The Most Honest Town in the Country?

Lakeside, Ohio
On the southern shore of Lake Erie sits the tiny town of Lakeside, Ohio. I know about this quaint little summer spot because my family has been vacationing here forever. We started coming back when I was still living in my parent's crib, by which I mean, crib.

I learned how to swim here. Got my first shuffleboard trophy here. I even took a music class that is still offered today.

But what makes this place really special to me - what sets apart from almost every other place in America - is that here in Lakeside, people still actually trust one another.

Where else in America does somebody find a $20 bill and put up signs telling you where you can claim it? This town is so trusting in all my years I've never seen anyone lock their bike.

I asked Jackie Sypherd, who runs Sypherd's Cycles, if people are surprised when the come to town for the first time and she tells them they don't need a lock for their bicycle.

"They can't believe it," Sypherd said.

When you rent a bike from her Sypherd, she doesn't ask for a driver's license, credit card, nothing - she just trusts you to bring it back.

"We've never had a bike stolen in 28 years," Sypherd said. "If you expect the best from people that's what you're going to receive."

It's the honor's system and this whole town seems to operate on it. A lot the stores leave their merchandise out all night.

At Robert Retzke's shop, he has an little box where people can put in their payment.

"Yesterday I went to the doctor's office - this morning I had three envelopes on the floor," Retzke said.

At Marylyn's place they even trust the proverbial kid in a candy store. The owner, Marylyn Burns, has a note that says, "We trust you. You are an honest and wonderful child of God. Wait on yourself and make your own change."

"We've had kids come in from the inner city and say, 'What do you mean you trust us?'" Burns said.

I've always been a bit of a skeptic myself on this one. So I set up a hidden camera to see if I could catch someone red-licorice handed.

Dozens of kids came and went. But they all paid - right down to the penny.

This week, my son George got his first taste of Lakeside. And although the character of the place didn't impress him nearly as much as the radio in the rental car. My hope is that the more he grows, the more he will appreciate Lakeside. And that the more he changes, the more his vacation spot doesn't.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.