Tag Archives: small town

Juliette, Ga

Speaking of fake places, I was outside of Forsyth and headed to Gray, by a road that wouldn’t get me there quickest by any means but was possibly interesting. I had heard of Juliette and I didn’t know why but the map had a square that said “textile mill” and that sounded interesting indeed. Unlike most hamlets, it’s hard to miss, a cluster of buildings welcome you right before the train tracks, and as you turn down the street to your right you think just how cute this is and great that people live here still, or at least, it seems that way. And then you start to notice the gimmicky stores, a “general store” with touristy knick-knacks and then 5 more shops just like it, no, maybe 10, 15… and that’s it, gimmicky or “antique” shops (all essentially the same) and the Whistle Stop Cafe. I was flabbergasted.

Whistle Stop

I still couldn’t remember why Juliette sounded familiar after I’d driven through “town,” up the hill beyond (the textile mill across the tracks and river looked pretty cool and used) to a big empty house for sale and back. So I parked and decided to have a quick look around. I knew, of course, the instant I stepped into one of those shops (pick a shop any shop), Fried Green Tomatoes was playing on the 13″ tv and souvenirs touted the same. I bought a souvenir and wandered out, still curious.

On up the road I ran into the proprietor of the Depot (an actual wooden train depot turned into another knick-knack “antique” shop, i managed to avoid his invitation to go in), and we chatted in the road a while. I had just noticed that the facade of the one brick building in town was fake, movie-fake, ACTUAL-MOVIE-fake. He had no problem admitting that, it was their business after all, but when I inquired what Juliette looked like BEFORE the movie I got a flurry of answers. He pointed out a couple buildings that had been there, the addition on the fake brick building and the fake-bricking of it, the Depot was just out in the woods there (1/2 a mile away? 20 miles?), this was moved in and this was built… “all your looking at is original, the real stuff.”

I do wish I’d saved my lunch for eating at the Whistle Stop Cafe with the other tourists (even a foreign couple!!) who drifted through Whistle Stop, i mean Juliette, on this gray Wednesday. Next time.

Sparta is where it’s at

Yesterday’s trip to Sparta was beyond exciting. I’ve been itching to get back there ever since J and I had to speed through it last September. Sparta, a county seat made rich long ago by cotton and left high and dry by the various economic forces of changed farming, deep racial divides, undervalued education systems, and bad politics, is an interesting amalgamation of everything that is dear to me:

– it reminds me profoundly of Macon, Miss.
– so I feel I understand it, but only as much as I can claim to understand Macon
– it is rich, RICH in historic building stock, many of which are in decent condition and relatively unchanged.
– FARMING!! not the cotton, corn and soybeans kind—in fact, I know very little of Hancock County’s farming economy and how it compares to Noxubee—but the GOOD FOOD movement is RIGHT THERE!

One citizen of Sparta in particular is responsible for much of this preservation-good food pairing. I don’t know a lot about Mr. C, he made his money in the furniture business, moved to Sparta some time ago where he and his wife restored a grand old home with magnolia trees in front and lots of land in back. Perhaps it was she who started the garden, a picture perfect acre or two, straight of the how-to-create-a-garden book. A few years back, an appropriate “young land-less farming couple” moved into the house next door to take over the management and expansion of the garden and begin selling to outside markets. I once understood that this garden supplied the Four Seasons in Atlanta and now I know they supply other good-local-food-minded restaurants within a 2 hour radius which includes Augusta and Athens.


Years ago Mr. C developed an alliance with us at the Georgia Trust and today is a key ally of the Trust in our work in Sparta. Apparently he was also making friends with Georgia Organics as I later learned he is revered equally among my farm-foodie friends. Currently he instigates change in his community by investing in projects that further the pursuit of these 2 interests. He and his wife are living the dream by living what they believe in.

For the Trust, the C’s recently purchased a house at auction which they then sold to us at a bargain price for our Revolving Fund. About a year ago though, the Trust worked with Mr. C to purchase a neighboring abandoned factory and the old train depot, which has become a new food venture. JT, a farming friend who used to be president of Georgia Organics, moved to Sparta this past summer to partner with Mr. C in the development of a mushroom growing operation which is off to a good start. The first Sparta Farmer’s Mkt, organized in part at least by JT is starting up in March involving other farmers in the area whose products are not already being sold to the Four Seasons, Five and Ten or such. In my mind, it’s the first big step in the good-food revolution of a small town. It’s exciting!

Yes, you guessed it, I want to live there and truly, if I didn’t already have Macon, Sparta would be mine. I kind of wish they were right next door to each other, it’s a shame there are so many small towns to choose from, and that we can each only choose one.

Moore-Lewis House mushroom growing 2

just let it grow


it seemed like such a good idea, grow a forest inside a building! the glass in the windows was even fairly new (the big windows, some panes are missing in the doors), like it was an intentional terrarium. The easiest of adaptive reuses perhaps?

oh look, Thomasville’s already done it. so chic.


toodling up hwy 41

Chula Untitled

J read off the names of the upcoming whistle-stops as we drove out of Tifton. Our final courthouse for this trip would be Cordele after which we’d get on I-75 and get on home. We’d just been through Sparks and Eldorado after leaving Adel, which is appropriately pronounced A-delle. J had decided to collect courthouses earlier in the day and by the time we got on 75 we’d’ve racked up 10, a good dent in the 156 there are to collect. It was also a good excuse to ride up highway 41, always more exciting than the interstate. Most of the way the interstate was visible to our left and the railroad tracks to our right, then sometimes they’d switch, once we got a train thundering by on one side while truck traffic poured north on the other. In the county seats tractors rolled down main street and filled up at gas stations, but transportation methods were not all that thrilled us on this 2-lane highway. A buick on a front porch and an elephant in a graveyard were some of the more exciting sightings. It warn’t bad for a whirlwind tour of southwest Georgia.

Senoia Ga

I knew there was a reason i’d been looking at Moreland, Georgia, on the map a while back, planning a trip. It came to me when i passed his birthplace museum by the railroad tracks, I was in Erskine Caldwell country. This became more apparent as i followed google maps’ directions down a closed road and gravel road to the next house in Coweta county that was on my route. I could feel the hot dusty backcountry of his novel Tobacco Road, which i admittedly have not read since i was 15 or so but which i identify with Welty’s Losing Battles, and Faulkner short stories, and Flannery O’Conner tales—this was the air I breathed for a bit before i came upon my next quarry with which i fell in love.

erskine caldwell country

After inspecting my 3 houses for the day, i thought i’d go on into the town of Senoia and see what it was all about. Surely I could find some ice cream or a popsicle at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Senoia was your standard medium-sized RR town. More than a strip along the tracks it’s downtown ran up the hill from the tracks along a main thoroughfare and had a central intersection at which, surprisingly, new buildings had sprung up. I would soon learn that Senoia was in on the movie-money and “they” were building all these new things, reviving the downtown for sets and such and if i cared to, i could see the markers in the sidewalk. I had to ask someone on the street but eventually found a scoop of chocolate yogurt (the kind that tastes just like a Mayfield ice cream fudge-sicle) on a cake cone and i went back to my walking.

senoia, ga

Even though it was about to rain, i had a few more bites of ice cream and that church was intriguing so i went ahead and walked around one more block and that was when i met Mr M and Sparky. It was one of those moments you see someone walking ahead and most often we decide to steer around them so we don’t have to offer more than a passing hello, and i had no intention of getting caught up in a conversation but i thought i’d stick to my route around the church building and say hey to the dog. “One time,” began the man, “when ice cream was only 5 cents, I had 3 scoops for 5 cents, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.” Really? i thought, one of these old-timer stories?? “Well, i’d just turned to walk out the door and my ice cream just fell right off the cone and that dog had it up before i could even look down! well the lady saw it and she gave me 3 more scoops you know. it wasn’t the good ice cream place, there it was 10 cents for a scoop and they had banana and praline and all sorts of good flavors but here you could get THREE scoops of the cheap stuff, the watered down ice cream for 5 cents. back then there was no contest of which to put my money down on, i always went to that place….”

One thing led to another and Mr M and I strolled on around the church stopping here and there and him telling me stories all the while. I learned all about how he met his wife, and where he grew up in Atlanta (Grant Park, then to Kirkwood, then “that no-man’s land below Little Five Points”), and he had a paper route on Ponce (back then it was lots of apartments and they’d leave his stack—came in stacks of 50 papers—at the corner and he’d get the stack, roll up the papers—fold in thirds—and deliver them). He lived in Mississippi for 30 years, and then he’d been back in Senoia for 20, retired (as a Lutheran minister—ah!) 3 times and still getting to live in the old house right downtown that the church provided him with. He also remembered signing a petition in the early 50s when he was based on Treasure Island in the bay and San Fran was attempting to get rid of the streetcars, “and you know they’re still using them!” he sounded delighted. All these stories and many more just flowed from him without my asking a thing. Every now and then he’d ask about me, but that never lasted long, just led to another tale, another memory, and a piece of that led to another. I was drawn in to talking with him, didn’t want him to stop, and we didn’t until it really did finally started to rain, we reached my car and he and Sparky turned back across the churchyard toward home.