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Clyde, Time Was: History might just repeat itself in a park

Time was we had a town common. Once upon a time, there was a place right in the middle of town for everyone. That place was Salisbury, our town, and it wasn’t that long ago. No, it was not last night, but it was here before there was an Old Sarum art gallery and a New Sarum Brewery. You can touch a stone from the Salisbury Cathedral — yes, England — if you go to the chapel at Catawba and look just inside the front door on the right wall.

When Mr. Innes and Mr. Corbin laid out the town in squares in 1755, they left a place for the people. As “it was customary to have a ‘common’ or open tract of public land in their immediate vicinity, where the cattle might graze at will, where the children might play, and the gatherings of the citizens be held on extraordinary occasions.”

“Its precise locality appears to be lying on each side of the Western Great Road leading through the frontiers of this province.” This was Beattie’s Ford Road crossing Grants Creek at the bridge near the head of McCay’s pond, Milford Hills, leaving Corbin Street with Temple Street, running diagonally through the square occupied by the late Dr. W. Hall, and back of the residence of M.L. Holmes.

The “common” on each side of the road would include the square now occupied by the grounds of the Presbyterian manse, and the spring that was anciently on it, as well as the spring starting behind Paul Heilig’s and running through the grounds of the National Cemetery covered with small oaks and chinquapin bushes.”

This is serendipitously exactly the site of a proposed park for downtown, along the Henderson-library land down to Helig’s field. Imagine the pastoral landscapes of a meadow — with a few grazing cows, just perfect for our Plein-Air artists’ brushwork. History might just repeat itself, soon, thank you Julian and Blanche.

And once again, thanks to one common man — another flourishes. It is the gifts of benevolence that keep us alive and above the curve while sluggards are happy being “as common as pig tracks.”

Other towns are not so lucky.

“It is a matter of profound astonishment,” Jethro Rumple wrote in 1896,  “that towns will part with grounds that would make desirable parks or breathing places, for a mere trifle and condemn the citizens to live in a long unbroken line of houses, unrelieved by shade, when they might so easily retain a common or park, where the inhabitants might resort, at will, in summer weather, and refresh themselves by breathing the pure air that comes whispering through the rustling leaves of the trees. It is difficult in larger towns to escape from the dust and glare of the streets and painted houses into a pleasant shady retreat…”.

Our town commissioners, who were elected for lifetime terms, had the foresight to plan for whomever would come after them. With a sense of togetherness and a trust that was built on the past, shared with the present and kept for the future. What do our city leaders have ‘in common’ with the founding fathers?

A community is defined as people living together under the same laws, in the same district, having interests, work, etc. in common. A similarity or likeness? What part of that have we lost? Would that we share our commons with our diversity. Look towards a utopian settlement with a united front and our best foot forward.

Enough tearing down, undermining virtues, finger pointing at our elders — no tweets, twitter or twits. Instead, compliment the good, the beautifier, doctors of good health, providers of good food, builders of a warm home and uncommon fortunes — along with our God-given rights. Things that not everyone has or has the opportunity to share with those who do not have.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” — Job 1:21

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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