Building a Ghost Town
By Gary Beams
There are much factual evidence that leads to the belief that Galesburg is building a ghost town in the near future. Think back to the surrounding communities, which were towns of prospective growth with visions of enlargement. Now they lie in heaps of empty store fronts and barren streets with only a few people surviving. The stages of their cities' destruction are written in the minds of the old folks who still reside there remembering the times of long ago, and they tell the stories to the young ones as they pass through. Now, as I write, yes, I believe that Galesburg may one day be one of these smaller communities being visualized in the minds of all who are listening. All one needs to do is read the signs of self-destruction that are written all around us. The opening of their eyes, to view those things that people are trying to hide, the fact that Galesburg is slowly drifting away into the quicksand of becoming a ghost town.
Focusing on the darkness of the factories that once stood proud and tall with all the people employed, this would be the first stage of becoming a ghost town. The newspaper would report that this shouldn’t be anything to be concern about. In the top ten stories of the newspaper, it rings out the truth in summary of the closing of the factories, “People seem to be coping with it and going about their job from day to day” (PJStar). There have been over seven big factories in this town that closed their doors for good. They have left vacant lots that are filled with trash, which are tossed about like tumbleweeds blowing in the wind. The factory that once bellowed happy smoke because it was something in the community now hangs its head, not allowing anyone in because of its shame. Empty lots that were once filled with cars and people walking to their work place kept the town alive. Now, the factories are only monuments waiting for the sands of time to completely destroy them. The loss of jobs makes the people weary and distraught because of the lack of income. There are no other places to turn to find employment to supplement their needs for survival. The clanging of the locked doors is a constant reminder that the cash flow has stopped.
The stage is set for the second part of destruction, and that is: No jobs mean no money. The local newspaper states that, “The unemployment rate isn’t any higher than it has been.” (Landis). After about six months, sometimes more, the money that comes from unemployment will stop. This places another burden on the unemployed. There is no need of alarm for we are looking good in the eyes of statistics, according to the true facts produced by the paper. Those facts in reality leave a false impression to the ones who are reading the figures. The reason being that they, the unemployed, are living proof that the statistics lie, because the unemployment check has stopped, and the system believes that since no one is receiving pay they must be employed somewhere. The battle never ends for those who are under the burden of financial difficulties, fretting and worrying, with the clouds of darkness always hanging over them from day to day. In this state the unemployed wonder what to do next or where to go to find their next pay check. The government has set up a program for additional schooling for those who are called “dislocated workers.” This may be a good start, but the problem arises, with all the additional training there are still no jobs available. What do they do next?
Questions that need to be answered, brings the explanation of the third stage. The moving of the people to different locations where the jobs are available, wherever they may be. Still we hear from the newspapers that people are not moving or relocating; “We have a lot to offer here” (Mann). This is a sad time because people hate to leave their relatives and friends for the uncertainty of the future. The scary effect and the butterfly feeling mixed with other emotions of doubt fill the mind. The unemployed still cling to the hope that Galesburg will blossom again, but in reality they fear that it is all over. The signs go up all over town: moving sale, house for sale, etc. That is like handwriting on the wall that the town is growing smaller in size. The public officials try to grasp the hands of the unemployed by stating that “Better days are ahead” to satisfy themselves that they tried their best. The light that the official tries to display in order to keep the people in town gleams dimly by the vacant houses. The hope grows sad as the passing lines of people, still crying because they have to leave. The town starts to crumble before everyone’s eyes.
Quickly, this leads on towards the fourth stage, the stage of business closing. The department stores are losing business, the reason being that the factories are closed and the clientele have moved away looking for jobs, like a hungry dog looking for food. It is the continuation of the repeating article that so much as states “no problem” (my words). The city officials believe “look what we are doing in trying to get new business in town” (Martin). The signs of the times from the enormous stores, vacant with "for sale" or "for lease" signs in the window are revealing evidence. The signs might as well be wreathes of the passing away of a loved one, stating, “rest in peace.” The dreams of the store owners clad with their merchandise hoping for a profit ends up in a loss. With the store owners heads hanging down, they struggle to save whatever they can, moving on with the crowd to other places where the hope lies of growth. One by one the store fronts vanishes, left only are the covered windows that scream out “Go away, there are ghost in here!” As one would walk down the streets of the city of Galesburg and envision what once was, it could fill the life that used to be. Now, there are empty dreams filled with lost in thought eyes viewing the blank windows of the vacant store. Another sign of a ghost town in the making, the eyes are closed, hoping that it is all a dream.
The stage is set for the fifth area of the building of a ghost town, the final piece to the puzzle. The question finally comes, what has happened? Or, when has this vacancy occurred? The destruction has taken a long time in physical years. The fears and doubts that everyone was trying to conceal, because of the reason they believe it would never happen to them. It is now finally time to admit that it is happening and it was happening all the time. Depression sets in because the truth is out, and the people with little to no reason start packing, for there is nothing left here in Galesburg to keep them going. Everywhere they turn is another vacant building, destruction of fire and theft. For the people have to do something to keep food on the table, and make a living. Disgust, bitterness, hatred, all of these and more are the motivation that burns a fire in the people now because they wasted all their time grabbing hold of a false reality, ending up with nothing. All of the time they felt secure in their beliefs and fought the battle to keep this town going. It is the time now where the struggle of the fittest will win, with no care of those who struggled with them. The ghost has taken another town as it looms over our fair city, covering us with the ashes of pseudo dreams. The only thing alive now is the cry of woe, for the city will soon grow cold with empty buildings.
In conclusion, this building of a ghost town is only the preview of the past sentences of things that have happened in the past, and for certain this city is heading down the same path. The signs are out all over the city now. The silence of the factories, the people moving, the stores closing, and the depression of the misled people are all there. It is time that people opened their eyes and admit that sooner or later their town is going to be a ghost town. How long will people hold on without admitting that the signs are stacking up? How long will it be before they see that their town will vanish as dust in the wind? What has to take place before they wake up? This came to my mind when one of the factories closed its doors:
Once there was smoke that bellowed forth from the stacks that reach towards the sky.
Now stand silent in the night
The clanging of machines and sparks that flew as they press down,
Hands that handled the machines that are replaced by the vines that cling to the switches now,
The shouts of the men and women who filled the building with their experiences
Replaced by the tumbling of the tumble weeds and the whistle of the wind.
The factory lies in a state of destruction as the rustic equipment has ceased to move,
Another deserted building filled with the ghosts of the past,
Another passing of the men and women as they punch the time clock for the last time.
All the warmth of the hated work place now brings the reality:
What to do now? Where to go?
Once there was another place to be employed,
Looking around to see that there is a long list of ghost buildings lying in heaps
As they say good-bye and seek work else where,
Another town closed for business,
Another vacant lot for sale with no one to buy, no one to care,
Once a work force, now no work at all,
Once a place of building homes, now "Get out while you can."
This ends another era of the town as they fold up and leave.
Here lies the choice before us, the choice whether to struggle and allow this town to become what we fear the most, a ghost town. Or be challenged enough to do something about it. The choice lies in each individual, for if we stand united we can overcome the “building of a ghost town."