Saturday, September 26, 2009

Column 1: There's Nothing to Do in Hanford

In the summer of 1995, I started writing a column for the local newspaper in the relatively small town where I grew up.  The paper was the Hanford Sentinel, the town was Hanford, California - population 30,000.  At the time, there were by far more cows than people.  I was 15 years old and about to start my senior year of high school.  For the next several months I will be posting the columns I wrote for the Sentinel and later the the Fresno Bee.  Some of the columns are pretty bad, like this one, my first.  But they get better, I swear.  They also clearly reflect a 15-year-old me.  I was cocky, and clearly thought myself both more intelligent and cosmopolitan than I actually was (oh yeah, and I also loved parenthesis). But that's what it's like to be a 15 year old writer with limited editing.

There's Nothing to Do in Hanford by Tamara Keith, June 1995
We are constantly complaining that there is nothing to do in Hanford and as far as I can see these complaints are valid. Right now there just isn’t anything to do. Though the future is looking promising in terms of recreation centers, it would be nice if the community could produce some places for us to hang out right now.

A few years ago everyone was excited about Hanford getting a new mall. Mall rats from miles around swarmed to the newly built “hang-out” spot. However the novelty has since worn off and even the most loyal mall lovers can only spend a few hours there before being overcome by the stark white walls and “muzak.” There are three forms of entertainment in the mall other than shopping (and I consider that more like torture than fun); the movies, the food court, and Aladdin’s Castle. The movies and food are great, but out of the question if you are low on funds (which most teenagers are) and the arcade is another challenge. Overrun by sticky fingered, dirty faced, glassy eyed 9 year old Mortal Kombat fiends, that jingle when they walk (their pockets are full of “get out of the house quarters”). That’s just not my idea of a fun time, especially since I have the home version of Aladdin’s Castle in the room next to mine with my little brother and his friends.

Basically the mall is good, only if it’s taken in small doses. However this town doesn’t have enough other little diversions to keep our desire for enjoyment satisfied.

There are only a few community activities that even acknowledge there are high school students in this community. There is the Renaissance Fair (that gets old after the second or third year, unless it’s your career choice), County Fair (are you sure all those bolts are tight on the rides, who is papaduerunrun, and what is that smell?) the Mother’s Day art extravaganza, homecoming, and a wide variety of other activities, unfortunately targeted for elementary and junior high kids. It seems that adults are afraid to even make an attempt to entertain us. These fears are unfounded, we are teenagers, not delinquents.

The recreation department sponsors many exciting activities for young children and pre-teens, however it seems to me that they must have ditched class on the day they taught the unit on “cool” teenage activities. Hey guys, what about a teen only dance and barbecue at the plunge. Or a battle of the garage bands in Hidden Valley Park (sorry neighbors). Some cities have Rollerblade and skateboard facilities in their parks. And I had a great time playing Frisbee golf in a public park in Altedena.

Private industry has also failed to tap into the financial jackpot that resides in the pockets of teens all over Hanford. Sure there is a pool hall and bowling alley but they are out of the question unless you thrive on second hand smoke. How about one night a week without the smoke and beer just so we can have a good time.

There is amazing potential for entrepreneurs everywhere if they would just pay attention to our needs for clean, cheap fun. In general we identify with the 20 something crowd, however we can’t get into their clubs and concerts. Can you imagine how much money an “all ages” dance club or a live entertainment coffee house could bring in. Well don’t just imagine, get out there and do it! And we will support you.

There is no one good solution for this lack of stuff to do in Hanford, although Applebee’s is a start. There are some creative and adventurous people out there that are trying to make a difference. However when anyone tries to get us involved in solving the problem, we seem to just sit back and wait for someone else to fix it. The major difficulty with this is that we end up with people twice our age trying to tell us how to have fun. Our generation needs a few articulate spokespersons to sound off in a way that will be heard, and create something to do in Hanford. That’s my view from Generation neXt.