My parents, early on, claimed that once they moved away from the small town in which they were born, they couldn’t move back. As a kid, I never knew what my folks meant. Dad and Mom didn’t explain things for my still developing mind. In spite of what they preached, both relocated to Vernon, Alabama some 40-years after they’d left. Their residency only lasted a year.
Mom said that Vernon hadn’t really changed, but most all of her friends had traveled on to other places. Both Dad and Mom’s parents were dead, with siblings now relocated to the bigger cities of Mobile and Birmingham. During their short Vernon tenure, they visited the graves of deceased family and loved ones, including driving around the countryside looking for places remembered. They discovered many of the old homes no longer standing. What Dad and Mom felt afterwards from doing all this was complete sadness. I now know how they felt.
For close to four years we resided in Selma, Alabama. I can’t say that Selma would be considered a small town. Population of the city is around 18,000 people. I believe when we lived there, and Craig Air Force Base was still active, nearly 30,000 residents called it home.
The last time I visited Selma was in 1974 with my brother, Jim, and soon to be wife, Joleen. That was eleven years after Jim and I left for Texas. Everything looked the same. The base was still open, and businesses appeared to be flourishing. My brother talked about moving back some day. I echoed the same. Joleen was impressed with the plantation style homes in Selma. She thought it’d be neat to live in one.
The years clicked by and that Selma dream still lingered in my mind. I was even looking at historic homes on the market. Joleen wasn’t so sure at this point about wanting to head south, after hearing reports of all the storms. She grew up in Kansas and seemed to have no fear of tornadoes. Go figure?
I reconnected with some former Southside School classmates, one still living in Selma. She told me that the town had really suffered after the military base closed. It was depressing to hear that news. I talked with the local Selma-Times Journal newspaper publisher, Dennis Palmer, and he reiterated what Glenda said. Dennis said that the base closure was brutal economically speaking. With abundant military revenue gone by 1977, many businesses were forced to close their doors. I’ve since researched the economic downfall this had on the community, and it was extensive.
In 2002, my son and some of his Air Force co-workers were undergoing training in Montgomery. I gave Gunnar a list of several places to check out in and around Selma. They headed over on a Saturday to take a look. He sent back a three-minute long video, of a trailer park we lived in from 1959 – 1963. It looked to be remnants of a battle zone, showing what few trailers that remained in bad shape, cardboard replacing windows, clapped-out derelict cars sitting in yards. It was nothing like when we resided there.
My son and his pals were quick to leave when three young male residents began suspiciously heading towards their vehicle. The newbie officers didn’t feel comfortable hanging around any longer. It was the smart thing for them to do. Several places on my list of things to see couldn’t be found. Watching Gunnar’s video made me sad, and I hadn’t even made a move back to Selma to see for myself.
Selma, Alabama still has a lot to offer. The town’s history is rich and deep, with many early plantation style homes still standing. Unfortunately, in my research, I place blame directly on politicians for letting crime get out of hand. It appears they held back the police from doing their job. Criminals were coddled instead of being dealt with in a proper fashion. This has had a negative impact much like the closing of Craig.
Vernon, Alabama went through a financial downfall of its own sixty years ago. The cotton gin permanently closed taking valuable revenue along with it, and several years after that, their garment plant closed. My mother at one time worked in the clothing factory. In spite of such, Vernon appears to have weathered things much better than Selma. I applaud government leaders for finding a new direction. As an infant, I lived in Vernon for perhaps one year, so technically speaking I’m a former resident.
A while back, I had a dream that Joleen and I were living in one of those white-pillar, Civil War era, Selma mansions. The dream went downhill quite fast. This fantasy home had bars on doors and windows much like a jail. Instead of being there to keep criminals in, they were needed to keep them out. A tall fence around the grounds was built to dissuade potential looters from entering. Some might say that was a vision or an omen. I wouldn’t go that far although it does make me wonder
With Selma out of the picture I could easily move back to Vernon, but finding a suitable house for sale seems hard to do. There are very few listed. A historic, 1854, antebellum home in Columbus, Mississippi is up for grabs. Moving it the 31 miles to Vernon might be a futile undertaking. I guess you could say this is more of a pipe dream than anything else!