Last week, the city decided to paint a small number of fire hydrants orange and blue. You would have thought that the fountain on the Public Square was taken out. The response to the relatively innocuous event was swift, certain and severe. Residents nearly universally panned the idea.
At the end of the day we are just talking about a fire hydrant, right? Well, maybe. But then again, maybe not.
Last year, our city administration let it be known that it was going through a “rebranding” process. Over time, a new color scheme (blue and orange) and new typefaces would be prominently displayed all over the community. City vehicles, city letterhead, signage, light poles were changed. Now in year two, we are seeing fire hydrants and at least a water tower added to the list.. From here on out, if it needs repaired or repainted, blue and orange paint is on standby.
But these changes are a symptom of the larger perceived problem with the “rebranding.” And the perception isn’t necessarily the fact that the project cost money; is blue and orange paint really more expensive than yellow or white paint? The problem is that the “rebranding” has no meaning. It doesn’t resonate. At least not yet.
Here we are in Troy, Ohio, USA where everything resonates. Walk downtown, to me it’s a place where I can feel the history, if you listen carefully you can literally hear the past come alive. Drive on one of the main streets in town. When Andrew Wallace surveyed the town, it was no accident that he wanted to put in wide streets. Every step you take in our town, you can’t help but be immersed in our culture. It’s those things that bind us together as a community.
Now we are asking for a blue and orange fire hydrant to bind us together? Well, eventually. Maybe 50 to a 100 years from now future Trojans will look with pride on our blue and orange fire hydrants. Perhaps in 2119, when one thinks of blue and orange, Troy, Ohio would be the first vision that flashes in the head of the collective conscious. If you think that sounds a little crazy, remember, this town has gone crazy for strawberries every June for the last forty years; anything is possible.
We are a mature community at a crossroads. Many residents believe and they are correct when they say we have such a vibrant and rich history that we can use to promote our future. And who can blame them? We are all products of our community; including the traditions and the culture of where we live. There are fewer places better to live than Troy, Ohio, USA. Yet, we are asked to rally around something that has no history, no meaning, no resonance. These are just two colors that a graphic artist said looks nice together.
I’ll be the first to tel you, “rebranding” and graphic arts is not my thing. This stuff doesn’t get me excited and doesn’t get me passionate in the least. Because those things are just graphic representations of what really makes a community. Logos don’t create businesses, typefaces don’t create jobs, color schemes don’t create tax revenue.
Will painting the town blue and orange lead to the downfall of our community? Doubtful. Will it ensure decades of community prosperity? Also doubtful. Will it provide something unique that will make us memorable? Maybe. Will it take away from our history and our traditions? Never.
A community is not made of a color scheme, it’s made of people. It’s made up of you and me and the shared stories and experiences that bind us together. The older I get, the more I am beginning to truly appreciate the fact that my thoughts, my beliefs and my ideas are crafted and molded by forces that I can’t see, let alone put a finger on. As much as I may want to think I am a free-thinking spirit, there is an entire lifetime of thoughts, morals and behaviours that has created who I am. It’s created who we are.
Can these fire hydrants be an integral part of our history and culture moving forward? Only time will tell.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.