141 Toledo, OH: Uncle

That night, I returned to my uncle's house for dinner and asked his thoughts. "Toledo is a great place to raise families," he said. "In the early '70s, Toledo had the highest per-family (not per-capita) income in the state of Ohio. That all changed when the factories started to close. People in Toledo haven't realized that the people with the money have moved away and aren't coming back. They keep waiting for it to come back, and they aren't coming back, 'cause nothing's going on in Toledo. Downtown Toledo is for sale," he ended, using his standard gag.

My uncle's next-door neighbor, a long-time Toledo Blade columnist, came to visit, and I pressed him into service for the book. He was tall and portly, with thinning hair and a dark mustache. He spoke with open-throated precision and drama. "I don't think," he began, "the painting would apply to most Toledoans, because Toledo is a very family- and neighborhood-oriented city. So I don't see the type of character very often in Toledo that Hopper paints. Few people here are really alone. We surround ourselves with family and neighbors, even in this day of a mobile society. There are many third and fourth generations living in the neighborhood around my mother's home. My cousin, who lives two blocks from my mother's, is a fourth-generation inhabitant."

Like everyone else, they said Toledo was a "small big town" and that the locals resist any change that might help Toledo recover its glory or become a bigger town. Like many, they said that the town was full of ethnic colonies and thus not isolated. But when I pointed out that the enclaves were separated from each other and their homelands, they conceded that I had a point. But somehow it all seemed to work for Toledoans. Though the Toledo Scale Company closed long ago, the citizens seem somehow to have found a balance.

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