Often when we are with friends, they lament how their hometowns have changed.
One of the most drastic examples is Franklin, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb where our friends Darrell and Stevie Waltrip live. The growth, both commercially and residentially, is stunning. While the downtown area is still sweet, the surrounding area is filled with hundreds of stores and restaurants.
The Waltrips have lived in the same house for decades. Until 20 years ago, you turned onto a sleepy little country road, crossed a creek, passed a few houses and then into their drive.
The entire area has been reworked so now it is a busy four-lane that turns onto a road with houses packed closely together. The creek was bypassed.
Our friend, Don Reid, often points out changes in his hometown of Staunton, Virginia. As a boy, he rode his bike through simple streets with little traffic. Now, there are major thoroughfares and one is even named after the Country Music Hall of Fame group of which Don was a founding member: Statler Boulevard.
But my hometown, my wonderful, simple little hometown of Clermont, has seen only one significant change since my birth: Clermont Elementary School, where I was the only child in the second grade who could spell “inauguration,” was torn down 35 years ago. The gym remains and is used as a community center.
Recently, I ran across a story that I wrote for the newspaper when the school was being demolished. I had included a quote from a county official who said that the building was decaying and unsafe so it had to be torn down.
The irony is that the same school design was used to build Woody Gap School in Suches, four years after the school was built in Clermont. That school building is still in vibrant use. Woody Gap is the smallest public school in the state of Georgia, so it houses kindergarten through 12th grade in the same building. Clermont was for grades one through six.
To me, that says that the one major change that happened to my hometown did not have to happen. That makes me sad.
Everything else makes me happy and gives me a sense of comfort. We have one four-way stop and no traffic lights. There is a sweet park with a tennis court and pavilion, a town hall, a gift shop in the old hotel called The Farmhouse on Main Street, a post office, a church, a Christian school, ballpark, funeral home, Kabe Cain’s tractor store and Tink’s favorite — Brad Weaver’s barber shop.
It is a one-chair shop so while Tink waits for a haircut, he reads the newspaper or chats with people who knew me as a little girl and can tell him remembrances of my mama and daddy. Brad knows the name of every person in town and his brother, Seth, sits on the town council.
By the way, Tink sometimes dreams of being on the Clermont Town Council, but the Rondarosa is not in the town’s city limits. I think, though, that he’d make a wonderful councilman and perhaps a mayor.
It is satisfying to drive down Main Street where pretty old homes sit among enormous oaks and maples and folks who are strolling the sidewalks or sitting on front porches wave as you drive by. Sometimes, if they know who you are, they blow a kiss.
On behalf of my hometown, we invite you to visit us for Clermont Days this weekend, Sept. 16 and 17. A parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday. There will be close to 100 vendors with arts and crafts and food. Kids can take pony rides. The festivities will end Saturday evening with a large fireworks display.
Please come and enjoy this wonderful little town. But I must warn you: You’re liable to fall in love with such a charming place filled with wonderful, hospitable people.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.