Last week, I took my 4th trip to Springfield, MO. This is not the Springfield of The Simpsons fame (or is it??) but is my hubby’s home town. Our previous trips were shorter, and on two occasions were for family emergencies. Being that we were there for nearly an entire week, I would consider this my first “vacation” to Springfield. And as such, I had more down time to make a few observations. I’ve summarized these into the 10 things you should know about Springfield.
#1: Springfield is the home of churches, strip malls, and banks
It is obvious to the outsider that churches, banks and strip malls rule this town. My husband tells me at one time Springfield had the highest number of churches per capita, and I believe him. And sometimes, they’re in (or in the parking lot of) strip malls. Yes, there are a lot of strip malls. We used to feel like the strip malls were getting run down, but something has changed since our last visit. The strip malls appear to have been cleaned up and updated. The other noticeable business-of-plenty is banks. TONS of banks. Maybe there is more money in Springfield than we realized? And can I just tell you – the service at these banks is amazing! Talk about friendly, hometown banking!
#2: A “drive into town” can easily take 30-45 minutes
I’m sure this can be said for many Midwest towns, but driving the long distances seems “normal”. Admittedly it’s less stressful than what a 30-45 minute drive would be like in a major metropolitan city…mostly because your car actually is able to move at high speeds for the entire time. But we did plenty of driving while “IN” Springfield. 45 minutes one way to visit my hubby’s dad….30 minutes in the opposite direction to hubby’s mom’s.
#3: Brad Pitt grew up here
Sorry, Brad, but this was probably a bigger deal a decade ago. But yes, Brad Pitt grew up in Springfield and graduated from Kickapoo High School (so did my hubby!). (But wait … kick-a-poo? What kind of name is that?? I know, it’s an Indian tribe so I don’t mean to be offensive…it just makes me giggle every time I say it out loud.)
#4: Wally World
We attended a family picnic on the 4th of July while up there, and I was visiting with a cousin’s 4-year old daughter. She was asking her grandma if they could go to Wally World. I instantly thought of the Walley World of National Lampoon’s Vacation fame. So I thought, that sounds like a fun place! So trying to strike up a conversation with the 4-year-old, I ask: “What do you do at Wally World? That sounds like a fun place?” She looks at me like I fell off the moon and says simply “Shopping”. I prod further – “What else?” – thinking there must be more. On the drive back to the hotel as I was filling in my husband, he simply informs me that Wally World is Walmart. Walmart is appreciated much more in Springfield than other parts of the country…they make it sound like this really great place to go! And 4-year-olds can look at adults who don’t know that and feel superior.
#5: I don’t think many people work there
Springfield has a population over 150,000, and with all those strip malls and banks, you’d think a lot of people are employed. If that’s the case, why did I hit a traffic jam at 2:30 on a Tuesday afternoon? Seriously…grid lock on Battlefield Street…did not move through two red lights…cut through a parking lot to find a back way. I’m convinced everyone is just independently wealthy (thus all the banks?) and no one really works.
#6: There is always a wait to eat at Olive Garden…
…even at 2pm on a Tuesday. (See #5 above)
#7: Fireworks are a big deal
I really love this about “small town” America…4th of July is a special day. But what I didn’t realize is that 100-120 THOUSAND people turn out for the fireworks show in Springfield. Woowee! No…we are lame and did not go to the show. I hear it takes hours to get home afterward. I’ve seen fireworks before and I’m sure the show was very nice. I heard it from the comfort of my hotel room in my PJs.
#8: NO STARBUCKS
One afternoon, I had some time to myself while my husband was visiting with a cousin. I took myself to lunch (tried to go to the darn Olive Garden) but then wanted to go sit at the Starbucks to continue reading my book….or any coffee shop. I drove around and realized I did not see a single coffee shop! (Okay, I checked out Starbuck’s website and yes there are some. But goodness they are hidden!) Unlike most places I’ve lived where you can find a Starbucks at least every couple blocks, I could not find a single coffee shop to hang out in. Sorry…this town doesn’t seem supportive of aspiring authors.
#9: Home of Cashew Chicken
Apparently, Cashew Chicken was “invented” in Springfield. I say invented in quotes…because being of Asian decent, I can’t imagine that this dish was created in the middle of the USA. But, whether it’s true or not, they claim it. And most every Chinese restaurant (oh, did I mention there are a LOT of those, too) displays some sort of sign that indicates they, too, have cashew chicken. Of ALL the Chinese restaurants in town, the one my husband wanted to go to (three times)…the one he longs for when we are not in Springfield…is China Star. Ironically, he goes there for the sweet and sour chicken. (He loves it so much, he had his dad FedEx him food from there once. No lie.)
#10: Best named gas station chain
This is best as in “most memorable”…best as in “I know you won’t believe me so I took a picture of the sign to prove it”. You might have an AM/PM or a Quick Stop…but do you have a