One of the experiences you gain as you grow older is that you attend an increasing number of “calling hours” at funeral homes. Elderly members of your, or your friend’s, family pass on, and you go to pay your respects and offer your condolences. One of the facets of that is that you’ll hear at least one person (and usually more) make a comment about how nice a job the funeral director did on the deceased, that they “look so nice.” I was reminded of that when a co-worker was discussing the goings-on in one of the groups in a nearby town. There was a lot of pushing done to “beautify” the main street, and arguments over whether a pavilion should be built on a local beach, or its placement. I said “Well, that’s nice, but all they’re doing is dressing up a corpse.”
What did I mean by that? Let’s jump back 40 years. The town I knew as a teen had 2 diners, a grocery store, a general store, a gas station, restaurants, bars, summer cottage rentals, and motels. Besides the people staying in the cottages or motels, a healthy number of day visitors and two nearby state campgrounds provided a steady stream of business and income. One of the diners and the gas station were open year-round. It was a “busy place” in the summer.
What’s it like today? It’s not that busy place anymore, it’s a place you pass through on your way to someplace else. There are no restaurants or diners. The grocery store and the general store are gone, the gas station has been converted into a small convenience store with a limited selection. Some of the rental cottages remain, but most of them, along with the motels are no longer in operation.
What happened was that during the real estate bubbles of the mid-80’s and later on the 2000’s, land prices skyrocketed, and with that, the ability of many locals to afford to purchase a house or find a place to rent. It was a great time if you were a real estate agent, but the impact on the town was something quite different. For those who already owned a house or business, another problem arose. Each sale, at an increasing price, meant that their property assessment increased, increasing the amount of property taxes they had to pay. Most of the businesses were closed and sold to be turned into “summer properties.” A restaurant that had been in operation for a century is now someone’s private “summer place.”
Hence, my comment. The once vibrant little village is now just a summer bedroom community, with just a few year-round residents. Yes, they’ve been doing a lot of beautification projects, but there’s no reason to stop there anymore. All the things that made it a vibrant little community are now gone, and won’t be coming back. Yes, it does look nice. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s dead, and that’s the real shame.