sadness or your joy. Just ask my neighbors, the Lewises. Their first baby was born six weeks premature. They had to go to a special hospital about a half hour away so the baby could be in the NICU. People mowed their lawn while they stayed with the baby, took in their mail, looked after their dog, set up the nursery, and decorated their whole house as a surprise when little Jane was finally released.

Now think about where you live. Do neighbors go out of their way to help you? Would they even notice you were gone?Do they even know your name or anything else about you? Would you like them to? If so, you can bring a little bit of that small-town mindset with you and introduce yourself to the folks on either side of you. You might be glad you did.

Renovate vs. Restoration

In my book, any improvements in local buildings are warranted as they keeps the town alive and growing. When areas deteriorate, so do the spirits of the inhabitants. You feel it in your bones when you survey a decaying scene, even if that decay is on the interior. Let’s just take one room in a house, for example. Bathrooms take time to become dated, but when they do, they affect home prices and rentals. People need to update and renovate and that takes money and time.

However, when these rooms are pristine and modern, it gentrifies the neighborhood and bespeaks of care and restoration. It uplifts the entire town in the long run. Building owners and landlords need to address the issue now and take stock of their properties and either renovate or restore as the situation dictates.

You ask, what is the difference between renovating and restoring and why does it matter? Isn’t it the same thing? Not really. Renovation is complete overhaul during which the contractor does whatever is asked without regard to what came before. It is not necessary to preserve an older style or maintain a look. Many a bathroom with a claw foot tub is now ultra-modern and “spa-like.” Showers, sinks, toilets, etc. may be relocated and the walls expanded. Ideas can be found on web sites like this one. New plumbing is de rigueur.

In renovation you might go for chrome fixtures instead of the old brass. You might want a Jacuzzi tub which didn’t exist at the time the room was first conceived. You might want heated floors and towel bars or built-in storage. Of course you will change the color palette as neutral is now in vogue.

When you restore, you keep the basic lines of the room intact and usually the location of the facilities. It is less costly overall than renovation as it may involve simple upgrades and not a total transformation. If a building is under consideration, for example, as an historical landmark, this would be the approach taken to keep the period look intact. A claw foot tub could be refinished and not replaced, century-old tile could be regrouted and not demolished. Carved cast towel bars could be polished and repaired.

There is a big difference and it merits consideration. Those who are willing to undertake refurbishing projects need to keep the historical nature of the area in mind. They must think of the monetary value of what they are doing, of course, but also of the public aspects of their work. I vote for having an historical committee appointed for such ventures. They could review the proposed renovation versus restoration and make suggestions before giving approval. They would be a good resource if the members were historians, designers, and local architects. It would make upgrading property a public enterprise.

There are so many choices to make when redoing any aspect of a building or home. A bit more research will help in making the wisest ones. Few people care about their city or town as a project seems small in comparison. But it does, in fact, matter what you do.