Two editions ago I dropped into The Creswell Chronicle without as much as ”by your leave” and maybe left you wondering, ”Who is this person? Why are they taking up space in the Creswell paper talking about Cottage Grove?”
Both excellent questions. The second one is the easiest to answer. I was invited to write a weekly column letting the good readers of the Chronicle know of news of interest emanating from your sister city to the south.
The ”who is this guy” part will take a bit more explaining, but seeing how I am 3,000 miles away visiting where I grew up, and looking after my Dad to give my sister a well-earned break – this will be an excellent opportunity to introduce myself.
It would be difficult to cover Cottage Grove happenings from afar, and as much as I would have loved to be at the Mayor’s Ball dancing among the clouds this past Saturday, I haven’t perfected the art of being in two places at once.
I was born in the small north Florida town of Madison, a fifth generation on my father’s side to be born there. Today, Madison is very similar to Creswell in its size and the amount of small artistic businesses that exist.
At the time of my birth two industries dominated the economy there, shade tobacco (for making cigars) and pulpwood for the paper mill in the next county over.
Both of these industries faded away, as did the turpentine trade before that. Now my home town struggles to reinvent itself, attract the tourist dollars and continue its long history.
My father realized he wouldn’t be able to support our growing family there and we moved to the big city to the west, Tallahassee, the state capitol of Florida. At the time, it was around 40,000 people and was still pretty sleepy for a head of government. There was a downtown where you went for all of your shopping needs (malls and box stores were not a concept yet).
One of the things I am doing with my father is listening to one of the Mitford series novels ”Home to Holly Springs” by Jan Karon. In this audiobook the narrator describes Father Tim Kavanagh’s hometown as hardly having had changed at all in the 38 years he was absent. All the old businesses and landmarks in place and recognizable.
Oh, how I long for that here. Not only do I feel like a ghost, but I get lost often, even having visited periodically over the years. Now this area is over 190,000 people with a metro area of almost double that and it is largely four-lane, strip mall generica. As Thomas Wolfe opined, ”You can’t go home again.”
Up next week, ”The road to Cottage Grove.”