Against the odds, our towns endure

We’ve been hearing about the slow death of small towns all our lives.

And it’s true, if you weigh the percentages: 36 percent of Americans lived outside of urban areas back in 1950; fewer than 19 percent do today.

Experts had been forecasting a slight resurgence of retiring baby boomers migrating from cities and suburbs to quieter, calmer places — after all, small towns remain deeply ingrained in our DNA. But then the economic crash kept everyone frozen in place.

And small towns suffered even further. Main Street businesses struggled against big-box stores. Schools closed.

Yet, somehow, small-town America keeps hanging on.

Just look at a place called Overbrook, Kan., population 1,000.

They keep throwing parades. They go to the grocery store for hunting licenses and leave trucks parked with keys in the ignition. And they’re willing to raise an insane amount of money to build a better library.

In a three-part series beginning today, The Star looks at how life in one small town is threatened, how it’s changing and why it still matters.