Small-town Strong

Readers and Star staffers share stories of growing up in small towns

My grandma's tenderloins

Some things are certain: long hours, hard work, and that my grandma's tenderloins are the best in the state. My grandparents owned a restaurant in Meadville, a small town outside Chillicathe on 36 highway. My folks and I would go down there every month or so, and I LOVED helping grandma and grandpa when I could, even if it was doing dishes or helping out on the farm (what little I could do). I remember going to the restaurant and picking walnuts off a tree in back for grandma and grandpa. What they did with them, I'm not sure (probably just threw them away), but I recall them making a sign that said their grandson was selling freshly picked walnuts... for $1 each. Yeah so I wasn't quite the businessman back then, and even though my grandpa was my only customer, everyone thought it was pretty funny. Some tried to haggle, but my prices were firm.

I think my fondest memory of visiting grandma and grandpa in Meadville was when I got my first fishing rod. One of their regular customers knew I was staying with them for a few days and got me my first fishing rod. It was covered with Disney stuff (I was like 6 at the time) and grandpa took me fishing. I don't think I caught anything, but that's not the point of the story. My grandparents customer, someone I met maybe once before, got me a present. Not because he felt like he had to, not because my grandparents told him to, but because I was being accepted into a community.

For those of you wondering, yes she does still make the best tenderloins in the world.

Read more ...

By Chris Cobb. October 30

Shaky Ed

For two years in my life I lived in a small town in North Dakota, which was quite a shock after growing up in Minneapolis. A few ways I knew I was living someplace very, very different:

• The town had two barbers, both of them named Ed. To avoid confusion, residents just referred to them as Slow Ed and Shaky Ed. Which barber you went to depended on whether you wanted a great haircut or you were in a hurry.

• The county's eye doctor also had recently moved from Minneapolis. She said her own aha moment came when she was giving an eye test to a boy and asked which direction the arrow was pointing. "East," he replied.

Read more ...

Craig Nienaber. October 29

Miss Shell Knob

The allure was too much.

A crown. The title. Primo spot on a hay bale waving happily in the annual Fourth of July parade that crawled down the town’s only main street. Yeah, I wanted it. I wanted to be Miss Shell Knob.

And the thing about being queen of a small town is there’s no talent competition, no swimsuit to squeeze into. It’s just about plastic jugs strategically placed about town where folks can vote for you with a few coins, dollars or, if you’re really lucky and enough people know you and your family, a $20 bill.

Read more ...

Laura Bauer. October 29

Show business

Show business

Nothing like a college education to skew one’s view of things.

In 1978 after six years of study for a four-year degree in radio, TV and film, I returned to my home town of Rich Hill, Mo., population 1,500 in the middle of farm country.

Read more ...

Donald Bradley. October 29

Girls and grain elevators

Little River. After the Little Arkansas River — which, by the way, is pronounced Ar-KAN-sas in these parts.

This is no metropolis. Just a mile north of U.S. 56 in Rice County, the central Kansas farming community of about 500 doesn’t have a Walmart, McDonald’s or even a single stoplight. Main Street is two blocks long. And my high school senior class had four girls and 24 boys.

While some may think we were deprived, being little actually had its advantages. Like smaller class sizes and more opportunities to participate in activities such as band, choir and athletics. For years, the high school musicals drew an audience from around the county and we had a reputation for being a powerhouse in football or basketball.

Read more ...

Judy L. Thomas. October 29

Fat 'Ol Tyke

You know you live in a small town, when you have to drive 18 miles to find a Dairy Queen.

When your graduating class is maybe 65 and that includes seniors from three neighboring towns, two of them bigger than yours.

And when much of the town and most of the surrounding farmers know the name of your dog.

Read more ...


About this section

Did you ever live in a small town? If you did then you must have a great story to tell. It doesn’t have to be long –– just a glimpse of small-town life. Please email your story to along with your current city and a photo.

Special Project

Click here for the 3-day project.