A Place To Linger – Another Day

A wide front porch and some comfy chairs overlooking Main Street in a small town. Doesn’t this look like the very best place to pass an afternoon?

It was chilly yesterday but I still wanted to sit here and watch the world go by. I’ll tell you all about this town another day but, for now, the adventure continues!

Can you guess where I am?

Classic On The Street

A long day of exploring the Wilmington and Hillsboro areas left me craving something cold. So I stopped at the DQ in Bainbridge, an old school place with a walk up window and little kids lined up for ice cream cones. I took my place in that line for a milkshake but not before whipping out my camera.

That’s because I had parked across the street from this little number. Check out the detailing in the hood. It’s a 1948 Ford Coupe.

Finding classics at a car show is great fun but it’s even better finding them unexpectedly and out on the street!

When A Church Closes

Yesterday brought some bad news. The church my grandfather built will close next month. It’s a Nazarene Church in Chesterhill, Ohio that he pastored a long time ago.

Sermons will cease, the doors will close and the building will be sold by the District. The eighteen souls who pray there will no longer have their community house of worship.

This congregation has been dwindling for some years but they pay their bills on time and faithfully minister to the spiritual needs of those who enter.

My mother is beside herself with grief and worry. It’s a part of our family history but it’s also a good building. It was well built and has been maintained over the years. And yes, it is a small congregation but they are faithful to the church. The nearest Nazarene Church is too far for most of them to drive every week as so many of them are elderly.

She called the District Office yesterday and was more or less humored by someone who listened to her complaint and who provided less than satisfactory answers to her questions. What will happen to those eighteen souls? What would God think of you selling His house?

This isn’t a new or unique problem for small churches and communities across America. I see it all the time in my backroads journeys – these old churches and aging congregations struggle to compete with the new churches and all the modern, fun conveniences they offer.

It’s also hard to survive in a church conference that appears to value money more than souls. That statement may sound harsh and maybe it isn’t fair but that’s how it feels.

But you see it in other areas of small town life. Wander around long enough and you’ll spot the signs of communities being left behind – abandoned hospitals, schools, churches and stores are all too common.

I suppose it’s just a sign of these times but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

There’s a lot of good in our small communities. What we lack in population and wealth we make up for with fresh air, room to roam, friendly neighbors and kind strangers. Our rush hours involve school buses rather than traffic jams. People here tend to mind their own business until you need them. Then they carry in food when someone dies and offer to help when there’s work to be done.

Our residents tend to feel a sense of place and belonging that comes from knowing your neighbors and from sitting in the same church pew every Sunday for a lifetime.

Too bad there’s no money to be made in local character.

I don’t know what it would take to convince a community of less than 280 people to rally behind the church down the street. But it’s a slippery slope as every loss leads to another. Our small towns like Chesterhill can’t afford to lose anything else.

Longtime readers may recall a story that I wrote a few years ago about a day in the Chesterhill area when we visited this church. You can read it here.

Meanwhile, I fear its days are numbered and there’s nothing I can do to help.

Downtown Wilmington

Saturday was spent rambling around the Wilmington and Hillsboro, Ohio area. I had a list of things to see but was delighted by all the other stuff I found along the way.

You’ll see a lot of these stories pop up here soon but there are a few specific ones I want to tell you this week.

The first of these is about downtown Wilmington. I have been through Wilmington but had never parked the car and explored. Here you’ll find a number of historic buildings that are a mixture of vacant and vibrant. There are also several impressive churches, a historic hotel, an old theater and beautiful murals.

The street lights are historic reproductions and it looks like someone will be along soon to plant flowers. It mainly felt safe, tidy and optimistic.

Here, you’ll find inspirational messages.

People are out walking, dining in restaurants and shopping the farmers market for which they close a city block.

You’ll find murals in high traffic locales and in alleyways. This one looks so realistic I almost thought it possible to open the door and enter.

Even the cat in this mural looks like it could start purring.

I shopped in an antique store that inhabits an old mill and dined at the General Denver Hotel which offered vegetarian options that didn’t involve grilled cheese or pizza. I haven’t eaten in many restaurants this last year but it wasn’t too busy and it felt perfectly comfortable. The food was excellent.

It’s a Tudor style, built in the twenties, and the kind of place I would enjoy staying. How fun would it be to get dressed up for a show at the Murphy Theater and have a nice dinner here? If you’ve stayed here, I would enjoy your review.

Expect more pictures from Wilmington soon but first we’ll visit Hillsboro tomorrow. There’s a real treasure in that town and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Cinema 1 & 2

It started life as the Wayne Theater in 1921. Today it’s known by that name as well as the very straightforward name Cinema 1 & 2.

Located in Greenville, Ohio’s somewhat busy downtown, I was surprised to find that it appears to be closed. It reminded me of the old twin cinema we had in my hometown. It’s long gone and even the building has been torn down but I rarely drive by without recalling the movies I watched there as a kid.

Little towns need outlets for entertainment like movies theaters and skating rinks just as badly as cities do. Tragically, small towns seem to struggle the hardest to keep these types of businesses afloat.

I view places like this as a cautionary tale to support the businesses we want to keep in our communities. Whether it be a movie theater, a record store or a place with the best milkshakes, if there’s a business out there we want to keep around, we have to do our part and support them.

Here’s hoping that some community group will come along with plans to give the old Wayne Theater a new lease on life!

Hamden Gas and Oil

Even the vacant old gas station in the neighborhood needs some attention once in a while. Those old gas pumps are the best!

This is one of many things I drive by frequently but never stop and really appreciate. The sky was brooding and beautiful that day so I just had to pull over for a quick shot.