I am going to try and write what I started out to write when writing 'Home is Where the heart is'. The thoughts that I need to put down have been in my head for weeks now, but vague, without that spark of inspiration that I sometimes get when thinking about a topic. My intended topic was the changes I’d seen in Adrian and, as you can tell, I got majorly distracted when I started the post last week. I will try to do better staying on topic this time around.
Back to Adrian.
I spent two weeks in Adrian at the end of September and it felt like a visit not a return home; these are the feelings that trigged my last post. Even though born in Adrian, I only lived in the area for 9 years or so as a semi-adult. Returning to my city of birth during my freshman year of high school, and leaving when Patty was 3 (Sept. ‘64 until fall of ‘73). I don’t have many memories of these years. My high school years were spent in a hustle of work and school; no dates, no dances, one basket ball game, no making trouble – just the years passing without note. And immediately after high school my early married years spent in Morenci were about taking care of the babies not thinking about hometowns, belonging and other complex thoughts that I have today.
During this time, my perception was that Adrian was a good sized city. Only after I left and went to progressively larger cities, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Rio de Janeiro, did I start to see Adrian as a small town. And now I see it as a small town that is getting even smaller. Just to see if there were any facts to back up this change in perspective, I Googled for population history of the area (if you use Google as a verb is it capitalized?) and found that yes it is shrinking. The population loss is not great unless you look at how a town would normally grow as families grow and multiply. The numbers for Adrian when compared to the national averages have been pretty stagnant since the 60s.
This could be from the area going from farm to industrial to.... loss of industry? There are two universities and one junior college but after graduation the young people leave for jobs in larger cities. Now this is all my conjecture – but what is there to hold young people and their future families? For that matter what is there that would draw the young people back as they age and begin to retire? This is probably the better question.Adrian would be a wonderful size town to retire in if it had a few amenities; a place to go dancing, a golf course close in, coffee shops and tea rooms to meet for breakfast. These are a few of the things I see retired people do in other cities.
When last in Adrian I saw a small charming town surrounded by natural beauty, the downtown empty of businesses, without even one nice restaurant but with one downtown theater (which is wonderful) and a couple of bars and a few cafes. The outer streets are lined with fast food, with one very badly maintained shopping center on the outskirts. When looking for entertainment or good food my sister and family drive to Tecumseh (under 9,000) or to Toledo. Why does Tecumseh, a town half the size of Adrian, have nice restaurants and Adrian doesn’t?
One thing in Adrian that really impresses me is The old library, now a museum of local history. The displays are interesting, the interior of the building impressive. The only thing I can say that needs to be changed is that it needs to be bigger. Maybe there could even be more old buildings used to expand the displays. The manufacturing history of Adrian is interesting and I could see one of the now empty buildings housing a display telling the story of the Organs or the making of just one of the original cars. I can see families bringing their young children to Adrian for a weekend of local history.
Of course that would mean more hotels, ..... a train from Ann Arbor to Toledo .... organized transit .... but then maybe Adrian would no longer be a small, sleepy little town and the families that have stayed just for those characteristics would have to find another hometown..... And in the end it goes against my nature (that wants to fix everything) that I have to admit that the loss of work, the exodus of families is just another sign of the times in America that has no easy fix.