Old coun­try Dun­das charm a vic­tim of growth and progress

One res­i­dent laments he’s not in Kansas any­more

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - MICHAEL FELD­MAN Michael Feld­man lives in Dun­das

Don­ald Trump’s slo­gan: Make Amer­ica Great Again!

What does it re­ally mean?

When was it great?

Why is it not great any­more? When it was great, what made it great? I grew up in small town Dun­das. I re­mem­ber ly­ing on the street, in the cen­tre of down­town, on a Satur­day night, in the mid­dle of the busiest in­ter­sec­tion (Mar­ket Street), with a clear view of all four stop lights as they turned from green to yel­low to red.

Not one car ap­proached be­fore I got bored, stood up and left.

The city shut down at night. It was so quiet. Noth­ing hap­pened … ever. And ev­ery­one seemed to know your name — and your busi­ness.

I hated it.

I moved to Toronto, flew to Florida, and even­tu­ally moved to Cal­i­for­nia (via Cal­gary) in search of life, which, at the time, I equated with fun and ex­cite­ment.

What I dis­cov­ered, while liv­ing in Hol­ly­wood, was that I was not in Kansas any­more.

But my dog was named Boomer (and Jack, I had two), the Lion had no courage (jus­ti­fi­ably so, be­cause while the palm trees still lined the streets, they were dark and dan­ger­ous at night), the Scare­crow had no brain (Grau­man’s Chi­nese Theatre was now Mann’s Chi­nese Theatre, peo­ple slept on the streets and drug deal­ers and pros­ti­tutes lined the walk of fame) and the Tin Man had no heart (Ron­ald Rea­gan cre­ated the amnesty pro­gram, which forced me out of the coun­try as well).

It was not un­til I re­turned to Dun­das that I es­sen­tially found ev­ery­thing I had been search­ing for.

The city shut down at night. It was quiet. Noth­ing ever hap­pened. And ev­ery­one seemed to know my name … and my busi­ness.

That is what made Dun­das great.

It was not the town that needed to change, it was me.

To­day, Dun­das still has much of its charm, but the down­town is suf­fer­ing a ma­jor iden­tity cri­sis.

Mixed in with its 1800s ar­chi­tec­ture, are the glass win­dows of a very mod­ern look­ing Star­bucks.

The old li­brary is an art gallery and the new li­brary just re­ceived a mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar ren­o­va­tion.

The grand old post of­fice is full of stores and of­fices.

King Street is so busy with through traf­fic from the nearby sub­di­vi­sions that the cross­walk re­quires flash­ing strobe lights, and a woman was re­cently killed while cross­ing be­tween the four banks at the Mar­ket Street in­ter­sec­tion (the same in­ter­sec­tion at which I lay on my back, on a Satur­day even­ing, watch­ing the lights change colour).

In my haste to leave, I re­turned to re­al­ize that much of what I en­joyed most about the town had left as well.

For­tu­nately, some of the old coun­try charm re­mains.

The cashiers at the ever-mod­ern­iz­ing Metro gro­cery store and the tell­ers at TD bank con­tinue to come out and hug my mom when she ar­rives and in­quire as to her well­be­ing.

This is why I con­tinue to ask the city bus driv­ers how they are when I embark and thank them for drop­ping me safely at my stop when I leave, and why I in­form any and all cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives I en­counter how much I ap­pre­ci­ate their smiles and the warmth they share when they first greet me.

Un­for­tu­nately, I also re­main wary of tele­phone mar­keters and scam artists and take im­pec­ca­ble notes when deal­ing with large cor­po­ra­tions over the tele­phone (banks, util­i­ties, cable and tele­phone com­pa­nies and the City of Hamil­ton, which has now swal­lowed up Dun­das and the sur­round­ing towns into the Greater Hamil­ton Area and has turned the old Dun­das Town Hall into a relic).

I won­der if even Kansas is Kansas any more.

I bet even the res­i­dents there must now lock their doors at night.

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