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Florence preserving its hometown heritage

Staff writer

When Bob Gayle moved away from Florence in 1978, he never thought he’d return. He came back 33 years later, to make things in his hometown better.

Over the years he was away working as a diesel mechanic, returning to Florence made him sad. Ultimately, someone needed to make things better. That’s why he decided to return.

“We’ve got a lot of history in this little burg, and if we don’t preserve the history, we’re not going to have it,” he said.

The Harvey House Museum is “one of the things that’s right about this town,” Gayle said.

Iva Britton, president of the board of Florence’s historical society, said there had been a lot of settlers in Florence, but Fred Harvey gave the town its elegance.

“It’s a big part of history here,” Britton said. “When it’s gone, the history of Fred Harvey is gone.”

Five to eight volunteers keep the Harvey House going throughout the year, cooking and serving meals, keeping the place shining, and seeing that money is raised to take care of needed repair and maintenance.

During a Saturday picnic on the lawn at which donations were given to the museum in return for a meal of fried catfish or mountain oysters, an array of side dishes, and many choices for dessert, Britton was thankful for the money dropped into the kitty.

“This dinner, this is what we live on,” she said of the historical society.

Besides core volunteers, other community members pitch in when needed. Thanks to them, the house gets painted when needed, needed repairs get done, and the house is kept up.

Britton, who has lived in Florence nearly 60 years, said that when history was lost, it could never be replaced.

“You’ve got to keep thinking positive and make a goal to work at it,” Britton said.

Last modified June 23, 2022

 

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