A couple of days ago I was over at the shop, raiding some parts and pieces from storage for the current project, without thinking I grabbed a tape out of the drawer to check some measurements before fishing an odd-shaped piece out. What I found, fit what I needed. I clipped the tape to my pocket and went about what I needed to do. Later that evening, as I was gathering up the things that had collected in my passenger seat throughout the day, I looked down and saw basically the picture you see below.
It stopped me cold in my tracks but brought a smile to my face. At the same, time it crystalized things into perspective and reminded me that we are all a product of how we got to where we are. Not just individually but as a group, a town and a society. The back of the tape measure below was marked, with initials and green paint. Those markings were etched decades ago by my Grandfather, Joseph Garrett and they made it easy to identify. I thought about it for a second. I probably have 5 or 10 tape measures of similar, newer design floating around. It is the same Stanley Max design that anyone who passed through the Construction shop at the old Rockmart High School is intimately familiar with. What was remarkable to me was that tape, which would now cost $5 or $10, Joe had taken the time to not only etch but paint with his signature color so that it could be identified and not mislaid. That got me thinking about how we have more than we need now but also how generations previous to us were much more diligent about utilizing and maximizing the scarce resources at their disposal.
What really got me thinking was the next morning as I unlocked the door to the new space. The space that housed Carletons for decades, that very soon will be the location of Silver Comet CrossFit. I turned around and in my mind, I could still see Earl the Squirrel’s old barbershop where Joe got his haircut, usually on the way to 2nd shift at what was then Goodyear, Earl’s shop next door to what, for a few years was BJ Smith’s Martial Arts. I could almost hear, see and smell the decades of Homecoming Parades that left from Elm Street middle school on their 3 mile an hour journey to the student parking lot at the old Rockmart High School. The smell of tissue paper flowers and still drying hot glue. Marble Street lined with kids and adults alike to get a view of the Class Floats and the Homecoming court. That community is still there. It is still here.
Communities change and develop over time. What was once the commercial center of Rockmart, centered on Marble Street has moved out to 278. Yet, the thriving commercial center, the heart of the community still lives in those few blocks around Euharlee Creek.
Rockmart was built by men and women who knew hard work. We are literally a town carved out of Rock built by men and women who refused to quit. Take a ride east on the Silver Comet Trail and you will see what I mean. In places, the cuts through the shale and slate go 100 foot deep to make a nearly level rail-bed for the locomotives coming down from Brushy Mountain. That was done almost entirely by hand although I still know where a few rocks are that bear the scars of blasting drill holes. Our forebearers did the work, they carved a town and community out of rock. With that, they connected Birmingham to Atlanta and on up to New York City through what would partially become the Silver Comet line.
That Silver Comet line, which back in the 1990’s a group of like-minded folks, including myself, helped to turn into the Silver Comet Trail. A trail that now showcases the beauty of our area through the rolling fields and cuts and deposits its users squarely in the middle of downtown.
My hope is that the work we are doing downtown, the space we are revitalizing and the community we hope to build as a result is a part of the tipping point, keeping our history with us as we build into the future. I hope that those of us who have spent decades here can see Rockmart with the same eyes as our newest visitors and residents.
That tape reminds me that the ones who have gone before left us the tools we need to build something great into the future. Those tools, though a little dusty with age, exist to build the change we want to see in the world. We just have to use them.