Winter of the American Heartland

Ulysses S. Grant Middle School in Marion was for more than 50 years previously known as Warren G. Harding High School. Kids from across all nodes of the city’s public school system joined up here for grades 9–12, creating a “big school” experience in a relatively small town.
Marion’s annual Popcorn Festival dates to 1981, celebrating the city’s status as a popcorn manufacturing epicenter. The event typically draws a crowd of 250,000.
One of Marion’s few remaining industrial employers, this plant specializes in train tank cars. It is one of the few reasons for a rail stop in Marion these days.
There once stood here a massive Hills department store. The chain was founded in Youngstown, Ohio in 1957 and went bust in 1999. The Marion store closed that same year, hot on the heels of the closure of Marion Power Shovel. In its place, a tobacconist and two abandoned shops comprise what looks like the set of a zombie apocalypse movie.
This house on Waterloo St. in Marion was once a proud and immaculately maintained property. It’s now a dilapidated eyesore and almost certainly a haven for drug users.
This house on Fillmore Drive was one of my childhood homes. It sat in a decent neighborhood where kids freely roamed the streets after dark without concern for safety. Today it is a veteran drug house begging to be bulldozed.
Southland Mall — now known as Marion Centre — was for decades a thriving shopping outlet and popular hangout for kids. Walking around the mall, hanging out with friends, wasting hours socializing without a clear purpose … these were staples of teenage life for many in this small town. Today the mall sends a very clear message of how it feels about youths roaming aimlessly within.
Disaffection has made Marion ground zero for partisan bitterness. This once thriving shopping mall now has fewer than a dozen shops operating and more than 60 closed. One of those still in business deals almost exclusively in pro-Trump merchandise, much of it with a sharp edge.
Marion maintains war memorials for every major conflict dating back to the Revolution. This is a city whose people understand freedom is not free.

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Anthony B. Carr

Anthony B. Carr

Manager, traveller, lawyer, pilot, retired military officer, family man, and perpetual student engaged in random acts of expression.