From our community house in Tucson, I traveled Interstate 40 from Arizona to Nashville, Tennessee. There I began a search for affordable housing with the purpose to be closer to family.
Nashville is undergoing an incredible transformation with as many as 80 people a day moving to the city. With the influx, landlords and homeowners are ramping up prices and winning at the game.
I literally drove 100 miles a day looking for housing from one side of Nashville to the other, later moving outward in concentric circles to find something in my price range and requirements for community spirit, health, and safety. A friend suggested I look at Bowling Green, Kentucky, about 50 minutes from downtown Nashville.
This weekend I moved into a beautiful apartment complex, and I am looking forward to learning more about my new hometown. I can walk on trails across the street and to the library around the corner. I added 235 square feet to have a small guest room. My Little House on Belmont furniture is just the right size, i.e. I need not add anything except an extra bed, someday.
Today, I began exploring at the Kentucky Museum on the campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU). There I was reminded that American communities are places of surprise, hidden gems, and histories of lesser and greater community character.
I learned that during the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state with both slave owners and abolitionists as well as those who advocated for gradual emancipation. The state was at war with itself. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, both Kentucky-born, grew into their political and social perspectives on slavery.
I was so impressed with the stories about Joshia Hensen, who escaped slavery to Canada then turned around and risked his life over and over again to bring 200 former slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad.
The Kentucky Museum showcases an assortment of Bowling Green notables. Exhibits tell the story of ties to South Korea and to Liberia through educators at the university which has an international education focus. A loved the story about Induk Pahk, a Korean- American writer who worked for years to replicate the Kentucky Berea College program. Her campaign – “Berea in Korea” – spanned 30 years of development. While reading about her, I met the Museum’s director, Brent Bjorkman, who explained the museum will soon add an exhibit about the Bosnian refugee resettlement in Bowling Green. Six thousand immigrants were resettled making up 10% of the small city’s population, and conferring a high Muslim population. A 2016 report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the significant contribution resettled refugees confer to the state.
And, among Bowling Green notables, Duncan Hines’ rise to fame and fortune is an excellent exhibit that demonstrates an era of growing middle class wealth in America when families looked for yummy food, eating-out, travel, and the invention of the living room in the out-of-doors (otherwise known as the backyard barbecue). Hines met these food and relaxation innovations with over 150 different products starting with guide books on great places to eat or stay, to producing everything from outdoor grills to great ice cream and his favored cake mixes! I am looking forward to attending Bowling Green’s next Duncan Hines Festival Day and getting my slice of the gigantic cake made each year in celebration of this hometown hero!