Here's my Top 10 list of things I love about Paducah. There is no particular order, and it could have easily been expanded to a Top 20 list. But you have to start somewhere.
1. Our rich history as a wild and woolly frontier river town in what was the wild, wild West of its day before the Civil War. The Mississippian culture was all around here hundreds of years earlier, including a mound in Paducah's Rowlandtown. There were river pirates and robbers' dens along the Ohio and Mississippi.
Read about these days of danger and desperadoes in "The Outlaws of Cave-in Rock" and other books of regional history and legend available in our excellent public library or watch "How the West Was Won."
2. Our dean of local historians, the invaluable and beloved John Robertson, is still turning out books since his retirement from WKCTC. He's written a series of books on Paducah's history, his most recent arriving on the shelves just this year. I learn so much about our city not only from his books but in countless conversations over coffee at Etcetera Lowertown where he frequently draws a crowd of the remembering old and curious young.
Keep writing, John. Other valuable sources of local history include the affable and informative Bob Johnston and the prolific and astute Gladman Humbles.
3. Our downtown, which still looks like a downtown and will once again feel like a downtown with continued intelligent planning and reinvestment. While some cities have gutted their historic core, we still have ours. It's a little tattered and under-appreciated by some, but we still have it. Other cities are reduced to making faux downtowns from scratch in their exurban rings. We still have the real thing along our beautiful Ohio River.
4. The best of our local officials, the ones who actually listen and welcome the input and participation of concerned, engaged and energetic citizens. These actually earn their money; they analyze problems, seek information, tour the city's neighborhoods and envision areas for positive transformation.
They should be heartened by the packed-house turnout when world-renowned city planner and "Walkable City" author Jeff Speck came to town last week. Read the book and others listed therein.
5. Our tradition of a civically engaged local business community. Through sacrifice, intelligence and hard work they have built thriving companies that put our citizens to work. The best of them pay good wages, offer family-friendly benefits, and respect their workers, thereby building loyalty and stability.
Not only this, they use their wealth and talents to give back to the community, which helped form them in countless ways.
6. Our diverse and active faith communities. They, along with civic clubs, are among the first to respond to the needs of the less fortunate in our city. The best of our churches are led by clergy who preach and practice the gospel of social justice and personal responsibility.
Not for them the anti-gospels of hatred, bigotry and theological narrowness. And they don't require you to park your brain at the church house door. They give back so much.
7. WKMS. A previous column saluted Greg Dunker of WKYX for his locally focused program. I once had the privilege of working for him and with him and concur, so I'll let those earlier comments stand.
Now I'll turn to our great regional broadcast treasure WKMS. I can safely say there is no better non-metropolitan public radio station in the country than ours. The locally produced newscasts, documentaries and music programs are excellent as are the national talk shows, which offer thoughtful non-demagogic discussions of the pressing issues of the day. Add their 24-hour classical music service and we are truly fortunate.
8. Our McCracken County Public Library, especially the ever-helpful polite and informed staff. The local history and genealogical research room is a treasure. It's staffed by people who actually know and value our history. The resources and programs for children and the lectures series are also invaluable.
9. Paducah Life magazine. What a quality publication! The current issue was the best positive-on-Paducah propaganda pitch I've ever scene. These magazines should be thrust into the hands of any family or business mulling relocation to Paducah. Likewise VUE and other hometown publications including the recently very much improved Paducah Sun.
10. Our ever-expanding educational and cultural opportunities. If I start commenting on all the local artists, musicians, actors and writers and the venues and platforms where they perform I'll run out of space. Likewise the museums and architectural treasures.
If you think there's nothing to see and hear in our town, you haven't made the effort.
Bob Hopper is a Paducah native who spent most of his career in broadcast news in St. Louis, New York City and Washington D.C. He's now retired from the Associated Press and living in Paducah. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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