Allentown in One Sentence

Photo of Allentown Flower Man

The city of Allentown began with a decision to spin silk, followed by a swing to the opposite pursuit of making steel, and the lumbering steel industry forged transcontinental rail tracks and train wheels and who knows how many hobo shovels and skyscraper guts and World War II cannons before eventually collapsing under its own benefit-heavy, slow-to-adapt-to-world-competition density, leaving the Lehigh Valley teetering on the brink of destruction for a number of years — 10? 15? — long enough for Billy Joel to write a song about it , which often serves as the primary point of reference when the subject of hometowns comes up while an Allentown resident is on the road, and which proved apt but only for a while, because somehow the underlying German work ethic — as people round here like to believe — prevailed against the burnt-out industrial past, and turkey farmers sold their holdings to big businesses seeking the perfect point for efficient distribution, close to New York and Philadelphia and D.C., outside of the tax shackles of New York and New Jersey, on the interstate, with a large and ready and well-trained workforce, and medical device manufacturing crept west, out of Jersey and the Philly suburbs, and the universities grew and pulled in students and professors and janitors and librarians and lab techs and the retiring parents of the students, who could spot a good lifestyle and saw the sea of bluehairs as an advantage rather than an annoyance or burden, and charitable interests sought to preserve the health of the population, transmuting chemical fortunes into medical megaplexes, healing all who knocked and presented a valid, too-rare health insurance card, especially the aforementioned elderly (many beyond the point of healing), sputtering to their exits while their grandchildren stuck around and pieced together artistic ventures centered around rockabilly hair, skateboards, hula hoops, Twitter and used books, accepting that they had enough parks and alcohol and willing romantic partners in the Lehigh Valley and didn’t need to move to Philly or New York after all, but could live a slow, content life with a solid soundtrack right here in little old traffic-choked Allentown, PA.

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