Fall River is a very different city today than when I first visited there in 1977. It’s different than it was in the 1980′s and even from the 1990′s. And to a native Fall Riverite, it is especially different from just 18 years ago.
A person named “Kerri” wrote what I think is a very heartfelt, moving and accurate blog at ManufacturerThis.org just a couple days ago about Fall River’s decline in the past 18 years when she moved away. It bears reading. Here’s an extract:
“It was also a boomtown for iron works, brick makers, and fishermen who supported the manufacturing infrastructure. But over the last 18 years, Fall River has lost 15,000 manufacturing jobs– in a city of 91,000. Its unemployment rate is the worst in the state at 14.1%, with New Bedford, MA – a town next door with an economy tied to Fall River’s – second at 14%.”
My only disappointment in reading what she wrote is that neither she nor members of her family got out of their car and walked around. They might have been even more disappointed if they had. On the other hand, they might have enjoyed the beautiful vistas from Martha Street and other Hill-crest viewpoints. They missed walking Main Street, north and south, and observing the mom and pop businesses that have endured for more than 30 years, and the new ones occupying the same floor space of those from a hundred years ago.
By contract, just last month I visited the city where I worked for over 20 years and was bowled over by it’s development. Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach, California is a thriving, dynamic “happening” place at night with theatres, restaurants, galleries, shops, bistros – people of all ages and origins walking and enjoying themselves. A highly visible but overtly friendly police presence gives one a sense of safety. I could not believe it was the town I knew. Twenty years ago you dared not walk the downtown streets after dark. The thought occurred to me that this dynamic change could have happened in downtown Fall River. They could have developed Main Street this way. But, they didn’t.
I was able to “go home again”, but Kerri wasn’t. Sad, very sad.