Northern Exposure

Feel sad about living in Applachia? Don't Be!

This blog is inspired by the recent survey (Which one? There's lots of them!) ranking West Virginia at the bottom in terms of, basically, whether people like living there.  (Don't laugh,'re number 47!)

O.K., we're not New York City...or Chicago...or, heaven forbid, Los Angeles.

But the Parkersburg-Marietta area is absolutely cosmopolitan compared to where I lived during part of my growing-up years.

In 1962, my father was transferred to a General Motors plant in Massena, New York (which, the last I heard, was on life support with the turmoil in the auto industry).  This town was as far from New York City as it is from the Cleveland area, where we had been living.  And not just distance-wise.

It was practically in the northernmost part of the state.  And it wasn't near any large city.  Buffalo was five hours away.  Syracuse was a three-hour drive.

Back then, it was also lacking in retail services.  The town we actually lived in was called Raymondville.  The stores (there were three supermarkets, as I recall) were ten miles away.  The nearest gas station was about five miles from where we lived.  There was cable TV, but it was mostly confined to "the city", and our town didn't have it.  We got TV from the distant town of Watertown with an antenna. (Those of you dealing with the "digital change", no doubt, appreciate that.)  One thing we did get was TV from Canada (Ottawa and Montreal), which, then, wasn't much different than American TV.

Our home was basically built on sandy ground, although this had its pluses as well.  There was a huge sand pile in our back yard for recreational purposes.  There also was a large wooded area behind our home, which scared me but my brother loved.  (My parents were always concerned something was going to happen to one of us in the river that was behind those woods.)

And, last but not least, if you think the winter weather here is bad: most winters, there was so much snow that we didn't see the ground between November and April.  If Easter happened during March, there was a good chance that there was three to six inches of snow still on the ground.

In 1969, we returned to the Cleveland area after my father left GM and got a new job.  (You CAN go home again!) But this experience did have its benefits.  It gave me an understanding of the "small-market" world, and it helped me to appreciate working in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

I have only been to northern New York once since we left, and the town has grown.  It has a shopping mall, and I'm sure there's probably also a Wal-Mart there now.  But the Massena-area typifies a 60's-era slogan for a beer which was made in New York at the time: "50 Years Behind the Times...And Proud Of It"!




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