Uncle Tom’s cabin

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Tom’s house is a mansion, really, not a cabin.

A mansion, by my standards, and bought for a song by Ashvegas standards. It’s what happens when you get a big promotion, and when you move to Marion, Ohio.

It looks like an interesting little town. I’d never heard of it until Tom told me he was moving there. I’ve got a couple of cousins who crack heads and kick down doors working as Columbus cops. But I haven’t visited Ohio since I was a kid, and had practically forgotten about it except for LeBron lacing ’em up in Cleveland and all that talk about “battleground states” last election.

Reporters loved writing about Ohio’s battleground status for three reasons – it’s middle America, literally (the state’s ban on gay marriage starts in May); it’s history as a bellwether in presidential elections (no Republican has ever lost Ohio and won the presidency, and only two Dems – FDR and JFK – have lost the big O and won); and because it’s a state with a ripped economy.

Ohio has hemorhaged jobs – somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 jobs in the past six years. So you can understand why Marion is so proud of its Whirlpool plant. It’s the biggest maker of dryers in the world and it provides about 2,400 people with a job and a paycheck.

So you can also understand why Marion County commissioners, when they heard Whirlpool was going to sink $73 million to upgrade the 1955 plant and promised to keep 2,500 jobs in town, gave the corporate giant a 15-year free pass on paying taxes on all the new stuff. I shouldn’t say free – the company promised to give local school systems a total of $367,000 spread over the same 15-year period. Not a bad deal. And you help your future workers get a high school diploma.

Sounds like the plant could use the upgrade. It’s a metal finishing appliance manufacturing plant, which means it processes all kinds of chemicals and produces a lot of toxic waste. It’s worked on cleaning itself up, but c’mon – let’s be real.

Downtown Marion looks like it has potential. There are some things to brag about. There’s a White Castle and Smiley China and Short North and Shooter’s and the OK Cafe. There’s popcorn, too. The town plays host to the biggest popcorn festival in the world. They crown Miss Teeny Pop and ConAgra sponsors the parade.

And Warren Harding. He of the Teapot Dome Scandal. And he who edited the local newspaper, where “everyone’s a star.”

The daily miracle

So hang in there, my friend. Don’t forget you are the boss. You win every argument. I know pothole season is right around the corner, but that just means just spring is almost here.

Please don’t end up in the poorhouse, where county records listed people as “simple,” “crippled” and “from asylum, insane.”

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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1 Comment

  1. Graser February 25, 2005

    just a few things to clear up. There is no white castle in Marion. The picture you saw was in Columbus where White Castle has its headquarters (interesting side note: way before I was born my Mother worked for White Castle in Columbus in the finance office.) Short North is also in Columbus (it’s only 40 miles south of Marion) Short North is just south of The Ohio State University. It is the arty district in town and the only part I have explored thus far. I am planning on a lot of long Saturday’s in Columbus. Especially when the Buckeyes are playing away games.


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