At least as of 2009, my town of Springfield, Oregon had the highest known number of strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States. It has (or had) 7 strip clubs for a town of 58,000 residents. And I would really like to see this number compared with military towns in the middle of nowhere like Columbus, Georgia. But even though this is obviously a very non-scientific survey, this is a very high number.
This is so not surprising. Springfield is a rough town. Most of these clubs congregate along Main Street in the downtown, an area that was pretty well abandoned by most people even before the mills closed in the late 1980s. In fact, the area started turning around a little bit with the arrival of Mexican immigrants. At least today you can go town there and get a good taco. But it is still a pretty grim place, one awash in meth, trailer parks, and poverty. I used to deliver newspapers as a kid on the edge of this area. My friend’s paper route was even closer and I’d argue quite unsafe for a 12 or 13 year old.
Our visions of regions mostly consist of one or two stops. With the Northwest, we think of Seattle and Portland. We have images of Pike Place Market and bike trails and microbrews. All that is true. But outside of the cities, in the old logging areas, things have been rough for a long, long time. It’s not a coincidence that Kurt Cobain came from Aberdeen. That area has been ravaged by logging for over a century. After the old-growth timber was ripped out, it was targeted as a place where people should buy logged-off land and start farms. This was a terrible idea, leading to generations of poverty that not great jobs in the mills did not alleviate. It’s the same through the region–Libby, Montana; Coquille, Oregon; Centralia, Washington. Springfield is no different. I can’t quite say that why there are so many strip clubs in my hometown and not some other very similar town. But I know this area very well and I can say that there are not a lot of options for people.