In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

“Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” – Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

Clark Ashton remembers the first time he saw him. There was a man who wore the three-piece white suit; he would hang out on the street corner, swinging a gold chain. To a young Ashton, this man was fascinating. The man who fearlessly stood out in the small town of Augusta, Georgia. He was unique, inimitable.

For a new generation, Ashton has become a similar figure, “that strange man over on Druid Hills road.” Each year, for the past twenty-four years, he has sat on a throne in his front yard, waving at local school children who are trapped in morning traffic. He is trying to show kids that it is okay to be different, that people can prosper in alternative lifestyles. In his view, independent thought and action are increasingly important in a highly regimented society. Most people react favourably, but a few laugh or yell. It doesn’t bother him. Ashton believes in what he is doing. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

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“A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection

“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.” ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

I love perusing through old scrapbooks. An unorthodox hobby, I know, but I find them utterly fascinating. This strange amusement supports commonly held assumptions: that historians and archivists are fundamentally nosy, digging through people’s mail and scrutinizing their written records. Personally, it as an extension of natural curiosity. Most of us are captivated by the past. If we know where we come from, we can forecast where we are headed. Continue reading ““A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection”

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and the Debate over the First Black Church

There seems to be a great debate over the title of the first African-American church in DeKalb County. According to some historians, the title goes to Antioch A.M.E. Church founded in 1868 by former slaves. However, others state that the title goes to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church founded in 1849 by a white plantation owner. So what constitutes a black church and which one was the first in DeKalb County?  The definition of a black church seems to have two interpretations: a church that caters to a predominately-black congregation or a church founded by African-Americans themselves. Antioch technically stands as the oldest black church started by African-Americans in the county, but Mount Pleasant is technically the first church in DeKalb County that served an all-black congregation. Either way, both churches were highly valued and important in the black communities they served.

Continue reading “Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and the Debate over the First Black Church”

Fighting Fires in DeKalb

Stop! Drop! and Roll!

Who doesn’t remember learning fire safety growing up?  Fire alarms and sprinklers are so much a part of the buildings we enter that we hardly give them more than a moments’ notice.  In the event of a fire, we all know who to call, and we can be assured that there will be a response.  Whether on highways, in neighborhoods, or during the occasional false alarm at school, we have all likely seen a fire truck rushing past with lights flashing and alarm at full volume.

Continue reading “Fighting Fires in DeKalb”

Merging Chambers, Diverging Chambers

The Chamber of Commerce in DeKalb County has had a rich history of pursuing business and community development over the course of its eighty years of existence.  However, for a brief window of around six years, the Chamber’s sole focus of DeKalb County expanded to include Metropolitan Atlanta through an affiliation between the DeKalb and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce.

Due to the fact that the affiliation lasted less than a decade, one has to wonder what motivated it in the first place.  According to various local news articles, there were talks going on as early as 1993 about a potential merger with the Atlanta Chamber.  The 80s was somewhat of a slump decade for Chamber growth.  There also seemed to be a feeling that if the two Chambers combined, there would be less waste of money and effort as  both had similar goals they could be working toward together.  Added to that was the fact that the South Fulton Chamber of Commerce had by then already affiliated with Atlanta, providing a precedent for DeKalb. Continue reading “Merging Chambers, Diverging Chambers”