Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hometown Topic Revisited

Last November I posted a blog regarding my hometown of Ilion, NY and described my memories of a wonderful place to grow up - and it was.

This week I received an email from my high school classmate, Ellie, who forwarded a New York Times op-ed piece about state budget cuts in education and how they affect both rich and poor school districts. My heart was saddened when I saw the Ilion school system as the example for the poor district. Actually a sad heart wasn't my true initial reaction; shock and revulsion can best describe my reflex to this disturbing news.

What happened in the last fifty years? When I graduated from high school, Ilion was a vibrant, economically healthy village whose major industries and spin-off small businesses thrived. Anybody who desired to work had a job and those few that didn't survived pretty well too. I remember only two guys who opted for the leisurely life...Herk the hermit, who lived reclusively in the Ilion Gorge, and Slim, the town drunk.

History shows us Ilion's best years were the Forties and Fifties, the exact time I spent my childhood days attending the elementary and high schools. A top-notch education prepared us for successful vocational and social lives. A highly patriotic and bustling place with warm people ready to give a helping hand would best describe the Ilion I grew up in. The village's largest employer in the glory years was the Remington Arms, a proud manufacturer of firearms and ammunition. I understand it still is, but instead of employing many thousands, it now gives jobs to a few hundred. Today deteriorating empty buildings are the only remnants of so many other commercial enterprises.

To me, my hometown didn't achieve the status of a Camelot, but almost. It will always be a mythic village and a remembrance of a time and place I loved. Maybe my emailing friend said it best, "Sometimes I wonder if the when and where I grew up ever existed."


  1. I totally agree with you, Ed. All I can remember was the love and kindness of so many friends and strangers alike. You could ask almost anyone for help and they were there for you. I miss the wonderful times and memories that I hold in my heart. I feel alittle sorry ffor those who missed the WONDER YEARS!!!!!

  2. Remington Arms, like many other military related industries, has felt the impact of reduced government spending - partly because of the 'arms race' disappearance. This has been felt across the board, here in East Hartford with Pratt&Whitney Aircraft and Hartford's Colt Industries. Remington Rand (aka Remington Typewriter) lost much because of drop in computer sales to larger corporations (IBM, etc) and eventually merged with Burrough's Corp (of which I was a former employee of both) I, for one, am glad to have been gainfully employed for nearly 47 consecutive years and just as glad I am now retired and not searching for a job.

  3. Now there's a name from the past: Slim. The town drunk, if you don't count other contenders. I always added "town dancer" to the booze fondness: He'd do a little jig while moving up the main street of town, accompanied by his favorite phrase: "Ha, ha, ha! Git outta town, you rascal!" Old pal Roy Morton and I always thought Slim was kinda cool in a perverse way.