Well, Marion, here we are again…

Well, Marion, here we are again…

What’s the expression?

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Let’s hop in the Way-Back Machine, courtesy of Sherman & Mr. Peabody, and rewind a nice even 40 years. That’s 1977 for those not mathematically-inclined.

Interesting times, indeed.

Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. Star Wars (the first one) was out in theaters. Reggie Jackson was leading the Yankees to the World Series on the way to cementing his status as Mr. October. And the number one song on the charts was, appropriately enough, “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder.

And what was the scene in Marion ‘77? The population was threatening to hit 2,000.

Phelix Elementary housed not only the fifth and sixth grade, but also the kindergarten classes. Most of what is now “the quad” surrounding Marion High School was a bean field, and Big Star was the grocery store. Was it better then? “Better” is a very subjective word.

I was a wee lad in 1977, so I’d be lying if I said I remember a whole lot about it, but just a few years later, the 1980s rolled in, with Ronald Reagan now occupying the White House. That’s about the time I started paying attention to things. If you think Marion’s growth was just some overnight thing that just popped up in the past couple of decades, it’s worth noting that by 1987, Marion’s population more than doubled, to a little over 4,000. New subdivisions were well-established during this period, Hardin Village (no relation) being probably the biggest. New schools were needed, new people moved in, and new ideas began to develop. There was still plenty of “Old Marion” left in the ‘80s, but it wasn’t really being taken care of.

Maybe we didn’t really see a reason to?

Flash forward another decade to 1997. Double-up again… and then some.

Marion had exploded in population, with more than 8,000 residents. I graduated in 1991 with a little over 100 in my class. By the decade’s end, that number was hovering around 300. It became clear to many that “Old Marion” was getting in the way of “New Marion,” with stagnant retail and commercial growth, especially compared to the residential boom. And for many, that was just fine. It was considered perfectly acceptable to “live here, shop there.”

Another decade, and it’s more of the same. In 2007, the population hit the 10,000 milestone, and by this time, the battle lines between what Marion was and what Marion could be were clearly drawn. It’s a battle that has not gone away in the past 10 years.

Now is the time, it would seem, that Marion may be moving forward. There’s a lot in the works. Some of it sounds great. Some of it does not.

But here we are.

Ralph Hardin is the Editor of the Evening Times and the Marion Ledger and a life-long Marion resident.

“Marion State of Mind” By Ralph Hardin