Hibbing remains a paradox to me.
In my last two novels I’ve created a character who returns to Hibbing after being away for a decade. Paul Martin is a retired teacher (history) who moved to Chattanooga after his career at Hibbing High School. His observations, although often dire, are shared by many.
Earlier this week a former Hibbingite, turned Floridian, posted a Facebook comment on the closing of the local KFC. Like Penney’s the business just couldn’t make it here. Tom T. wondered why this once prospering city was in such a steep decline. I joined another friend–also a FORMER Hibbingite–for coffee last week. Rick W. commented, “The only places to buy clothes in Hibbing these days is either at WalMart or Goodwill.” Think about it! A drive down north First Avenue and a turn down Howard Street is like a mouth with several conspicuously missing teeth. Same one will find driving through the neighborhoods. Not only are there far too many houses for sale but, even worse, several houses seem to be abandoned (presumably to foreclosures).
Yet, I heard the other day that HibbingTac is not only expanding to the north and west–thus the closing of part of Highway #5, but expansion to the south is a very real possibility in the near future. At a wonderful car show a weekend ago, one of the promoters informed that next year the show will likely be moved from the historic North Hibbing site to Bennett Park due to the mining expansion of HibTac. Over in Virginia, another old and declining mining town, the expansion of mining operations has force another major traffic artery to close which requires building an multi-million dollar bridge over the abandoned Richeleau (sp?) Mine. To my knowledge, most to the apparent commercial vitality of Virginia (including a new Menards) is actually within the Mountain Iron city limits.
Chestnut Street (downtown Virginia) looks even worse than Howard Street and if our Irongate Mall is nearly dead, the Virginia Thunderbird Mall is nearly as bad.
Mining expansion amidst the decline of the cities that support them. Go figger!
Despite it all, Hibbing remains my home and the people here are the best there are . . . anywhere.