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Street Talk

Here’s a little piece of rock and roll history and historic preservation combined with economic development. One of the hits off Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album (1984) was a song named “My Hometown.” The first verse is how the singer as a young boy and his dad ride around in a big Buick. Buicks then and now are the signifier of middle class success. Just ask any Buick owner.  The second verse is how in 1965 there are racial fights at the high school and the third verse talks about Main Street and the loss of the biggest employer, the local mill.  Here’s the third verse;

 “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores,
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more.
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks,
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back, 
To your hometown.”

The fourth verse has the singer as a man in his thirties thinking about leaving his hometown with his wife and young son. It’s a theme that’s been replayed over and over again in America’s small towns, towns that often had a big employer slowly go away.

Here’s some backstory. The town Springsteen sings about, while it could be many towns, is Freehold Borough in New Jersey (population there in the 1980s about 10,000). The mill is the A&M Karagheusian Rug Mill, once an employer of 1,700 people. Springsteen’s father worked at the mill. The mill started in 1903 and closed in 1964. Of course, after the closing the building just sat there on Center Street downtown, a reminder to all that the jobs had left and were not coming back.

But that’s not the end the story. The main mill building was a robust structure, so in 2001, after sitting empty 37 years, the mill came back as a place for downtown living. Named now the Rug Mill Tower, hundreds of people call it home. And Freehold has grown, with 12,000 people living in town now.

Here’s a few dates to put on your spring calendar.  Saturday April 21 is the Design Reveal for “START” the hands-on design project with the American Institute for Architects. The Design Reveal event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bozarts Gallery at 403 N. Main Street. The hands-on building day, which is part of the AIA program, is all day Saturday May 26.

Saturday evening, May 18, is the South Arts Party at Yalo-Run Studio located at 211 North Main Street. South Arts is a nine-state coalition public-private art coalition.  Significant members to the coalition are the state arts commission from nine states (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina,  and South Carolina). The Mississippi Arts Commission picked Water Valley as the place to celebrate not only Coulter Fussell’s big award last year, but announce the art winner this year. It’ll be a party.

A Downtown Block Party for the 200 North Main on the evening of Friday, June 1, promises to be the end of spring and start of summer fun. This block is making a comeback, hit hard over the years by the loss of four buildings in three separate fires.  The 200 North Main block just has not quit. Not at all. Celebrating that never say die resilience, be ready for the Block Party that evening.

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