There goes the neighborhood(s)
As a born and raised Daytonian living in the same house my grandfather raised my dad, aunt and uncle, then me and my brother, now I’m doing the same with my kids. I’m pretty knowledgeable on the subject of, “What in the heck happened to our once proud city neighborhoods?”
I know, I know what you’re saying, “There he goes again.” But I’ve lived through it all. The boom of the ‘60s, when families thrived and took care of their homes, yards and each other, for one.
Now, I know things change, but the way they have – and so dramatically – right under our noses, is just pathetic.
Let’s go back (insert dream sequence here).
When I was growing up in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Five Oaks with Corpus Christi Church nearby and most parishioners living a stone’s throw from their place of worship, my brother and I, being Lutheran, were out numbered 10 Catholics to one Lutheran, our home was ground zero for playing.
In our middle-income neighborhood, most dads made the same wage whether at NCR or Frigidaire, but we had four mouths to feed total. Some neighbors 18, our toy and game budget stretched further. The bottom line was, most everyone cared for their respective domiciles. Then “white flight” hit.
Lots of our neighbors gave up and headed to the suburbs, with forced busing looming, they were not going to be told where their kids could go to school and with whom.
To this day, I run into many people my age that say, “Oh yeah, we lived in your neighborhood at one time,” and all seem to remember leaving about the same time –when they couldn’t attend their neighborhood school any longer, but rather one across town.
Looking back (still in the dream sequence here) busing was a colossal failure and I’d beg someone to tell me otherwise.
Then, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the decline continued and cities and towns like Centerville and Kettering thrived, but we held our own.
Before we knew it the ‘90s were upon us. I witnessed many of the kids I grew up with coming back and buying the homes they grew up in. We have three on our block.
Then, in a blink of an eye, crime increased, people fled, couldn’t or didn’t want to sell their homes and therefore rented them out to people that sometimes didn’t care what they did to said property. The decline accelerated.
I, along with a few stalwarts, decided, “If we flee, the criminals win.” Man, I think, woulda, coulda, shoulda, ‘cause if I had to do it all over again, Centerville here I come. But I stayed, and so, too, did some really fine neighbors, some of which would “stand their ground” and nothing would provoke them to move and they’re still here. We have a great, diverse group of African-Americans, whites and Hispanics. Where many neighborhoods are defined by one group, Five Oaks is the exception.
Fast forward now to 2013 and our neighborhood and many around the city are in peril, blighted and just plain awful: Foreclosures, absentee landlords, owners that live out of state, renters that don’t care, etc. For every nice home, there are five boarded up, burnt out or gone completely on what seems to be every block. Homes where I, as a kid, would play. It’s just shameful. These once stately, almost 100-year-old, middle class homes with the great woodwork, floors and unique architecture are gone.
Where was city hall? I’m not sure on that one. I can’t tell you, but it sounds like maybe they, too, were absentee.
Today, at press time, Dayton voters have a chance for the status quo (to pick two candidates for mayor in the primary, general election for mayor and commissioners is in November) or new leadership. I’m really not supposed to take sides and without an all-out endorsement, I’m going with new leadership.
Now, can one person – a new mayor – make a difference? The answer is “yes,” but it will take us all to roll up our sleeves and hunker down for the long haul.
What seems to be happening now isn’t working. It seems the current administration’s answer is to demolish, leaving beautiful (tongue in cheek) empty lots. And the foreclosures seem to be ebbing (please continue to read and support my column so I’ll get paid and not be on that list.), but right now I’m 30 thousand under water, my house price plummeted during the ‘08 economic mess and what didn’t help is what seemed like every other home was foreclosed on and now owned by a bank.
By the way, did any of those Wall Street thieves go to jail on that ‘08 disaster? I guess I answered my own question.
Will the neighborhoods come back to the way they were? Probably not. Can we try to improve our way of life and make it practical to stabilize and restore these beautiful old homes, eventually filling them with families before they disappear from the landscape? The answer is a big fat un-foreclosed “YES.” I want to see the day when the term, “there goes the neighborhood” means, “Wow, there goes the neighborhood” on a comeback.
OK, dream sequence of the past ends here and my new “dream,” hoping to become a reality begins.
Cheers and oh, please vote!
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.