By Matt Flumerfelt
LAKELAND — Saturday’s Milltown Mural Motorcade did not exactly run like clockwork, said Nell Roquemore, founder of the annual event, but they seldom do. However, that's part of the charm of this 10 year old event, designed to celebrate the community and its origins.
“The murals represent people who were alive when Milltown changed its name to Lakeland,” said Lakeland resident Randy Patten. “It’s a living memory of the day Lakeland became Lakeland,” he added.
Patten said his grandfather, J. D. Patten, adorns the side of the old Purvis Grocery Building. In the mural, Patten’s grandfather is eighteen years old and not yet married, he said. Lakeland firefighter Hank Obester said a picture of artist Ralph Waldrop, who painted many of the murals, is depicted in the local jail behind the Lakeland Drugstore because none of Lakeland’s other
residents would volunteer to let themselves be painted in jail.
Waldrop created the murals using photographs from the Milltown era, according to information furnished by the Lanier County Historical Society.
Men in period straw hats sauntered up and down the main strip alongside vintage automobiles, while strains of “The Charleston,” played on a honky-tonk piano, filtered into the street from inside the Historical Society building at 103 E. Main St.
Notable examples of the classic cars parked along Main Street were a dark green 1927 British made Bentley, and a burgundy and black 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost double pullman limousine. The classic cars were added to the Motorcade seven years ago, Roquemore said.
Tim Olivar was one of those performing street monologues based on the lives of former Lakeland residents as part of a project led by VSU Drama professor Jacque Wheeler. Olivar portrayed Ben Hill Crum, who operated the Milltown Motor Company in 1925. Milltown Motor Company housed a Model T Ford assembly plant, according to a Historical Society pamphlet.
“I am a little worried about the speed of cars these days,” Olivar said in proper southern accent. “The other day a young man came speeding by and almost ran me down. He must have been going 40 miles an hour and that’s just too dadgum fast. I can’t complain though,” Olivar continued, “because I probably sold him the car and that makes me smile.”
Lanier County Historical Society President Lisa Norton said “Lakeland is unique because those who grew up here always yearn to come back. This is a very giving community. We treasure our past.”
The Motorcade began at 1 p.m. on Main Street, and made its way to Roquemore Park, where food, fun, fellowship, kids games and live music by the Sweetwater Creek Bluegrass Band, rewarded those who completed the journey.