“But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of my years and I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs from the brim to the dregs. It poured sweet and clear, it was a very good year.”
-- Ervin Drake, circa 1961
Every new year it’s only natural to look back on the past 365 days and remember the good and bad. That’s when the song “It Was A Very Good Year” gets stuck in my mind, an earworm playing over and over.
My favorite artist to sing it is Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, followed closely by Lou Rawls. They made the song autobiographical as they thumbed through the decades starting at 17 when, “It was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights. We’d hide from the lights, on the village green, when I was 17.
They go on to hit 21 and then 35 -- and finally, the autumn of their lives. It’s hard to grasp the full meaning of the song without having a few years under your hood. Youngsters don’t get it, but older heads catch it right away.
The progress of an area can seem glacial, so incremental that it’s hardly noticed.
It’s been a very good year.
Macon and Bibb County became one on the first day of 2014. Consolidation was something I had, quite frankly, thought would never occur. I had written dozens of pro consolidation editorials and columns over the past two decades -- served on one of the consolidation task forces during Jim Marshall’s administration -- but there seemed to be little movement. Now it’s here. While not perfect, our new commission seems to be getting along, and the power struggle between city and county is over.
We welcomed Christopher Blake to the presidency of Middle Georgia State College -- a name I still have trouble substituting for Macon State College. Blake is from across the pond and has an affinity to motorcycles. He is well on his way to changing the name of the institution again, striking “college” in favor of “university.”
It’s hard to forget that March day in the middle of madness when the Mercer Bears basketball team beat the Duke Blue Devils 78-71. It’s particularly hard for those with any type of association with Duke. I will take some pride in my prediction that Mercer would win.
Have you walked through Tattnall Square Park lately? This past year has brought a number of changes to the park, guided by Ron Lemon and many others. Unless you’ve taken the time to look around, you might miss them.
Macon welcomed its first roundabout or traffic circle at the northeast corner of the park adjacent to Alexander II Elementary School. That and the addition of more Mercer lofts and a wider manicured street makes one forget what it used to look like.
After much gnashing of teeth, the Douglass home that hadn’t been occupied in decades finally went the way of Tremont Temple Baptist Church to make way for a Dunkin’ Donuts -- an inglorious end to a lot of history few cared about until their demise.
Steve Smith calmed the waters after the departure of Romain Dallemand in 2013, but there is more turbulence ahead. The Bibb County school board hasn’t been able to settle on its next superintendent and has opened its third search. Hard to get happy after that.
The Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development Inc. gave the community a gift by selling the made-to-be controversial Promise Center to the Bibb County school system, a move it clearly did not have to make. Financially, there was no motivation for the CGPICD to sell. While people conveniently forget the school board voted on the lease that sat before them unanimously and was again deemed valid by a Superior Court, the sale should put all that talk in a casket. If there was doubt of the lease’s validity, why spend more than $10 million to get out of it?
The CGPICD will now start over at the old Hamilton school. It’s mission, along with the more than 40 community partners, hasn’t changed: to impact the lives of children and families in that area over the long term. They will never get credit for it, but they have remained true to that mission, putting aside the darts and arrows of withering criticism.
It’s difficult to predict the direction of progress without a set of guiding principles. The progress we want is either set in those principles or not. I know, we’re still figuring out those principles -- but we are figuring them out.
Let’s have a great year, one we can look back on and say, “It was a very good year.”