It was a coincidence, but an interesting one, when three times in one week people from out of town, who have no connection to the community, told me how much they love American Falls.
I’d like to turn them over to our chamber of commerce as part of a recruitment team.
On all three occasions they mentioned how beautiful and interesting the town was, but what they liked most was the friendly people.
I guess when you’ve lived here as long as I have you just take that for granted. I’ve always known the people here were friendly, but I just thought that was the way it was supposed to be, especially in all small towns. Apparently that’s not the case.
And now it comes back to me that years ago, in the mid-70s, my parents purchased newspapers in two south-central Idaho communities, so different members of the family spent a lot of time there. Dad and I lived out of a motel room for about three months. Brother Kim moved there soon after and ran the two newspapers.
While we enjoyed our time there and made friends along the way, it wasn’t an overnight task to become accepted into the community. People seemed a bit skeptical of outsiders and new residents. You weren’t a local until you were second generation. We were eventually accepted and became locals, but unfortunately later decided to sell the newspapers. Maybe they knew something we didn’t, maybe they knew we weren’t going to stick around.
I admit it is easier to be in a comfort zone with people you know well. Making friends in new places can be tough at any age.
Others who have left American Falls have told me similar stories. Although they’ve moved on and made lives for themselves elsewhere, they occasionally remind me how lucky I am to live in American Falls – not only because of the great friendships I share with other residents, but because even people who aren’t close friends act like they are.
A newspaper publisher from a town of similar size in the Treasure Valley called and talked to me the other day. We know each other only a little, but he shared similar sentiments about American Falls.
“I used to drive by American Falls a couple of times every year, but never stopped,” he said. “Then a couple years ago I drove into town for a meal. It wasn’t just the people at the restaurant who were nice. It was everybody,” he said.
Now he makes it a point, no matter why or where he’s headed, to stop in American Falls just to get a refreshing hit of that down home friendly atmosphere.
I just hope the word continues to spread. Pocatellans may tout themselves as the Smile City, but right next door is Friendly City, USA.
I think I’ll go find a stranger and say “Hi”.