During quarantine, the HGTV show, “Home Town” has been my favorite source of entertainment. It has uplifted my spirits and made me laugh in a dark time. I imagine a lot of the residents of Laurel feel the same way.

America’s New Home Town

Laurel MS Mercantile

In 2000 my family moved to Gulfport, MS. On several occasions I drove north through Laurel, MS on my way home to Birmingham, AL. I always thought it had such a pretty name. But, from the interstate, it was a disappointment. It looked to be in poor shape. Old buildings either condemned or needing to be.

One night after another day of bad news in the year 2020, I switch the channel to HGTV and found the sweet smile of Erin Napier as she added a swing to a front porch. What a delight to think of a time when I used to sit on a swing on my grandmother’s front porch, laughing and visiting with my cousins. A much happier time, indeed. I put the remote away and continued to watch. Soon I discovered that the swing hung on a sweet little house in Laurel, MS. The next episode started with the introduction of the Blackledge house, I think. The main thing I remember was that the house had a family name.

As most of you know, I lost my daddy this year. One of the things we loved to do together occasionally was to drive to his hometown of Ragland, Alabama. As we drove through the country, Daddy would point out houses as the “Harris house” or the “Davis or Smith” house. It was such a sweet thought to know that he knew the people who lived there. He usually had a story to tell about the family. Some good. Some not so good.

The Nash House

Ragland-Nash-Home

Then we would round a curve and his “ole homestead” would appear. A small plot of land with a garden, a house with a front porch and stories that held some good and some not so good memories. In his day, it was the Nash house. The house where Ruby grew up, Harold died and Irving loved his invalid mother. The land where Andrew, his father, planted corn and tomatoes for his family. I wish now that I’d ask Daddy to give me more details of those stories. It’s not quite enough now to just have the facts. I wish I’d ask him about how his brother Harold died. I’d love to know more of his memories of his childhood in the Nash house. That’s what caught my attention on Home Town that night. Ben and Erin knew the people who lived in Laurel, MS. It wasn’t a town they passed on the interstate.

Episode after episode showed the rebirth of a little town I’d driven past for 3 years, thinking it might not be there much longer. I’m glad I was wrong about Laurel. I’m relieved that the town has been brought back to life. And I’m glad I lived in Gulfport for those 3 years. I met some of my best lifelong friends in Mississippi. I’m also glad that each renovation ended with the house being renamed with the family name of the new homeowners.

Home Town Takeover in Wetumpka, AL

There’s a small town in Alabama now that some may have driven through thinking it had little hope of making it. Well, Erin and Ben Napier were having no part of that “stinkin thinkin!” After 1000’s of cities entered for a chance to win a “takeover”, Wetumpka AL was chosen for the shows’ 2021 season. The whole town gets a makeover after the cast and crew of Home Town move in. I can’t wait to see what they do!

Wetumpka, AL - America's Newest Home Town