Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Springtime in Summerville is what I have longed for since the many years I’ve spent away traveling and living in Texas.
My family moved from Charleston to Summerville, behind what was then Shoney’s on North Main Street, in 1974. I was nine years old.
Now approaching 50, I realize my hometown has grown into a place that I hardly recognize. That is, except for Summerville in the spring, and what we used to call the Azalea Festival.
My Mother, Patricia Alexander Ahl Keeler, still lives in the same house, and I was welcomed home last week, not only by family, but also by a social network of classmates I had grown up with. If not for the many online connections of those I had lost track with throughout the years, this special place that we all love may have swallowed the hometown feel that the people native to this area can give, no matter how much has grown up around us.
To make it even more special, my classmates, using the miracle of this new social media, began a T-shirt campaign that uniquely tied us all together.
In time for the 2014 Flowertown Festival, Roy Knight Sr. and his wife Lila developed and promoted the idea of “I Grew Up In Summerville” T-shirts. The shirts were a hit, and many more were distributed than expected.
As the date of the festival grew closer, nature seemed to be watching, too, as this year the flowers couldn’t have been blooming in more grandeur. I heard so many comments of our beautiful town as I walked about the festival crowd. But it was Saturday that I was really looking forward to, when we had scheduled our place to meet together, all wearing our shirts.
I don’t believe this kind of meeting of online friends happens often, certainly not often enough. I think you could even call this historical, at least for our town.
The gathering for this event was everything, and so much more, that we had hoped. An unofficial count would be close to 50, ranging 30 years of Summerville High School graduating classes, including a few teachers.
The mood among all who came transcended the years, and was expressed in the joy of remembrance, meeting others for the first time, and a common appreciation that gripped us all with a certain hometown unity.
We would especially like to thank Charmaine Mazyck for creating the “I Grew Up In Summerville” Facebook page, and making all of this possible.
It was appropriate, I think, to meet together at Summerville Town Square, in front of the old Guerin’s Pharmacy, where many of us talked of cruising as teenagers in our first cars. My classmates and I are a generation in its prime. We did not grow up with any kind of social media, but we have now, within the wisdom of our age, a unique opportunity to help shape this young and growing social networking phenomenon as an example for generations to come. I want us to use technology to stay in touch, and keep a bond alive within our community. I hope that next year, and the years to follow, this native Summervillain movement will reach beyond our generation, and even our town, and help hold together the essence of “small town” deep within the hearts of this rapidly growing world.