What is a "Civic League" and who ever heard of the Walden's Ridge Civic League? Isn't it the Mountain Opry? What will happen to the building now that the Mt. Opry has dissolved? Who owns it? Is it at risk of being torn down? Who is in charge anyway?
Officially Civic Leagues in the United States started in the 1890's. The idea was (1) to professionalize local government, and (2) to encourage self-government where local residents identified their own problems and found their own solutions.
Walden's Ridge Civic League evolved from the Fairmount School parent teacher association. It was organized in 1929 and incorporated in 1930 when there was little local government. There were no utilities, no police, no fire control, few good roads, and little social support system. The purpose of a Civic League was to provide these services, and the residents of Walden’s Ridge formed their organization with Committees that handled: (a) Legislation and Conference – to connect with city, county and state governments (b) Finance and Budget – to handle money for local needs (c) Publicity and Membership – to build the League (d) Roads – to build, mark and maintain roads (e) Utilities – to set up a water system, to bring in electricity (f) Transportation – to start a bus line and assure trucking services (g) Fire and Police – to provide volunteers to respond to fires, to keep law & order (h) Educating and Health – to teach domestic, farming, hygiene and financial skills (i) Ways and Means – to sustain the League (j) Entertainment – to provide lawn fetes, carnivals, dances, plays, sports teams, etc. (k) Parks and Playgrounds – to maintain common meeting and recreation areas
These Committees worked conscientiously and produced results. Among them were:
Today, of course, the Civic League members do not have to work as hard as they once did. We can appreciate our legacy and enjoy it. The early Civic League members hosted carnivals, plays, dinners, dances, music, games, classes, recitals, hay rides, minstrels, bonfires, bar-b-ques, contests, lectures, family gatherings, weddings, parties and more. We hope to repeat these traditions and add new activities that suit the wishes of the residents of Walden's Ridge today.
The Walden's Ridge Civic League owns 3.46 acres with an auditorium, two other buildings, covered pavilion, playground, playing field and track. It was deeded to us for community use on May 22, 1946. As long as the property is used by the people, it belongs to all of us. Won't you join us and enjoy it as we reestablish its place in our community?
The first school in Hamilton County, Fairmount Academy, was established on Walden's Ridge in 1858 at the little community of Fairmount near an all-weather spring. Later, the newer Fairmount School was built by the Hamilton County Department of Education a mile south of the Academy on Fairmount Pike near the point where Anderson Pike and Key-Hulsey intersected with the Pike. It was "newer" but it had no running water. The children pulled water from a well and used privies.
Fairmount School was the hub of the community, and most of the students were children of coal miners and farmers. In those days, roads were largely dirt. Entertainment was reading from the Bible before the sun went down and attending services of Sunday. The church and neighbors furnished social welfare. There was no fire or police protection. Electricity was a great rarity. For water, a family dug a well, and of course they also dug a toilet pit. Children attended school when they weren't needed to work at home.
Mr. W. V. Beene was the dedicated principal of Fairmount School. He and the teachers wanted the best for their students, so they urged parents to join them and help. One of the biggest challenges was keeping students in school. If they could build a place big enough to gather the whole community together, they might get better participation at school.
According to notes written in longhand by an unknown record keeper for the Fairmount School Improvement League on November 5, 1920, "There followed a debate on the subject: Shall we build an Auditorium now, or Shall we wait?" Arguing for the affirmative in the formal debate were Mrs. C. W. Shackleford and Mr. T.M. Kell; for the negative were Mrs. A. W. Freudenberg and Mr. Beene. "The judges decided in favor of the affirmative."
From that decision point on, there was a united effort to build an auditorium at the school. Through the following years, countless ice-cream socials, carnivals, fetes, recitations, readings, spelling bees, contests in arithmetic, picnics, tacky parties, watermelon cuttings, turkey shoots, plays, musicals and more were held at private homes to raise money. Funds for the building trickled in: $5.65 profit from a pie social, $19.70 from a lawn party, $4.80 from playground games.
Members agreed to pay dues of 10 cents if they attended a meeting and a fine of 25 cents if they missed. It was hard and slow. Meticulous accounts were kept of the pennies: 1.5 yards of gravel @ $2.40 per yard plus hauling $8.00; 25 bags of cement $29.10 plus hauling $6.25; cost of nails $15.50 plus hauling $1.00. Most of the work was done by local men and women. Labor donations are listed in the days given: 8, 5, 1.5, 2, 6.
Mr. Hollister, Mr. G. Hauer, Mr. Simmonds, Mr. A.W. Freudenberg, Mrs. Rawlings, Mrs. Stevens, and Miss Burk agreed to be Trustees on April 24, 1922. They went into debt to the lumber company. They took out a loan. Everyone worked like beavers, and they constructed their auditorium well enough in 1921 that it is still in use today.