In Russia, Krushchev and his officials were celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's birth. Troops were being stationed across New England to prevent violence as the Black Panthers were holding a supposedly peaceful May Day demonstration in New Haven, Connecticut. At Kent State University in Ohio, students were up in arms after the National Guard had used tear gas and guns to break up a student rally at the center of campus. Texas had just completed a controversial election with remarkably low voter turnout in which George Bush, Sr., had been elected as senator. Meanwhile, a small town of 50,000 citizens in the Deep South was celebrating its centennial anniversary.
I was raised by southern parents and considered myself a Georgian for the first eleven years of my life, but I have had little exposure to small-town life of any sort. My home for the last ten years has been right outside Philadelphia, a big, liberal city in the Northeast.
My suburb of 80,000 people had a semblance of a community atmosphere (we celebrated Havertown Day with a parade every year), but we were not nearly as close as the community of Longview. I can hardly fathom the idea of a town where everyone knows one another. I may thus have an inaccurate picture of the culture of small towns in the American South, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. I picture them as close-knit, conservative communities with a great respect for their history and heritage, though this may be an inappropriate stereotype. In many ways, the community of Longview in 1970 seems to have fit into this mold, as evidenced by events of Centennial Week. They revered their history and heritage, their volunteer organizations were numerous and dominating, and they saw religion as foundational to good citizenship. However,