Gary Grinnell often contributes to these pages.
Originally published in The Commons issue #164 (Wednesday, August 8, 2012).
A river flows through the center of the city. The water is dark and mysterious, murky and deep. There are eddies and small whirlpools, miniature falls and tiny bridges. But no one stops to look. They hurry past, and the river flows on.
Once the river powered great factories that helped defeat an unspeakable evil.
The Germans wanted to destroy the city, to bomb the factories and shut them down. They failed, but today the factories sit idle. The city survives.
Springfield is a city full of untold stories and unknown heroes. It is a city built on the slant, a maze of back roads that wind along impossibly steep hills. It is a place of secret and improbable places: abandoned houses, dead-end streets, and alleyways that lead to a forgotten river.
It is a place of unrecognized beauty, wasted talent, and hidden courage.
* * *
At one time, recruiters trolled Ellis Island hunting for immigrants to work in the foundry, now torn down.
“This place used to be a boom town,” one longtime resident told me. “Now it’s a ghost town.”
When the big machine tool makers left, a lot of people moved away.
It’s impossible to drive past the abandoned houses and not wonder if they are haunted.
* * *
Despite all of this, Springfield refuses to die. Like an old prizefighter who knows how to take a hit, the place keeps on going.
Springfield is a place that holds tremendous potential. Overlooked and under-appreciated, it waits for better times: the city is still very much alive.
Every morning, a small army of kids marches off toward the city’s schools. In the afternoon, teenagers hang out in parking lots forming tribes.
Young men work on their cars in the street.
At night coyotes and raccoons patrol backyards. The highway roars in the distance. The river sparkles in the moonlight and slides past empty buildings towards the sea.
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