I can honestly say that going back again wasn't what I expected. I knew Detroit has been hit hard by the faltering auto industry and I suppose I should've expected to see the same thing in my hometown since it's only about 20 minutes south of Detroit. I didn't expect it though. I had a picture in my mind of what it had looked like back in 2003 and what it had looked like throughout my childhood. And the picture in my mind was nothing like this...
I walked the old neighborhood during this last visit and it looked like a totally different world. For Sale signs every where. An empty lot were the corner store had been. Cars rotting in the yards. Smashed windows. Chipped paint. It was kind of sad.
The library where I had spent so much of my childhood was empty. The parks where I had played were rusting and falling down.
My friends and I used to run the length of the beach, picking up shells, throwing rocks, swimming every chance we had. We spent nearly every day of the summer right next to the water. Now, the beaches were littered with trash and no one seemed to care anymore.
I guess it didn't dawn on me at first how much of life in Michigan was entrenched in the auto industry. Looking back now I see how depenedent the South East corner of the state was on that one industry. If you didn't work at the auto headquarters in Detroit then you likely worked in one of the many plants spreading across the state. If you didn't work in a plant than you probably still worked at a job that was somehow connected to the auto industry be it tires, parts, or car sales. My father worked as an over the road truck driver (delivering auto parts from the Michigan plants to the rest of the country). My grandfather had worked at the tool and dye (making machinery for the auto plants).
It was a real wake up call. I'm not sure the town will ever get back to the way that I remember it. I guess the old addage "Never put all your eggs in one basket" holds true.