How often has some absurdity there based on throwback attitudes from when spats and corsets were all the rage provided local citizens — and Georgians in general — with comic relief? And left the impression that Cave Spring, which looks like a place many Americans would love to live, is not where anyone of sufficient maturity to mind their own business might wish to settle.
Cave Spring is a place one falls in love with at first sight. Everybody does, although that may be based more of the scenic bounties Mother Nature has provided than even the quaint, tiny downtown around a gazebo-focused square. The century-old homes are also more visible that the tumbledowns on the side streets, but those are not exactly hidden from sight either.
Mostly, it is the obvious slowing of pace, escape from the hustle-and-bustle of modern-day life that seduces those who drop by the postage-stamp city of 1,000. Indeed, many upscale Romans and even “foreigners” from more-distant places have settled in the vicinity just to get that sense of “escape.”
But if sticking around very long — wham! — the throwback social attitudes, the gossipy and nosy neighbors, the local-politics grudges sometimes dating back decades — erupt to the fore. How best to live there? Most Romans know enough to advise interested friends: Keep your head down and your mouth shut.
THE LATEST pratfall, involving supposed alcohol-service violations of very dubious and largely unproven nature against the only upscale restaurant in town — rather important in a place where about the economy is based on tourism — is a real shame, and not only because they were apparently based on spying by elected officials who decided to pin a sheriff’s badge on themselves. Cave Spring has been showing signs of having a leadership finally interested in entering the 20th century (the 21st might be too much of a stretch).
It is positioned for growth and expansion, particularly residential (new four-lane emerging not far away, upgraded supply system for its legendary pure waters). It has actively pursued downtown economic development. The discovery of an apparent original two-story, 200-year-old Cherokee log cabin right on the square provides a chance at a huge legitimate tourist attraction (or did, until the “oldtimers” decided to take over restoration efforts and decisions on how to best use it from the “newcomers” who actually discovered it).
That Cave Spring would seek to enforce its alcohol ordinances is understandable. So does Rome, with some police-force zeal at times. However, perhaps no place else has been treated to having elected officials setting up a secret surveillance outpost across the street to see if a wine glass is held in a hand extended past the doorway or that the “open” neon sign gets turned off at exactly 10 p.m., or rummaged through municipal trash receptacles to “prove” that alcohol must have been consumed outside the premises.
THIS IS apparently a habit on the part of the vigilante force and why the Chrome Cowboys Smokehouse Grill on the same block, that brought “gangs” of gray-haired motorcyclists who like to take nature rides to town with their tourist dollars, left. It reopened in that notorious center of sin ... Cedartown.
At the City Council session where members voted that three days of lashes with a dry whip should be imposed on the Waterclub, whose highly respected restaurateur owners and children live above this eatery and thus brought the ill repute of their former Atlanta homeland with them, resident Donna Staples summed it up well in speaking for the 40-or-so Waterclub/progress supporters who showed up. By the way, that’s like having 4,000 angry citizens show up at a Floyd County Commission meeting.
Ms. Staples, also in business there (Country Cousin) and a member of the Downtown Development Authority, pointed out that the Waterclub — so named because it specializes in serving pure local water, by the way — was exactly the sort of venture that would attract other merchants to the downtown and its many empty storefronts.
“It’s really hard to do that when everything that comes out of this community and into the news media is so negative,” she said. “It’s really to the point of absurd, because we are in the 21st century, believe it or not. It’s asking us to do the impossible because we’re trying to work with our hands tied behind our backs.”
And so now there’s a recall movement aimed at the perceived ringleader of the vigilante forces.
IT IS BEING led by that notorious outlander, Eric Haney — he’s from Lindale originally. He also has some fame in literary, Hollywood and military circles but, as former Army command sergeant majors and security experts tend to be, is slow to reach a boiling point.
As Haney summed it up: “We feel that, in many instances, members base their decisions not in the best interest of the city but by making decisions based on personal whim, personal feeling. And that’s inappropriate; it’s not good for city government.”
Perhaps Haney and others in Cave Spring who know what century they are in will succeed. Maybe not. Perhaps charming and otherwise delightful Cave Spring will have a future. Maybe not.
However, what most who follow this soap opera know is that Cave Spring, the only other incorporated city in Floyd County, is not and never has been the Mayberry, U.S.A., that it likes to pretend. Come on now, would some who dwell there even welcome the late Andy Griffith as a resident ... or would he have wanted to live there? Griffith, after all was a highly active Democrat of the progressive variety all of his life.
AND ON the fabled TV series, his sheriff role gave the town drunk a key to the courthouse so he could lock himself into a cell by his own choice to stay out of trouble. That sure isn’t Cave Spring, which may be more like another TV series of the same time period, “Peyton Place.”
Based on a then-sensational book of the same name “Peyton Place” featured steamy doings behind the closed doors of families in a small New England village full of snoopy, gossipy, tell-all neighbors.
Cave Spring has long lived on image. Unfortunately, the one it thinks it has and the one it actually is fostering are very, very different.
Change would be welcome. As this latest secret surveillance caper proves, it is most certainly overdue.