RealTime IT News

Buying a Piece of Americana

If you thought Half.com's marketing stunt to rename the town of Halfway, Oregon to the more cyber-hip Half.com was a jaw-dropper, then get a load of this possibility. Five hours north of San Francisco, there's a tiny little town named Samoa. With just 300 residents living in 98 quaint, pastel homes built nearly a century ago, the town of Samoa has been put on the auction block. With a modest minimum bid price of $1.75 million, a handful of would-be buyers are likely to be enterprising dot-coms.

In this tiny coastal Northern Californian town, life moves along at a leisurely pace. Built back in 1892 as a town to house nearby lumber workers and their families, many of Samoa's residents still boast ties to its timber history. The small town is a beloved haven for families, attracting newcomers who want to bring up their children in a safe and idyllic environment. Its gas station, general store, sawmill, shipyard, and butcher shop shuttered their doors long ago, leaving this tiny hamlet with only the Samoa Cookhouse home-style diner, an elementary school, post office, and a restored bed-and-breakfast inn.

The 60 acre parcel is a steal at $1.75 million, and prospectors have arrived in droves. Over 50 interested parties have visited the town in the two months since its current owner, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Simpson Timber Co., put the town on the auction block. But, the national attention hasn't brought a smile to its 300 residents.

With rents on the charming Victorian-style homes no higher than $600 a month, many Samoans are worried that the impending change of ownership will completely uproot the tight-knit community. So content with the status quo, Samoa's residents still must stoke a fire every morning to warm the houses from the chilly North Pacific coastal winds. With no electric or gas-powered heat, the town only recently built a new substation to route its electricity directly from PG&E, replacing the convoluted set-up that previously linked homes' electricity with the pulp mill, causing black-outs whenever a hiccup occurred at the mill. And so, it comes as no surprise that Samoan citizens are apprehensive about a potential buyout from a dot-com looking to cheaply put itself on the map so to speak.

Compared to Samoa's old-fashioned, easygoing lifestyle, the Internet's frenetic pace is like an unwelcome houseguest. But, there are a bevy of newly minted dot-com millionaires who might like nothing better than to escape the rat race of Silicon Valley. If a dot-com firm wins the sealed-bid auction, residents can only keep their fingers crossed that it'll be for a personal pet project, to help the community grow and thrive in a non-obtrusive manner. And what better way than to buy the charming little town of Samoa and become a member of the quaint community?

This coastal hamlet deserves to remain a haven for its community of families, who likely care little for the outside World Wide Web. And sometimes that's a good thing, because it's always nice to see a thriving community, unaffected by the changing times we live in. So, if you're the winning bid, please don't saddle Samoa with an unnecessary makeover. It's already perfect just the way it is.

Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel free to forward them to kblack@internet.com.

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