from ROBERT SEWARD
Is Downtown Cooperstown Destined
To Relive ‘Last Picture Show’s’ Fate
To the Editor:
“The Last Picture Show” was the last movie of the season in the film series sponsored by the Friends of the Village Library. The 1971 film is directed by Peter Bogdanovich, based on a Larry McMurtry novel.
The black-and-white film is set in a small, dying, North Texas town. There is little to do, and the only movie house, on Main Street, is about to close for good. A cold wind blows, and winter melancholy evokes of a ghost town in the making. It is not a pretty picture.
Here in Cooperstown, the movie house, Smalley’s, is long gone, and now so too is the General Store. The building where CVS stood lies vacant. Driving down a darkened Main Street after the film, one couldn’t but notice other shuttered storefronts and blinkered buildings.
This is the economic decline of rural America at our doorstep. Economists opine that small-town declines are irreversible. So do we roll over and let the town die?
We know what ails us: Young people, finding no opportunity here, go elsewhere, leaving an aging population behind; inadequate infrastructure in the form of farm-to-market roads and bridges, power grids, and rural broadband keeps us stuck; affordable housing is scarce, the retail base has been devastated (there used to be two hardware stores on Main Street), farmlands are vulnerable as zoning and master plans go unenforced, practices for climate resilience are wanting, and rural poverty gets worse.
What, I wondered that night, did the several local politicians and local notables in the audience think, having seen the same movie I did? Was it just a classic film made 48 years ago about a faraway town with no resonance to the present?
In the film, Sam the Lion says, “You see? That’s what I get for bettin’ on my hometown ball team. I otta’ have better sense.”
But we do! There are plenty of organizations and entities in the area, but seemingly little coordination. It behooves community-based organizations, philanthropy, and the public sector to work together and proactively come up with solutions that cross boundaries and purviews. If rural lives matter, we expect no less.
Town of Middlefield