Looking Back to Look Ahead

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As Ray and I sat in the Jackson County Historical Museum last night for the July meeting of the historical society, I looked around the room and thought about what people have thought were important to remember. As I sat down to write to you, I realized that this is a hot topic.

When we started writing history 20 years ago, most people saw history as interesting — or boring, perhaps — but rarely newsworthy. Now when the topic of our occupation comes up in conversation, we often hear something like this: “Isn’t it a shame that people are destroying history?” or “I assume you’re not re-writing history . . . .”

Our little historical museum is an eclectic collection of this thing and that thing that reminds people of the past. I, for one, am glad those things are there. Some objects remind us of good character traits to emulate and others remind us of sins to avoid. If they weren’t there, we might forget some important things we need to remember. We people are bad about forgetting.

The pretty floor-length black and white print dress reminds us of a time when women’s clothes communicated respect and dignity. They still do — or don’t.

The giant ice tongs remind us of friendly ice men who delivered big cubes of ice to people’s homes.

The framed photo of General Patton reminds us of when U.S citizen soldiers trained on these Tennessee hills for battles in the hills of Europe during World War II.

The model of a steamboat reminds our family of our friend Jack whose daddy used to captain a steamboat from here to New Orleans on the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. The model reminds us of the sweet welcome Jack gave to our family when we moved here, especially to our children.

The hats remind me of the hats grown-ups wore when I was a child. They looked so nice and dressed up.

The moonshine still reminds us of the big city gangsters who acted illegally and violently to make money from the liquor made in southern hills like ours.

The kitchen tools remind us of the women who worked hard to feed their families.

Our friend Miss Katherine, whose 95th birthday is this Friday, sat beside me. She has poured her heart into this museum — and into many other noble efforts in our little town.

While it is true that history is a look back over our shoulders, the real value of history is what it teaches us about the future. History teaches me what I want to make sure that I do, and what I want to avoid at all costs.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.
Psalm 32:8-11

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