Some dead-end towns heft such a weight on their youth that all the dreamers can do is hope to, “Get out of this place.” We all know these places; once bright and full of promise, and booming with opportunity. But, as times change and factories close, some families remain.
Blue collar is tough when times are good. When The Mill cuts hours and then jobs, blue collar gets real tough, the kind that hardens people. The hope, the draw to stay is that things will return back to the good old days. Spring follows winter, right?
Let’s not uproot the kids, we just bought this place, things will get better …
But they rarely do. Prosperity, and eventually hope itself, wash away.
A few generations of this changes people, shapes their outlook and mindset. The standard of what’s good, better than just getting by, drops a few pegs with each business that closes, each company that leaves town. Eventually the culture and expectation of the the youth from such places becomes: You grow up, get a job, get married and have kids, the order is optional, but start young.
In many ways, Camas, Washington was just such a place. Kids graduate from high school, get blue collar jobs, have kids, and stay in the area. The nearest college is over an hour’s drive away, and most of the jobs in the area don’t require a degree.
Christina Snyder grew up in Camas. Nobody in her family had more than a high school diploma, and they had all lived in the area for over 30 years. The Snyders are a hard working family, but one that embodies this dead-end town culture. Nobody leaves, nobody advances, nobody breaks the expectation.
That culture we grow up with, the expectations established by history, are powerful and nearly completely unseen in our youth. They put us on a path and being kids, we move forward, rarely seeing what’s ahead or wondering why we are headed such a way. Once we arrive, we almost never look at how we got in such a place.
At an early age some seed of a vision, a draw to something more, stirred within Christina. She realized her family was poor, as were her friends and community. Not all of Camas was this way, of course, but the side of the tracks where Christina grew up, despair and lack of hope was obvious, even to a small child. The stand-in tutor for all of her neighborhood friends, Christina wanted to help her community, want to prove something about herself and her family, make them all proud. This seed germinated in her heart in elementary school. This child, from an entirely uneducated family and a dead-end town, wanted to become a teacher.