The Myth of Main Street

Uploaded by TempleUniversity on 21.11.2012

>>Announcer This is a production of Temple University
>>Orvell Main Street has this kind of mythical aura of small town democracy, values in America
that we have always treasured, but if you look at the sociology of a small town, the
history and you get to the reality of the small town, it's not like the myth. The myth
of Main Street is a place of harmony and community; it is more a place where there is social conflict,
class structures, hierarchies, a ruling class, a lower class, a middle class and it's a place
where it's often excluded people from that community that we've imagined mythically.
So what I'm trying to do in this book is unravel the complexity of this symbol and to try to
understand it more deeply. You know, as we all know, small towns are dying all over the
country and trying to reinvent themselves. What I discovered about Chestnut Hill and
that made it a part of the story I tell is it had tried to modernize itself to keep up
in the 1930's and 40's by redesigning store fronts, by putting in neon signs, billboards
to attract attention and it was beginning to look like many other places that were struggling
to survive. The term was they colonialized a lot of the buildings along Germantown Avenue.
The result was they made Chestnut Hill look like a place that had a certain character
and charm that was traditional. They made it more attractive. They got rid of the neon
signs. They got rid of the billboards. And all of this was an effort of many years work,
but it was a process of restoration into an imagined past, you might say. It's a process
that really is the model for a lot of small towns in America. I think that we all want
this in our lives and a lot of the urban redevelopment that we're doing now and suburban redevelopment
is an effort to recreate that sense of the Main Street idea.