Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Small Town Institution

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I’ve been in a few arguments over the years about what constitutes a small town.

I describe the place where I grew up in east central Illinois as a “small town,” but other say that with a population of 20,000 my hometown doesn’t qualify as a small town. But I don’t consider it a city or even an urban area.

There is little doubt, though, that Milltown, Indiana, population 807, is a small town. I’ve only been there because my wife once lived there before we met.

It’s a quaint little town amid the rolling hills of Southern Indiana in that buffer zone between the North and the South.

One of the town’s institutions is Maxine’s Market. I’m told that this business has undergone some name and ownership changes over the years and perhaps it has a new name and owner now. It might even be out of business, although I found some references to it online.

I made this image in July 2011 on slide film that I exposed in the waning days of my time as a film shooter.

I don’t think I’ve ever been inside this market, but I’ve seen it from the outside a few times.

It is a typical small town establishment that is part grocery story and part community gathering spot.

Note the bulletin board sandwiched between the ubiquitous ice storage locker and the wooden front doors plastered with decals promoting various products.

More than any other place in town everyone goes to Maxine’s, even those who complain about having to drive some distance to shop at a real supermarket. There probably are some who find that Maxine’s has what they need.

Places like Maxine’s can never hope to match the selection of a Walmart supercenter, but it has an ambience that those big box stores can never match even if they claim to be about small town values.

Regardless of what the folks of Milltown think about this market, all of them would miss it if it went away.

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