Many years ago, I wrote a partially fictional piece in which I lampooned an animal rights activist who complained about Columbia County’s ill treatment of animals because of a “pig-tossing” contest.
Why did I poke fun at her? Because the “pigs” were rubber toys – a fact she could have determined with a simple phone call, thus sparing herself the angst and anger.
My old friend Donald Thomas presumably could have spared himself a bit of grief, maybe even embarrassment, by simply going online and looking at a map. Or maybe calling home from California and asking a question or two before sharing his misplaced irritation in writing.
In two recent letters to the editor of The Augusta Chronicle, Thomas pronounced it “racist” that two streets in Winfield – where both of us grew up, and where he had visited during the holidays – bear the generic names of “Terrace Drive” and “Beehive Drive” rather than being named for black Paschals and Willinghams who live on those streets.
Meanwhile, he asserted, other roads in the area generally bear the name of the white families who live along them.
First, a bit of recent history:
Back in the 1970s, the Post Office decided all the roads in that area needed names if they didn’t already have them. That included the dirt road I lived on. We all had rural route addresses – I think ours was Route 1, Box 106 – and the Post Office wanted a more uniform system.
To create the names, they basically asked residents of each road what they wanted them to be called. Our family, mostly my grandfather, owned all the land on both sides of our short dirt road, so it became Lloyd Paschal Road. (Spoiler alert: He was a white guy.) It intersects with Moontown Road, which was briefly renamed for one of the families along it until the other residents complained and it reverted to its historical name.
The same process would have taken place with the roads Thomas mentioned. But here’s the thing: Take a look at the county map of Terrace Drive, and while you do indeed see two Paschals owning homes on it (along with one whose married name is Jones), you also see two Willinghams, two Crawfords, and one each of Lewis, Armstrong, Calahan, Crawford, Cummings, Rickerson, Ramsey and Scott.
Most of those families lived along the road when it was named, and presumably would have had a say in what the Post Office called it.
For the kicker, though, go a mile or so west to Beehive Drive. You do indeed find parcels owned by three Willinghams – along with a Sias, a Robinson and a Thomas. So why wasn’t it named Willingham Drive?
The answer, if you look at a map of the area, is glaringly obvious: There’s already a Willingham Drive. It runs parallel to Beehive Drive, just two parcels of land away. And it is, indeed, in the middle of land owned by Willinghams, who would have been consulted 40-odd years ago in its naming.
Simply put, there’s no basis for the “racism” charge.
Don’t we have enough worries in this world without manufacturing new ones by jumping to conclusions?
Sorry, Don: You got this one wrong. Maybe you should visit home more often.
Barry Paschal, a former “Chronicle” writer, blogs at barrypaschal.blogspot.com.