Edna McCleskey Haney lived a few generations ago in Woodstock. Little did she know that one day her story would catch the fancy of a writer in Woodstock named Patti Brady, and, as they say after one thing has led to another, the rest is history.
As history, or in this case “her-story,” is recorded, it’s not so much what folks do, but the way someone tells their story. While Edna’s claim to fame was her motoring skills, few people knew about that, then or now, until Patti repeated the tale from the Haney family memoirs.
In Patti’s blog, “Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA” last winter, she gives a little background. Edna married Dave Haney in 1905. They built the home that we still call the Haney House on Main Street.
Dave and his partner W. D. Bozeman ran a general store. In 1913, Dave decided to purchase a Model T car, and part of the deal was free driving lessons. Edna took advantage of that, and one of her motoring escapades is described in the memoirs.
That colorful story bears repeating, along with other Haney family stories. You might want to read Patti’s blog. Or better still, make plans to attend one of three performances of “Mizz Edna Drives on Main” at the Elm Street theater this weekend. And that’s another story.
Not long after the Towne Lake Arts Center moved to Woodstock and became a part of the Elm Street Cultural Arts project, I mentioned to Director Gay Grooms (several times, nagger that I am) how nice it would be for her group to do a production featuring a Woodstock family in our town’s history.
I could envision an audience absorbing a little local history and being entertained in a theater setting, then walking outside to look at beautiful historic homes where the characters lived 100 years ago, and then walking down Main Street past the shops and warehouses and the depot where the daily lives of the citizens were played out in bygone days.
We talked, and even did some research, but never put plans into place until … well, until a “funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.” For the past few years, Preservation Woodstock has hosted at least one exhibit or tour event annually, and decided to focus on a “Women in Woodstock’s History” exhibit as our 2013 project.
The idea of a play was discussed, in addition to an exhibit. Patti’s blog and her passion for the story along with Gay’s enthusiasm and creative spirit brought it all together, and here we are.
Audience members may come away with a new or renewed sense of place, of being a part of a community whose past invites all generations and all citizens to embrace those elements that were the foundation and building blocks of Woodstock.
After all, a “good citizen” is one who appreciates the city, recognizing it as more than a place to hang one’s hat, or dine or shop or complain about the traffic.
Once folks connect with the town’s heritage, they are more likely to appreciate the Woodstock that is evolving, a city with a past, a present and a future. Patti’s blog tag line is, “Where the past inspires the present.” How true that has been over the past few weeks.
And while Gay has been busy producing “Mizz Edna,” Patti has been busy putting the exhibit together. It is slated for three weeks in November at the Woodstock Public Library. Edna is one of seven women who will be featured. More about that later.
For now, let’s enjoy learning about Edna and the Haneys, and about our town 100 years ago. How fortunate we are that some family members chose to record the stories that had been passed down to them.
What a heritage, and what a treasure, not only for the family, but for all of us since the family chose to share that record with Preservation Woodstock.
The house is a beautiful structure and represents well the pride we feel in our city’s past.
There will be opportunity to meet the cast members at the house (which is for sale) from 5 to 7 p.m. following Sunday’s performance which begins at 2 p.m.
Performances on Friday and Saturday are at 7:30 p.m. Let’s ride with Mizz Edna through twists and turns on a road less traveled until she comes to a fork in the road … and takes it. What a ride.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.