Sam Burnham, Curator
I was interviewing James Calamine this afternoon for the upcoming episode of the podcast. Without getting into a lot of the details and ruining that part of the interview, I want to share a basic comment that came up in the conversation.
In The South, everything sort of runs together. Those highest of Southern arts - music, food, and literature, seem very distinct, very different to the casual observer. But in reality, it is hard to ignore the fact that they are helplessly entwined.
You can see it in the Bourdain in Mississippi episode I reviewed. You can see it in the Calemine books as well. If you live in the South, you probably know what I'm talking about. It's all storytelling on some level. It's all an accumulation of the shared history of a diverse people who have struggled to live together for centuries - a history shaped by bondage and injustice but also by the truth few will admit. Southerners are all much more alike than we are different. It's the food, the music, and the literature that connect us. Or perhaps it's that connection that gives us the arts. I'm not sure anyone really knows which is which anymore. Oh some will pretend that they do but that's just hubris at best.
This land has seen poverty, ignorance, famine, war, pestilence. It's also seen riches, peace, safety, wisdom, and abundance. Through it all, good and bad, the people and their arts have been handed down generation to generation, like a song, like a story, like a recipe.
And it all runs together.
Sam Burnham, Curator
Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer every year. While we should remember those who made this weekend possible with their sacrifice, we should also remember what the sacrifice was for. When those men and women laid down their lives, they were doing so in the defense of the American way of life. They did so in the attempt to thwart threats to our way of life before they could reach our shores.
We often speak of the liberty, the freedom, the independence that is afforded by their sacrifice. But those are abstract and we often don't go into the details. What I'd like to point out is that they made an American summer possible. We are safe and free to drink beer and cook out poolside. We are safe and free to go water skiing, fishing, hiking, or to the race. The freedom of movement allows us to go on vacations or weekend getaways. All the indulgences we allow ourselves - many we take for granted in our society - were purchased with the blood and lives of American service members. Why do we do the things we do as Americans? Because we can.
So in keeping a heart filled with gratitude for the sacrifice that made it all possible, we head into a new summer. We will celebrate. We will enjoy the life and freedoms provided to us. We will toast those who died, we'll pray for their families, and we'll do the things we can. Our way of life will continue. That is a duty that we owe to them, the heroes. How ungrateful we would be to not take advantage of such a precious and expensive gift.
So as the summer begins, live free because they died. That is what they would want us to do.
Sam Burnham, Curator
We've gotten word from our friend at Vanishing South Georgia that the Irwinville Hotel in Irwin County has been demolished to make way for a new Dollar General store. The wood framed structure was constructed in the mid-1880's and is another in a series of losses in the small South Georgia town. The building had reportedly been used for many years as a residential rental property and had seen numerous interior renovations and changes. In a small town with few historic structures remaining, any such loss is a big one.
Brian at VSG and I agree that saving these historic structures is not the job of the government with regulation or actions that supersede the rights of property owners. The former owner of this structure has the legal and moral right to sell the property to anyone he chooses. In turn, the new owner has the same right to demolish the structure and replace it with something of their choosing. including a chain discount store with a saturated market.
The job of saving our history is ours. It's our job to explain why these places matter. It's our job to offer new and helpful methods for property owners to maintain such structures. It's our job to foster a society that loves and appreciates the past and wants to preserve it. We need to form a culture that cherishes these treasures. We should save our past because it is important to us - more important to us than profit. We have to love our places and encourage others to do so as well.
This one is gone. It's lost forever. But there are still more that are in danger but can be saved and are worth saving. They may be in your town. They may be in earshot of your voice. How you speak or act in their favor could make a difference in their survival, Let's foster a love of our past and try to save the next one.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire