On Monday I’m going to have lots of fun things that will explain the diffident offerings you’re going to get over the next three days. The plate of dry cold cuts. The rote Bleats, the desultory additions to the great library that is our beloved Internet. I’ve been falling down, I know.
What’s that, you say, you haven’t noticed? Bless you. Okay, let’s get on with it. This week seems to be Unburdening Time, and today it’s the newly-found fascination with small town decay.
As you might have guessed, hollowed-out small towns are a subject in which I have some interest. This Examiner writer looks at Ford Heights, IL.
Nobody ever really moves in here. Nobody ever comes here except to pass on by; you either escape or die.
Well, the population went from 3500 in 2000 to 2700 hundred today, so there was either a lot of escaping going on, or the plague.
And the saddest thing is that none of this is new: Ford Heights, located 25 miles from Chicago, has been fighting this battle for decades. In 1987 it was named the poorest black suburb in America.
De-industrialization is color-blind; it doesn't matter if your town is all white, or predominately black like Ford Heights — when the jobs leave, everyone bleeds red.
A study by the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed, in 2014, that Ford Heights' jobless rate exceeded 60 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds.
The evidence of prosperity passing by this rural black town is everywhere.
Does this look rural?
It’s right next to Chicago Heights, which has had a slight population decline but has as many people as did in the 1950s. It has a huge Ford Stamping Plant. A recycling center. It has jobs, in other words. Back to the piece:
And the library? Not only does the town no longer have one (it closed decades ago, then was torn down), but its residents have been denied library cards at the neighboring town of Glenwood-Lynwood's library because Ford Heights has — you guessed it — become delinquent in its payments.
Chicago Heights, which is closer, has a new million-dollar library. There is no town of Glenwood-Lynwood; there’s a village of Lynwood. The area library is called the Glenwood-Lynwood library.
The most curious part? The story says the government built 60 acres of subsidized housing. That might have had something to do with the town's fortunes. Wikipedia:
East Chicago Heights was incorporated as a village in 1949. In the 1950 census, 1,548 people lived in the village – 76.9% of whom were black. The Ford Motor Company opened a stamping plant adjacent to the village in 1956. The company offered minorities an equal opportunity for well-paying jobs, and East Chicago Heights developed into a blue-collar community inhabited mostly by middle-class black families whose housing choices in suburban Chicago were severely limited at that time.
The village's population more than doubled to 3,270 by 1960. That growth continued throughout the decade, with one of the biggest successes being the Sunnyfield subdivision, which opened in 1964 and became one of the most popular neighborhoods in East Chicago Heights.
Towards the end of the 1960s, over 60 acres of housing deemed substandard were cleared and replaced by federally subsidized public housing. These developments attracted lower income residents to East Chicago Heights, which strained the village's resources, already limited by little commercial activity and a small tax base.
The town’s name was changed when they attempted to lure the Ford plant to join their city, which is to say they wanted to annex the land. Didn’t work. Anyway, the town had little commercial activity because all the action is over in Chicago Heights, and that’s also the reason for the small tax base. Government builds a concentrated poverty camp, and the city’s behavioural demographics are now changed.
It’s hard to see how this is a case of a city withering when the jobs go away.
In related urban news, from TNR - let's celebrate Frestyle Marxist, shall we?
A study of the often destructive effects of capitalism and modernization on the life of cities, All That Is Solid put Berman on the map as an urbanist, but his body of work addresses a much larger project. He often called himself a Marxist humanist,
Odd one has to qualify Marxism to include humanism, eh? And:
Berman pioneered a form of social criticism that responded to this charged moment. His dissertation, The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society,
There’s a cold glass of liquified spinach, eh
. . . published in 1970, merges Rousseau and Montesquieu with Marx in a distinctly New Left style (the introduction is titled “The Personal is Political”).
We’re still living with the poison of that conflation.
Throughout the 1970s, he wrote for magazines such as Dissent, The Nation, and Partisan Review, while drawing on his own autobiography.
Translation: couldn’t change the oil in his car if you put a gun to his head
As a college student, Berman recalled, he would ride the subway back uptown to watch the obliteration of the Bronx of his childhood. In the name of modernization, Robert Moses, New York’s infamous urban czar from the 1930s through the 1960s, took a “meat ax” to the borough with glee. Berman’s parents knew that the Cross Bronx Expressway would cut their neighborhood into pieces, placing once-vibrant blocks next to a roaring freeway, but they were helpless to stop it.
And Moses was a private capitalist, right? Later:
“To be modern,” Berman wrote, “is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, and to find one’s world in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction: to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air.”
No one ever felt that way in the 19th century, I’m sure.
Oh no, no, not another Western, I said last week.
Remember, between the fun serials, we take a quick look at a Western. They’re always a let down. The plots are rote, the prints are muddy, and there’s only so many perils they can use. Blowing up, burning, a wagon falling off a cliff. Unlike the modern day serials, which have so much more, like blowing up spaceships! Burning by remote control! a car falling off a cliff!
All I’m going to show you are cliffhangers and resolutions, and since that requires larger files, we’ll just do two clips and call it a day.
What’s this one called?
As opposed to all those tombs that put you at ease and give you a great sense of calm. By the way, Zorro, who is not called Zorro, is a girl!!! But no one knows because they can't possibly tell!
As it turns out, it's a bank vault, because every Western has to have a bank scene where the doors are blown off. So let's check this box off:
Don't worry, gang: she's okay, because Vulcans have a second inner eyelid:
At the end of Ep 3 she's passed on on the road, having struck her head on a low-hanging branch, and the guy who's following her is shooting at her lifeless form. She has to get to town to get evidence clearing some toothy romantic lead, because there's a mob outside the jail fixin' to hang him. The essence of the cliffhanger: she's unconscious, so soon the bad guy will be upon her, and shoot her dead out of sheer dastardlyness.
Well, as we all know, they stay knocked out for about 3 seconds.
Well, let's go to the cliffhanger for episode 4. We've had the wagon-off-the-cliff, the bank explosion, the low-hanging tree; no stampede yet. We're due for one of those.
Oh no, the vehicle is out of control and little Bobby is asleep in the back. Once again, WHEEEEEE HAH
Nicely done, but another vehicle-over-the-cliff so soon? Next week we'll see what happens.
That'll do! See you around.