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Cafe Society to discuss what makes Shepherdstown unique at next session

By Staff | Dec 30, 2016

The Cafe Society will start the New Year on Jan. 3 with discussion of what makes our little town in the Eastern Panhandle so special. This is not intended to be just a public affairs promotional analysis, but rather a critical look at what works and what doesn’t work in and for our town — what elements are worth preserving and where might positive adjustments be considered. Most people who live in Shepherdstown or the surrounding community do believe it has qualities that make it a very attracting place in which to live and work. There are lots of large and small pixels with which we can draw the picture, but even then there is a subjective binding force that is hard to explain. But whatever it is, we want to protect it, keep it, maybe even expand or exploit it a little. With the forces set in motion by the recent Presidential election, that might present a substantial challenge.

Cafe Society discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University (SU) Student Center. They are an integral part of the SU Life Long Learning Program and are intended to facilitate a dialog on current issues between the students and older members of our community. There are no fees or registration requirements

Cafe Society facilitator, Mike Austin explained, “We often hear comments about the comparative quality of life in Shepherdstown as opposed to other cities in the county or Eastern Panhandle. And generally it is conceded that it really is a very special place. The logical question then is: ‘What does make it so unique or special?’ Being a rather small, and having a compact village atmosphere helps. So does being a University town with its demand for a large variety of professional skills, human resources, and constant renewal through the ebb and flow of new and returning students. It has its place in history which gives you pause to consider our present day lives in a broader context.

“This land, some of these houses, the old Thomas Shepherd Mill, this tiny stream that threads it way around and under buildings and streets, all make you more thoughtfully aware that this precious spot on the bend of the Potomac near Pack Horse Ford is hallowed ground. You can’t help but identify with significant events that occurred here and provided a lasting legacy for the town such as the Beeline March from a spring near Morgan’s Grove, Rumsey’s first experiments with steam propulsion, the C & O Canal along the river, the Tobacco Warehouse, and important cottage industries.”

Austin added, “Many of these elements survive in modern form where small town culture is pervasive and interdependencies are acknowledged and encouraged. The many resident shop owners who know most of their customers by name and the unhurried conduct of business set the tone. The siren of the local volunteer fire department reminds you of the bond between neighbors in providing safety and security as well as emergency care when needed. The Community Club’s War Memorial Building, Historic Commission’s Entler Hotel, the Train Station, and the Library all provide important facilities for community activities. The inter-ministerial association facilitates close coordination and cooperation among the various churches in town and this is augmented by other philanthropic organizations including the Care Givers, Meals on wheels, SAIL, the Rotary Club, Kiwanis and numerous groups that support cultural and recreational activities. The awareness of these efforts and activities is actively supported by The Chronicle which focuses on Shepherdstown with overlapping support from the Herald Mail in nearby Maryland and other weekly and monthly papers.”

Austin concluded, “Whatever tweaking one might consider doing, or examining further to see what makes Shepherdstown tick would be like trying to paint a moving train. The place won’t (can’t) hold still long enough to accomplish much. A couple years ago several of us constructed a list of all the organizations, clubs, and social entities in and about town in an attempt to improve coordination and reduce scheduling conflicts. It covered several pages and defied restructuring. We saw that any changes would have to be evolutionary and well thought- out including an understanding of the overlapping synergies between many of the components. It truly is an interesting place and complex as it is, it works. We should have a very interesting discussion.”