A tale of three cities: The importance of leadership
by Roger Hines
July 26, 2014 11:28 PM | 2139 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Forty years ago this summer, my wife Nancy and I were driving north on Highway 41 from Marietta toward Kennesaw. About halfway there, I remarked to her, “We’re getting too far from Marietta.”

We were looking for a house. The kudzu just past the Bells Ferry Road crossing alerted us that we were leaving civilization. The high bank on the left, on which Liberty Church now sits, was a mountain of kudzu. The dip in the highway leading on to what is now Ernest Barrett Parkway was a plain of kudzu. The rise in the highway up and across the railroad to the Kennesaw Due West Road crossing was a kudzu path. No wonder the Kennesaw/Acworth area was then called “undeveloped Cobb.”

We had been Georgians only three years. The humble abode from which we planned to move was Pine Forest Apartments in Marietta which lay behind the right pretty Pine Forest Motel on Highway 41, across from K-Mart.

Finding a house in Kennesaw was easy enough, though not as interesting as finding Pine Forest three years earlier. In August of ’71 we had rolled into town on a Sunday at 3 a.m. With babies or small children, you often choose to drive at night, or couples did back then. Sleeping babies are easier on nerves and marriages.

On Monday morning, we began our search for an apartment. Finding Pine Forest in an encyclopedia-sized telephone book, I rang them from a pay telephone. The lady who answered said they were located on the four-lane highway. When I asked which four-lane, there was a pregnant pause. I could tell she could tell we didn’t live around there.

Things got no clearer when she said “Four Lane” was the name of the highway (now Cobb Parkway) and that she was “just south of the Big Vhicken.” Fearing that another pregnant pause would make me sound and feel stupid, I chose not to ask anything about a chicken.

After settling into Pine Forest, we visited Marietta Square for the first time. We saw a downtown cafe named Downtown Cafe. Circling the Square, we noticed a book store named The Book Store. We welcomed such simplicity. The Square held no confusion, unlike the oddly named highway and a chicken east of town.

After a three-year stay in Marietta, we moved to Kennesaw, which then seemed twice as far from Marietta as it actually was. By the design of its city fathers, Kennesaw had remained small and pleasantly quaint. One good thing stemming from that policy was the daily early evening chimes wafting from the Methodist Church that could be heard across town.

After 33 years in Kennesaw, we moved to Acworth. As Uncle Sam would have it, our address remained Kennesaw, a rather fitting situation since Acworth and Kennesaw might be called sister cities.

As the county seat, and being centrally located, Marietta is visited more than Kennesaw and Acworth, but Cobb’s two cities to the northwest are drawing more and more visitors. Motorists on Kennesaw’s Main Street are having to pardon the progress of a major downtown development and of trucks going in and out of the site for Kennesaw First Baptist’s new sanctuary.

Unlike Atlanta, which chose not to present itself as a Southern city during the Olympics, Kennesaw celebrates its storied past. The Smithsonian-affiliated Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, the brainchild of current Mayor Mark Mathews and late Councilman Ben Robertson, remains an outstanding destination.

Downtown Acworth is equally inviting. The Lake City’s backstreets and alleys are as clean and dolled up as Main Street. Still friendly, Acworth no longer closes down at 5:30. Excellent restaurants make sure of that.

Marietta’s continued vibrancy and Kennesaw/Acworth’s consistent, delightful flavor are no mystery. They are the effects of leadership. Like Cobb County as a whole, Cobb cities have been blessed with political and community leaders most of whom have cared about real villagers, not just the abstract village.

The election of Marietta’s homegrown Steve Tumlin to mayor was sheer, proper destiny. Like Mayor Tommy Allegood of Acworth and Mathews, Tumlin exudes no politician’s self-importance, just matter-of-fact, get-things-done vision and leadership. Such local leadership debunks the old saw, “God made the country, man made the cities and the devil made small towns.”

Cobb citizens to the south should be no less grateful for the steady Mayor Joe Jerkins of Austell, the genuine Mayor Pat Vaughn of Powder Springs and the inimitable Mayor Max Bacon of Smyrna, but I’m especially appreciative of the three cities that have blessed my family for four decades, simply and primarily because of good folks and strong, people-oriented leadership.

Roger Hines is a retired high school English teacher in Kennesaw.

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