t’s been my experience that Hibbingites love history and have long memories. People and places in this town are not merely what they are, but simultaneously what they used to be.
A woman is not Jane Insert Married Name Here, but that plus the equally important used to be one of the Insert Maiden Name Here girls. A house goes beyond matters of architectural style, current occupants, and street numbers; encompassing the wide range of everyone who has ever lived there and everything it has ever represented to generations of community members. I remember driving through town with my dad as a kid (and as an adult for that matter) and listening to him point out and talk about various properties that used be grocery stores, or churches, or hangouts of different kinds. We were looking at the same thing, but what we saw was completely different. Somehow his long-gone version always seems more glamorous.
Nostalgia. Memories. Back When I Was Your Age stories. In many ways there is nothing particularly special about this. The same could be said of many small towns where roots run deep. But there is something about Hibbing that hangs on to the past with a stubborn tenacity I have not yet seen elsewhere. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact the entire town was moved south to make way for an ever-expanding mine.
So many places that hold precious memories for people have literally been obliterated. Places where houses stood and hopscotch was played are now replaced with a gaping hole in the ground, traversed by giant dump trucks and other equipment. The physical evidence is gone, so we must keep these memories alive through storytelling. I love these stories whether they are tales from my father or an old family friend, or something a bit more formal like the Hibbing Trivia and Lore facebook group or the efforts of the Hibbing Historical Society.
These stories anchor us and provide a sense of context and belonging to the bigger picture of Hibbing, but when do they become a force that limits our vision instead of expanding it? By focusing so much on what is gone; do we lose sight of what is still here or what could be here? Sometimes I think we do.
What do you think?
Stay tuned next week for further thoughts and discussion on “what is still or could be in” Hibbing.