By Dan Pool
It was on one of the fairly pleasant evenings we’ve had recently that I noticed the young couple sitting on the bench under the oaks in front of the courthouse as I was leaving work.
They could have been waiting for their attorney for some late court business or they could have been waiting on some friend before going to a nearby restaurant.
Or, maybe they were just hanging out, but this is a stretch and also why they caught my attention: No one ever just idles along Main Street. Occasionally, you see out-of-towners stop and a take a few pictures of the Old Jail or check out the Oglethorpe Monument.
But you never spot anyone reading a book or eating a sandwich or just sitting in any public space in Jasper, GA. It would truly be shocking if you came along the far end of Main and saw someone had put down a blanket to enjoy a picnic at the water fountain park. Incidentally, the fountains may not please many artistically, but that sliver of space with the adjoining brick area and gazebo connecting to the historical area with the cabin and Old Jail is very nice.
Now parents with kids and walkers do make solid use of the town’s duck pond area off Pioneer Road, and serious fitness walkers and joggers navigate the trails and sidewalks all over town.
But most of these people are not out for socialization; they are not looking to engage in conversation with their fellow townspeople.
Perhaps the spaces we have are not inviting. Certainly the courthouse lawn is a little too open for someone to throw a blanket and stretch out on it without making a public display.
Seeing the solitary young couple reminded me of a quote that I read somewhere, but Google could not turn up again, that we will never have another revolution in this country as there is no where for the people to gather.
The first American Revolution was fomented and discussed by people in taverns and on the streets in Boston. Many of the European cities and early American towns had public squares where people congregated to talk politics, commerce and gossip. Some towns even had small speaker stages where freedom of speech was heartily encouraged. Universities still have this.
But in Jasper and Pickens County where do you go if you just want to socialize with neighbors and hear the latest opinions on issues like the tax increase or Trump v. Hillary. Walmart’s parking lot? Facebook?
There are neither taverns nor public squares here where you can see your neighbors. And from all appearances, this feature is now extinct in most small towns.
One contributing factor is clearly the housing patterns. Spread out subdivisions throughout suburban and rural America create a lifestyle of driving home, away from public areas at the end of the day and, to be honest, that is a very comfortable lifestyle.
In this case, if they built it [more attractive public spaces] would people come? Probably not, is my guess. The limited sidewalks here have never had an issue with overcrowding, though in all fairness the duck pond is crowded many days.
But still, when the city is addressing their new transportation ideas we’d encourage them to include a few public spaces, and who knows someone might sit down on a bench one day and start a conversation.
We don’t want another revolution, just the opportunity to socialize.