Last week my wife and baby daughter and I spent a few days on her uncle’s farm out in the country. On the way there and back we passed through a number of small country towns. As is often the case, I get a touch melancholy when passing through small towns like that because many have obviously seen better days. All the old and abandoned churches, shops, houses and schools speak of a time when they were thriving, and to see them slowly wither away touches me.
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that transport is both too fast and not fast enough. When these places were settled, there were no cars and transport was much slower. So the towns were self contained communities. As transportation became faster and faster, the need for all the services was reduced and people could move more freely. The cities sucked in all the people looking for work and the decline began.
Now imagine if we had super fast transportation, where instead of being three hours from the city, these little places were only half an hour. You’d probably find people moving out again as jumping on a fast train to take 30 minute ride into the city followed by a short walk to work is a lot faster than many commutes people make by car as is. At least I’d hope so. The big cities are getting too crowded and congested.
One thing I want to do, if I ever become a multi-millionaire best seller, is buy one of these fading old towns, or at least a part of it, and bring it back to life somehow. Maybe make it a writers retreat. Which would really require a cafe/bakery as well. Its a nice dream, though one doubtful to ever happen.