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Big Town
Chapter Fourteen


Chapter 14:  Toward Tomorrow
          They are elevating the railroad tracks which pass through the city, at least through the central section of the town. It is the latest sign of progress – the fruit of forty years of haggling among the railroads, succeeding generations of boosters, and politicians who envisaged happier destinations for the public funds.
          It will save untold hours for the constantly swelling streams of city traffic; and it will save the lives of numerous citizens annually. It will do more than that. It will give travelers on the through limited’s new evidence of the increasing size and importance of Gem City – evidence which will mark the city, even to the casual eye as a Middle-Western metropolis.
          If these travelers are thus tempted to disembark, and if they bear credentials which establish them as persons of consideration in their own communities, they may be sure of a hearty welcome. They will be shown the town’s model factory, the new hotel which enlisted the enthusiastic investment of local capital and which may eventually pay out if the Chamber of Commerce can just attract enough large conventions to the city, the new telephone building, the location for the new movie palace which, they say, will be built by one of the largest film combines, the new Masonic Temple, lording it over the local fraternal world from the crest of a high hill, the site of the old canal, which will be a broad motor boulevard just as soon as the public treasury can afford it, the new subdivisions will be all built up in another year or so if the real estate market just opens up a little, the floodproof levees along the river, the palatial homes of the socially elect, the new school buildings – these and a hundred other material splendors.
          There will be talk to go with all these pictures. Some of it will have to do with the achievements of worthies now deceased; more of it will present in detail the abilities and accomplishments of those community leaders who are today shepherding their fellow citizens forward to new triumphs. Ample conversational attention will be given to the presentation of facts and figures reflecting the amazing number and size of the city’s factories, and the endless variety and value of their products. A considerable amount of time will be taken for the presentation of the plans for the new civic center, which will take form and substance just as soon as the accompanying gains and losses in property values can be allocated to the proper channels.
          Later there will be talk of less tangible things. When the highballs have been served, in a club or the home of a leading citizen, the visitors will be told of the city’s staunch and unswerving respect for law and order. They will be invited to contemplate the splendid cleanliness of the city government, the strength of the churches, the high estate of community morals, the keen interest of the citizens in the advancement of the arts, and their ceaseless devotion to each and every tenet of progressive citizenship. They will be urged to come to the city to live, bringing with them capital to be invested in enterprise. In support of this invitation they will be told of the capitalist who selected the city as the location of his factory because “it is the most liveable city in America,” an advantage which he gives freely to all of his factory employees, though he himself continues to reside in New York.
          It is quite inconceivable that any visitor, thus seeing with his own eyes and hearing with his own ears, can fail to sense the glories which are the city’s very own, can fail to depart with a new conception of those deeds and virtues which have won its illustrious renown. Yet, let him return in a few years, and he may contemplate new grandeurs. For these, be it remembered, are but the glories of today. Each new tomorrow will bring new wonders, new accomplishments, new generations born to greater deeds, new promises of a more splendid civic destiny yet to be.
          It is doubtful if the spirit which will produce these future glories, as it has the magnificence already achieved, could find more glowing expression than in the words of one of the city’s most outspoken citizen-proponents, whose published paean avows that the city “has advanced steadily in population, industry, commerce and otherwise, until today the community stands forth as a municipality that is foremost – the lengthened shadow of a magnificent citizenship, imbued by an unconquerable and pardonable pride.”

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