Cities and perceptions change over the years

Columnist and Columnist

I grew up in Norwalk, Ohio. It is a typical Midwestern town of 16,000 residents.

In the 1980’s, it was a great place to grow up. Norwalk is situated 60 miles east of Toledo and 60 miles west of Cleveland.

Even before I could drive, my dad would occasionally take my late mom, all of us kids and the old station wagon to the city. It was mostly sightseeing but it was always fun.

Usually that city was Cleveland. I came to appreciate the charms of Cleveland and always wanted to move there one day when “I was big.” I never got to live in Cleveland, but I did eventually make it to the other big city Dad would drive us to: Toledo.

I live one mile outside of the Toledo city limits, so I count myself as a resident. Toledo is a typical Rust Belt city; the jobs are gone, crime is perceived as high and the schools are also perceived as crummy.

There is some truth to the last two and much truth in the first point. With that being said, the hayseed in me still gets a thrill being in the city. It reminds me of being young and full of wonder. It reminds me of the baseball and hockey games my dad took us to. It reminds me of when my dad was young and physically vital and when my mom and oldest sister were alive. It reminds me of my great friend Doug, who got his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the Unversity of Toledo. It reminds me of many great things.

Toledo has many great things to offer. A world-class zoo, a remarkable art museum for a city of its size. Minor league hockey and baseball are also great family entertainment.

While the University of Toledo is our most bitter rival, it too is a great place to receive an education. When one mixes in Owens, Lourdes, Mercy College and quick access to our University, the opportunity for excellent higher education is highly available to Toledo residents.

Alas, present-day Toledo also reminds me of how it once was. The Toledo I visited as a teenager and younger had 100,000 more residents than it does now. It had plentiful jobs for the uneducated, jobs that built a middle-class in America. These jobs were the kind that did not require a master’s degree to buy a home, car and education for your kids. This was thriving Toledo; the Glass City, an industrial powerhouse. Those days are over sadly and those jobs are in places like Vietnam, China and Mexico.

Why did these jobs leave? Some say union greed. Some say sound economic policy and some say it is the industrial cycle at work. I say it is pure, unadulterated greed. Big business did to Toledo what it did to most of our big cities and what it has done to almost all of our small towns. The jobs leave for higher profits and municipal, economic, social and yes, familial ties are torn apart. All for a higher stock quote and a CEO’s fifth house. Toledo is a microcosm of what has happened to our nation in the last 35 years. We are all lessened by it.

That being said, I still love Toledo and I still think it is a great city. I am leaving the Glass City this Saturday. My family and I are starting a new adventure in Columbus. While my column will continue and I will commute to Bowling Green twice a week to finish graduate school, I will miss Toledo. I am confident though that I will certainly fall in love with our capital city too. Columbus represents a new start and a new adventure. I am lucky to be going there with my wife Rachel and my step-daughter Emma. A new adventure is always better when accompanied by the ones you love most. So I am saying goodbye to Toledo, just as I will say goodbye to the University come spring. Both will remain in my heart.