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  • Writer's pictureJohn M Donovan

Why Hillsboro?

Why indeed? There were any number of good choices for naming my writing/publishing enterprise, but I kept coming back to my old Indiana hometown of Hillsboro.

Hillsboro used to have a sign at each end of town that welcomed visitors to the “Home of 600 happy people and a few old soreheads.” I like to think that some of the soreheads were originally happy to be acknowledged on the sign but then quickly got sore about having their emotions toyed with.

My folks rented a house across from the post office in 1967, while my dad was building our new home a mile and a half west of town. Hillsboro had a bakery then, along with a drugstore and a car dealership and two gas stations and a bank and a dress shop and a grocery store and a lumber yard. These were the days of banana-seat bikes and 12-cent Batman comics, crew cuts and Cub Scouts. And even when we moved to the new house, I romanticized Hillsboro and couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.

In Trombone Answers, Parker Graham writes an essay about Colby City for his English class:

Mrs Marchese gave me an A and told me I had more civic pride than the average seventh-grader. I asked her if that was good and she just nodded with the faintest of smiles. “Too soon to tell,” she said.

To give you a rough idea of how much civic pride I had back in my grade school and junior high days, I secretly thought Hillsboro had a chance to land a team the next time major league baseball expanded. All we needed was a stadium and an exit off I-74. (And, now that I think of it, a committee to make Hillsboro’s pitch to the expansion committee, on which I would have gladly served.) The American League expanded to Seattle and Toronto in 1977, but by that time I had realized that logistically, Veedersburg had a much better chance than Hillsboro.

Last time I was in town I took my wife on a walking tour past a lot of places that aren’t there anymore. There’s no bakery, no drugstore, no grocery store, no gas station. What was once a gigantic death-defying sledding hill is now kind of short and not very steep. The lumber yard is gone but the cemeteries seem to be flourishing.

And yet, it’s still Hillsboro. The flashing traffic light is still there (yellow if you’re on 136 and red if you’re coming up the hill on 341) and the ratio of happy people to soreheads is probably still about the same. I’m calling this site Hillsboro Publishing to commemorate a town I once thought was the greatest place on earth. I hope there’s a kid living there now who thinks it still is.

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