Hello from Rome, Georgia
I moved to Rome, Georgia in 1978 and taught journalism at Berry College for three years. On the plus side, I met the person I was later to marry. Also on the plus side, the college campus is a beautiful 30,000 acres and that made for a very nice teaching environment. On the minus side, the college administration and the faculty were in a battle about salaries and collective bargaining.
As the adviser to the student newspaper, I came in the line of fire because even though the rules of the college prohibited the adviser from censoring the publication, I was somehow expected to keep the paper from publishing news stories about the dismissals of non-tenured staff, the demotions of departmental chairpersons, and the actions filed with the National Labor Relations Board that were part of the fallout of the battle.
I agreed with the censorship rules and would not have censored the paper even if I had had the power to do so.
The college president at the time was removed because he couldn’t keep a lid on the protests. He stayed in his office until midnight on his last day. Just before midnight, his last action was dismissing me effective at the end of the term even though he had been a family friend since the 1950s when my father served as a consultant to the college.
I did not set foot on the Berry College campus after that for about 30 years. Even now, it’s an eerie place for me even though most of the current faculty, staff and students do not know about the trials and tribulations there in the 1970s and early 1980s and have greatly improved the physical plant, course offerings and programs since then.
When my wife and I moved to a new house on her long-time family farm a week ago, we didn’t actually end up in Rome’s city limits. But we’re close, close enough that we’ll be going to a grocery store and pharmacy not too far from the college and will drive past the main gate often as we head into Rome itself.
The movers did a great job hauling everything we owned from a small town on I-85 north in the northeast part of Georgia to northwest Georgia. The fact that we moved on the coldest days of the Winter wasn’t their fault! We’re grateful to the help we had from my brother and his wife who drove up from Florida to help us finish packing and get us started unpacking here in the new place.
We like the house. It sits on the site of the farm’s original homestead. My wife is the fifth generation of her family to live on this property. From a subdivision to a farm. Big change. The leased portions of the farm have a neighbor’s cattle on them. In addition to our house, the un-leased portions include a smokehouse, a well, a garage with a working tractor, my wife’s late father’s house which needs work, and enough space for a horse and/or a goat and or a garden. There is much to do. We still have to sell our old house on the other side of the state. Naturally, we hoped that would happen before we moved.
There hasn’t been much time for writing lately. I’m hopeful The Sun Singer will finally be released and that my novella about a Florida conjure woman will find a publisher. Another novella is in the works. After that, maybe I’ll be writing a story about moving to a farm and finding snakes in the smokehouse. Hard to say.
We like our new house. We wish we didn’t have such a long list of things still to be done here and back in Jefferson, Georgia where we have an old house to clean up and sell. We think we’ll save money here. Our property taxes in Jefferson were high: we paid more for our .9 acre lot than my wife’s father paid on the entire 85-acre farm. Government! Go figure.
So far, it feels odd to be driving past Berry College even though much has changed along U.S. 27 between the college and Rome. Rome itself has also changed since my wife and I used to live here. More traffic, for one thing, but not out on the road that runs past the farm. And, most of the people who had us in their gun-sights when we lived in Floyd County, Georgia in the 1970s are (may they rest in peace) dead.
Their ghosts are still in Rome and around the college, but not here on the farm. For now, it’s easier for me–and, my wife, too, perhaps–to focus on the small community where we live and to pretend that the college itself doesn’t exist. I think we’ll stay much too busy to worry about the past.
So, we are in our new house and ready (more or less) for 2015.