I often think about the saying I’ve heard concerning the written and the spoken word, that some folks have something to say while others just have to say something. I’m afraid all too often I just have to say something, even until the listener or reader’s eyes glaze over.
I realize newspapers are expected to contain mostly reports about “new” happenings, as opposed to happenings long past, “old” news … and what an oxymoron that is.
Mostly I leave the new items to reporters and photographers who do that very well. But the past is oftentimes just as interesting, and as pertinent, as the present.
A glance through some old columns (mine and others) reveals the general apprehension we experienced during the phenomenal growth in Woodstock and Cherokee County in the 1980s and beyond, and how our lives changed because of that. It was often a lesson in futility.
In a rear-view mirror, it almost seems like a huge tsunami, rolling through, changing the landscape, covering farmland with asphalt, packing students in classrooms like pickles in a jar, stacking vehicles at intersections like dominoes, hanging traffic lights that seemed unmanageable in their “demolition derby” irregularity.
To an innocent by-standing observer, it appeared the world had discovered our secret, that secret being that Woodstock was where the abundant life was to be found, the best of both worlds, the finish line, the icing on the cake.
And the whole world came before we had a chance to get ready. There was suddenly an Arnold Palmer golf course. (I was so naïve. I thought we didn’t need a golf course. Couldn’t golfers just go to Canterbury or Canton?)
Then there was George H. W. Bush who chose to kick off his re-election campaign in the middle of our town. And big companies were following each other to the Atlanta area as they established new home offices whose CEOs and peons alike wanted to live on the north side of the perimeter.
And as we coped with the changes in traffic and school, church and shopping, recreation and all of life’s daily activities, we slowly, but very surely, began to sort it out. We adjusted.
As our old-timey stores and businesses folded, we somehow made do with the new. And the “new” has now become the “old,” and who knows what’s next. Is history repeating itself already?
One example is Wal-Mart and their multiple moves. How many “former” locations can one business have?
Another example is a bit closer to home. My grocery store has closed. I say “my” because regular customers were faithful.
Ingles had been at its location below town for so long, it was an institution. News of its closing last month was met with no small measure of unbelief, and a feeling of extreme frustration.
It’s almost like a betrayal, like a bride left at the altar or the failure of yet another bank, or losing a beauty contest or an election for class president. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
It’s the same feeling we had when the one grocery store on Main Street in the old town closed its doors many years ago, and the bank moved to Highway 92 and Dawson-Parr Department Store closed. Then the post office left the downtown, and some churches did the same.
The hospital closed, City Hall kept moving, kind of like Wal-Mart, and the library took a hike up the street. We’re adjusting now to the presence of a nearby outlet mall, plus all kinds of new businesses downtown, and an ever-changing streetscape on the outskirts of town.
“Gone are the days…” but it’s déjà vu all over again. Elements of the past are everywhere, right alongside the present, and nestled amidst evidence of the future.
By the time the Tribune celebrates its 50th anniversary, countless more news stories will have been told. A reporter, perhaps Josh again, might mention Woodstock’s Bob the Turkey, big news one year; or a flood or a fire that made headlines; or perhaps a local girl who made the big screen or a local guy who made the baseball record books.
All fodder for columns as well. Beware.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.