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Go behind the lens with Missouri Life photographer Katie Bell. This summer, she shares her adventures as she travels around the state.
Glasgow, Missouri is a town of just over one-thousand people along the Missouri River, a town that Missouri Life editor Jonas Weir and myself literally drove by it in a matter of minutes. But we would have been the ones missing out if we had truly passed this gem by.
A somewhat sudden turn on the right and we were on the main street, aptly named First Street. It was morning and neither Jonas nor myself had eaten breakfast, so the first necessary stop was at Riverbend Cafe, conveniently owned by the town's mayor. When one hears the word "mayor," the image of a staunch businessman with a crisp suit comes to mind. He would have a solemn voice and serious demeanor, and use words such as "ordinance." But the diner owner that came from behind the counter seemed just that, a diner owner. He was casually dress in T-shirt and jeans and greeted us with a friendly and easy-going voice that said he was more our equal than a political official.
After a conversation with the mayor, we made our way to the local sites. Perry's for a quick ice cream, the Glasgow museum, the library, the Rolling Pin bakery, Glasgow Trading Post, and Henderson's Drug Store. Each place seemed more historic than the last, but there were renovated buildings with newer businesses that suggested a recent revival was occurring.
A few townsfolk said that Glasgow was in a state of disrepair not too long ago. The First Street shop windows were vacant and boarded up, and life seemed to be draining from the struggling town. But somehow, the people rallied, and Glasgow was better for it.
Each citizen we spoke to said the reason they stayed in Glasgow was because of the people; in town, no one is a stranger. Small-town courtesy and friendliness seemed to be true in this case. It's not uncommon to ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar. Business owners spoke about people not as customers but as supporters of their livelihood. The townspeople want to help the local businesses, which is probably why there are few chain stores in Glasgow. The nearest Wal-Mart is in Boonville, and you'll find no fast-food golden arches even on the outskirts of town.
The camaraderie is striking; even compared to a very small city, such as the one I grew up in, Columbia, Missouri. I don't know my neighbors, and there isn't a cashier at the grocery store that I could name. I can't help but think the whole world would be a bit better off with some small-town loving. It reminded me that the people who serve you, who live next to you, and who are the bosses above you are all humans, and they all have stories to tell and secrets to keep.
It was a humbling experience. Despite my "city girl" upbringing and travel experience, I had not seen it all. I had not seen pure contentedness before I went to Glasgow. I certainly had not seen it over an entire town.
Small towns need not breed morose emotions. They have great potential to connect us to others, and can inspire passion in livelihoods and home life. There's a general feeling around Glasgow, which makes the people refreshed and the air easier to breathe; it keeps the local businesses open and the franchises at bay.
It's called respect, and we could all use a bit more of it.