On the corner of Fourth and Commercial, there is single stop sign. Drivers leaving for Highway 81 must stop, briefly, at the intersection outside the Victor Anderson, a large brick building that has housed various businesses— dentist, grocer, barber, funeral parlor— since its construction in 1912. However, drivers traveling east, abandoning the highway for town, are invited to proceed through the intersection without pause; the cross traffic, likewise, continues. “Stop” in the singular is puzzling. Two signs, one on either side of the main street, would make more sense. Yet, the intersection welcomes those who visit and serves as convenience for those who stay. Stopping poses an obstacle only for those leaving town.
The casual driver may not notice this peculiarity, rumbling over Stromsburg’s original brick streets, maintained and cherished, the town square passing by slowly in the window. If it is spring, hundreds of yellow tulips surrounding the concrete square have bloomed around every tree and bench, have bloomed around the old fountain constructed by prairie pioneers. In summer or early fall, Swedish folk art leftover from the annual Midsommar Festival— kurbits in bright primaries— still clings to the old bandstand and corner lampposts.
I see the square often, my stops at the intersection frequent now that I’ve moved away. After visiting my parents or friends, I use the pause at Fourth and Commercial to survey a place I have lived for most of my life. Then, I proceed to the highway, beginning my drive back to a city that has become “home.”
The intersection at Fourth and Commercial was infused with life on a particular summer evening. The owners of turn-of-the-century Victor Anderson advertised in the local paper: their brick and mortar would be restored to a former brilliance, illuminating the street with lights two stories above. Though the wiring was original, the corner had been dark for over eighty years. Lifelong residents could not recall ever seeing it lit.
The town gathered. And for us, the repurposing of a building became more than show. Through a changed practice in seeing, our town became bright— familiar, new.