It was in November 1981, a few days after I became editor of The Union-Recorder in Milledgeville, that one of the community’s most revered matriarchs darkened my door unannounced. She had come bearing a gift – a book of history about our new town – as well as to measure the Yankeeness of the new newspaperman.
WE CHATTED chatted for a few minutes -- she hoped I’d like the community, she wondered about changes being made to the newspaper, and she told me about the historic mansion in the shadow of the old governor’s mansion where she’d lived for many years.
SHE WAS polite and gracious, but there was little doubt she was suspicious of this newcomer who had come to work for the big newspaper company that had bought her small, local newspaper.
“JUST WHERE are you from?” she finally asked rather bluntly.
“I’m from Iowa.”
“It’s up north,” I said, adding quickly, “west of the Mississippi (River),” which pretty much qualified it as a place that had little to do with the South’s outcome in the Civil War.
“Oh,” she replied with mild disgust. “I guess that’s all right.”
MY WIFE Erin has one of those T-shirts that says something like, “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could.” We aren’t newcomers. We’ve lived in Georgia for 38 years -- five in Milledgeville, 25 in Macon and nearly eight in rural Monroe County. Macon was OK, but we’ve always liked small towns – they remind us of the Iowa towns where we grew up.
FORSYTH IS big compared to my hometown of Wapello, which has an estimated population of 2,026, while Erin’s hometown of State Center has 1,456 people (Census Bureau estimates for 2018). Forsyth’s population of 4,117 makes this a familiar kind of small place.
MY FIRST newspaper job was in West Burlington, Iowa, population 2,895, which also happens to be where Mary Persons Head Football Coach Brian Nelson grew up and played quarterback for his father, who is a legend in that town. I had come and gone before the Nelsons arrived there, but Brian and I have talked a little about our Iowa roots and that West Burlington connection.
MY FIRST three newspaper jobs were at newspapers smaller than this one, where I wrote about football games, city council meetings, county fairs and murder trials. I met Erin in a newspaper guise perpetrated by the school superintendent, won some writing and photography awards and wrote a column like this one for several years. Most of my various jobs at The Macon Telegraph took me away from writing, and the kind of writing I did for the last 10 years before I retired from Middle Georgia State University wasn’t this kind of writing at all.
SO, THIS is a return to my writing roots, and I thank Will Davis for extending the invitation. This column won’t be about my opinions (at least not very many) or about politics. It will be about the who and the what of Monroe County. It’s a place we love, and even though we didn’t grow up here it feels and looks a lot like home.
Bill Weaver lives in northern Monroe County. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.