Some may call it "Living at the time of the Walton's". I call it "Living NOW in our small town". And this is the way it is...

Nothing embodies America more than the sedate settings of small towns across America. Indeed, western New York is fortunate to have a rich variety of small cities, hamlets, and villages across this region of ours. You will find small towns in the bends of flowing creeks, near glistening lake waters, and at the base of green meadows and tree covered hillsides. These small settlements blend perfectly into the rural landscape. They add immeasurably to the character of this beautiful scenic environment. Such is the scene in which my wife and I have lived from the time of each of our childhood days. My wife Elaine, lived her childhood days in Springbrook town of Elma, and graduated from East Aurora High School. I am a native of the Boston/Colden area and attended a one-room school house ( Boston # 7) for eight years and then high school at G.I. in Springville. My wife and I have lived in East Aurora, then Fredonia, and now reside in Gowanda. I have been associated with the State University of New York at Fredonia for over fifty-six years and my wife taught for many years in the area schools: Holland, East Aurora, Forestville, and Gowanda. Each of these towns is truly endemic of the beauty and charm of Small Town, USA.

A "bird's eye" view of these towns suggest that a ten minute walk in one direction, will lead one to downtown Main Street; and a twenty minute walk in the other direction, will take you past meadows, woods, and beautiful farm lands. Directions given to an occasional visitor will usually give as a reference point the traffic light, a stop sign, or the Village bank. And, when you go for a walk or exercise, others will pull over and ask if you want a ride. In fact, living in a small town... is somewhat like living in a large family. Teachers in the local school system will often remember when they taught your parents. And Friday night football games are where people go to visit and socialize as well as to root on the home team. Almost everybody knows everyone. Knowing how to "do things" is like "currency" here. The nice part about living in a small town, when you don't know how to do something, someone you know does know how to do it; and people are eager to help.

Join with me as we catch a glimpse of several recent personal small town experiences: I took my car to the local auto repair center for inspection. The owner of the center noticed that I had mistakenly affixed my registration form from our other vehicle on this vehicle and vice versa. He offered to carefully remove the stickers and affix them properly. He did so without charge. Then, there was the time I was walking to the post office, about a mile from home, and an unexpected downpour of rain occurred. A very gracious resident of the Village came to her front door and offered me the use of her umbrella. Then again, there was the time when our local pharmacist took the time to call my wife to inform her her current prescription was running low and needed to be refilled; they also offered to deliver the medication to our home. I am reminded too, of the time when I went to our locally printing and copying center to have some printing done. When they finished the print job, I discovered that I had left my wallet at home. The owner suggested that I take the print job with me and stop in next time I am downtown to pay for the work. And, during the current health emergency of Covid-19, our thoughtful neighbor calls us regularly to see if we are doing and to check to see if we need anything from the store.

During the Lenten season, a favorite of our family is fastnachts donuts. I inquired at our local supermarket bakery...no luck. But, the next morning, a full array of fastnachts were on display.

Recently, on a very rainy day, I had a problem with our hot water furnace, so I called our local plumber. The plumber arrived within a couple of hours. Expeditiously , he fixed the furnace problem. In the course of his work, he noticed rain water leaking into the basement from an outside window well. Unknown to me and on his own time, he went out and dug a bit of a trench to divert the rain water away from the house. The leaking stopped and the problem was resolved...at no cost to "yours truly".

Several days ago, I discovered that my electric air compressor was inoperable because of a broken part. I went to our locally owned hardware store to purchase a new compressor. They looked at my defective compressor and they said they thought they could fix it, thus, saving me the expense of having to purchase a new one. They fixed it perfectly at the cost of about 10 percent of the cost of a new compressor, thus they sacrificed what they would have made with a new sale. Their loss, was this writer's gain!

The local police and/or the village highway crew will often patrol down our street at anytime day or night. If I happen to be outdoors at the time, the officer or highway personnel will always give a broad neighborly smile with a friendly greeting and wave.

There is no doubt, we live in a great country! The folks in its towns, farms, small cities, and villages interact as a neighborly family of a caring and thoughtful people. Truly and daily... American Exceptionalism is warmly and genuinely at work in Small Town, USA.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Fredonia.