I did some research on the Ellis Island website years ago, and since then, I've gotten an email from them maybe 4 times a year. I have to admit, I like their style--the emails usually lets me know new features on the website, with a modest DONATE icon at the bottom, so it isn't your typical spam. But the one I got this week was special, because it had a letter written by Tommy Lasorda after receiving the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award. In the letter he said, "...not a day goes by that I don't think about my brothers and my mom and dad, and growing up in Norristown, PA."
I read that and thought, here's a man who had gained national recognition, but is so proud of his hometown that he's announcing it to a national audience. He doesn't have a negative opinion of Norristown, so why should we?
If you go to Wikipedia's entry for Norristown , you'll find a list of our Notable People. Wikipedia being what it is, the list is incomplete and a few of the entries are wrong (the person was born or grew up near Norristown, not in it), but for the most part, it's a list of our residents who went on to make history or become noted in their professions in some way or another. A more telling list may be IMDB's "Most Popular People Born In Norristown." These are people who have appeared in or worked behind the scenes on movies and TV, and weren't ashamed to put "Norristown" in their bios.
It occurred to me that the people I've heard nay-saying Norristown will likely never get onto a list of Notable or Most Popular People. So why are we listening to them?
Think of the people who have had, at the very least, town-wide recognition and popularity the longest--people like Hank Cisco. He's been saying great things about Norristown for decades. Now think about anyone you've heard put Norristown down. Is that person going to be remembered for any contribution to society, ever?
If you pick up a published book, chances are you'll find one or more blurbs on the back cover--quotes from book reviews and authors saying how great the book is. If we're going to turn around Norristown's negative image, it wouldn't hurt to get a few blurbs from those of us who went on to gain notoriety, like Tommy Lasorda.
But every one of us in the borough, whether we go on to achieve fame or not, can help to change our image. Tell people you're from Norristown, and be proud of the fact. It's time to stop letting the put-downs go unchallenged.