An everyday look at an exceptional town
By Lara Donnelly
Yellow Springs usually gets written up in the Dayton City Paper for its cultural happenings, its exciting street art and its all-out awesome events, like Art Stroll and Street Fair. Tourists come to see the funky shops and eat in the fancy restaurants. Hikers come to explore the natural wonders of Glen Helen. But everyday life in Yellow Springs rarely gets much press. Probably because it’s, well, everyday life.
The rhythm of Yellow Springs is much like any other small town in Ohio. Neighbors greet each other on the street, dogs sniff each other and children play on the elementary school playground. So why is Yellow Springs surrounded by such a mystique? Why do people longingly talk about wanting to move into a little house on Stafford Street and grow squash in the community garden?
Well, partly because you can grow squash in the community garden —or several community gardens.
In researching this article, I spoke to several people on the street who said Yellow Springs’ commitment to and enthusiasm for healthy, organic food was one of the things that made it such a great place to put down roots.
Erin Currier, one of the owners and operators of the Village Greenery in King’s Yard said, “Yellow Springs is unique in folks’ commitment to living as naturally as possible, and they’re willing to put their time, energy and resources into that.”
Currier is an avid gardener, growing zucchini of all shapes and sizes, rattlesnake pole beans and acres of broccoli — all without harsh pesticides or genetically altered seeds.
“Everybody here is concerned about things being organic, natural and chemical free,” she said.
Mary Donahoe, a longtime resident of Yellow Springs, said the same thing as she headed to the farmer’s market to pick up some local produce. She also cited the Little Art Theatre as a wonderful asset to the town and added that Yellow Springs is “a great place for women to grow older. There’s a great community on aging, including young people who actually talk to you.”
People young and old were out on the street, chatting and relaxing, despite the oppressive summer heat. Many of them were gathering in and around the Emporium, which has become a nexus for townies and tourists alike who are seeking a hearty breakfast.
Around tables laden with breakfast burritos and the best, butteriest toast this side of anywhere, there are conversations ranging from chemistry to literature to politics and everything in between. Though Yellow Springs is often labeled a hippy-dippy, crunchy granola town, if you stop to listen to any of these over-breakfast exchanges, you might get a different impression entirely.
At one table, several Latin scholars were arguing over the conjugation of the final verb in the famous phrase “Morituri te salutamus,” spoken by the gladiators of old. At another, someone was inquiring after hydrogeologists and learned there were at least five locals who were qualified as such.
“You’re likely to get intelligent conversation,” said Richard Cook, a resident of Yellow Springs and the architect responsible for the United States Air Force Museum. “I rejoice in that.”
Cook often avails himself of the Emporium’s good food and better banter. Shortly after his interview, he was drawn into a discussion about the chemical process that had caused a nickel found in a creek bed to turn completely copper. Words like “electrochemistry” and “chemical composition” flew thick and fast.
Katy Filippone, an employee at the Emporium, loves the atmosphere of the place and the people who frequent it.
“We get a lot of regulars,” she said. “They know our names and we know their orders, and we joke around. You can heckle the customers and they heckle you right back. It makes coming to work really fun.”
That statement could be applied to all of Yellow Springs, especially since the Yellow Springs News, the award-winning local paper, started a campaign to put a nametag on every person in town. When you step out on the street in downtown Yellow Springs, it’s likely you’ll at least recognize them. You might even get to heckle them a little bit.
It makes living in Yellow Springs enjoyable. It makes for a life fulfilled.
Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at LaraDonnelly@DaytonCityPaper.com.