(HOST) A sense of community is something everyone seems to want. Commentator Edith Hunter thinks it’s something that many of us feel we have lost.
(HUNTER) Community is defined in my dictionary as “a group of people living in the same locality.” When people express a desire for a sense of community they are referring to the shared concerns and the actions that result, from people who live near one another. In the past, the horse and buggy helped define the geographic limits of a communtiy.
Community as geographic proximity was gradually destroyed by the automobile, the telephone, TV, and now computers. The automobile made it possible for people to attend any number of different churches in a large area. It became possible to drive many miles to work, to visit relatives, friends, and distant events.
The Weathersfield Center community was real up until, I would say, World War II. What made it a community? Probably the main contributing factors were the District #6 school, the Center Church, and a common farming life-style. Most women remained at home. Although many men were working in the shops in Springfield, most still had a little land, a few chickens, maybe a family cow, a backyard garden, and a few maples to tap in the spring. Home-making activities and agricultural concerns provided common bonds among neighbors.
Into the 1940’s Weathersfield was made up of about five such communities – The Center, Perkinsville, Ascutney, Amsden, and the Bow. Communities were even stronger where there was not only a district school, but a post office and a store as well.
The Bow district school closed in 1944, the Center school in 1948, and the Amsden school in 1965. Its store closed in 1981. Perkinsville has lost both its store and its post office, although its school houses all Weathersfield students in grades k-3, with grades 4-8 in Ascutney. Weathersfield has never had a high school, so there have never been town sports teams to rally behind.
By the end of the 1950’s television brought the whole world into the living room and tended to shut out the neighborhood. The computer has had an even more devastating effect. As everyone sits in front of his or her own screen, the paradox is created of the solitary individual connected with the whole world.
Can one have a sense of world community? Reinhold Niebuhr used to say that until our planet was attacked by another planet, we would never have a world community.
Maybe the threat of global warming can do the trick.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.