Notes from the road: How we are all connected

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 12, 2008 

Tony Pugh filed this dispatch from Quakertown, Pa., as he travels to find how average Americans are coping with the fallout of the current financial crisis.

Saturday was a beautiful Indian Summer day in Quakertown, a borough about 19 miles south of Bethlehem. Lots of folks on motorcycles, in softball uniforms and the local restaurants were packed with families on weekend outings.

That's a good sign for a troubled economy. The falling gas prices haven't hurt either. A gallon of regular was going for $2.99 per gallon at some stations. I haven't seen that in quite a while.

According to Wikipedia, Quakertown had the dubious distinction of being noted in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records for having the most fast food restaurants in a square mile stretch.

The city also has an interesting historical distinction: Wikipedia says that during the Revolutionary War on Oct. 18, 1777, a group of wagons carrying the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown, spent the night in Quakertown.

They apparently stayed at the Red Lion Inn, which is now McCoole's Tavern, a town landmark. I had dinner at McCoole's on Thursday night. They make a pretty good rib eye steak.

The manager at the hotel where I'm staying said weekend business has been picking up in recent weeks and she's not sure why. She thought rather than taking long vacations, the lower gas prices have induced people to take day trips closer to home.

It's amazing how interdependent the economy really is.

View the entire Fallout on Main Street project.

Got a chance to interview a local family Friday about the economic challenges they're facing. We spent the morning with the wife as she visited her mother, who lives in a nursing facility and suffers from Alzheimer's.

Watching the woman feed her mother, comb her hair and speak to her in child-like terms, unsure whether she recognized her or not, reminded me of my own grandfather's final days before he died.

An Alzheimer's patient himself, my grandfather didn't always recognize me or other family members. One time he wandered off and wasn't located until three days later when he was found wandering the streets. I was a cub reporter at the time, working for The Cincinnati Enquirer and I helped get a missing persons report published in the paper.

The woman's interaction with her daughter also made me think of my own mother's care for my grandmother who passed earlier this year at age 93. In both cases, my mother and the Quakertown woman looked like adults taking care of children.

I guess life really is a full circle for people lucky enough to experience it. I'll be interviewing the woman's husband and they'll be the focus of our next story. Stay tuned.

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