Blog Your Block

In this week’s writing challenge, you are invited to write about the block on which you live.

We don’t really have blocks or sidewalks. Or streetlights. We have trees, rivers, lakes, ponds and a rich variety of wildlife … but blocks? That’s a city or suburban thing.


This is the Blackstone Valley, part of the Blackstone Valley National Historic Corridor. Where America first built working mills using the Blackstone River to power them. Eventually we also had a canal, then a railroad. Stuff made in the valley was carried to the world. Then, as the 20th century dawned, the mills closed. The work went away and so did many people. The town went to sleep.

Our town hasn’t made it into the 21st century. It never entirely accepted the previous century either. It crawled forward — unwillingly — until the mid 1950s, then dug its heels in and said “Hell no, we won’t go.”

There we stayed. A pretty, quiet town. Very few shops, no movie theater or bowling alley. No public transportation — not even a taxi . No cute little coffee shops or sidewalk cafés.

Canal in spring - May

If that’s not enough, Boston’s an hour and a bit away. Worcester is just up the road. You can get to Providence in about 45 minutes. Depending on traffic. Other than natural beauty, an abundance of churches and a beautiful if underfunded public library, whatever you want probably isn’t here.

We have a new high school. Twenty years of arguing about it and after allocating millions of dollars to upgrade the old high school — and having those funds vanish with nary a trace — we were told we had to build a real High School or lose accreditation which would have made it tricky for our grads to get into college. So we built a high school — and our taxes have gone sky-high.

There is a mythos surrounding small towns. Cue “The Andy Griffith theme. On TV and in Hollywood, people disagree but everyone has the best interests of the town at heart. Good will always wins the day.

Here, the combination of nepotism, bullying, and a willingness to make life impossible for anyone who gets in their way has enabled a few families to keep a stranglehold on the town.They take what they want and the rest of us can stick a sock in it. Town meetings end in fistfights and verbal brawls that generate enough bad feeling to last into the next decade.

UU Church 44

I didn’t understand the intensity of the acrimony until I covered — for a local paper — debates preceding town council elections. The level of venom was a wonder to behold! Each candidate was nastier than the next — closer to Stephen King than Andy Griffith.

Yet, I love the valley and our strange little town. Our village is home to many wonderful people. Caring, smart, and good hearted folks. Sadly, they aren’t in charge. The other wackos run the place.

And life goes on. White picket fences and green lawns. Big shade trees, lots of room for children to play and safe streets. Only two traffic lights in town, one of which is probably redundant. It’s a pretty place to live. Just avoid the politics and enjoy the scenery. Things are not quite what they seem.

Categories: American history, Blackstone Valley, Humor, Personal

Tags: , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I live in the Boston ‘burbs now, but in a previous life I lived in Small Town, NH. I chuckled at your line about the folks being more Stephen King than Andy Griffith. Yep.


    • I think you have to live in a small New England town to really appreciate King, except real life is less creepy and much funnier. Boston can be pretty wacky to. Before we moved here, we were in Charles River Park and then Roxbury — so it was a really BIG change 🙂


  2. Sound a lot like home… Great post, Marilyn. I enjoyed finding out about your little “Mayberry.” The history lesson grabbed me. Thought places like that only existed up her in God’s Country. HAVE A GREAT DAY! 🙂 Bette


  3. I love small towns! But this is coming from a girl coming from cities and urban subarbs her whole life; the quiet towns are the best vacation spots!


    • Small town are microcosms of big cities. You’ve got all the characters compressed into a smaller environment. There’s a lot of stuff going on, but we sure do put on our best face for tourists. When the world was younger and I lived in New York, we used to come up here to see the leaves and buy apples and pumpkins. We still enjoy the leaves, the pumpkin patches and the orchards … but the drive is much shorter 🙂


  4. I lived in a small town in Mississippi, a bit bigger because it’s a college town, but two hours away from any town of size. Four hours away from any city. We did have a Walmart… and three traffic lights. So there’s that. Before that, I lived in suburban areas, and I kinda miss the quietness of Starkhell, MS. But I wouldn’t wanna live there again. For one, it’s in MS, and I kinda like suburban amenities… I’m not fond of cities though.


    • Yes. I like things you can get in cities — good restaurants (the food is awful around here) — concerts, museums and shopping. But you have to take the rest too … noise, dirt and dreadful traffic. I guess we’ll stay here 🙂


      • Oh, I don’t like cities much at all. Way too many people in cities. Even some suburban areas are too big for me. Albuquerque is kinda big… a little over half a million in the city proper. That’s way too many people for me. Starkhell has about 24,000 when the college is in session (half in the summer and winter break). That’s way too small for me. I’m hoping to find somewhere in between.


        • We are at 12,000, give or take a few. 100 years ago, it was nearer 100,000 but that was when the mills were alive and working. The saving grace is the nearness of Boston and Providence. They aren’t right next door, but they are accessible. And then, there’s Amazon.com!



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