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June 4, 2008


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Column
By Mark Beardsley

Yet Another Beardsley Takes Up Journalism
Reader Tom Richardson, who lives in Clearwater, FL, sent me a copy of the Clearwater edition of The St. Petersburg Times containing a story about the demolition of the old Clearwater Sun building.
My father, the late James L. Beardsley, worked for The Sun, an afternoon six-days-a-week-paper for 39 years, most of it as its editor. After Dad retired, it switched to a morning paper and, losing most of its circulation to The Tampa Tribune and The St. Petersburg Times, folded.
I have fond memories of the newsroom of that Myrtle Avenue building. Dad had one of the few offices; reporters and proofreaders shared one large room, and there was a small room where the Associated Press teletype machines brought in news from around the world. In the back was a section for photo engraving; shards of metal lay all about from the plate engraving machines in an era long before offset printing, let alone computer pagination.
Funny thing: I read only the sports, comics and front pages. I never looked at the editorials — until after Dad retired and my sister sent me some of his columns.
What I do recall is that The Sun focused on local news. It covered Clearwater, Dunedin and adjacent towns, laboring in the shadow of The Times, even then a great newspaper but disdained by my father.
At home, we also read The Tampa Tribune. As for The Times, my father said of its publisher: “He’s a communist.”
I’ve been at The Commerce News for more than 33 years. Next week, another Beardsley joins the fray. Steven, who worked briefly for MainStreet Newspapers before going back to school, just got his masters degree in journalism from the best J-school in America, Columbia University. He will be the crime reporter for The Naples (FL) Daily News starting next week.
I’ve joked that the male side of the Beardsley family carries a genetic flaw that leads them into journalism. We found out from a distant relative that my father was not the first of the family to be so afflicted. Three prior Beardsleys were also in the publishing business, so Steven becomes the sixth in the family to take up the cause — if you don’t count my sister, who did time as a proofreader and wrote a music column briefly for The Clearwater Sun.
Like me, growing up he had no interest in being a journalist. I discovered after I learned to type that I liked to write and just wound up in the business. Steven, needing a job after he majored in comparative literature at UGA, took a reporting position for The Jackson Herald and The Banks County News and discovered that he liked reporting.
It must be a persistent genetic flaw.
Steven will be the best of the family journalists. He’s a good writer, is an excellent interviewer, is curious, well-read and has wonderful training from Columbia. He can also spell, inheriting those genes from his mother.
Steven’s late grandfather must surely be smiling. Not only is his grandson continuing the family tradition, but he’s doing it in Florida.
I’m happy about that myself.
Mark Beardsley is the editor of The Commerce News. Contact him at mark@mainstreetnews.com.

It Really Is Time To Address Parking In Town
Parking is one of those perennial issues in downtown Commerce. Ever since the automobile replaced the horse and buggy, folks have been complaining about the lack of parking.
For the past couple of decades at least, the primary problem with downtown parking has been merchants or employees who parked their vehicles in front of their stores — or those of a neighbor — all day long, denying parking places to potential problems. The answer put forth has always been to enforce two-hour parking by writing parking tickets.
That is still something of a problem, but the main issue now is the creation of off-street parking for employees and customers alike. The good news is that the problem has arisen with the arrival in town of three restaurants and the renovation or pending renovation of other downtown buildings. All of these developments will help bring a vitality to the downtown not seen in 30 years.
Fortunately, the city already owns most of the land it needs to provide parking. Foremost is the parking lot behind the Commerce Civic Center, which serves the civic center, the cultural center and South Broad Street businesses — including two new restaurants. That lot is heavily used, but it is poorly designed, terribly lit and rundown to the point that many people are reluctant to use it at night. For the two new restaurants, the perception of safe parking is crucial.
The city is working on the matter. Its plan is to enlarge and landscape the lot, incorporating an unpaved area at the corner of Sycamore and Cherry streets. The project has been on the city’s “to-do” list for years, but as Dr. Clark Hill of the Downtown Development Authority told the city council Monday night, now is the time to get it done lest lack of parking add to the challenge of operating a successful restaurant in the downtown.
Many will remember the various needs surveys for the downtowns, restaurants always came in at the top of the list. With Little Italy, Stonewall’s BBQ and Vaughn’s Wing Slingers Grill, Commerce now has those restaurants. They, and other businesses in the downtown can’t succeed if their customers can’t park safely.
The city should move quickly on the South Broad Street parking lot, but also make plans to improve or develop lots for North Broad Street and State Street. Downtown Commerce is drawing more people, but that won’t continue unless there is ample parking to support new — and existing — businesses.

First Year Ends Well For East Jackson High
East Jackson Comprehensive High School closed out its first year just the way it started it — with strong support from the community.
School officials were pleasantly surprised at the school’s first commencement ceremony May 23 to find the stadium stands nearly full on the home side. With only 109 diplomas to present, the expectations were for a much smaller crowd.
Luckily, the school pulled off the ceremony before the rain came in, because there would not have been sufficient room in the gymnasium for the crowd that turned out. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless, and Principal Pat Stueck reports that the school will plan for that contingency in all future graduations.
Local schools in all three systems have always enjoyed strong community support. EJCHS is one of the newest schools in the county, but its first graduation ceremony demonstrated once again that Jackson County citizens love and support their schools.


Column
By Susan Harper

Some Losses And Some Gains
In church last Sunday, I was so moved by one of the hymns that I started to cry and then found it difficult to stop, and I realized that I felt weighed-down by sorrow over all that we’d lost, here in Commerce, in a single week.
The passing of longtime city councilman Riley Harris was a blow. A dignified and disciplined man with a military career under his belt, Riley always demanded more of himself than he did of others. For everyone else he had compassion, humor, and a surpassing gentleness; for himself he set high standards and strove always to meet them.
One of his daughters, Shirley, volunteers at the library; a son, Riley Jr., has been an outspoken library supporter for years, offering inspiration and assistance with fund-raising and programming. Both had a father who believed that civic duty is like breathing: it’s just something you do.
Aaron Chaney, son of another great community-minded Commerce family, died the same day Riley did, making many of us doubly sad. Aaron’s smile was like the sun coming up, and I’ve crossed the street more than once just to say hello and catch a glimpse of that smile. One of his brothers, Sam, is a member of the Library Board; another, Archie, served with distinction on our city council for many years. His parents, Thelma and Archie Sr., were extraordinary people, and he looked after them in their later years with great care and kindness.
While I was still absorbing the news of Aaron’s death, word came that Laura Chandler had also left us. Known for her expertise during her days as a realtor here, Laura went on to develop a reputation as a tour guide beyond compare, while still finding time for crafts and maintaining close relationships with her large extended family and her many friends. I might not have known all of that, except that her daughter Mary Ann worked at the library for over five years.
Fortunately for me, last week was also the occasion of my mother’s birthday. I was grateful to go and celebrate; it was impossible to remain weighted with grief while watching Mother tuck into a rack of ribs at Longhorn’s, and I recalled some sage advice I was given here in Commerce: Enjoy every sandwich. Or to expand that, enjoy every minute we have with each other on this earth.
It was Auntie Mame who said, “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Singer Joni Collins, in her haunting song, “Both Sides Now,” said something more nuanced and troubling: “Something’s lost and something’s gained / in living every day./ I’ve looked at life from both sides now / from win and lose, / and still somehow / It’s life’s illusions I recall; / I really don’t know life at all.”
In one sense, we’re all in that same (life)boat. In another sense, it’s all right in front of us. “The kingdom of God is spread upon the earth, and men see it not,” says the Gospel of Thomas. Be one who sees — one on whom, in the words of Henry James, “nothing is wasted.”
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.




 

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