Anniversaries Abound: Preservation and Public Radio

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The 1950s and 1960s in Athens were a time of incredible growth and development. To make way for that unexpected growth, historic houses and buildings came tumbling down as they did all over the country during the post-war boom. Old was out; new was in.

“To remember Athens in the 1960s is to relive the anguish of seeing Greek Revival and Victorian-era mansions razed all over town,” writes John Waters, UGA professor emeritus, historic preservation. Suddenly, the beautiful, even the magnificent, was replaced with the practical. Whole neighborhoods were wiped out, particularly African American ones, and replaced with apartments, parking lots, plain, boxy but efficient commercial buildings.

Early preservation efforts began in 1959 but had sputtered out by the mid-60s. Then, the impending demolition of The Brumby House, one of Athens’ oldest remaining houses in the downtown urban renewal area spurred a small group to form a new organization in 1967 they called The Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation (ACHF) to try and save it. While many said it wasn’t “important” enough, and  and would be impossible (it did take five years),  ACHF members moved the house, restored it, and today it’s The Athens Welcome Center, still owned by ACHF.

The little house that could be saved laid the foundation for 50 years of work and accomplishment by thousands of individuals dedicated to historic preservation in Athens. The group has planned a year-long celebration of special events, exhibits, and tours. Go to www.achf.org for a complete listing. Of special interest to baby boomers will be “The Art of the Retro” lectures, and a mid-century modern tour of homes in September and October.

WUGA brings NPR favorites to town

WUGA Staffers
Four original staffers: David Bryant, Robb Holmes, Mary Kay Mitchell, Abbie Thaxton

It was 1987 when the long-awaited radio station at the Georgia Center began broadcasting as an affiliate of National Public Radio, now just NPR. Established in 1971, NPR was a presence in most major cities and universities, and some said its absence in Athens was an obstacle to faculty recruitment.

Whether that was so or not, the station has had a dedicated following since then, says Jimmy Sanders, station manager. To celebrate 30 years of operation through thick and thin budgets, some well-know NPR personalities will be visiting Athens this year, some new partnerships will be formed, and a new fundraising initiative will be kicked off.

Sanders says WUGA will be partnering with the Hodgson School of Music to broadcast concerts and working more closely with the Grady School of Journalism.

“Grady has outstanding faculty, many of whom are fresh from the professional world,” he explains. “We are developing projects to raise our journalism profile and serve the community.”

WUGA can’t run on-air fundraising drives specifically for itself, given that GPB raises money statewide. Instead, the station is launching The 1987 Club that will be promoted on the station’s website (wuga.org), social media, email and events. Supporters will be asked to contribute $19.87 a month for operational and training costs.

Meanwhile, etown will be coming to town soon at the Georgia Theatre on April 7. The nationally syndicated show is know for its musical guests and social/environmental programming.

Then, on Aug. 28, Steve Inskeep, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio news program in the country will be the featured speaker at an Aug. 28 dinner and reception.. Also planned this year, an outdoor jazz concert and open house.

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Betsy Bean
Betsy Bean completed graduate school at UGA in 1972. She was a school librarian for a year and then became a rock and roll DJ for the next 10. Subsequently, she worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, followed by public relations and marketing and newsletter publishing and was, more recently, the downtown development director for the City of Anniston, Ala.

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