Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
This week on Changing Gears we’re talking about people who are leaving the Midwestern industrial corridor. Some of the areas hardest hit by out-migration are small rural communities. They are facing a triple whammy – the decline of manufacturing, farming and shipping sectors.
North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann tracked the journey of one woman who moved from a tiny town to New York City. He brings us this report:
It’s hard to imagine just how small Becca Johnson’s hometown is. Her parents moved to Rossie, in upstate New York, in the 1970s, part of the farming and manufacturing belt that stretched from the Northeast to the Midwest.
Their family homesteaded in an old abandoned barn.
“No running water and no toilet, or anything like that,” says Johnson. She was practically a teenager before her family got indoor plumbing. “It had an interesting influence on my social life,” she says.
Letter-writing has always been an important part of my family’s legacy.
My mother discovered her family origins through letters written in the early 1900’s that were found in a desk drawer in an attic in Epernay, France. The letter was written by my grandfather and addresses to his brother. When my mother discovered the letters, she started communicating with her family.
When my oldest sister left for college in the 70’s, my father, Wayne Muren, began writing weekly letters just as my great grandfather did many years prior. The letters served as a source of inspiration for my sister and as well as a blanket of comfort.
After all five children grew up and graduated from college, several moved away. Wayne kept writing letters. To this day, 35 years later, I am blessed to still receive a weekly letter filled with newspaper/magazine articles. The no. 10 envelope that was once delivered to my college dormitory is now a large manila envelope packed with news and information.
The letters are sent to not only his children, but also to his 11 grandchildren. The letters are now mailed in large envelopes which accompany 10-20 newspaper clippings to keep the family up-to-date with current events as well as comic strips from a local artist.
This gift of communication is one that I hope will never stop arriving at my door for many years to come. This ritual is now our family tradition.