Two topics in the news recently have been on my mind. The first is the city's proposed ordinance to allow chickens to be housed and raised inside the city being voted on tonight. The other is the Chattanooga Folk School's problems. Frankly, I doubt I know enough about either subject to write a complete column on it.
I do know we had chickens when I was growing up at Watering Trough. It's nice to have fresh eggs and to carry a hen to the old chop block when we wanted some fried chicken. What I must also tell you is that they're fairly messy. Yes, chickens do excrete.
The man from whom I bought my house, Howard Lovell, loved exotic chickens and kept a small flock on the land where I now live. I've gotten different feedback from neighbors who had to live with Howard and his chickens. Most of them say the only thing that bothered them was the excretion problem, and some said the colorful chickens added something special to the neighborhood.
Since the license is estimated to cost $100 with a $10 per year renewal fee, you might save money by just buying your eggs at the supermarket.
What I really wanted to write about today are the problems the Chattanooga Folk School is experiencing in finding a home. In the words of Tex Ritter's song "Boll Weevil," "They're justa lookin' for a home, they're justa lookin' for a home."
Their first home that I remember was on Forest Avenue, and they had severe parking problems there. However, I went to hear an Ed Huey blues concert that was well attended, and there was a high level of excitement among the staff about the teaching activities.
Then they moved to Rossville Avenue, where they are currently in controversy with their next-door neighbors. Some of the recent criticisms like the lack of air conditioning could surely have been brought up before they leased the building. City political leaders should make sure they are not punched out of their home without a chance to correct perceived problems.
Chattanooga has not done a good job of interfacing our public educational population with the exciting story of some great leaders in roots music. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center was an effort to correct this. I'm glad for the progress I see, but I think any unbiased observer would say we should do better with such a grand facility.
I'm not saying there is organized resistance against educating our population on roots music. I'm saying there is abysmal ignorance about the value of seeing and appreciating our musical roots. I painfully recognized this when we failed to become a national folk school center a few years ago after a beautiful three-year experience with it.
We have a lot of young, excellent songcrafters, singers and musicians. But we need a folk school to give them support and to encourage the youngest among us to sink their souls down into the rich heritage this community is so blessed with.
In the '40s and '50s, we had a radio show attracting some of the finest folk talent to Chattanooga: Pete Cassell, Hank Penny, Chet Atkins, Rex Griffin and others. And of course, we had the greatest blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith.
Let us honor them by nurturing their music in a quality folk school.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.
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