Monday, May 17, 2010

Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch College. A Town Without Students. How Nice.

Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch College. Indulging a Friday evening whim and with nothing else scheduled, She and I drive to Yellow Springs for dinner.

The whim is really a response to the question I asked “Do you wonder what Yellow Springs village is like without Antioch college students?”

No Antioch students in Yellow Springs?

Antioch’s periodic financial pains finally caught up with it in the 2007-2008 academic year. Antioch’s board of trustees closed the doors on the school.

Or so that was the story. But like all financial stories, it is really more complicated.

Just a flavor of the complications: endowed lectures seem to be continuing at Antioch; music and arts programs are still humming along and so on with some other exceptions.

But this note isn’t about finances so you just get a hint of the stink of financial ruin at Antioch.

Why were we curious to see Yellow Springs without students?

In days gone by, a walk down any street in Yellow Springs was always an adventure.

From the demonstrations against the segregated Gegner barbershop during the days of the Civil Rights Movement, through the anti-Iraq War days, whatever idea was labeled “alternative” was uncritically welcomed in Yellow Springs.

On the sidewalks, you would always pick-up fragments of conversations about any then-popular form of radicalism, spirituality or self-help psychology. During the 1960s and 1970s, discussions of tossing techniques for Molotov cocktails were considered polite conversation.

Tie-dye tee-shirts never went out of style at Antioch and they were routinely offered for sale in Yelllow Springs emporiums.

The latest vegan goober was always first offered for sale in Tom’s Market.

Literature would be thrust at you from new disciples of Humanism, Communism, Naturism, Labor unionism, Maoism, Vegetarianism, Astrology, Veganism, Athiesm, Vorticism, Trotskyism, Wiccanism, Wobbliism from the IWW, Jungianism, Rudolf Steinerism and Waldorf Educationism, Anarchism, the dreams of the Students for a Democratic Society.

To name just a few.

And the list could go on, and on, and on. If it was new and anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, anti-Capitalism, anti-Free-Enterprise, anti-Authority, anti-Consumption then some cheap mimeographed harangue would end up in your hand. If not sullying your mind, the flyer would stain your hand with cheap blue ink.

The roads to Yellow Spring, I-71 to SR 665 exit, then west to London. On this first leg of the journey, we passed the out-building and house built fifteen years ago by one of the WCRX-LP culture correspondents. The landscaping has grown and matured and presents a welcoming vista as you drive by. In London, we turn South on US 42 through South Charleston to Fishworn Road. We turn west on Fishworn and take it to the edge of Clifton. Then SR 343 to Yellow Springs.

This isn’t the fastest route but it gives the best sample of the Spring plantings on the farms and the state of small town economies. The busiest locale in London is the local soft ice cream shack. The South Charleston soft ice cream shack is closed. Clifton Mill is open with half a dozen autos parked outside the mill.

The farms on this route show more soybean sprouts than corn seedlings. About one third of the beans fields are no-till.

Arrival in Yellow Springs. We do a large circle of the village. Dayton St., S High St. E. South College. The mix of nineteenth century cottages is quant and inviting. Livermore and finally north on Xenia Ave. The Antioch campus is empty except for the parking lot at the edge of campus volunteer fire department. The college buildings are maintained, the grounds are well-maintained and there are even flowers planted in beds near the administration building. But no students, no faculty are visible.

The campus is really empty. The sun is setting, the evening temperature is cool.

On Xenia Ave., the streets and enterprises are busy but not crowded. Two shops have folk musicians singing and playing their guitars. Near the Little Art Theatre, on a small front porch, four musicians play amplified rock and roll but the volume is turned down low and the music fades quickly as we walk away.

There is a long line at the soft ice cream vendor off of Dayton St. Mr. Flubb's toy shop is closed for the evening.

The Winds Cafe on Xenia Ave. has a line of six people and a ten minute wait. Across the street at Ye Olde Trail Tavern, there is no line, a simpler menu.

We choose Ye Old Trail Tavern. We sit on the outdoor patio so we can watch for student traffic. During our half hour dinner, the only students we see are high school skate boarders. No bomb-makers, no union organizers, no drug users. What a relief.

Yellow Springs is really nice without its progressive, radical edge. The clutter of extreme politics isn’t necessary for Yellow Springs to be an inviting destination.

Next time we’ll dine at the Winds CafĂ© and toast the memory of Big Bill Haywood.


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1 comment:

JafaBrit's Art said...

OOOOOOOOOOh I love the Winds Cafe.

We do still have students, but no, not on the same scale as in the heyday, but oh, that was so long ago :)