The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Nostalgia is often described as a wistful desire to return to a former time, an era when things were simpler, better, less stressful, more fun (insert your descriptor here). The truth, however, is that regardless of the period of time you live in or where you live it is the best of times and the worst of times. Nostalgia is a great deal like vintage pictures, it is one dimensional, a moment in time taken out of context.

The cover photo, provided courtesy of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, illustrates this point. The Route 66 sign on the post provides a point of reference but what else can be discerned from the photo? From the perspective of nostalgia these appear to be simpler times. What isn’t seen in the photo is the White House Cafe to the right of the “grocerteria” where a sign read “Colored Entrance In Rear.” 

A balanced perspective is key to understanding the past and the role it plays in shaping the future. The romanticism that underlies nostalgia is an important part of living life in the moment and doing so with a smile.  And for a community to harness healthy nostalgia as a catalyst for revitalization and economic development, which in turn fosters a sense of community and community purpose, there needs to be an understanding of what drives the longing for an earlier time.

As an example, with Route 66 there is an interest in the prejudices that were prevalent in the 1950’s but not an interest in experiencing them. There is a fascination with vintage vehicles and driving them on Route 66 as evidenced by the popularity of events such as the Route 66 Fun Run. However, few people have interest in experiencing the Grapes of Wrath or driving across the desert in a Model A Ford on a hot July day.

When one considers the tsunami of interest in Route 66, it is rather surprising that more communities haven’t tapped into this nostalgia driven market and used it as a catalyst for economic development. From Kingman to Santa Rosa we instead see communities that have awareness of the interest in Route 66 but for a variety of reasons fail to grasp or harness the potential. Apathy, self serving factions, anemic leadership, and even a failure to understand that tourism is an integral component in economic development are all factors.

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If you live in community that does not grasp the potential or that simply doesn’t see the value in building upon the past, there are three choices open to you. You can wring your hands and lament, you can move, or you can see this as opportunity. Carpe diem – seize the day.

In this modern era of technological wonders, harnessing nostalgia to transform a community has never been so easy. Let me tell you a bit about the Promote Kingman initiative, and make myself available to discuss this exciting project in person.

Those who know me or that follow my blog are aware that I am most comfortable in a world where the Model A Ford represents the latest innovations in automotive technology. So, a futuristic endeavor such as Promote Kingman has left me with a sense of awe, as well as filled me with excitement when I contemplate the potential, and how this initiative can play a role in transforming Kingman as well as the Route 66 community.

The concept began simply enough, a Facebook page where historic images from the Mohave Museum of History & Arts were shared. In turn these postings sparked discussions about Kingman’s past as well as the communities future from locals, from visitors, and from an international community of Route 66 enthusiasts.

The interest that the page generated led the owner of MyMarketing Designs to expand on the concept and work toward the establishment of a community of the future, one partnership at a time, a sort of chamber of commerce for the 21st century. As you can see from the graphic above the initiative is providing an incredible venue for highlighting the history of Kingman and its association with Route 66, for providing partner businesses with an unprecedented international marketing opportunity, and for presenting Kingman as destination. Most importantly, however, is the projects potential for fostering a sense of community and community purpose. For a better understanding of what is envisioned for the Promote Kingman initiative check out the website then contact Promote Kingman and request a free copy of the January newsletter in a PDF format.

Linked with this is my endeavors to tap into the wonders of the modern era for the promotion of Jim Hinckley’s America, and the utilization of Jim Hinckley’s America as a tool for fostering an awareness about nostalgia, its importance, and its potential as a catalyst for revitalization and economic development. To date this endeavor has manifested as a podcast, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and even a weekly Facebook live program.

For a fellow who kicked off this particular adventure with a 1948 Underwood typewriter, a roll of stamps and envelops, and carbon paper, this is all quite heady. It is also another example of selective nostalgia. Yes, I enjoy ventures into the past but wouldn’t want to live there. Yes, I enjoy seeing typewrites in museums and take pride in the fact that I can use one, but wouldn’t want to give up the word processor to write books using one. Yes, I enjoy the sound and the sense of time travel that comes from driving a Model T or Barney the Wonder Truck, but there is little interest in using either one as my sole means of transportation.

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