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”

Commerce and Community

This year, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 80th Anniversary.  Since 1938, the Chamber has been an instrumental part of the county, helping to shape the growth of DeKalb through its work.

Owing to the fact that DeKalb in 1938 was majority agriculturally based, the Chamber was originally called the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.  From its founding, the Chamber showed its desire to both strengthen and expand the existing community.  The Harvest Festival, started by the Chamber in 1938, is a great example of this.  Originally a one-day event, by 1945 it had grown to a five-day affair that attracted thousands of visitors.  This festival was an opportunity for the community to enjoy themselves while also allowing exhibitions of agriculture and livestock from the area.  Furthermore, the festival served as an advertisement for the county, enticing visitors from all over to get a look at DeKalb. Continue reading “Commerce and Community”