Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Home Town Part II

Small scale charm still defines the "downtown" of MHT. Market Square was and still is the heart of the shopping district. In the 1950s and 60s it was surrounded by tidy, mostly family owned shops with the Marshall Fields store anchoring the west end of the square. The train station was across the street to the east of the square, so riders had a short trip to do some shopping.

Since my family left MHT in 1968, many of the family-owned stores have been sold and some subdivided. One, the shoe store remains, but is unrecognizable from updating. When I was little, the store had a fluoroscope through which we could see our feet inside the shoes -- cool. It was the lastest tool to help properly fit shoes on children. Heaven only knows how many of us were over-exposed to its rays.

MHT still has narrow streets lined with lush landscaping and quaint gas lights. The old estates of the Schweppes, Armours, Swifts, McCormicks and more have been subdivided and the population has doubled. It has also become a town of nouveau riche, much less welcoming than it was 40 years ago. Old money families, middle and lower income families all attended church together and shopped in the same stores. African-American families lived on land purchased many years earlier by their great-great-grandparents, some of whom arrived via the Underground Railroad. MHT was a marvelous mix of grounded, fair-minded individuals who cared deeply about their community.

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