The South oozes character. I don’t care if you think it cute, silly, right or wrong. We have such an interesting way of seeing the world. One of the ways we present this view is through sayings.
Interestingly enough, if you put “Southern sayings” in your search bar, there are a lot of lists, but you might find — as I did — that you have never heard one person say any one of them, which leads me to believe some Yankee put these lists together. Ah-ah-ah-hem...Bless. Their. Heart.
But we Southerners do use sayings to communicate our extreme emotions. For example, the ever popular, “Bless your heart,” that covers so much. Or, “I’ll be John Brown” to present utter shock. And “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.” Then, as much as we might want to, we can’t forget, “Go get me a switch”....We all know what that means, because chances are if you are reading this column, you are from Crossett and here we get a whooping —which my notebook app just tried to autocorrect, so whooping must be included in Southern sayings — if we don’t act right. Especially if we get “too big for our britches”.
All of this brings me to the subject of this week’s musing. Crossett has a habit of getting too big for its britches, a habit of tearing down the old to make way for the new.
New is not necessarily bad, but when you sacrifice the old to make way for it, you can lose parts of your identity. Few can forget Rose Inn, or the Calhoun and Norman school buildings even though they do not dot our horizon any longer.
There are other sites in town in jeopardy of the tear down. Have you seen the Hurd Playhouse lately? Oh, I can just hear John McClaren up in that tiny music loft now!
What about Price Elementary? Or the original Crossett Company shotgun houses over in the Parkway area? The old City Hall and Police Department Building? The Crossett Tennis Courts?
Just like I opined last week about the Crossett City Auditorium, these places echo with the history of your town.
Folks, we live in a disposable society. Fast food wrapped in throw away containers is more accessible than home cooked meals on real plates. Divorce rates still skyrocket, showing wives and husbands to be just as disposable. Got a wrinkled shirt and don’t feel like ironing? They’re a dime a dozen at local stores. Go buy another one. We have lost our desire to value almost anything.
That attitude naturally leads us down a path of not taking care of anything. Go. get. me. a. switch! Crossett, we are a small town with limited resources. We must take care of what we have. Drop this mentality of ditching the old to make way for the new and start seeing the value of what we have. Because what we have is a reflection of where we come from. And where we come from is magnificent.
Must I remind you that we began as a working man’s town? Everything was so entwined with the work day that in our beginnings, a mill whistle would signal clock in time, lunch time and clock out time. It could be heard from city limit to city limit. It not only signaled work cues, but also the fact that work and these workers who literally built your hometown were of the utmost importance.
Our work ethic in Crossett is in our very roots, and in this day and age where work-worn clothes are manufactured as a trend instead of earned with blood, sweat and tears, that can be viewed as a super power.
Instead of acting too big for our britches and demanding new things be given to us, let’s get our hands dirty and take care of the old so we don’t have to tear it down. A good place to start is at the Crossett Public Library’s history room. There are mementos and articles and books and journals setting scene after scene of who you come from and why you should be proud to say “I am from Crossett!”.
There is a Historical Society that meets the first Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. at the Crossett Area Chamber of Commerce. You can join and learn about the cigar smoking monkey that used to ride a boat along the Oauchita River, the horse-mounted woman who rode into the center of town wielding a shotgun at the men who treated her workers wrong, the days when experimental forestation put Crossett on the map as a town to watch and be a part of and the Crossett Light.
“Whispers of the Swamp”, a display at the main Felsenthal office, will introduce you to even more of your roots. It is free to go peruse. Stroll Centennial Park and look at the various names on its benches, pavers and foliage and go ask somebody who they are. In fact, even I have a question about a paver that says “Give ‘em the cheese”. I want to know what that means.
We will all be one of these plaques or history pages someday and you will want people to know why you are an important fabric in Crossett’s existence. So honor the ones who already are. Learn about them. Find ways to preserve and uplift the remnants of their lives like old buildings and stories.
And once you find those ways, stand firm in your endeavors. Despite what our ease of life these technology-ridden days teaches us, nothing easy is worth having. Because you live in Crossett, you have an identity that is so rich it needs to be honored.
Be like those before you who made sure Crossett lasted. Find a cause. Start a group effort to preserve the subject of your cause. And let Crossett Parks and Recreation know how they can help you. My name is Sarah Hollimon. My number is 870-500-0303. And I want to help.