June 09, 2014

Hey, lady, I just sell newspapers, not nostalgia

I put in a fair amount of work last Saturday due to a large community event. I was in the office about mid-afternoon, alternating between editing photos and writing a story.

Normally, I don't answer the phone at the office if I'm there on a Saturday. We're a small community paper, not a daily, and things can't be that important. But, because of the event weekend, I thought it might be someone wanting information, so I picked up the receiver.

A woman was on the other end, probably my age to 10 years older. She was calling from nearby, in the nearest metropolitan area. And, her request was a bit strange, or at the least, "interesting."

"I'm looking for tomatoes branded as being from Community X," she said. "If there isn't such a thing (available), can you tell me if there are any commercial businesses in Community X?"

"Community X" is an unincorporated community in this county. It's a wide spot on a farm-to-market road. I initially ventured that it would have a population of 100 within a 1-mile radius of what would be considered its "center," but maybe 300-500 cattle. It was listed, with a link, on the Wikipedia page for this county, and I found out I was on the high side; Wiki said 90.

Having driven through it on taking the backroads route between the two largest incorporated communities in this small county, I already knew the answer to that. Nope. It has probably been 20 years since it had a 7-Eleven sized "general store" still open.

Anyway, I politely told her that I wasn't aware of any such tomatoes and that I was pretty sure there was no commercial business any more in this community and then exchanged goodbyes.

After I got off the phone, I thought, she's looking for nostalgia as much as anything. That reinforces the perception that she's somewhere in her 50s, which in turn reinforces the nostalgia perception.

I ventured in my mind that, 30-40 years ago, maybe such tomatoes did exist. Given that the county had almost 10,000 more people then, and the "community" of Community X probably had 200, maybe 250, rather than 90, a few farmers probably hit farmers markets in the two closest small metro areas to this county, and sold "Community X tomatoes" to "expatriates" from this county.

In other words, lady, you were buying nostalgia back then.

I then hit teh Google.

I found just a couple of dozen hits for "Community X tomatoes," even when I clicked the link to "allow near duplicate results."

Except for one 2010 post on what appears to have been a blog by a Dallas radio personality, a page now defunct, the latest listing was from the early 1980s, and every other listing was in a newspaper ad.

So, lady? I just sell newspapers, not nostalgia.

I can tell you one secret, though.

The value of nostalgia doesn't come from those tomatoes.

I can also tell you one fact.

The "good old days" aren't. And they surely weren't, in Cedar Springs.

Fifty years ago, nobody had central air there and just about nobody even had a window unit. Most white folks there who farmed rather than ranching were raising cotton, not corn, and doing it on worn-out land with a small tractor if they were lucky and worn-out mules if they weren't.

And that's just the white folks.

Go to a farmer's market in your metropolitan area; you'll find a tomato about as good without any name on it. Or any fakery. Or, I hope, without much taint.


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