Today, I realized that I may have been an accomplice towards the decline of my heyday. If you’re not from Toledo, you may not understand. If you are from this area, you may not want to understand. The majority of my life has been spent inside the confines of Maumee, Ohio; my hometown. Throughout the past few years, crossing Heatherdowns was no longer necessary. Everything I needed was quickly moving south. In fact, I’m not sure I ever stepped into Perrysburg until after I returned home from the Army. Damn, Jackets. Now, I find myself far into Rossford. What happened? Who let it get this bad and how much worse does it have to decline before we see positive changes? I’m very upset.
It was 1987. I sat in the backseat of my parents 87′ rusty tan Honda Accord. There was one place to be and this was a place I referred to as “the strip”. This was it, this was the Vegas Boulevard of Northwest Ohio. If I was sitting in the back of a car on Reynolds Road, in Toledo, Ohio, we were doing something great. Restaurants, Mall, Movies, and the social mecca of any city that surrounded Toledo. My sister had her wedding reception at one of the tallest, nicest hotels in the south Toledo area. She sang karaoke on her twenty-first birthday at the Bombay Bicycle Club. I grew up riding in the front of a shopping cart at Kmart, drinking a small frozen coke and begging my mother for a star wars figure or matchbox car. (Which she obliged as I agreed to be on my best behavior while she finished riding the wave towards the blue light specials). I had cookies at Rax with my meal, we had two movie theaters (one inside the mall and one outside), and I can’t tell you how mesmerized I was to watch adults play Mortal Combat at Dominick’s after they tossed back whiskey and potato skins. Dear lord, how dark was it in that place? MC Sports, Hot Sam’s, and Damon’s ribs. This was a treat for me as a child. I knew that anywhere we went on Reynolds Road, was the place to be. It was something special to have experienced.
I drove down Reynolds Road today heading south from Rodgers High School. It was heartbreaking as I shook my head in despair for the majority of my journey back home. Parking lots overgrown with weeds and barricades. Empty stores and vacant hotels aligned the city street that once never slept and now seemed to be just a distant memory of what my youth stood for. It is the definition of a broken boulevard and it’s not getting any brighter. How can we allow something to hit rock bottom until we decide to build it back up. How far south is this city sliding? To me, it’s a dark cloud that is about to hover over my hometown. A town that I love and cherish and will not allow to relinquish itself to this exact fate. Toledo has always been the bigger brother that Maumee has looked up to, until we grew up and realized it’s still trying to hold on to it’s glory years and is now attempting to ride our coat tails and move in. You’re better than this Toledo.
I can not comment on politics, or city funding, or give answers as to where and what the tax money from a casino in Rossford is going towards. I can’t tell you if my spending in Maumee and south of has contributed to this decline. What I can tell you, is that something needs to be done. Results can not happen over night, but this is an ongoing plague without the concern to test for a cure. Is this the Mayors fault, do we need to sell south Toledo to Chinese investors? How do we get people to stay downtown if there isn’t a sporting event? Just today, I was informed of a rumor that Toledo is in the top ten for the most vacant businesses in the country. I wish I saw city officials taking a more hands on approach and less crunching numbers. It boggles my mind.
As I relive my sister’s karaoke prowess on vhs, at the Bombay Club, I smile and remember what promise the south side of Toledo once held. I envision the wood crates full of lp’s at Peaches Record Store right before we emptied our pockets of the remaining quarters at the Red Barron Arcade. I’ve lost this forever and my hopes for a revival fades as each day passes. But seriously, I’m glad they’re paving the road around the abandoned mall. It seems like a great start..