19 June 2015

Impressions of Porterdale: A Write-up by Contributing Writer Ellis Millsaps

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

Impressions of Porterdale: A Write-up by Ellis Millsaps 

I had lived in Porterdale for less than a month before my bicycle was stolen. Unlike in my previous recount of Mansfield, the Mayor was not there to help me take down the culprit. 

I first visited Porterdale in 1986 when I was looking to move to Newton Co. My wife and I looked at a home here and, although the price was right, we immediately knew that it was no place we wanted to raise our children. Because it was Porterdale. And it was 1986. 

My next experience with the mill village was maybe a year later. I was an assistant D.A. and was interviewing some folks for a case I was working. To backtrack a bit, previously I had worked for the welfare department in my home county of Fannin Co. In that capacity I had seen some things - folks livin' in the hills who didn't have running water or electricity, but I never, until that day in Porterdale, had seen folks living in such squalor conditions. The day I was interviewing these people, there was a basketball-sized hole in the wall right by the front door - you could see through it. It was shortly after that visit that I composed a little ditty about this town set to the tune of Randy Newman's "Birmingham."

Porterdale, Porterdale. Meanest city this side of hell. You can sit beside the river if you can stand the smell. There's no place like Porterdale...
Bear with me Porterdale. As you know - it gets better. 

Twenty nine years later I find myself sitting on the front porch of my duplex here in Porterdale. It feels like what I imagine life in Brooklyn to have been like in the 1950's. The houses are close together and also very close to the street. Sometimes I think its like "Rear Window" except there's nothing to see except people sitting on their porches talking on cell phones and smoking. And there's definitely no Grace Kelly. 

More people walk past my place in an hour here than would happen by in an entire month in Mansfield. Oftentimes I speak to these people. Sometimes somebody bums a cigarette. 

Things are large here in Porterdale. The old mill is large. Those are now lofts. Even the people are large. It might be a small sample size but judging from my street, Porterdale may be one of the most obese cities in America. Of course the shiny residents of the gentrified lofts never walk by on my street. 

Porterdale, however, is the cleanest place I've lived, certainly cleaner than the other cities in Newton Co. except possibly Oxford. Almost every street has a sidewalk on both sides of the road in which the city meticulously maintains, edging them regularly and killing weeds in the crack. This is a major reason why we walk so much here and why there are so many good places to walk to. Doesn't seem to help the fat folks, though...

Ellis is an attorney by trade but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...