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Film About Vanishing Way of Life

Radiator Springs, the imaginary near-ghost town featured in the movie “Cars,” probably feels familiar to millions of Americans, especially those of us in rural states such as West Virginia. Many of us grew up in towns just like it.

“Cars” is an animated movie that, I confess, I would never have watched if it was not a favorite of my two grandchildren. If you’ve never seen the film, I recommend it highly, even though there are parts of it that hurt badly.

Radiator Springs is a little town that thrived once, because of its location astride Route 66. Construction of an interstate highway made it a backwater, much as changes ranging from roads to energy have affected many other small towns.

Once, they thrived. Within a couple of blocks, you could buy groceries, medicine, clothing, hardware — anything you needed. Many had movie theaters and restaurants.

But we moved on, buying our groceries in mega-stores and seduced by big shopping malls. Now the item most commonly for sale in many small towns is real estate. No one wants the buildings, least of all for retail ventures.

Most of our politicians don’t seem to have a problem with that. When was the last time you remember a candidate bemoaning the plight of inner small towns?

We’re losing something important — something we should treasure — in the demise of versions of Radiator Springs all over the United States.

Young people, many of whom have never experienced small-town life, don’t really care. To them, the scene in “Cars” in which all the old neon lights in Radiator Springs are lit once again  means nothing.

To some of us, it means everything. It’s a reminder of a way of life that had much to commend it but that may be gone forever.

Change happens. We have to adjust to it and make the best of it. It’s better for us, many economists and sociologists, not to mention politicians, argue. Let the little towns dry up and blow away, they imply. They’re not really worth the effort of saving.

Which brings up the question of how hard we’ve really tried to save them — and by “we,” I mean those of us who do our shopping online and at mega-stores, as well as the politicians.

Are they even worth saving? Aren’t suburban subdivisions just as good?

Tell yourself that as “Cars” reminds you of your small town. See if you can make yourself believe it.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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