Steel on the Slide
Profits is a business proposition, livelihood is not.
Along the westernmost portion of the New York State Thruway, just east of the Pennsylvania border and adjacent to the once abundant coalfields of Erie, a road sign suddenly announces Springville-Orchard Park. A left off the exit ramp leads to Orchard Park, the home of the Buffalo Bills; to the right the road wanders through Lackawanna, a city built on a backbone of steel and once recognized as New York's "steel city." With the exception of Sunday afternoons in the fall, when fliousands of fans inch their way to Bills games at Rich Stadium, the traffic off exit 55 is usually very light. Few people drive to the Orchard Park stadium during the week, and nowadays there is just not much activity of any kind in Lackawanna. Lackawanna's ghosttown existence immediately becomes apparent to the venturesome soul who decides to explore the former steel city.
As we turn onto Ridge Road and skirt through the city's residential wards, the golden arches of an antiquated McDonalds disrupt the visual tranquillity provided by rows of neat little houses nestled behind well-manicured lawns and shrubbery. One of the first of Mr. Kroc's hamburger factories, a facade of shiny white tile with fireengine red trim substitutes for the omnipresent placid brick of the store's contemporary progeny. Sparkling bright and antiseptically clean, McDonalds manages to rest quietly, alone and isolated from other fast-food outlets.