Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fried Green Tomatoes and Moselle

Earlier last week, Mrs. Mosely and I sat down one evening and watched Fried Green Tomatoes. For those of you unfamiliar with the story: a housewife named Evelyn (Kathy Bates), whose marriage is in a bit of a rut, strikes up a friendship with an old woman named Ninny (Jessica Tandy) at the local rest home. On Evelyn's visits to see her, Ninny tells stories of her hometown concerning the friendship between two women named Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker).

We get to know this small railroad town that Ruth and Idgie live in pretty well, and can't help but be swept into the nostalgia of this simple place. The movie ends when Ninny leaves the rest home and, to her disappointment, finds that her old house has been torn down because it was deemed unsafe. The house is in that same old town, but now everyone is gone and the buildings are overgrown with weeds. It brings home the sadness that Ninny must feel of time that has passed and old friends long gone.

All this led me last Thursday to post a link to Ghost Town Gallery, a website I stumbled upon years ago but was put in mind of again after watching the movie. These images of western towns can be achingly sad and beautiful. On my family's last trip to St. Louis, we went to visit what my parents kept saying was a town my Uncle owned. By "town", they meant a cluster of four old buildings bordering a stretch of the old Burlington Northern. This was once downtown Moselle, Missouri (Google Maps is damn near scary at times), which was once upon a time near Route 66. The buildings included what was once the local post office, general store, hotel and what must have been a very handsome two story residence in its day. How he ended up owning these buildings I don't recall, but I remember being struck hard by the living history in those old structures.

(Incidentally, it's interesting to contrast these western and mid-western towns with their southern cousins, with which I'm better acquainted. Both kinds contain derelict buildings and rusting machinery, but the desert towns seem more serene and appear as if people simply up and abandoned them. Southern towns, however, feature a decay fraught with prodigious vegetation, making it appear as if the residents were driven from their homes by rampaging kudzu.)

So, a number of things have put me in mind of old, abandoned towns lately, and as a result I have been Goggling for links. That's pretty much the whole point of this post when it comes down to it: me being all gooey and nostalgic and passing the savings along to you.

Ghost Town Explorers - A site specifically geared to those who want to go exploring these sites - Yes, even Canada has Ghost Towns
Ghost Towns
- Seems to be the most ubiquitous Ghost Town site on the net
Western Ghost Towns - Apparently a running series of KD Radio California
Legends of America - A travel site for nostalgic and historic minded
Abandoned Railroads of the United States - Less towns, more tracks
The Digital Desert - Ghost towns & mining camps in the Mojave desert
Ghost Towns by Night Light - A photo exhibit feature by Smithsonian Journeys
Ghost Forts of the Southwest - If this doesn't put you in mind of some Westerns, nothin' will
Ghost Town Links - Full of lots of links that I didn't want to list myself

And, finally, here's two links to the story of Centralia, PA. I first read about it's history in Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods a year ago. Go and read it for yourself. This is one ghost town whose creation was anything but conventional.

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