Shelby 44875

My beloved MSW and I visited my Dad today, in Shelby, Ohio, the town where I grew up. The visit with my Dad was great; we three had fun, jabbered a while and had lunch together. We had a takeaway lunch from Paul’s Drive-In, a 50+ year institution in Shelby – which also happens to be the first place I ever worked.

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Shelby is a funny place – when I mention I am from there, people always ask me “where that is…” I usually jokingly answer something flip like “Smack dab in the middle of nowhere,” or “Shelby? It’s in 1980.” Shelby is an odd town; to be honest, I kinda’ liked growing up there. Everyone knew everyone else – heck, half the town was related to me, somehow. It was safe there. I frequently joke that I grew up not with one Mom but a dozen – I always knew I was in trouble when BeeBoo (my birth Mom) would start a sentence with something like, “You know, Timmy, Mrs. Evans said she saw you outside the Y Dance.” The unspoken part of that sentence was “…saw you smoking/drinking/acting a fool outside the Y Dance.”

You know that crazy saying, “In space, no one can hear you scream?” Well, in Shelby, “No child ever got away with nuthin’!” And honestly? That was kinda’ OK…

Shelby OhioThe funny thing is, if you ask me how I liked growing up there, my instinctual response usually is “I hated it” but that real fact is, I didn’t. Shelby used to be kinda’ cool – we had a movie theater, a bowling alley, a pretty vibrant downtown and a great school system, complete with a formidable football team. When I was young, we had four or five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Shelby boasted a bakery, a bandstand, a swimming pool, three groceries at one time AND a Stop-N-Shop. Shelby was big time, but I never knew it back then…

When I visit Shelby now, I am saddened a bit. Our old Main Street is hardly thriving; there are many empty storefronts and boarded-up establishments. The movie theater is long gone, closed by the opening of a shiny new “twinplex” at “The Mall” in Mansfield when I was in high school. (That theater was, in turn, killed by a newer, twelve screen theater at ANOTHER mall). There is one remaining full-service grocer, and the others have been replaced with dollar stores and discount drug places. The pool is still there but I think the bowling alley is also long gone. Shelby is a town that resisted change and tried to “support their own.” While I applaud that notion in theory, the local economy suffered and the city did as well…

When I tour downtown – “make the loop,” as we used to say in high school – I always think that Shelby could rise again as a charming antiques town, or a cool, hip artsy-fartsy town, if someone with money and vision “rode in there” and took charge. Maybe that will happen one day; I’m not so sure it will but I hope so. It pains me to report that the latest addition to Shelby is the shiny new Taco Bell, on the same corner where Smitty’s Drive-In stood for many, many years. I hope my hometown comes back somehow. I really, really do…

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