By Joellen Artz
“Through the eyes of the casual visitor, Rutledge seems to be the small, quiet town described in many a novel. The residential streets are shaded by canopies of massive oaks and elms. The houses appear to have been freshly painted and well-maintained. While the shops and stores are rusty and dusty, they look quaint and their appearance is dismissed as less important. As the visitor strolls along the main street, he is aware of a feeling of warmth and friendliness between townsfolk that is often rare in our contemporary world. He concludes that while many of the conveniences of large scale urban areas are missing, there would be much more here to fill the void.”
Rutledge in 2013? No. this is actually a delightful description of our city as observed in 1965, 48 years ago, by Donald Pledger of the University of Georgia. While this observation and others, such as “I failed after several attempts to find a parking place” could be present day, the owners and contents of the stores and shops have changed a lot since then. But architecturally, most has stayed the same.
Let’s take a 1965 stroll down memory lane at City Park, just for fun. There are young trees, grass and playground equipment and what appears to be one rickety bench. Since there’s no gazebo there isn’t much to attract adults and because the trees are so small there is little shade during the day. Not nearly as inviting in 1965 as now. Nobody has been able to pinpoint for me the year that a gazebo was first built but even it has changed, much like the stores. Rutledge now has a modern facility where the likes of Kickin’ Grass play on Friday evenings, the Rutledge Recreation Department holds its summer camp and the Country Fair has been a staple for 30 years.
Visitors to Rutledge from all over America come into my store asking about the magic that has held Rutledge together in such well-maintained condition with some adding that it reminds them of a movie set. Recently a couple said they could feel the love that the townspeople have for the downtown area as they walked around entering one unique business after another and admiring the well-groomed park, the murals and pretty floral plantings. I told them it’s a blend of many who have grown up here and transplants who have caught Rutledge fever from them. Jointly, they strive to preserve the history and charm. We out-of-towners are thankful to be here.
Enough of that. Let’s see how much you remember from 1965. (See printed newspaper.) Included with this column is a list of the businesses and services that were open in 1965 when this study was made. Next to it is the comparable list for 2013. See if you can match the 1965 locations to the current locations. There are a couple tricky answers. Many thanks to Gregory Hollis, Rena Holt, Lamar Moss, Paul Jones, and Mary Nell and Emory Thompson for some of the information that I learned while doing this project. I truly enjoyed it.
Music in the Park
Music in the Park this weekend is David Clemens, guitarist from Covington. This is a repeat performance. He put on a great performance in Rutledge the same evening as Firefly in Madison. We’ve asked him back so that everybody who missed him because they went to Firefly can come here and see what they missed! 7-9 p.m. at the Gazebo.