Small towns get a bad rap.

Remember Bruce Almighty? When Bruce visits the one town with the biggest chocolate chip cookie ever? That small town crowd had a tough time keeping their fingers out of their noses and getting out an intelligible word.

Happens all the time. Hollywood depicts small towners as country bumpkins—wearing overalls to the homecoming dance and carrying pitchforks on their daily errands.

Well, I’m here to tell you something.

Small towns rock.

I just spent a week in Danville, Ohio. Population 1000.  The high school graduation class has less than 50 kids in it. Everyone knows everyone, and the whole town comes out for a good football or basketball game.

I was in Danville because my father-in-law passed away last week. All of Brian’s family still lives in Ohio, so we came together to honor his dad’s life. Brian is one of seven siblings. Count spouses, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and half the town is family of one kind or another.

And they came out in droves.

They brought food.

They sent flowers.

They came through the receiving line and tearfully hugged each of the siblings. “I remember when your dad used to work real estate. We had a great time together.”

“He always took care of our family when we needed him,” said another who had carried insurance with him.

“I remember when you all were just little, “another said. “What a family!”

There’s history in a small town. History of families living, laughing, loving together.

There’s accountability in a small town. It’s not just one set of parents taking care of one set of kids. Everyone looks out for one another’s children and there are grown-up eyes wherever a child turns – whether they like it or not.

There’s honor in a small town. People are proud. They take care of each other. They serve when it’s needed.

There’s character in a small town. Quirky neighbors are indulged, star athletes and hard workers are celebrated. Everyone is a part.

My parents came over from Holland and settled in New Jersey, so all of my extended family lived across an ocean. I missed knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I missed doing life together.

But this last week I watched aunts and uncles scooping up nieces and nephews. I saw babies with outstretched arms and grandmas with waiting hugs and kisses. I saw siblings who have raised kids together, nephews who shared a long history of personal jokes and friendships that started in kindergarten and continue to middle age.

So no matter how things might be depicted on TV, I think small towns are the bomb. And today I celebrate one in particular: Danville, Ohio and its 1000 residents. Kind, intelligent, generous people who look out for each other, work hard, love God and give of themselves.

Kudos to you, Danville.

I loved spending time with you.

Brian and his siblings: Deb, Brenda, Brian, Joe, Dave, Kirk, Andrea
With spouses and mom 🙂

17 Responses

  1. I grew up in a town of 1200 – it’s now about 2000. Dad was postmaster, mayor, and assistant fire chief and Mom worked at the drug store for 43 years. Now Dad is gone and Mom has had some strokes BUT she lives in a small town. Because she does she can stay in the home where she has lived for over 55 years, people come by to check on her, people bring her food, people take care of her needs. Small towns are a blessing.

  2. I so loved this post as I was born and raised in a small town of 350 and graduated with 34. I loved spending every Holiday with all my aunts, cousins, relatives, and sometimes even the neighbor kids. I didn’t realize the jewell I had until we moved away. Thanks for noticing the gift of small towns and big families are. I LOVE YOU <3

  3. Coming from a small french canadian milling town taftville..conn. where my dad shy as he was knew everyone as tbe local druggist….small towns rock!

  4. I can related to small town like Danville. My graduating class was 32. We had around 125 in our whole high school (9-12th grade). As my mom just passed away in October I can relate to all the “remember when’s”. Nothing like growing up in smalltown USA

  5. Oh boy can I relate as I grew up in Howard! LOL I loved going to East Knox. When I graudated in 1983, we had 54 in our graduating class. My husband jokes with me and say’s that I went to school in a one room school house. I always say that I would rather know everybody I went to school with than not know them at all. We didn’t have any family in Apple Valley, but by the time I left there, the entire community and my school, and yes, even the dreded ” Danville Blue Devils” were my family. So, here’s to small towns!

  6. I grew up in that small town and enjoyed reading about how you see it. They are good people, they are always there for you when you need them! Living far from there now, I can appreciate every word you said. Makes me miss them all!

    1. I grew up in a small town in Alaska. Yep, yep! You nailed it on the head. There’s just something very special about being “known” and not forgotten. When I go back for a visit (which isn’t often enough) I love going around town and connecting with familiar faces and old friends.

      Give my condolences to Brian for the loss of his dad, too.

  7. I grew up near Danville in a little burg about 9 miles from there and smaller than Danville. I love your story. I know Brian’s dad. . . the construction company I worked for had our insurance thru him and he would stop about once a week and to “have a cigarette” together . . we’d stand outside (rain or shine, above or below zero) and smoke a cigarette, or two depending on the topic of conversation, and just talk about a lot of things. He was a fun guy and I loved it that he took the time to stop and see me and have a “smoke and choke” break. Condolences to Brian and all of his family for your loss.

  8. I, too, am from Danville. I no longer live in the town no one has heard of, but live in an area very similar (also that no one has heard of), where the two closest villages are as far apart, and just as big, as Howard and Danville.

    I read this blog on the way home from Nationwide Children’s Hospital after a 6 day stay with our baby, and got so choked up reading it out loud to my husband that I felt I had to write a reply. Our 5 month old daughter was born with a congenital heart defect, and through her open heart surgery at 4 days old, and now at 5 months with residual effects of the initial surgery, we have discovered how lucky we are to live in this small-town atmosphere and have the wonderful group of friends and family that we have. I am a teacher, and hear all the time how kids can’t wait to leave our area because it is ‘too boring’ and ‘there is nothing to do’ and ‘people know everything about you’. Well, in Danville, we ALWAYS found something to do (good or bad 😉 ). It isn’t all that bad that everyone know what is going on…we have had so much love and support through these hard times from our small-town friends. But, if we small-town folk must be classified as ‘bumpkins’, I, and they, are proud of that, too.

    Sorry to hear of the loss.

  9. Thank you for finally telling it like it is. I knew all of the Colopy children in one way or another. I attended school at the same time as at least four of the younger siblings and graduated in our record setting class (of 1983) of 56! I am proud to be from “Mayberry” whether people know our farming/catholic/family driven town or not. I have no regrets of growing up in such a frustrating (at times) but wonderful place. Believe it or not, we did have our own “clicks” just as the teenagers today, but you still would stand up for your classmates and siblings more than what you hear about today. We love our football because we have those “farmboys” that know how to hit! I would not give up any of the memories that Danville has given me. I have lived in metropolitan cities and hated every minute of it.
    My father was a high school friend of Dave Colopy and they had plenty of teen mischief they (and others) got themselves into and whether mad at each other or not, they remained friends through the years. When you have a 73 year old man remembering the fruits of his years concerning old girlfriends, the notorious bb gun fights and getting in quite a bit of mischief in their teens……there just is no other stories I would rather hear over and over, year after year.
    You will be missed Dave, there weren’t many people who didn’t know of you or who you didn’t know. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful family that has given me memories of my own through my teens! You will be missed by many.

  10. I see this as a beautiful and loving tribute to family rather than place. Certainly I have seen that loving atmosphere with my wife’s family here in Columbus, Ohio, and a larger extended version of it in the grandkids’ schools. I’ve seen it in my own family, too. Loving, strong, families should be cherished and supported wherever they live.

    I survived my childhood in Danville also. It’s a great place if you fit in; not so much if you don’t. My family lived there for about 30 years, and we were still seen as newcomers when we left around 1981. I had few brushes one way or the other with Brian’s family, although I attended school with some of them. And I remember more about Danville than Brian’s wife has discovered, perhaps more than Brian. That does not make Danville a bad place; it’s just much more like other places than this writer recognizes. Any place, anywhere, has most of the same people and problems. With a small place away from big-city media, the problems are easier to ignore. And the media anywhere don’t focus on the decent, loving people. We have plenty of those good people in Columbus. They live everywhere; enjoy them and try to learn from them.

  11. My in laws live in Danville and even though I tease my wife, Sadie, I truly do know that it is more than just a town where the border is a sheep farm; it is a community that is more family and friends than anything else.

  12. Hi Elsa,
    Over a spot-of-tea yesterday a mutual friend told me what a lovely, talented person you are. Her name is Cheri Enterline and I must say she was absolutely right. A smile graced my face as I read this post. Growing up in a small town in Indiana I totally “get” the stigma small towns can have. The town where my seven siblings and I grew up has a population of 15,000, even today, but the town my husband and I raised our sons in consisted 32 houses and 72 people at that time. It was a wonderful place to raise children. Thanks so much for the stroll down memory lane.

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