It’s a part of Tri-C history now, this story that started with two friends.
A few years ago – at least five years now – Sheri Hunter, a teacher at Carterville High School, and Jennifer Spence, a former student who had moved to Nashville to pursue a career in advertising, were long-distance friends. During one of their visits, Sheri mentioned a photo collection she had recently come across in the local library.
She said that one day, the two of them should work together to put those photos in a book in order to preserve “a treasure that needed to be shared with the community.”
Several of those photos belonged to the late Russell Talley, who began collecting them in the 1960s, displaying his collection on the walls of his business, Talley Cleaners. Talley eventually donated his collection to the Heritage House to display on their walls and later to the Anne West Lindsey District Library, where Sheri saw some of them.
Years later, after Sheri retired, she was visiting Jennifer at her Tennessee home. Over dinner, the two talked about those photos and agreed that it was time to “work on that book.”
What started with simply downloading a photo collection turned into a community event as residents gathered at First Baptist Church on Photo Sharing Day, May 22, 2010, with their favorite photos in hand and stories to tell.
Volunteers scanned and saved every photo, amassing more than 600 historic images in an ever-growing archive.
Both Sheri and Jennifer knew, at that point, that they had their work cut out for them. Even though they got lots of help and support from the community, it still took a “solid year packed with hours to put the stories and photos together into a book,” Jennifer said.
She and Sheri did research, conducted interviews and co-wrote more than 40 chapters. Jennifer bought a used Mac, quickly learned the design program and designed the pages and made arrangements for self-publication. The newly formed Carterville Heritage & Preservation Foundation helped raise funds, and sponsorships were sold for each of the 40 chapters, as the community came together to pay to publish the book.
“Carterville, Cambria & Crainville: A Look Back At Our Towns” was published to great local fanfare on June 25, 2011, the same year the old high school was torn down and the heritage museum opened.
“When we launched the book, the town threw a huge parade,” Jennifer said. “Hundreds of people came from miles away. We held a large event in the old high School, including a theatrical production based on the book, and it was the perfect opportunity to share memories prior to the high school being torn down. The entire day was truly magical for Carterville, something you would see in a movie.”
“A Look Back” is a big, pricey book, 400 pages and $48, but it’s comprehensive, entertaining, organized and extensively illustrated.
It’s as attractive and as colorful as most popular coffee-table volumes, with a wealth of facts and photos that would rival any modern history book. There are, in fact, more than 2,000 images, timelines with every chapter, community interviews and Facebook features with community comments.
The stories are too numerous to mention, but if there’s one overriding theme in the history of the Tri-C area, it’s the open-hearted and helpful spirit of its people.
“Our town rallies together; it is a close community,” Jennifer said.
“And there’s another common thread: the importance of our educational system,” Sheri said, “and how it brought and continues to bring new people to our community.”
All of the proceeds from the sale of “Carterville, Cambria & Crainville: A Look Back At Our Towns” go to the Carterville Heritage & Preservation Foundation, an organization that created and runs the Carterville Heritage Museum in downtown Carterville, and utilizes funds to support history and restoration in the Tri-C area.
The foundation donated some of the funds from the sale of the book to the Anne West Lindsey District Library, “for its generous use of Russell Talley’s photo collection and for providing the community with the tools to discover history.”
“This adventure through time, tedious and long as it has been, was a labor of love, our gift to ‘our town,’” wrote the authors on the dustcover of the book, along with, “A look back so we may look ahead … stronger, more inspired, and ready for a new day.
“This book is only the beginning …”
For more information, visit cartervilleheritage.com.