Americana is a great place to be

Published 1:16 am Saturday, October 26, 2013

Oh, Michele, you missed it! The parade was just wonderful.

Those were the word of my friend Connie when I joined my high school classmates for a reunion that was well underway last Friday night. Born exactly two weeks apart and reared in the Methodist church where we met in the nursery, we have literally been friends all of our lives.

I smiled as she described what made the parade so special.

People were lining the streets and waving. It was SO much fun.

Life took Connie to FedEx’s corporate headquarters in Memphis, and she loves to come farther south for a good dose of home.

I’m certain it was, I told her. But we live Americana every day.

The feelings she described must be akin to what Charles Anderson feels when he visits Andalusia.

Anderson is the retired geography teacher who spent 50 years researching small towns in America to produce his list of the top 100. He first discovered Andalusia when his son was a college student in Dothan, and we have long been on his list, In Search of Eden, which he has spent the last year promoting. But as he gets to know us better, he keeps revising the list.

We debuted at No. 49, later rose to No. 44, and after Anderson and his wife visited a few weeks ago, we jumped 11 notches to No. 33.

Charles Anderson put us on the list because we have many of the amenities of popular retirement places in Alabama at a fraction of the cost. He keeps moving us up because he likes our community spirit.

Despite his efforts to keep decisions about his list as scientific as possible, he told me yesterday, you just can’t leave emotion out of it.

We deserve extra credit, he said, because we have embraced the designation and made it a point of community pride.

He loves the community space on our court square, the charm of downtown, and the enthusiasm we have for his ranking.

Mayor Earl Johnson recognized a good PR tool when he saw it, and immediately began planning to promote Andalusia as “Alabama’s top town.” Even when we were 49th on Anderson’s list, we ranked higher than any other town in Alabama.

Now it says so on city letterhead and on promotional items. The voices on the other end of the phone remind us of our designation when we call city hall.

And really, we should be proud.

A wise man who happens to be my boss always says “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities.”

Andalusia is not without opportunities. But visit a few other towns and you’ll find you appreciate home even more. Small town Americana is a charming place to be. Visitors recognize it; we should, too.