Changes abound in Poplarville

Published 2:19 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The city of Poplarville is growing — a self-evident fact when you look at the changes that have occurred and are occurring. Having grown up in what was once a sleepy stop on the railroad I can attest to many changes just in my 50-something years here. Others could document much more.

One indicator of that growth is the expansion of city boundaries now being proposed to the west, south and east and that is covered briefly in one of our front page stories this week. There will be many more articles on this topic as more details emerge. As with any change there are always negative and positive aspects, some of which depends on a person’s point of view.

Many years a go a high school friend summed up his opposition to growth for Poplarville — it would change the nature of this town from a comfortable, safer place to live to a larger, more complex city with all the attendant negatives associated with large groupings of people.

On the flip side, those who favor growth see a different aspect, one that can be summed up by looking at where many of your high school graduates end up: Anywhere but here. It has been drummed into our heads that to advance in the world you have to be successful and for good or ill that means getting a good paying job. For a long time those good paying employment opportunities were not here or not close enough to allow people to live here and commute. Growth can change that for the better.

Over the years that image of having to move away has changed a bit. Expansion of better technology and improved means of transportation allow people to live further from their places of employment. Also, growth of nearby larger cities have created a spill-over effect as people seek a quieter, safer place to live. Unfortunately, that spill-over dovetails back into the negative aspect of growth for the small, rural areas. We can run from growth but it catches up to us and changes us in many ways — some very subtly, some more apparent.

What are a few of the physical changes here? In the 1950s, Highway 11 was the main north-south artery of transportation with Highway 53 to the south and Highway 26 the east-west corridor. Growth on Highway 53 in town was nonexistent as best I can remember until the building of the high school. There were only two grade schools in town, 1 through 12 at the Lower Elementary and the Todd Memorial school on what was then East Beers St., now Martin Luther King Drive. Pearl River Jr. College was still in the same location but with a smaller footprint, i.e. no technology building, coliseum, ballfields (other than the now football practice field) or many of the current housing buildings.

A small grove of tungnut trees shaded a ramshackle building where the Kangaroo quick stop now sits and homes could be found on the Poplarville Plaza site. The Poplarville Park with its walking track had a large Community Center building, a swimming pool, a ballfield and tennis court and, near the railroad track, a Scout Hut and a hamper mill that made crates or barrels related to the tung industry (I think). Sorry, I’m going on 50 years of memory here.

There was an ice house adjacent to the railroad tracks at the end of the street past BankPlus and a dental office occupied the building where Brother’s Keepers formerly ran their aid ministry. Part of the empty lot near the Kountry Kitchen was one of the town’s main grocery stores and the older part of the former restaurant across from Longleaf Farm and Garden used to be the Farmer’s Co-Op. Where Longleaf is was the town’s railroad station and across from that was Orr’s two-story boarding house.

The list goes on and on and maybe at some point I can touch on more of the changes. The point is, growth is happening. Whether that growth is negative or positive is something we as citizens can impact and to some extent control. If we want it to be positive we have to take a proactive attitude — someone will have to take the lead. Does this area, does Poplarville, have anyone willing to do that? We sometimes wonder.

Butch Weir