Like John Mellencamp, I come from a small town. Population 13,983. Don't know if they count the residents of the prison that looms at the edge of town or not. When I was a child it was a great place to live, small grocery stores scattered across town, a fabulous Carnegie library, 3 movie theaters plus a drive-in and neighborhood schools within walking distance of home. We never locked our doors. We knew our neighbors.
I was allowed to walk downtown after I grew older. The most exciting part of the journey was going through the underpass where water always oozed from the concrete and the time light concealed creepy things from my fervid imagination.
Downtown was great, stores of all kinds plus the giant train depot. A couple of large hotels squatted near the depot waiting for visitors and there were a number of great little cafes with good food. Randolph Dairy served the best ever chocolate malts and Dowdy's Luncheonette offered the "ranch burger basket." Oh man, they were big and juicy and the fries were made from real potatoes.
I still live near this same small town on a farm a few miles west, but I rarely go to town. Walmart came and the small locally owned businesses were squeezed out. Now the "main drag" is home to vintage stores and empty buildings. The library is still there and I still go there. A few months ago and fire took out the last clothing store and left a gaping black hole.
The schools consolidated and are all together at the south end of town. What few businesses there are have moved to the north end near the evil walmart. If I want to shop, I drive 40 miles to a small city because you can never find what you want here any more.
I suppose this is the norm for small towns across the country these days. Many are entirely gone. I feel the loss of community, the way folks used to sit on their porches in the evening, kids running up and down the street, walking to school with my friends - gone like so much else - gone.