June 19, 2016
I grew up in a rural Nebraska town of about 2,000 residents. I like to tell others that it’s a good place to be from. Would I want to live there now? Probably not, but only because we have become accustomed to what larger places have to offer. Also, small towns in central Nebraska can be hours away from a major airport, which is problematic when traveling often.
Small towns definitely have charm that you cannot find in larger communities. Almost everyone knows everyone else, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. When driving the streets and surrounding country roads, people waive, even if they do not know you. People not familiar with this small-town hospitality may find it perplexing.
In some ways, returning to my home town of St. Paul feels like stepping back in time. The pace of life is slower and more relaxing, which is good, especially when I’m there and away from work. Life is simpler and choices are more limited. Going to a fine restaurant, for example, is 70 km (45 miles) round-trip, so it does not happen often. Theaters and other forms of entertainment are equally as far away, with the exception of local sports and other small-town events, such as festivals and county fairs.
Four generations of Wohlers lived in the St. Paul area and I was the first to move away. It was in 1981 when my bride and I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a graduate program at Colorado State University. The plan was to stay until completion, but then return to Nebraska. We never did.
Many decades earlier, my great grandfather, Fred Wohlers, Jr., chose to stay to serve as local a carpenter. He built one of the nicer homes in St. Paul, which is pictured in the following (left).
My mother’s first cousin, Dorothy Lynch, was also a local resident. She created the popular Dorothy Lynch French-style salad dressing more than 50 years ago. As a small child, I recall seeing her fill bottles of the salad dressing in a small, one-room building (above, right) located across the street from our home. The location maintains her name to this day, but serves as a hair salon. The Dorothy Lynch product was purchased many years ago and is produced and distributed from another small Nebraska town.
My wife and I like to return to our Nebraska hometowns to see family and friends. She is from Lexington where we attended her high school class reunion last night. When returning to our hometowns, we often discuss the past and catch up on what everyone is doing. Sadly, a growing number are “missing in action” and a percentage of them are deceased. I would not trade my past for anything, but we always look forward to returning to Colorado—our home of the past 35+ years—even with the more hectic lifestyle.