Next time you go to the store, look at the breakfast food aisle. Pick up a box, and I guarantee you'll find Battle Creek on it. Battle Creek was the birthplace of Kellogg's who invented cereal (or at least made it popular). You're welcome.
Growing up in Battle Creek, downtown smelled like Froot Loops and weed. Since Battle Creek is in-between Chicago and Detroit, we tend to get a lot of stuff circulating our city, especially in the Post region. Downtown was the place where you kept your pepper spray on you, but if you went a few minutes down the road you would run into the cushy Lakeview or Harper part of town and be totally fine. I went to Pennfield for school, which was a mix between a country and city feel. We had kids with Confederate flags on their trucks, even though their family had lived in Michigan for decades.
In Battle Creek, everyone was related. Everyone grew up in Battle Creek and stayed there, or at least moved and moved back after college. If someone new came to school, it was just someone from a neighboring school district. I remember in 6th grade when part of Battle Creek Schools closed down. We suddenly had 50 or so new kids, when we were only at about 150 in my class before. This was a huge shock to our school's social system. Most of the people I graduated with I had known my entire life, growing up going to the same daycare or meeting in early elementary. We weren't as small as some of the Amish communities surrounding us, but I could name everyone in my class without a problem.
A lot of the people in our city worked for either Kellogg's, Post, or Denso. It wasn't uncommon for parents to bring home cereal boxes from work, and Kellogg's products were always being donated at food drives. If you lived in Battle Creek, you know someone who works at the factory. We were, and still, are a working-class town.
Our city was dying as I grew up. I remember going to see the Christmas Lights downtown, where the streets were littered with beautiful colorful lights and moving decorations. Year after year the budget got smaller and smaller, and now there are only a handful of lights around the area. I watched as the local mall got smaller and smaller as well-- now if you go into Lakeview Square Mall, you only have an Applebees, Buffalo Wild Wings, a small movie theater, and a few small stores that are closing as I type. If you look up bookstores, you get the Adult bookstore as a first result. The typical teenager's idea of fun was to go to the local Steak and Shake and hang out at Walmart after. That, or just go to each other's houses and hang out. There wasn't exactly much to do. Everything was at least fifteen minutes away, too. In most parts of the city, you couldn't just walk to work or someone's house. If you need a movie theater, though, you've got it. I was shocked when I moved to Ypsilanti and the closest movie theater was 30 minutes away in Ann Arbor. At home, you have your pick of three movie theaters, each within a few miles of each other.
I always considered my city a mix between a small town and a city. We weren't big like Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids, but we weren't small like the towns with one stoplight and a tractor race (although we did have people drive their tractors to school once in Pennfield). Whenever I read articles about stereotypes about living in a small city, I really didn't relate. However, I didn't see my city represented as much as bigger cities are. We do have a TV show about us though-- not accurate at all, but it's something.
My city isn't perfect. When I was growing up, I wanted nothing more than to leave. I knew that when I graduated, I was going to a city far away so I could escape. I could escape the people who knew me since I was two, the people who saw me in my long awkward phase in middle school and high school. I could leave the awkwardness of running into my parent's coworkers at the grocery store, leave the dying mall behind me. When I went to college, however, I noticed that whenever I smelled cereal I thought of home. I missed everything I hated.
If you ever get the chance, visit Battle Creek. There isn't much to do, but we have a lot of history.