Today the President of the United States paid a visit to my hometown Elyria, Ohio. This is big news if you're from a small town, just shy of 60,000 people. In it's heyday, Elyria was a booming and thriving city supported by auto and steel factories. When I was young, it seemed that everyone's Dad worked at Ford, GM or the steel plant. It was just a given. By the time I reached adulthood things had started to change. They were little changes at first, but things quickly got worse. Before you knew it, steel companies closed down, the Big 3 started having layoffs, automotive plants started closing, and businesses and people starting leaving town. Now the unemployment rate is at 10.9%, which is worse than last year.
I've been in Kentucky for about seven years now, but I love to go back home and visit my Dad and my best friends. It makes my heart so happy to cross over into that city line. The people are friendly and genuine and everybody pretty much knows everybody. But, after the excitement wears off, I start to look around and take notice. I take notice of the homes that are vacant, the factories that are boarded up and the businesses that are closed down. I look around and see how much the city has changed, and not for the best. I think about the people I know who are fighting to stay in their homes and having trouble finding jobs and it makes me sick to my stomach. I hate that this is happening in my hometown. I hate that it is happening all over America.
I am glad that Barack Obama chose Elyria as one of the cities on his "White House to Main Street" tour. It seems his visit has lifted the spirits of the city, helping everyone to think positively.
One thing everyone is talking about, is where President Obama had lunch. It seems he dined at Smitty's Place, which is a bar and grill just outside of the downtown area. It's just a neighborhood place where friends meet to indulge in the famous "Smitty burger". Some may even consider it to be a "dive" or a "hole in the wall". Just this past summer, our fifteen year high school reunion was held at Smitty's. Some of us would have preferred somewhere a little nicer, but we sucked it up and enjoyed our reunion outside on the patio at Smitty's. Not one of us would've thought that the President would ever dine at Smitty's, but today he did.
His 24-car motorcade pulled up outside of Smitty's this afternoon and the President dined on his very own Smitty burger, a thin hamburger patty with shredded lettuce, sliced pickles and a dressing somewhat like tartar sauce (delicious). The President's lunch set him back about $4.35. It seems he even bought lunch for some of the regulars.
My phone was ringing off the hook as my girlfriends called to tell me about this. We all laughed and chuckled, remembering just months ago when we stood in the very same spot doing shots with our graduating class.
Here is a picture of me (on the far right) with some friends inside Smitty's this summer.
Here's to my hometown and yours! Let's hope for a brighter tomorrow!