"The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off."

Gloria Steinem

Friday, July 24, 2015

How Many Of You Will I See Next Week?

I published this post just before boarding the long and uncomfortable flight to Pennsylvania, but that is a trivial introduction to a great week.  I will spend next week in the towns along the lower Schuylkill River, speaking about my new book, They’ve Been Down So Long…/Getting Up’s Still On Their Minds (and explaining the reason for that unusual title structure) as well as meeting with local activists on an informal basis. 

My work offers a read-at-your-leisure course in “Local History 101,” focused on the eight towns between the cities of Reading and Philadelphia on the lower Schuylkill River.  Be aware: it is formatted in the old-fashioned Basic Organization Of Knowledge (“BOOK”) style, although a Kindle version will soon be available.  The advantage to this format is that you get the lectures, class discussion as well as the assigned reading, all between the same two covers.  The “book” format is—and the ebook will be—available from Amasquash, er, Amazon.com, of course.  Locally, they will be sold at Towne Book Center along Rt. 422 at Rt. 29 and the Historical Society of Montgomery County on DeKalb Street in Norristown.

I have addressed my book directly to the activists in each town, those seeking a better environment for themselves, their families and their friends.  I discuss what I consider to be the three fundamental realities of life along the river.  The first of these is the river itself; all eight communities are “river towns,” and the river’s enormous improvement in recent years points the way to a different way of utilizing it.  But the river has always been only one of the fundamental realities around which life in its small towns has always been lived.  My work examines the others also and how changes in them have spurred both high and low points in the history of all eight towns.  The central point is that even the fundamental realities change, and the significance of those changes—and they have been great—must be grasped if you want to plan for a better future.  History must be understood, not just remembered, if it is to be of any real use to our future.

My book also attacks some of the prevalent myths about what happened to our towns and cities after World War II, because efforts for a better future are doomed if they are based on myths about the past and the present.  That’s why I want to see as many of you as possible next week.  Here is my schedule:

Saturday, July 25
5 PM:                Port Indian
                          (Private Residence, locals only)

Sunday, July 26
1 – 3 PM:          Spring-Ford Area Historical Society
  526 Main Street, Royersford

4 PM:                Towne Book Center
  220 Plaza Drive, Suite B-3, Collegeville Pa.
                          (Intersection of U.S. Rt. 422 and P.A. 29)

Tuesday, July 28
12 PM:              Phoenixville Rotary Club
  Phoenixville

7 PM:                Historical Society of Montgomery County
  1654 DeKalb Street
  Norristown

Wednesday, July 29
6 PM:                 Pottstown Rotary Club
                          Brookside Country Club

Thursday, July 30
7:30 AM:            Conshy-Plymouth Whitemarsh Rotary Club
               Lafayette Hill

Saturday, August 1
1 PM:                Bridgeport
  Good Will Fire Company
  304 Bush Street, 19405

5 PM:                 “Calling All Schuylkill Valley Activists”   
    Coffee Talk
                           507 W. Marshall St.
                           Norristown

Note that I made a special point to include local Rotary Clubs in my audiences.  They may not make the headlines and you won’t see too many of them in the street holding signs, but members of Rotary are community activists in the most fundamental sense of the word.  They are the men and women of local business, around whom and which urban revivals  must be built.

For those of you who take “community activism” more directly, I strongly urge you to attend what I have termed “Calling All Schuylkill Valley Activists” in Norristown, on Saturday, August 1, at 5 PM.  Our hosts are Aleks and Joel of Coffee Talk, a much-too-neglected community treasure at 507 West Marshall Street.  I frequently advocate inter-community communication and support, and this is an opportunity for you to discover that there are indeed others who think like you do and share the same concerns, just not about your immediate neighborhood.

If you are coming in from out of town and think of Main Street when someone mentions "Norristown," give yourself some extra time to walk around the four blocks of West Marshall Street where the event will take place and see what a local commercial revival today might look like.  There is one underway.

There will be much to share when we gather together.  I look forward to seeing you there, or at any of the other get-togethers on my list.