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Darrell Huckaby - 08/14/09

Once upon a time in a galaxy far away ... OK, so it wasn't all that long ago and it was right here in Newton County ... there was a nice little community that was considered "rural" by just about any measure used to denote such things. Yes, I am talking about Covington and Newton County.

Family farms were the rule, not the exception, in most of the county and the largest employer, by far, was Bibb Manufacturing Company - or "The Bibb," to those of us who relied on that now-defunct firm for our daily bread.

As late as the mid-60s I remember reading an article in the Atlanta Journal - back when it still covered Dixie like the dew - about the Ram basketball dynasty that Ronald Bradley was creating. Joe Litsch was the author and he wrote something to the effect that there was a time when the only reason people visited Newton County was to drop their children off at Little Emory or eat dinner at the Porterdale Hotel.

Joe's insinuation, of course, was that Coach Bradley was putting Newton County on the map and that there were, because of Ram basketball, three reasons to have heard about Covington and its environs.

Well, I think Joe was oversimplifying things, but there was at least a particle of truth to what he had to say. There wasn't a whole lot going on in the Newton County of my youth. Speaking of which, when's the last time you heard someone refer to the college at Oxford as "Little Emory?"

I can attest to the fact that folks haven't forgotten the good food Effie Boyd used to serve up at the Porterdale Hotel. Everywhere I go - and I go a lot of places--when people find out I am from Porterdale - and I tell everybody I meet that I am - I run into people who used to "ride out to Porterdale" to eat Sunday dinner.

Surprisingly, not as many people seem to recall the glory days of Newton County basketball and the 129-game home court winning streak at Death Valley. I guess that just goes to show that all glory is, indeed, fleeting. In the world of sports I guess the main question is "what have you done lately?" and not what did you do four decades ago.

But my point today - and I do have one - is not to reminisce about fried chicken or higher education or basketball. My point is that when I was growing up in Newton County I often fretted because it was "too small" or because "nothing ever happened here" or because "nobody has ever heard of this place."

It's funny how one's perception changes with time, isn't it? Several times this week I have heard Covington and/or Newton County mentioned on the news - or read about it in the big city paper - and not once did anyone mention good food or a college campus or high school sports. None of the news was good, in other words.

We didn't used to hear about policemen being shot while answering domestic calls or citizens being stabbed during home invasions. We didn't read about drug busts or scam artists bilking their friends out of millions of their hard-earned dollars. We just didn't.

Take away the Mobil Chemical fire and the wreck at the Yellow River Dragstrip and I can't remember a single time Covington provided the dateline on a major news story when I was a kid. But now scarcely a week goes by that we don't read or hear about something awful happening in our neck of the woods.

And that's supposed to be progress? I guess we should have been careful what we wished for.

And if all of the maladies that are occurring within our borders, so to speak, aren't bad enough, our residents are creating havoc in other places as well.

Thursday morning I woke up and turned on the news, as is my habit, and the first thing I heard was that a Covington man had been charged in the death of a 6-year-old who had made the mistake of stepping off a MARTA bus in Clarkston at the same time Greg Arwood - who is reported to have a long string of traffic arrests, including two for DUI - decided to cross a double yellow line and pass the stopped bus on the wrong side of the road.

Arwood's alleged actions make the 13-year-old who attacked her aunt because the aunt asked her to put her books away look like a saint in comparison.

And if all that isn't bad enough, the restaurant at the Porterdale Hotel has been closed for years, the Bibb is defunct and I have no idea what to expect from the Ram basketball squad this season. I assume all is well at Little Emory.

I wonder whatever happened to Joe Litsch, anyway.

Darrell Huckaby