by Dennis Martinez-
Growing up east of St. Louis, de-urbanization and de-industrialization is everywhere. Within my lifetime I have seen businesses come and go, and I am only 22. I lived next to a golf course when I was a child, and my father and his older brother had jobs there growing up and through high school. When I was around 10, it closed leaving this ghostly empty lot that is now filled with tall grass and waste water. This is just one of the many sites within a mile of my house. Many businesses have closed in or around Fairmont City and Washington Park, Illinois. Like Venture (a supermarket), KFC, Tropical Snow, Bob Brockland GMC car dealership, Rent to Own, and Dollar General Store just to name a few, pretty much on the same street. We have also had many schools in this area close down: Holy Rosary Catholic Grade School (where I graduated), Rose Lake Grade School, and Assumption Catholic High School in Washington Park/East St. Louis. With all of these closures, many of the city’s residents are not just moving for work, they are moving for their child’s education. I was one of the lucky few that got the opportunity to go to a private Catholic school named Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville, Illinois, just 15 minutes from Fairmont City, where I was given the chance to have a higher education than the local public schools in the area. But while I was there, I could only imagine the many that couldn’t afford a good education and ended up dropping out of high school at a very young age. Of my graduating 8th grade class, I believe 4 of us graduated high school, and I am the only one in college.
So what does this de-urbanization/industrialism leave the community? To me, it has left a ghost of what was a beautiful past. Some empty buildings and lots that every time I drive by I reminisce about all the fun that was Washington Park, and Fairmont City.