Small-Town America: Saint Marys, Ohio
By Diana Fenves, Communications Intern
St. Marys, Ohio, according to The K of D playwright Laura Schellhardt, is the kind of town "that you might pass on your way to some place else." It’s a small town like many small towns in America—a place where gossip spreads quick, times can be tough, and summer entertainment might involve fishing, telling stories, or playing pranks.
"It’s a small town, and I like small towns because everybody knows everybody’s business, and if they don’t they make it up," said Schellhardt, who spent her childhood summers in St Marys (and continues to returns to for writing inspiration). "They watch something, and they say, ‘I bet that’s what’s going on,’ and then that thing they said becomes fact even if it never happened."
Saint Marys, Ohio, is in Auglaize County, located in Western Ohio near the border of Indiana. With just a few more than 8,000 residents, (more than a quarter of whom have families), town life is quiet. The front page of the local newspaper covers topics like the installation of a brand-new traffic light or the exciting opening of the town’s third restaurant.
The town borders Grand Lake, which is also an Ohio State Park. Visitors from all over the state visit the large man-made lake every year to fish and spend a night outdoors. The lake is also the setting for The K of D.
Despite the friendly atmosphere and the beautiful scenery, it’s not always easy living in Saint Marys. Most families’ income is below the national average, and nearly six percent of the families live below the poverty line. Almost ten percent of people under 18 are impoverished.
It’s the kind of town where the kids roam free in the summer. They have to make their own fun and tell their own stories. In a time where there was no internet, no cell phones and few TVs, a rich imagination was key ingredient to a memorable summer.
"The things we had to come up with to amuse ourselves were… telling stories, and trying to trick each other and play pranks; coming up with ways to scare each other," Schellhardt, said.