Retired educator shares his list of top U.S. small cities

  • Thursday, March 14, 2013

 
After many years of personal research and travel, Chuck Anderson is sharing what he has learned with an easily accessible and informative online list he has named, “In Search of Eden.”
Anderson’s list identifies what he considers the top 30 cities in the United States.
More specifically, Anderson has spent nearly five decades traveling the length and breadth of the continental United States looking for what he considers the most charming and livable towns and small cities in America. Not too long ago, Anderson visited Summerville. Shortly after that, Summerville made his list; in fact, Summerville comes comfortably into the top twenty at number 17 on the list.
“Summerville really has it all,” Anderson said. “First off, it’s got a nice climate – warm pretty much all year round and lots of sunshine. You’re near the coast but you don’t quite have the heat and humidity of Charleston. And Summerville has a very charming downtown area that everyone seems to really want to visit and enjoy.”
Anderson, who just celebrated his 74th birthday, says he just wants to share his information with anyone who is interested. Ideally, he says he wants to help people find their “Eden,” their perfect places to live, raise families, retire – but he also wants people living in the places that made his list to know what treasures they actually have.
Criteria he considers include setting, climate, population patterns, accessibility, good schools, cost of living, employment opportunities, entertainment opportunities, and public safety.
One of the most important characteristics he looks for in a town is a sense of identity – it must have a sense of self, as opposed to being a bedroom community for somewhere else, he said.
Clearly, Summerville has its own sense of self and personality, he noted.
Anderson started traveling around and taking notes of all the places he visited starting in the early 1960s. His original idea was to write a book in the vein of Norman Ford’s “50 Best Cities,” a book published in the 1950s.
“The book was already outdated by the time I discovered it, but it was still helpful,” Anderson said of Ford’s work. “And as I traveled and pursued my geographic studies, it occurred to me that I could produce an up-to-date, and possibly even better, cities list.”
Anderson, a retired high school geography/social studies/civics teacher with undergraduate and graduate degrees in Geography from Michigan State and Kansas State universities, said he received a number of offers from major magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post to publish his work. However, he opted to fine tune his research until it was ready to publish as a book.
By the late 1980s Anderson had compiled a vast amount of material and was preparing to submit his work for publication when personal tragedy struck: a propane explosion destroyed his home, injuring him and killing his mother.
The explosion also destroyed all of his work.
The aftermath of that tragedy left him depressed and uninspired for a number of years, he said.
“I almost gave it up,” he said. “I kind of lost my will to do this work – but I never stopped traveling.”
So it was that about twelve years ago, Anderson decided to re-boot his project – literally. While he still loves to travel, he does much of his basic research on the Internet.
In fact, the Internet has not only provided him a new and far wider reaching forum, publishing on the Internet also allows him to make changes quickly and inexpensively when the need arises, he said.
“Cities and towns change constantly, thus, the list can change frequently,” he said.
Nonetheless, all cities and towns that make his list share important characteristics in common, he said.
“A really good small city has the best of amenities and opportunities of a larger city, but retains, preserves, and cherishes the things that make it special,” Anderson said.  “Summerville is definitely one of those places.”
 
In Search of Eden: The Top Twenty
 
After many years of personal research and travel, retired educator Chuck Anderson is sharing what he has learned with an easily accessible and informative online list he has named, “In Search of Eden.”
Anderson’s list identifies what he considers the top 30 cities in the United States.
Criteria he considers include setting, climate, population patterns, accessibility, good schools, cost of living, employment opportunities, entertainment opportunities, public safety and sense of community identity.
Here is Anderson’s top twenty:
Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaMontrose, ColoradoBelmont, North CarolinaConcord, New HampshireLexington, South CarolinaCedar City, VermontChristianburg, VirginiaSeward, NebraskaCody, WyomingGeorgetown, KentuckyWindsor, ColoradoWatkinsville, GeorgiaBentonville, ArkansasKlamat Falls, OregonMurray, KentuckyBeaufort, North Carolina17.  Summerville, South Carolina Athens, OhioGreeneville, TennesseePaola, Kansas 
 
 

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