I’ve lived in New York City for the past twenty years, but in every one of those years, I’ve always come back to Springfield, Missouri. To visit my family, of course. But, over the years, I’ve begun searching out the city’s history with each visit. The longer I was away, the more fascinating it became. Springfield has an unusually rich and remarkable history, a downtown that still retains a fingerprint of that heritage, and a special charm that continues to drive the city’s character.
I love the unique way in which Springfield incorporates its past into the moving, growing city it is today. Many of its street names hold secrets of its origins. I miss the neon and stone architecture of Route 66 and sounds of passing trains, the storybook streets that emanate from the square and the nostalgic survivors of a century ago that unexpectedly turn up in all areas of the city. In a way, it’s a city of roadside culture and a way stop into the captivating wilderness of the Ozark mountains.
With every year that I return to Springfield, it’s heartening to see people embracing its magnificent history – not just its significance in the Civil War and old Western legend, but the architecture of Commercial Street and the former drug stores and theaters of downtown. They remind me that Springfield has always been a place that classifies as both a big town and a small city. That’s what I miss the most.
Oh, yes, and then there’s the cashew chicken. I’m talking Springfield cashew chicken - the delicious kind, not the kind that’s actually healthy for you. Nobody outside Springfield understands the special allure of this dish that was invented here in Springfield. It’s their loss.