A random Twelve Mile Circle reader became an unwitting inspiration for this article simply because of where he or she lived. The little dot within Idaho on my Google Analytics dashboard mentioned State Line. That seemed too good to be true. I’ve done plenty of articles about border towns although I’d never noticed that one before. It sounded like a good excuse to peel things back a layer and take a closer look.
State Line didn’t cover much area and only 38 people lived there (map). It seemed an odd situation until I uncovered a bit of history in an old newspaper article. This creation sprang to life in 1947 and existed for a very specific reason. Quite simply, "the town was incorporated so it could sell liquor and have slot machines." End of story.
Those who incorporated the town leveraged the adjacent state border, just enough over the line to fall outside of the laws of Washington State. Residents of the region’s dominant city — Spokane, Washington — needed only a short drive to take advantage of the more liberal alcohol and gambling rules of Idaho. Apparently incorporated towns in Idaho had some legal leeway to provide these services so State Line filled that niche. The town didn’t have to worry about do-gooders interfering with its business either; it carefully corralled a sympathetic population. I’ve explored similar themes before, e.g., in Right Up to the Line.
A lot of separate sins packed into that tiny package, too. I drove down Seltice Way, the main road through State Line, vicariously using Google Street View. From the border heading into Idaho I noticed a smokeshop, a liquor store, several taverns including a biker bar, and a building with no windows advertising "Show Girls." I wonder what could possibly be going on inside there? This is a family-friendly website so I’ll leave it at that. I also found the residential area consisting of a small trailer park. Maybe the show girls lived there? If so then one of them visited 12MC and landed on the Thelma and Louise Route Map. Maybe someone was planning a weekend getaway?
Idaho didn’t contain the only town with that familiar name. Stateline existed in Nevada, too. I talked about that one briefly in the Loneliest Road in the USA and it appeared in reader comments from time-to-time as well. South Lake Tahoe, on the California side, seemed like the average ski resort town. A gondola led up to the slopes, part of the Heavenly Mountain Resort. Just down the street, however, marked Nevada. Five humongous casinos rose starkly from the pavement barely inches onto the Nevada side of the border. This grouping represented the same basic premise as its Idaho counterpart, bringing convenient "sinful" businesses closer to the masses.
A morbid geo-oddity of sorts existed in Stateline. The ski resort included trails on both sides of the border. Skiers crossed the state border on several of the runs. That was a worthwhile oddity by itself of course, although that wasn’t the morbid part. Something awful happened there in 1998. That’s when Sonny Bono, the lesser-known half of Sonny and Cher, slammed into a tree on the Orion slope (map). Bono died in Stateline on a border-crossing trail.
Stateline existed as one of thirteen townships in Sherman County, Kansas. The name went back historically to the 19th Century and simply represented its geographic placement next to Colorado. Stateline didn’t exist to entice people across the border and only 344 people lived there in the most recent Census. The township contained only one settlement of any size, Kanorado (map), the home of about half of Stateline’s residents. That still made it large enough to serve as Sherman County’s second largest town. My attention automatically focused on that spot because, as longtime readers know, I love a good portmanteau. The name combined and shortened Kansas and Colorado into Kanorado. It’s website noted that someone originally named it Lamborn. I preferred Kanorado. Excellent choice.
This one also existed in a bit of a geo-oddity. Only four counties recognized Kansas Mountain Time, including Sherman County. Of course that also included Stateline Township and the village of Kanorado. From my experience driving directly through there on Interstate 70 several years ago, I couldn’t determine why the area felt more aligned to Mountain Time. It seemed really remote, regardless. Either one should be fine. Nonetheless residents apparently felt otherwise and aligned chronologically with Colorado. Actually, as I thought about it more, Stateline should probably exist on the Colorado side instead. Colorado seemed to feature more sins than Kansas, particularly cannabis and perhaps alcohol too. The current Stateline alignment represented lost economic opportunities.
I found other State Lines and Statelines. For instance, check out State Line Pond in Connecticut. It also had its own website, believe it or not. From its description,
State Line Pond is an approximately 75 acre lake in Stafford Springs, Connecticut on the Massachusetts border at Monson, MA. The lake was formed when a stream running through a meadow was intentionally flooded approximately 150 years ago. For many years, the Stafford Ice House "harvested" ice by horse from the lake during the winter and delivered it to restaurants, homes and businesses as far away as Boston.
Even more obscure places existed in the form of State Line, Mississippi and State Line, Indiana. I couldn’t find much about either place other than their existence.
It further confirmed my theory that trailer parks have the best street names, using labels that everyone would love to have if society didn’t constrain them with highfalutin notions. Waltz, Minuet and Polonaise sounded almost normal. Modern and Folk were pretty lame, though — get it, Modern Dance, Folk Dance, really? Cha Cha, Swing and Twist started getting more adventurous. Break Dance and Hip Hop definitely took some guts. At a main entrance to the community though, visible to the entire outside world (Street View), a road named Disco Lane? Exceptional.
That transported me mentally to a carefree time in musical history when Disco ruled the planet, sandwiched firmly between the activism of Hippies and the anger of Punks. Did the denizens of discotheques, mirror balls and polyester leisure suits leave any physical marks upon the geographic landscape other than a random trailer park in North Carolina? Not particularly. Disco may have become a pop cultural phenomenon briefly during the 1970’s, however most partakers denied knowledge afterwards. Nonetheless I found plenty of places with coincidental naming.
The U.S. Geographic Names Information System listed four populated Discos, one found in Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin respectively. None of them was larger than a flyspeck. The occurrence in Tennessee may have been the most significant. It even included the wonderfully-named Disco Loop Road (map).
I’m not letting Canada off-the-hook either. The Canadian 12MC audience can always visit Disco Road in Toronto. They can dump their garbage at the Disco. I’m not kidding. The city maintains a drop-off depot for household hazardous waste and electronics at 120 Disco Road. I’m sure Toronto wasn’t trashing Disco intentionally. I’m also sure that Toronto West Detention Centre at 111 Disco Road wasn’t intended as a slight either. All coincidental, I assure you. Or was it? Why did all the Disco fans disappear suddenly after Disco Demolition Night?
The Hustle may have been Disco’s defining dance. It exploded in popularity after Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony released their song of the same name in 1975. This will be the one and only time Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony will ever be mentioned in Twelve Mile Circle so mark it down and remember the date.
I found Hustle in Virginia. It wasn’t a town proper, just a crossroads, although it did have its own Zip Code – 22476. Conceivably, disco aficionados could carry an envelope to the post office and go home with a coveted Hustle postmark if they so desired.
If Disco had a defining dance it also had a defining movie, Saturday Night Fever, a theatrical pandemic from 1977. IMDB summarized it with few words, "a Brooklyn youth feels his only chance to get somewhere is as the king of the disco floor." That was the extent of any meaningful plot. It launched the career of John Travolta in the title role.(¹) The soundtrack released by the Bee Gees also became phenomenally successful.
I found Saturday Night Lake in Alberta (map above) and Saturday Night Hill in Montana (map) along with several other much smaller features with similar names.
With respect to Mr. Travolta once again, I discovered him amongst several other era-appropriate actors, singers and entertainers in the streets of a development in Stafford Heights, Queensland, Australia. The same development also contained, I believe, the only street in the world named for Ernest Borgnine. Personally, I’d love to live at the corner of (Dolly) Parton and (Elvis) Presley Streets.
It would be difficult to assign a signature song to the Disco era because it had so many iconic contenders. Y.M.C.A. by the Village People certainly qualified for elite status because of its sheer staying power. New York City’s Greenwich Village was the village of the Village People so I’d nominate the McBurney YMCA for special attention. Technically I guess it’s on the wrong side of W. 14th Street which puts it just north of the Village. Close enough for me.
And now I can’t get The Hustle out of my head. This will be a long, agonizing day.
(¹) Let’s not even pretend he can afford a home with its own jumbo jet hanger because of his earlier "groundbreaking" work in Welcome Back, Kotter where his primary claim involved coining the catchphrase "up your nose with a rubber hose."
Queries from the major search engines continue to land on my website and provide great topics for full-blown articles. An anonymous viewer wondered which state had the highest percentage of residents living in trailer parks. Google thought I had the answer. I didn’t. I’d never even considered it in detail before but I certainly had my preconceived notions. Now I know the facts.
It wasn’t possible for me to determine the reason behind the query. Maybe it was inquisitiveness, maybe it was sarcasm, or maybe it was something else entirely. There’s often an unfavorable slant whenever residents of mobile home communities find themselves reduced to a stereotype. That’s not my intent. I wanted to see if I could find an answer purely based on curiosity once I spotted the query in my logs.
I quickly found the MHVillage website, a clearinghouse for mobile home purchases, sales and rentals. I’m a numbers person so it struck me as remarkable when I saw there were 36,246 trailer parks in the United States on the day I checked the site. That amazing. I had no idea the number would be that large.
They’re also scattered everywhere throughout the nation, even in nominally urban and suburban locations. For instance, the website led me to a trailer park just 11 miles from the White House, in Virginia’s Fairfax County, one of the most affluent in the United States. So much for stereotypes.
I also attempted to find the world’s largest trailer park. I couldn’t find a definitive source but many people speculated that it might be located in Nevada.
Sun Valley is a community north of Reno with a population of around 20,000 that is composed primarily of mobile homes. World’s largest? Maybe or may not, but either way it’s gargantuan: miles and miles of trailer homes in tidy rows in the desert.
All hail the U.S. Census Bureau and its American Community Survey for providing some definitive numbers. They tallied housing units by state. They even broke it down by type including mobile homes, and published the great map I’ve reproduced below. My only quibble deals with difficulties I encountered as I attempted to navigate their website. It’s not very intuitive. In fair warning, I’m not sure I could replicate what it took to find this map on their website again. I think it might have been included somewhere within its "Thematic Maps" section.
You can right click the image and open it in another window if you want to see it in a larger size. That will make it possible to read the scale and the full source citation. Essentially, the darker green a state appears, the higher the percentage of mobile homes exist there. The crown goes to South Carolina where 18.4% of the housing units in 2008 were mobile homes or trailers. Other contenders included the "usual suspects" in the American southeast.
I expect to find trailers in Mississippi, West Virginia and Arkansas — no surprise there — but what’s up with New Mexico and Wyoming? I admit to being caught off-guard by that one. Also, there’s not a single trailer in the District of Columbia? Really? None? I can’t believe that’s true. Today begins my quest to find at least one mobile home in Washington, DC.
Thus, South Carolina is the most direct answer to the unknown reader’s query. However that’s not the only way to examine these data. Try this: which state has the largest absolute number of trailers? That would be Florida, followed by Texas, North Carolina, California, and Georgia. There’s probably close to 900 thousand mobile homes in Florida alone, assuming I mashed the numbers correctly.
Let’s take another slice. In which state would one expect to encounter trailers most frequently? It got really interesting when I examined trailers per square mile, mashing the ACS data with US National Atlas figures. The champion then becomes Delaware, followed by Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, dropping off quickly from there. Delaware has more than twenty trailers per square mile, by far the highest density of mobile homes anywhere in the nation. Yes, Delaware.
This demonstrates clearly that statistics can be twisted in any number of different ways to support a desired answer. South Carolina. Florida. Delaware. It all depends on how one frames the question.