Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ghost Towns

Communities seem to have lives, just like the people who make them.  Some towns seem to rise up out of nowhere, flourish with a vibrancy and life that is both robust and exuberant, and then just as fast as they came into being they disappear.  The west is filled with these “ghost towns” that grew up from some industry, like mining, and when the industry died out so did the towns.

In reading the posts about Hyde Park I am struck by the similarities of the western mining towns to my hometown.  At its height it was filled with the rich and famous, growing from its farming roots, it became a summer playground for rich, then an international political center as the home, and summer residence, of the President. 
It saw Kings and Queens come for visits.  It had its own train stop on the tracks along the Hudson.  It was inevitable that would end at some point.  The President died, and his wife Eleanor retired to her cottage at Val-Kill, but because of her fame and influence, the town continued to thrive.

In the 1950s through probably 1990 the life of the town ebbed and flowed as farms flourished, and the county’s number one business, International Business Machines, grew to employ thousands of people in the towns surrounding its headquarters, plants, and research centers scattered around Dutchess and the adjacent counties.  The service industries like restaurants, drug stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and retail stores all flourished.  In the 1960s, the city center in Poughkeepsie was alive with shoppers going to the department stores and retail shops that made up the main street.

In the latter half of 60’s and early 70’s, we saw the advent of the shopping centers and malls, with most of that going to the lands south of Poughkeepsie, for that was where the big employer was located, and it made financial sense to be convenient to your customers.  It was then that Hyde Park seemed to begin its transition to the bedroom community it is today.  A place where people come to sleep, but work is somewhere else, perhaps somewhere far away like the New York City.

In the 90’s IBM began its fall from greatness.  Its failure to understand the radical shift in office automation, the changing landscape of computing, and the enormous management bureaucracy it had built, doomed its ability to respond quickly to the exploding advancement of circuit technology as foretold by Gordon Moore, and they gave way to the more agile companies of what is now known as Silicon Valley.

I left the town in the early 70s to join the Air Force.  So I wonder, what will change the Hyde Park of today to bring back the town it once was or is its continued decline to a shadow of glories past inevitable?

1 comment:

Unique Lamp Lites said...

I grew up in Hyde Park in the 50's and 60's. It was extraordinarily blessed with a simple, easy childhood. Most people would envy me. Now when I go back I feel sad that Hyde Park is no longer that beautiful, prestigious place to live. I can only say, I hope something revives the town. I was a proud resident. I don't think Hyde Parker's feel that pride in their town anymore.

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