Mayor Ronnie has a pretty good handle on local history (at least from my perspective,) but he often mentions that he wishes he knew more. Gary McCaleb, author of The Gift Of Community, (upon which this series is based) has a lot to say about history and its role in building and preserving community. The result is that a city becomes a community, and the community becomes a gift to those in it.
“What will our history be in 40 years?” he asked me. This was in reference to the rest of the chapter on history in McCaleb’s book, which has some final conclusions on the impact and importance of history in community building. “That depends on us,” I answered. McCaleb’s first full statement in the chapter’s conclusion is: “Historic preservation connects and reconnects people to places, and people to people."
We both agreed that the first thing that fits this bill in Athens Limestone County is the Trinity project. We are making headway and sometimes people can get weary with fundraising, but the stories that surround Trinity in all of its history are epic, and, most importantly, they belong to every Athenian because we are Americans, Alabamians, and Athenians. We ourselves may not have been “slaves, Rebs or Yankees,” but we are Americans. Let’s remember that.
We have just remembered Trail of Tears, and the same maxims apply. People of all colors have connected and reconnected to a story that is one of the saddest in American history, and, as all stories, has the hope of a redemptive purpose. “If you forget where you come from, you won’t be knowing where you are going,” he said, and I agree. Besides, if you own a hog, what could be cooler than riding down Hwy 72 with hundreds of other motorcycle owners, and the whole town thinks it’s so important that you get a police escort?
In the Bible, a generation is usually considered 40 years, and we have more than 40 years connected to a festival that annually draws people from all over America, and that’s Fiddlers’. For one weekend a year, time is suspended, instruments are unplugged, buck dancing is considered an art and not an insult, and music envelopes our city.
Although Hispanic history is not as far reaching in terms of time in our town as it is in Texas, the Southwest, or California, we are building our own version and celebrating it. We are looking at a major opportunity a fiestar (to party) coming up on October 19th. (See Maria Taylor’s article on page ____)
Ronnie finished our time with a story about a woman with whom he worked when he was with DHR. “She was a wonderful woman, and she taught me something to remember and strive for,” he said. Of a particular kid who was part of our caseload, the old teacher said, “It took a long time for ‘Johnny’ to get good. We have to do what we can do to make it (i.e. history) good.” Healing the past and handing off the future better than we find the present, that’s some of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner