We aren’t just a strong community, we are family

A reoccurring comment I receive from people, from my past days as a staff writer for the Daily Times, to my current position as executive director of Main Street Portsmouth, is that I’m overly positive about the area.

I can post something great…I can write something hopeful…but, in each situation, someone is bound to leave a comment along the lines of “Yeah, but the streets have holes in them,” or “Yeah, but we have drugs.”

Ignore the fact that City Manager Derek Allen is looking at the infrastructure and the constantly bursting pipes under the streets, before lying new roads.

Ignore the great work of the Counseling Center, and many, many other similar organizations, offering solace to addicts.

I get so angry when that one jerk feels like taking the time to complain, and does zero constructive work himself. This is even more frustrating when I see people, daily, doing so much good to grow Portsmouth to its full potential.

I’ve often explained that my love of this town stems from my grandmother raising me in downtown, but I’ve never really gotten much more into it, past that.

My love of Portsmouth goes back to 1959, and, no, that isn’t a typo.

Thirty-three years before I was born, my great-grandfather, William Holbrook, was hurt when scrap metal landed on him at M.D. Friedman Company. He passed away later, due to injuries from the incident.

My grandmother, along with her six brothers and sisters, were left to the state, and living in Hillcrest Children’s Home.

Over her years, she went to a handful of foster homes, but eventually grew out of the children’s home. My grandmother didn’t have a nuclear family growing up.

She had six biological siblings and hundreds of Hillcrest siblings. Outside of them, she had all of Portsmouth. She also didn’t have the luxury of her own room or private home, but she had streets to roam with friends, where she would be a kid, getting in and out of trouble. Portsmouth, in its entirety, was grandma’s home and her family.

In her raising me, this love was obvious, and it is something that she passed onto me. We spent all of our time at the river, talking about local history.

We walked up and down Second Street, going into shops. Grandma would take me down Front Street, using the murals as a history book. She would take me to tours of Shawnee’s growing campus, telling me all about how it would be my school.

We frequented old properties and abandoned places, talking about what they were, and what they were before that. She would teach seven-year-old me all these things, telling me to remember them for the day I will be mayor.

Growing up, grandma only had Portsmouth and it was what she knew when raising me. The shopkeepers became my family. The old places became a second home. I established pride in who we are, as a community, and how fiercely we protect our own.

I love Portsmouth, because it is my home. I love Portsmouth, because its citizens are my family.

Don’t get me wrong, like all families, there are odd uncles and annoying cousins, sure, but you still have to accept them.

I encourage people to go downtown. Take in the murals as if you’re seeing them for the first time. Talk to a new stranger each day. Work towards bettering an aspect of town that you’re passionate about.

Most importantly, remember that we aren’t just a strong community, but we are family. I think we could all take a lesson from my grandmother, a daughter of Portsmouth.

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By Joseph Pratt

For the Daily Times

Joseph Pratt is the Executive Director of Main Street Portsmouth. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by telephone at 740-464-0203.