Regardless of what you have read or heard, this newspaper doesn’t make the news – we just report it.
But a quick look at the headlines in this week’s Chickasaw Journal will show that something is happening in Houlka.
We’ve got a story on distracted driving, the fire department seeking volunteers and the downtown area trying to cash in on Tanglefoot Trail with bike and pedestrian paths pointing to the square. And you can also turn to our sports section were we bring you the latest in Wildcat baseball and softball.
That’s a lot of new for a town of just over 600 people.
I found myself talking to Mayor Jimmy Kelly on two separate occasion last week. He talked about his community and the problems it faces. Limited sales tax dollars, a limited number of local jobs and a limited number of options to make things happen.
“But a few things are beginning to happen around here,” said Kelly. “I’ll be the first to say, I didn’t think the Tanglefoot Trail would do what it has done for this town. This is an opportunity for us and we are going to take it.”
Everyone knows the decision of this little town to pull up root and move closer to the railroad years ago.
It was a smart move by a close-knit, rural community that saw an opportunity and did something about it. In that respect, not a lot has changed in Houlka.
The town is built around a square and fronts the railroad track. Their Cornbread Festival last fall was a spur-of-the-moment thing that was a huge success and could become that town’s signature event.
Houlka is also home of the Chickasaw County School District. This community wisely preserved it’s old school house in a day and age when most of Mississippi was tearing them down. It really is a unique building for Chickasaw County.
I had only been in Chickasaw County a short time when I drove past the “Chickasaw Journal” building in Houlka. I asked around but never got a firm answer about this building or this business.
Okolona and Houston have done a good job of preserving their history at the Chickasaw County Museum. Houlka needs to find some folks willing to help preserve theirs.
Like most small, rural communities, Houlka has had some ups and downs. There are too many empty building on the square, the bank pulled out of town a couple of years ago, the Mexican restaurant closed and the hardware store lost a longtime employee recently.
In a small town, one business or one person brings a lot to the table. Their loss is always more noticeable.
Yes, you still have a hair salon, auto parts store, insurance company, post office and medical clinic anchoring the square. You also have two new restaurants on the square and a new one on the highway.
I also want to point out downtown Houlka business property looks to be in better structural shape than some of the empty stores we have in Houston and Okolona.
And last but not least there are people in Houlka who have that “can-do” attitude. The Chickasaw Development Foundation recognized a local entrepreneur at their recent. annual banquet.
They are friendly people who don’t bellyache about what’s wrong but point to what their community has to offer. They are people who are quick to roll up their sleeves to help the handicapped, local sports program and folks who have just fallen on hard times with a fundraiser, Easter Egg hunt or Christmas bazaar.
Is everything perfect and rosy in Houlka? Those that live there will tell you they’ve got their problems, but they will also look you in the eye and tell you they are trying to fix them.
They call this paper the Chickasaw Journal and while Houston and Okolona are a little bigger and Woodland is a little closer, Houlka is our cherished neighbor to the north.
In weeks to come not every paper will have this much Houlka news in it. But today Houlka looks to be the happening place in Chickasaw County.
We would like to remind the folk in Houlka that the roads to their town go both ways and we would love to seem them support us when our day in the sun arrives.
Let’s learn from each other and applaud each other when times are good. We all live in this place called Chickasaw County. We all benefit when one of us succeeds.
Floyd Ingram is Managing Editor/News for the Chickasaw Journal. He can be reached at 456-3771 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org