• 46°

Column: LOCAL HISTORY IS LIVING HISTORY

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / March 12, 1998

Growth in the River Parishes takes many forms and has many effects, bothgood and bad. On one hand, tax revenue is up. On the other hand, roads seemto be getting worse. On the one hand, there’s more business developmentand more residents. On the other hand, public services are sometimesstrained to keep up with the ever-increasing demand.

There are other fallouts from increasing growth. More people attract moreand a greater diversity of business. However, home-grown businessessometimes suffer from the competition and could lose in the economicbattle if they can’t keep up. Politics locally take a hard hit. Old-linepoliticians can find themselves feeling threatened by new blood and freshideas. At the same time, some new residents may end up hurting mattersby unknowingly voting for the wrong person or the wrong issue.

There’s one way, however, where long-time residents and newcomers cancome together peacably and work together for a common goal. Negativeeffects are rare and the benefits can be shared by all. This is in the areaof historic preservation.

People who have lived here all their lives can bring their memories, theirsouvenirs, their knowledge to bear and direct their energies towardinsuring a continued appreciation for local history. Newcomers can look atwhat we have to offer with a fresh eye, the joy of discovery and theenthusiasm to work with the long-time residents toward their commongoal.

Certainly, local historical societies in St. James, St. John the Baptist andSt. Charles welcome new members and more interest. There’s always workto be done and the results are visible and an object of civic pride.

Historical preservation is much more than museums and artifacts. Historyis a living thing, added to daily and contributing to what will be heretomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Genealogy is also a part ofhistorical research and everyone can contribute in some way toprotecting and preserving our history and heritage.History in the River Parishes, of course, is much more than old plantationhouses. There are businesses of historical importance, many homes datingback nearly 200 years, events in local history worthy of remembering and,most important, the people of this area who have made this communitywhat it is.

One day, local schools may teach a unit in River Parishes history, but firstthe materials for such a course must be gathered. There are historicalphotographs to be gathered, oral histories which must be recorded andmuch, much more researched and written to insure the knowledge ofyesterday and today is carried on into tomorrow.A greater knowledge and appreciation of the history of the River Parishescan only add to the appreciation of our unique culture. Such appreciationcan reap huge benefits economically and also build pride in ourcommunities. Generations of people will want to stay here and continue tobe a part of the history of the River Parishes and still more will be drawnby what we have to offer.

Much has been done but together, much more can be done.

Return To News Stories