Childhood memories are the best ones. Yes, there were bullies, broken hearts and disappointments but there were also birthdays, graduations and just fun times. I grew up in Rome, Ga. I don’t live very far from there but I don’t get there very often and I spent most of my adult life living in other places. This month I have looked at Rome with two sets of eyes–one from the perspective of a girl who has walked Broad Street thousands of times and the other as a writer trying to tell someone who has never been there about a place so familiar to me.
And it all started with a dress made from maps.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Savannah White from Rome, Ga.’s tourism office about a cool piece of street art in the window of the Rome History Museum. She asked me to take a selfie and put it on my social media. Of course, I am always happy to spotlight cool things and as I said, Rome is my hometown. Savannah is a very talented writer and the creator of the dress and matching shoes, Morgan Reynolds, has such imagination and artistry. You can read more about the dress here. If you know me, you know my photography skills are not always the best (I plan to take a class, soon), but here is a picture of the dress. Please go by there and see this.
But as I walked Broad Street and visited some other places in the past week, this became something more than a post about a cool piece of art. I saw a few out-of-towners enjoying downtown. It’s the same downtown that I visited with my mother and siblings as a child but it’s so different. We took a big, green diesel bus complete with that familiar diesel smell. We had to catch it at the top of our street. When I was a child, malls were just beginning to encroach into smaller towns so most of the best stores were still on the main streets. The Rome History Museum will always be Otasco to me. I remember how much I loved walking through there at Christmas to look at toys.
All of the major department stores of the time were downtown including Millers and Belk Rhodes. I don’t have many memories from there. I don’t remember which one was Kessler’s but I think about that store every time I pass Harvest Moon and Honeymoon Bakery. I bought a lot of dresses in Kessler’s and enjoyed roaming through their toy section downstairs. I also bought dresses at Warner’s which is now a restaurant. And Johnny’s Pizza was J.C. Penney.
The Desoto Theater is still the same but mostly hosts plays and concerts. We rarely went to the movies as a child but my mother took me and my siblings to see “Yours, Mine and Ours” there. That is such a precious memory to me and no one understands why I cry so much when watching that movie.
I love food and Krystal hamburgers are one of my guilty pleasures. The best Krystals I ever I ate where while sitting on the stool with my mother and siblings in the building that now houses Duke’s. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Murphy’s also had a lunch counter and a pay toilet. You had to pay a dime if you wanted to use their restroom!
Super D was also a favorite and we also shopped with them in the location in Central Plaza on East Second Avenue. In that same shopping center was Big Star grocery. I can’t tell you how many times I roamed those aisles with my parents. Central Plaza also had my favorite Christmas decorations which would be considered vintage today.
I could spend all day sharing hometown memories but I will save some for another time. As all of these memories flooded back while I was in Rome to see the map dress, I thought about all of the small towns we visit. We see them through the eyes of travelers but those who grew up in those little towns see memories and stories. I will always look at the new restaurants and stores in my hometown and see what used to be there. I will think about my late parents, my siblings and memories with friends. And that is what I am looking for when we travel to other places—not just cool pictures and words off of monuments or in brochures. I want to hear stories from real people about the places we go. It could be from a history book or from the memory of someone we meet. I will still post my pictures, no matter how bad they are, so follow us on social media. And share the stories of your hometowns. I would love to hear them.