Former governor's daughter remembers L-burg's square

Friday, September 3, 2010

(Marshall County's museum in the Hardison Office Annex on College Street has a photo of Elvis Presley with Ann Ellington Wagner. She was born in Verona. When she was a teenager, her father's political career flourished. In July, she was asked what she remembers about Lewisburg's public square.)

So many memories came very visible to me about the Marshall County Court House Square.

I moved to Nashville when I was 13 years old, so I remember the square through a child's eyes... except when Dad made his first campaign for governor, which was another story entirely.

Living in Verona, the delight of coming into Lewisburg on Saturday mornings, was an event that was looked forward to all week long.

The square was the place to visit with friends and relatives. We'd go to Mr. Ginsburg's store for material my mother used to make my clothes and for ready made garments, and we'd go to Rhea's Shoe store and the Ben Franklin's 5 & 10. I would follow my Dad into Alford's Drug store or Rutledge's Drugs as he talked business and then to sit at the fountain and have a Coke or maybe even a sandwich.

My brother says that he would immediately head to Western Auto for some needed piece of equipment or to the Dixie Theater. Coming into town was an all-day affair.

To find a parking spot on the square was sometimes a task in itself as local farmers would bring their delicious vegetables, fruits and other produce to sell. Sometime a woodworker would bring chairs or other pieces of furniture to sell around the Courthouse.

I got my first Easter duck from such a vendor and some colored Easter chickens.

I remember the women gathered together talking about all the things that were important to them, recipes, a Home Demonstration meeting, an outbreak of measles, a church function, an up-coming trip. While the men also gather together in their group discussing the lack of rain or too much rain, when they planned to plant the corn or plow the fields. And, of course, there were heated conversations if an election was coming up soon. There were a lot of "stump" opinions.

The Courthouse Square was the hub of life, not only for Lewisburg and Marshall County, but also for every other small rural community I've visited. It was there that questions were asked and answers found, and people had fun visiting while enjoying a large cone of ice cream.

To say that this was the best of times - well, progress might just prove that right. It was a time when to have a neighbor, you were a neighbor. Now we seem to have so many things going on in our lives that there isn't much time to create that relationship.

One might ask what has happened to the meeting and greeting around the square. Answers may include shopping malls, other towns built nearby, ordering online, stores closing, and other developments. It's been all of this, in my opinion.

Several years ago, I visited a small town in Texas that was fading from existence. The city council met and decided that something had to be done and done quickly. After much discussion, they chose to become the "Antique Town" of Texas. They contacted antique dealers, then cleaned up the fronts and insides of the stores, adding color and character and truly became the Antique Town of Texas. A town everyone from miles around come to visit, look and buy. They created a reason to be. They also have a wonderful ice cream shop there.

I remember the square not only through the eyes of a child, but as a young adult and realizing that what was, is no longer, but could be again.