By Beth Heller
So yesterday this little treasure came in the mail, and we still we can’t put it down! Sent to the Greater Green Bay Chamber on a lark by an octogenarian resident whose parents had received it when they moved to the area in the 30’s, the book was originally presented to all city newcomers by a sort of Welcome Wagon prototype, the Civic Activities League of Green Bay. With our blog spending the month of July tackling the question of how to attract and retain talent in our community, we found this historical perspective on a “sell piece” chock-full of sage, though adorably dated, advice.
The Newcomer’s Key, proudly describes the history, architectural landmarks, and even the traffic rules of Green Bay (“To signal a stop…extend the left arm as far as possible beyond the left side of the vehicle…”), with pride and a sense of place. There’s a section called “Green Bay Today,” that describes the city’s inhabitants, “the sturdy stock of men and women, who founded and built Green Bay, … still reflected in the substantial citizens who operate its businesses, direct its government and serve the community in professional pursuits.” A section on Recreation expounds that a true metropolitan city must “provide the outlet for the spirit of play which exists in every person….and the providing of these outlets is just as much the obligation of each community as is the material welfare of her citizens.” A section on bears (which today might be replaced with a section on “Beers,” or “Bars”) gently reminds folks that they are shy and harmless, fond of sweets and able to devour entire beehives, bees and all. And, yes, the Packers do have a whole chapter to themselves (“[Green Bay is] known from coast to coast as the city with a professional football team with a college spirit…”).
Irony and anachronism aside, the gist of this book is attracting and retaining talent in the Green Bay Community, and much still rings true. There’s even a point blank statement of shared vision:
“Many of the most prominent and civic minded citizens are, however, men who adopted Green Bay for a home in recent years — indicating the splendid opportunities presented here for those who are willing to give of themselves, thus reaping greater benefits.” (emphasis added).
In fact, the entire work is an effort to create a sense of place by sharing historical context and give suggestions for ways that newer inhabitants could connect and fit in with the established inhabitants.
Besides being a fun read, The Newcomer’s Key highlights that for better or worse, we now tend to shy away from statements of community values and emphasize shopping guides, nightlife, cost of living, home prices and school test scores to promote our community. In fact, as our city is changing and becoming more diverse, we find ourselves without a vocabulary to discuss a shared vision for our community at the very point we need it most.
At Live we are gearing up to ask the deeper questions and find a vocabulary that honors both the city’s long-term residents, as well as allows newcomers to give of themselves in a purposeful way. If we were to publish the guide today, what would its contents hold? What is the vision you would like to share with newcomers to our community? We’d love to hear your thoughts!