“We came in here every day,” Martha Francis Dodd McConnell said as she looked around the inside of Possum Trot Church late Tuesday morning. “These were our fondest memories.”
The 90-year-old Berry College alumna sat in front of the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students of Berry College Elementary and Middle School where she told them about life as a Berry student during the 1930s.
McConnell told the students stories of overalls and dress-clad students, strict teachers and meeting Martha Berry herself during the Old School Days program hosted by Oak Hill & the Martha Berry Museum. McConnell started at Possum Trot Church, called the “cradle of Berry College” by the school’s website, in the third grade and stayed until she moved up to Martha Berry High School.
Along with her classmates, McConnell would catch a bus from the main college campus out to Possum Trot Church, which is just over 5 miles into Berry property.
After students put their things in their classrooms they gathered in the chapel to sing, listen to a devotion and learn the scriptures Martha Berry had painted on the walls.
“We had to memorize all of these verses,” she said looking around the room at the large white scriptures on the wall. “I don’t think I remember any of them,” she added laughing.
There were 36 students who attended the school, she told the BCEMS students, with six in her classroom.
Since there were three school buildings at the church, McConnell said first and second shared one classroom, fourth and fifth in another and sixth and seventh in the last classroom at Possum Trot.
Third grade floated between the first-second and fourth-fifth classrooms she said.
McConnell also shared with students some of the old-fashioned ways her school worked.
For example, she remembers how she and her classmates had to clean every window in the classrooms inside and out.
Students did all of the chores at Possum Trot, she told the students.
“There were no janitors,” she said. “We were it.”
McConnell’s presentation in the old school house was just one part of the BCEMS student’s day at Possum Trot Church.
Earlier in the day students listened to a presentation from the staff of Oak Hill and got to participate in pioneer games.
The Berry College Elementary and Middle School staff came to Oak Hill for this program, Rachel McLucas, interim director and curator for the museum, said. The teachers and staff were really thrilled to hear from McConnell who knew Martha Berry first-hand and could give them insight on their school’s roots, she said.
The history lesson for the BCEMS students came just before Mountain Day, an annual Berry College celebration held at the college around Martha Berry’s birthday. On Friday and Saturday the Mountain Day festivities will be in full swing with the yearly Mountain Day Olympics, talent show, first parents breakfast, picnic, Grand March and finally Marthapalooza.
A special tribute will be held for Martha Berry on Saturday at 10 a.m. on the College Chapel South Lawn with the Grand March beginning at 1 p.m.
The full schedule, available on the Berry College website, has the entire schedule for Friday’s and Saturday’s events.
For the month of October both Rome and Floyd County police officers will incorporate pink into their uniforms in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Rome police have ordered all pink badges for their officers while Floyd County will have a mixture of pink badges and pink bands around their badges.
Local law enforcement regularly supports awareness and tries to promote causes through vehicle magnets and ribbons, said Debbie Burnett, assistant chief for the Rome Police Department.
“Officers tie ribbons to their patrol cars or place magnets in support of breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, child abuse and being drug free. These are just a few examples of how what we try to spread awareness as well as how we get involved in the community,” she said.
Another way the Rome police like to get involved in the community is through the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. Several of the RPD officers participate in the walk which raises money for the Rome Hospitality House.
“We’re trying to be immersed in the community,” she said.
Rome police took their new badges for a spin on Wednesday when they visited Fifth Avenue Health Care Center for a Coffee with a Cop-type event, said Burnett. The officers spent time with several residents including retired officer James Solomon, who is well known among Rome officers.
“I remember him patrolling my neighborhood when I was a little girl,” Burnett said. “In fact, he was the first contact I ever had with a police officer.”
During the City Commission Candidate Forum hosted by the Floyd County Republican Party on Sept. 26, voter Jeff Kelly asked what the candidates were going to do about the homeless.
“I’ve lived here 15 years and I’ve seen the number of homeless grow drastically,” Kelly said. “It seems Rome has become a dumping ground.”
By contrast, several voters who attended the Floyd County Democratic Party’s candidate meet-and-greet event Thursday night expressed concerns to candidates about the strictness of the “urban camping” and “aggressive panhandling” ordinances requested by local law enforcement that are up for a final reading at the Oct. 14 City Commission meeting.
In each case, incumbent candidates such as Craig McDaniel and Bill Collins tried to reassure residents that the ordinances were simply giving public safety officers more tools for handling various encounters and complaints in public parks, on trails or in parking lots.
During Thursday’s event, challenger J.J. Walker Seifert, a Rome defense attorney who also serves as a part-time judge, told voters one-on-one that she believes the ordinances need more tweaking before they are passed.
“I know they added some additional language requiring warnings and the safe keeping of their belongings, but I still have mixed feelings,” Seifert said. “If the officer gives someone a warning and they move on to another spot and encounter another officer, will they get another warning or end up in jail?”
Rome resident Cynthia Eason, whose husband Daniel has signed up to work on all four subcommittees of the Homelessness Task Force, told incumbent Sundai Stevenson she is encouraged by the Task Force, but she hopes Stevenson and the others will be mindful of the risks of forcing the homeless to leave, say, a place they’ve made for themselves in the woods.
“We have a lot of good agencies and a lot of people who are willing to start new agencies,” Eason told her. “There are a lot of ways we can help them.”
Stevenson told her she is working on more than one committee to try to make sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
Across the room, 35-year-old LaTonya Burrell said she was mostly interested in candidates’ plans for sprucing up the blighted areas people pass by in North Rome when they’re coming off I-75.
“That’s a major artery to get into Rome and there are abandoned buildings left and right,” said Burrell, adding it was important to her to attend Thursday’s event in order to remain an informed voter. “Most of these people I already know, but I wanted to get to know the new ones.”
Tina Bucher, the party’s communications director, said the Democrats felt it was important to hold this type of event to encourage political education locally.
“Politics starts at the local level,” Bucher said. “If you aren’t involved at the local level and are only concerned with what’s going on nationally, you are missing out on important opportunities to affect change.”
No one has told the thermometer, but the calendar clearly indicates it’s October, and that means busy weekends for the rest of the month.
This weekend offers Romans, and visitors to the community alike, a plethora of activity to observe or actually get involved in themselves.
The Going Caching Mega-event, with upwards of a thousand visitors to Rome from all over the country and around the globe, is in full swing with a show Friday night for geocachers on the stage at Ridge Ferry Park. Tomorrow, the treasure hunters who are dressed up in pirate attire will spread all over the community from their main base of fun in Ridge ferry Park. The day’s activities will culminate with a costume ball for the cachers at The Forum River Center.
Of course Fall’s Finest Festival, the Coosa Valley Fair, continues through Saturday night at the fairgrounds on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Friday fair guests can buy an armband for $25 for unlimited rides on the midway. Saturday, that same armband will cost $30. Gates open Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. The fair shuts down at 11 p.m. Friday night and midnight Saturday.
A limited number of Haunted on Broad tour tickets for Friday and Saturday night tours are still available. The walking tours will start from the Synovus Bank parking lot on Broad Street and each last about 90 minutes. Selena Tilly said that $10 online sales will be cut off for this weekend at noon Friday but be available for $15 at the start of the tours at both 7 and 9 p.m. each night.
Tilly said people should dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes, as there will be some steep slopes and uneven pavement.
This is also Mountain Day Weekend at Berry College. Activity started Thursday and continues into Sunday, highlighted by the annual Grand March of students on the Mountain campus at 1 p.m. Saturday. An alumni breakfast is slated for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in the Cook Building on campus. A special tribute to Martha Berry will be held at 10 a.m. on the south lawn of the College Chapel. The Old Mill will be open to visitors from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a big Student Talent Show will be held in the Krannert Center at 8 p.m. Other activities, and there are plenty, can be found on the college web page www.berry.edu.
Friday night, Makervillage at 252 N. Fifth Ave. will host an Inspiring Artists exhibit from 5 to 7 p.m. Artists who will have work on display include Brad Adams, Dennis Ritter and Brian Barr, all from Berry College along with Russell Cook from Georgia Highlands College.
Both the Between the Rivers Farmers Market and Farmers Market at Ridge Ferry Park will be open Saturday. The between the Rivers market at Bridgepoint Plaza is open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while the Ridge Ferry Market will open at 7 a.m. and run through 11 a.m.
Saturday night, LaConquista at 2817 Martha Berry Highway will host a Music for the Memories fundraising to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. A karaoke/lip sync contest will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. There is a $5 fee to enter the competition and votes cost $1 a piece.