Over at Urbanplains Magazine is this interesting piece on the disappearance of small, urban towns. It’s one of the catastrophes of our age.

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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. Hey, we played them in basketball, back in 62-63. Rode my bike through there back in 95 on a nostalgia ride between boyhood homes in Nebraska and Minnesota. If I remember right, in 62-63 it was a long ride on gravel roads get there from Center. In 95 it was a paved road with slow traffic and friendly drivers. Except for the young people, all the oncoming drivers waved. It’s a one- or two-finger wave, without taking hands off the steering wheel, just like back in the 60s. Lynch may have been a Class C school for basketball; we were Class D. Center was on the edge of the Santee Sioux reservation. Graduating class of 7, my freshman class had 8. After that year, Center High School closed. The Indian kids all went to Niobrara, and the rest of us to Verdigres, which is a little closer to Lynch than Center was.

    In a way I should never have gone back for that visit 18 years ago, because it killed a lot of memories. It was a pleasant ride, and there weren’t any great surprises or disillusionments even though I had been away for over 30 years. But before that ride I had some achingly vivid memories of the rides in the school station wagon between Center, Verdigres, Niobrara, Lynch, and Spencer. Haven’t been able to get them back ever since.

  2. Verdigre, not Verdigres. I told you my memories got all confused and muted after that bike ride. I was sitting in the back of a 10th grade social studies or history class when the principal walked in on November 22, and told us the President had been shot. I turned to the kid next to me, and said that if he lived, Kennedy would be re-elected for sure. I don’t remember a thing else that was said until the principal came back in and announced that the President was dead. School was dismissed early. Some girls who were getting on the buses were crying.

    School buses loaded in front of the school. There aren’t many photos of the old school on the web any more — I think a new one was constructed not too long ago. But here is a b/w photo of the old one.

    I also remember my first words when one of our faculty members came up to me in the hall and told me that President Reagan had been shot: “Oh, no. George Bush.”

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