AU City Cultures and My Father…

Alright, I’m still a small child at heart when it comes to school.  I went to dinner with my dad tonight and I couldn’t wait to tell him all that I’m learning in school (yes, this is so true).  Anyway, more about that later.  I was really intruiged by Cronan’s “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and The Great West.”  I had never given much thought to how farmers, praries, and produce influenced industrialization and the cities. I’ll be totally honest;  I never even knew that I was interested in this, but I found myself enveloped by his essay.  I highlighted the quote on page 17 ” ‘The cities have not made the country…on the contrary, the country has compelled the cities…Without the former the latter could not exist.  Without farmer there could be no cities’ No where was this more true that Chicago” (Cronan).  Being from a somewhat urban city, I never thought about the countries or where my food came from.  I just ate it when my parents or a waitress gave it to me.  I think Cronan did a very successful job describing the journey of the grain from the farmers’ hands to the hands of the merchants all the way to the buyers whlie also incorperating the rise of industrialization and how it’s affected the grain industry, literally making it a lucrative business in the “golden stream”.

So, now for how my dad plays into this discussion.  Over dinner…and margaritas…I tell my dad all about this class what we’re doing.  Because it’s freshest on my mind, I describe Cronan’s essay to him – the railroads, the steam powered elevator, the telegraph and how they all affected the grain industry.  I found it interesting!  I thought maybe he would too, being the engineering nerd that he is.  The next things he said completely blew my mind.  He said something along the lines of “Well yeah, I remember when I used to have to do all of my sketches by hand on a sheet of paper and it would take me days.  Now, I do it all on the computer.  And whenver I used to want to know something about a certain part – I’d have to call a guy, who’d call a guy, who’d look it up in a book…now I get on Google and have my answer in seconds.  Instant information.”  The entire way home I thought to myself…have I been so engulfed in an industrialzed and urban culture that advancements in today’s day in age no longer surprise me?  I can’t imagine a time without a grocery store, the internet, Google, cell phones, elevators, sliced bread.  My dad made me realize that it literally takes me thinking about shipping grain by wagons and barges to surprise me and make me go “Wow…that’s crazy.”

I wanted to find an article that encompassed this same idea – Our young generation is not super enthralled by technology anymore.  Yeah, it’s cool and we like it alot – but no one is just taken aback by this advancements.  So, on our Urban Studies list I ran across this article “Has the passion gone out of America’s fabled love affair with the automobile?”  This article discusses how it’s no longer “the most critical thing in the world to have the most exciting car.”  It touches on the decline of automobiles in cities and suburbs.  I was surprised to see that NASCAR’s populatiry has declined.  No one really gets revved up about super fast cars and engines anymore.  Like I said before…we’re just not that surpised anymore…we’re a tough crowd.  So read this article if you have time, it’s pretty interesting.

To sum it up, Cronan’s article mirrors the rise of computers…in my eyes.  It goes through massive changes that are mind blowing and completely change the entire industry. But then it hits a peak and from then on, it steadies and maybe we’re not so interested or surprised by these things anymore.  My dad made me realize that maybe I’m just too young.  Maybe it will take me another 50 years to see major differences in the way things around my life work.  Until then, I’ll just keep reading Cronan to be surprised.



Filed under City Cultures

2 responses to “AU City Cultures and My Father…

  1. cmb0030

    Awesome post. I completely agree with you, the Cronan article stimulated me in the same exact way. I remember my great grandfather telling me stories about how ice used to be delivered in wagons once a week and he went up with a bucket and pieces were chipped off into it and that was their ice for a week. Now, we are absolutely spoiled in our relationship to ice, grain, and many other things. Technology is something that influences development of cities and cultures, but has our generation become numb to this? I think this would be a very interesting topic to turn into a final paper.

  2. This is definitely a cool issue to take away from the Cronon article. I think part of the reason his book made such an impact is that people tend to think about the city and the country as separate from one another. But I hadn’t thought as much about how Cronon’s ideas emphasized the way that new technologies changed peoples’ perspectives on commodities. So do you think that people are blase about technology now the way that people were blase about urban stimuli in the 1900s?

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