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America in Bloom judges coming to town

I lived in the Ironton area as a kid and left in 1962 right out of high school.

I didn’t return until the mid 1990s, when my husband and I bought a house here and happily retired among family and old friends.

I have good memories from those very early years: bringing my out-of-town visitors for a day downtown to shop at Gabler’s and Penny’s, try out records on the turntable at Dick’s Record Shop, have lunch at Kresge’s five and dime or Dave’s Sandwich Shop.

But I can also remember those visitors often asking, “What is that awful smell?” referring to the rotten-egg odor that wafted over the whole town from the plants down on South Third Street when the breeze was blowing just the right way. I had gotten used to it and didn’t really notice it that much.

My husband and I eloped to High Point, N.C. in the early 60s. The doctor in the office there where we got the required blood tests asked where we were from. I was surprised and embarrassed when I named my hometown and he replied, “That is the (blankety-blankest) dirtiest town I’ve ever been through!”

I write of these events to make a brief point in relation to our town’s present status. It is true we have seen more prosperous days. The jobs those plants provided helped raise many a family and contributed to a busy downtown with numerous businesses. But there were also serious drawbacks that Irontonians got used to, didn’t notice, or have forgotten.

The Walmart generation has changed the way we have to think about what a small town must be now to survive. I see many towns that have made that transition: cleaning and beautifying their streets, taking economic advantage of their historic landmarks, creating unique shops, activities, and offering a friendliness and hospitality that large department chains can’t offer. I am excited to see Ironton beginning to make that transition.

Ironton In Bloom has entered the National America in Bloom competition this year. National judges are coming June 30 and July 1 to compare our efforts to those of other towns our size across the United States.

Their mission is much more than to provide the natural incentive a competition engenders. They leave with us a detailed and expert report on how to make further improvements, giving us objective ideas from their extensive observations of towns all over the country.

They will be touring the entire town, looking at everything from the sewer and water systems, to the downtown floral display and the upkeep of its main street, to the yards in our residential area, as well as meeting city government.

We were astonished when Ironton won their national award for Floral Display in 2008, the very first year we entered the contest!

Ironton in Bloom is asking business owners and residents to help put our best face forward June 30 and July 1 by taking a close look at their own premises before the judges arrive.

Are there weeds along your sidewalk or fence you haven’t noticed, a window you can wash, a flower pot you can place in a strategic spot?

My mother always said “It is not a sin to be poor, but it IS to be dirty.”

We can easily apply that maxim to our city and make the best of what we have.

It has made a great difference in other towns and it can in ours — both economically and in the sense of pride I already see growing as we work together to make positive changes.

Judy Sanders is an Ironton resident and the chairperson of the Ironton In Bloom residential committee.