Sixty-eight years ago today — September 21, 1953 — students walked through the doors of Crowley’s Ridge Academy for the first day of classes. That morning represented the culmination of years of dreaming, planning, fundraising and construction by the visionary men and women1 who put this place on the map.
Earlier this week, Assistant Principal Eric Hagood and I stood outside the high school and talked about how the neighborhood that now surrounds CRA essentially grew up around it. Apartments and houses were built near the school so that faculty and staff would have places to live nearby the school. Many of the houses nearest to us on Academy Drive were originally teachers’ homes. Neighborhoods developed around the campus as Paragould expanded westward.
One of the stories I learned as a student here at CRA was the 1947 classic “Stone Soup,” in which villagers in a community are convinced to contribute small amounts of their own stores, in the process creating a soup that feeds everyone. The effort to build CRA was no different. Gravel from one family’s creek beds, timber from someone’s nearby land, a homebuilder’s construction expertise, one farmer’s plow pulled by another’s vehicle — everyone brought something, large or small, to the effort.
And just look at what they made.
All these years later, we’re still making stone soup. Some folks write checks (or *cough* give online *cough*). Others share their time as volunteers. Family businesses pitch in to loan us construction expertise, or heavy equipment, or tents, or install a canopy to keep the sun off our walk-in freezer. They keep our air cold (or warm) as needed. When we’ve lacked something — from windows to root canals, from electrical work to school nurse duty, someone has stepped up.
I choose to believe that as long as there is a CRA, there will also always be friends of the school who bring something to the table. I suspect that back in the early fifties, when Emmett Smith and his cohorts were confronted with an obstacle to opening this Christian school, the right person made the right contribution at just the right time to clear a path for them. I’ve experienced that here as well: “How would we ever have gotten this done if not for…” and I can finish that sentence with a lot of names and stories of kindnesses.
The stress of the last 21 months is wearing on everyone, including me. Society seems determined to be mean, and opposition is the standard assumed position. It’s worn us all down and made us perhaps less kind, less patient, less loving. But as I sit here atop this small hill where stands a small school, I’m reminded of the international impact this little place has had in its nearly 70 years. And I’m reminded of what can happen when people choose to band together, to contribute whatever ingredients they have to the community soup.
Like watching students enter a classroom for the very first time, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.
1 I cannot verify this, but it’s too great to go unshared. I have been told that as several men corresponded with one another in the dreaming and planning stages of CRA, one of their wives finally spoke up and said, essentially, “All these letters and talks won’t get a school built.” Actual construction began in short order.