A ghetto factory could be a factory in the ghetto, or a factory that produces ghettos. This is a little of both, straight from East St. Louis, courtesy of the texture of moldy bricks, the smell of burning tires, and the sound of broken glass being walked on echoing down a long dark hallway.
Adults had mental hospitals, children had state schools, but an asylum is an asylum. Belchertown served from 1922 until a judge made a surprise visit…
In economics, one hand doesn’t wash the other; it chops the other right off. Local politics collides with global economics, draining this mega-factory of its profitability. Doors close, and a middle-class neighborhood built on chocolate confections suddenly gets much leaner.
Gary’s sad story is written on the payrolls of US Steel. When the mill modernized there were massive layoffs, as a result this grand gothic church’s congregation fell from 1,700 to 100. It closed in 1975.
Under the star trails at our rooftop camp it was hard to believe that I was still living in a time when ghost towns–real ghost towns–were still engraved onto the sides of mountains. Below its cracked city streets courses the treasure that built the town and the poison that killed it. Cup your ears against the walls, be very still, and listen to the memory of a place called home.
Known more for its afterlife of arson and anarchy, it insists to exist. It built cars between 1903 and 1958, only taking breaks to help America win its wars. Since then it has become an icon of America’s manufacturing decline.
It’s an industrial lighthouse keeping watch over the Mississippi and its favorite city. Some read the flashing neon as “GOLD MEDAL FLOUR”. I read “REMEMBER”.