A post by someone I grew-up with (and a friend) got me thinking about the days of being a kid in a (very) small town.  Life in my hometown was nothing like what kids grow-up with today.  And it’s not just because “growing-up” happened 25+ years ago for me and “times have changed”.  My hometown is still the same for kids as it was when I lived there.  It’s a living, breathing time capsule of the days when life was so much more simple.

My hometown (Minburn, Iowa) has a population today almost the same as when I was a kid living there…approximately 250 residents.  Entertainment is (and was) the city park where there are some swings and a slide (at least the last time I was up there!) and TONS of room to run around, trees to climb, and fresh air to take in.  If you wanted a playground, there’s one of those at the school building that housed (when I was there) K-12 easily.  My class had about 9 people in it, if memory serves me correctly.  Evening entertainment was at the outdoor skating rink during the summer.  Skate rental is/was cheap and I’m not sure there’s a child who grew-up in Minburn who didn’t strap skates on at least once…most were and are proficient on those wheels!  It’s what we had to do, where we “hung out” to see the other kids, it was our only choice for entertainment if we weren’t old enough to drive!

When I was growing-up in Minburn we spent most of our time either at a friend’s house, in their yard, or walking around town.  There were train cars that were usually around, a train would actually come through every so often, and there was a little bridge that we used to think was our own little hide-out!  Oh!  The noise under there when the train would go over!!!  We would be out playing until the street lights came on.  That was the rule for all of us, it seemed.  When the street lights came on, it was time to go home.  If, for some reason, we were running late (or pushing our luck), the sound of mother’s all over town would ring out hollering their kid’s names. 

One of the best parts of growing-up in Minburn was the Independence Day celebration.  Every child was welcome to ride in the parade if they wanted.  We’d decorate our bikes with streamers and proudly ride the route around the “triangle” (we don’t have a “square” waving at all the people who came out to watch!  We were royalty for the day as far as we were concerned!  The celebration continued all day long with games, entertainment on the stage at the skating rink, people just putting their lawn chairs down and sitting and talking all day long.  As the afternoon faded into early evening, the pie auction would begin.  The money brought in from the auction helps to fund the fireworks for the following year…so the community gives freely and it’s not uncommon to see pies go for $200-300, each!  Amazingly, a $200 pie doesn’t taste much different from a $10 pie…but the outcome is totally different!

As night falls, people pack the stands at the ball field (or go to people’s homes on the outskirts of town) and get ready for the fireworks to begin.

Keep in mind, this is a super-small community…and the fireworks are simple by the standards of many larger communities…and downright runty compared to someplace like New York…but we have them!  We oooooh and aaaaaah over and over again as our volunteer fire department lights them off with precision (and only a few oops’ over the years that turned out WAY better than they could have!).  I always have to smile as they wrap-up, to look down at the highway and see the cars that have stopped to watch.  For a little bitty town, we put on a heck of a show!!!

I still return “home” each year for the celebration.  My brother and sister and their families do, too.  Friends who moved away many years ago return.  It’s something about Minburn on the 4th that you just can’t find anywhere else.  It’s the community, the friendliness, the feeling of “home” that never goes away.  And even if you never lived in Minburn, the community welcomes you as part of their family and asks you to join in and celebrate with them, making Minburn “home” to whomever comes to town.

I know many of you don’t live anywhere close to Iowa, let alone Minburn.  But for those who can, think about visiting Minburn one year for Independence Day…you won’t regret it and you’ll never forget it!

Minburn….A Small Town with a Big Heart