The Huntington Misconception
No, I’m not from here, but I feel like I am.
Now that I am working in Huntington and especially since I work with many local businesses I am constantly asked if I am from here. I always smile and say “No, but I’m from just down the road.” I grew up in St. Albans, West Virginia which is 45 minutes away from downtown Huntington. When I was growing up and honestly until I decided to go to Marshall University, Huntington to me was the Barboursville Mall. St. Albans is much closer to Charleston and I didn’t have any family that lived in Huntington, so literally my first visit to the actual city was for my freshman orientation. It’s funny, but the only hesitations I ever had about my decision to join the Herd had been given to me by my high school teachers, peers, and parents. When asked where I was going to college I would say “Marshall” and they would say “Oh that’s nice but please be careful in Huntington,” or something like “You better bring pepper spray and don’t go ANYWHERE alone.” I was nervous to say the least.
When I moved here during my college years I was paranoid, I didn’t venture much from campus and my roommates went home every weekend in true “suitcase” campus style. Sometimes I would go home as well but I remember distinctly making myself stay most weekends. I had moved to a college city and I was not going to go home every weekend and never actually make a life for myself here. I refused to not have the college experience. So, in my later years of college I was going downtown more, I made friends with many locals and I was involved in organizations on campus that kept me occupied and grew my friend circle.
By the summer before my senior year of college I landed an internship with Bulldog Creative Services and as I met more and more people in the community my Huntington “world” became smaller as it continues to do to this day. What didn’t change though were the perceptions my friends and family had of Huntington. The only things they heard about the city was what was on the news which usually isn’t the best things (until recently). I would come home and talk about the latest businesses opening downtown, all the local stores I shopped at, and all the amazing things the Mayor was doing. I was talking so much anytime there was good news printed in the Charleston Gazette I would come home to see the article clipped out and placed on my bed. I’d find myself defending the city in casual conversations with old friends. I couldn’t shut up about my Huntington life.
As I told more people about my misconception problem they had similar stories. Huntington used to be booming, then it had a downfall, a drug epidemic, a crime outbreak, and so on. But when I came here in 2012, I didn’t see that, I didn’t experience this “scary” city that the news reports about all the time. Huntington has a vibe all its own. It’s creative yet formal. It’s big city yet it’s small town. It’s just as vibrant at night as it is during the day. And it’s home to me.
So I’m writing this to say stop spreading this misconception. Please come live, work and make an effort to enjoy this city before you talk negatively about it.
Again, no I’m not from here, but this is just as much my Huntington as it is yours.