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

Gloria Steinem

Friday, May 4, 2018

It’s Time to Say Goodbye…and “Ha Det”

This will be my last post for this blog. There are two components to this decision, the reason behind it and the timing.  The reason behind it has been growing for a while now, and a most welcome event has provided me with the timing.  But it’s not easy to let go.

I lived for thirty-six years in Port Indian, a small community along (and, frequently, in) the lower Schuylkill River, just upriver from Norristown, in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  During my decades there, I grew to love the Schuylkill Valley, and most of all the history of its small towns.

Applying my professional training to my personal environment, I undertook studies of the towns along the lower part of the river.  My first book, What Killed Downtown? Norristown, Pennsylvania, From Main Street to the Malls, focused on the Schuylkill Valley’s largest municipality.  What Killed Downtown? related the collapse of its Main Street commercial sector after 1950, and disproved the conventional wisdom that the King of Prussia Mall was the cause.

I took a very different approach for my second book, and considered the past, present and future of the eight towns on the lower Schuylkill River as a group.  They’ve Been Down So Long…Getting Up’s Still On Their Minds reveals both the commonalities and the differences in their history, and the reasons for their vastly different conditions today.

Both are available, by the way, at the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and, of course, on Amazon.

Ironically, I did not begin this blog until my big move West.  I followed my wife to San Francisco, where she had been offered her dream job in her favorite city.  Once on the West Coast, I began this blog to keep my connection with the Schuylkill Valley alive, and have posted at least once a month since then.  I attempted to put urban history in the service of urban revival.  I believe that physical distance gave me the perspective to establish priorities among the confusing plethora of contenders for attention in each town, which is so difficult when one is in the middle of the fight.  I tried to impart this broader point of view by planting it firmly in the tides of American history.  I commented on what are national problems, but through a distinctly local prism.

It’s been quite a journey, but the passage of time makes the advantage of perspective a diminishing asset.  The sense that it was time to end things has been growing, but always before postponed when events in the Schuylkill Valley allowed me to make a salient point or two. 

What makes the timing now is most welcome news from a different quarter.  McFarland & Company, Inc. has contracted to publish my next book.  I am excited about this, and will in the coming months be occupied reading galley proofs, planning promotional events and the like.  This presents a conflict, because the book has absolutely nothing to do with either the lower Schuylkill River or the towns along it.  Thus, my timing has become now.

That makes this last post pretty much a “GOOD BYE AND THANK YOU one, and there are many to thank.  The Internet tells me that “Ha Det” is “goodbye” in Norwegian, and so I include it in my final post title.  I do this to thank the numerous Norwegians who have viewed my blog.  I also wish to thank my readers from not just America and Norway, but from Israel, Russia, and many more countries, some of them very far away.  I never expected my locally-focused blog to gain an international audience, but it did.  It’s humbling to think that I might have contributed a little something toward the better understanding of our confusing country, the United States.

But most of all I want to thank my readers in my subject towns along the lower Schuylkill River.  I began this blog for you, and although, judging from my page view metrics, you quickly became a small minority of my readers, you remained foremost in my thoughts.  And among you, I would most like to thank—believe it or not—those who disagreed with my comments, and weren’t afraid to say so, at least on Facebook.  Real change is only possible following an informed exchange of views among those with differing solutions for the problems being faced, and I deeply appreciated your contributions.

So this will be my last post.  But while I shall not publish any new ones, I suspect that, on occasion, an old one may see the light of day again, because it will again be relevant to the changes underway not just in the Schuylkill Valley, but across the United States.  After all, the more things change


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