Recently Turner Classic Movies ran Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) starring Jimmy Stewart. I had to sit down and watch it. I love that movie. It always makes me think of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) starring Gary Cooper, another favorite. Each a Frank Capra movie, each about someone from a small town that has to deal with the corruption found in a big city when powerful people gather only listen to the voices of other powerful people. Fiction? Sure, but don't we all recognize the stories as ones played out day after day all over this country? Small towns still exist, but I think the burden they carry is far from the romantic idealization many people have of them.
I found this photograph, a portion of an RPPC, at an estate sale. It dates most likely from the mid 1920s and shows N. Side Square in Virden, Illinois. I did a little bit of googling about Virden and unfortunately not much shows up. The town still exists and is still a small town with a population around 3400. It's mainly a coal mining and agricultural area. The following comes from the Brittanica site:
Laid out in 1852 along the Chicago and Mississippi Railroad, it was named for John Virden, a local innkeeper. A coal-mining town, Virden was the scene of a mine riot on October 12, 1898. Violence erupted between guards and miners following the arrival of some 200 African American workers from Alabama who were hired by the Chicago-Virden Coal Company in an attempt to break a strike by local workers affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America. Some 15 people (mostly local miners and guards hired to protect the train carrying the arriving workers) died. The city was under martial law for several days, and the union movement credited the incident as an important milestone, especially in the winning of the eight-hour day. Virden is now the centre of an agricultural area with corn (maize) and soybeans as the chief crops. Livestock raising is also important. Macoupin county remains one of the state’s largest producers of coal. Inc. (Source: Encylopedia Britannica)In October of 2006 a memorial was placed in the town in recognition of this history.
With this photo, as usual, it's all in the details. Details I'd have never noticed without the aid of my trusty scanner.
In this one shot there are two restaurants serving fried chicken, one on each side of the street. There are two ice cream parlors just a stone throw from each other. But best of all is the family crossing the street. A man wearing a straw boater and a woman and child who each look to be holding their right arms up as if eating ice cream cones. Could it be more perfect? Do click on the photos so you can see them larger at Flickr. You really have to just sit back and visit Virden.
Click on images to see them larger.
And before I go I'll give a shout out to two other things I found while googling. Always wanting to support small independent book stores I see where Virden has one called The Sly Fox. I don't know anything about the shop, but if you're passing through Virden you might want to check them out. I see where they specialize in children's books, mysteries, and history of Illinois.
The other bit of information is that according to the Virden town website they'll be having a city wide garage sale on June 20th. Ohhhhh, wish I was there. Instead I'll have to settle for a bit of Longfellow Deeds in Vermont.