Project Overview

Welcome to a site about a little town, its places, and its people. During my childhood in Monroe County, Alabama, I was on the receiving end of countless stories about my hometown, Frisco City, a town with a population of about 1,400, and "the way it used to be." My dad and I made frequent bicycle trips from our house to the downtown "main drag" of buildings and businesses, and he usually had a ready description of the Frisco Theater, the old cotton gin, the Coca-Cola and Royal Crown bottling plants, or Mr. Alton Johnson's shoe repair shop, none of which remained in the town in my childhood in the 1980s. To me, Frisco City had always seemed a deteriorating town, with, disappointingly, no movie theater and hardly any businesses on Bowden Street (the town's main street), but I began to notice the town’s changing myself when the downtown drug store, which still served milkshakes and soft drinks during my childhood, burned in 2001. It and a couple of neighboring buildings were completely destroyed and not rebuilt, and I began to feel an urgent need to better understand what was left of my hometown, even as I watched it physically decline in the following years. As I intentionally sought more of my dad's stories, and those of other Frisco City residents, I began to realize that the quiet, decaying town of 2010 had been even more busy than I'd imagined. I listened to the often-entertaining stories about the old downtown area with interest, but I never realized how much Frisco City had actually changed until I saw an old 1950s photograph of the town.

          I was struck by the power of that photograph, which by itself produced the effect of making me ask numerous new questions about Frisco City's history, and I discovered that it and other old photographs had the power to spark much-needed conversation among Frisco City's residents. 

           In a recent graduate school course,
I learned about the concept of rephotography, of re-taking old photographs from similar, if not identical, viewpoints to show then-and-now changes in the photos' subjects. I decided to conduct a rephotography project in Frisco City to help me better understand the changes that have taken place there. Beginning with the geographically-compact downtown stretch of buildings, I've re-taken old photographs in hopes of creating pairs or sets of photos that can illustrate the varying uses of the downtown buildings by Frisco City's merchants and residents.*

In the process of making photographs and conducting interviews with Frisco City residents about the businesses they remember, I've encountered, among many residents, an overwhelming sense of loss about the way they remember the town "in the old days" and, among others, especially younger residents, outright shock that tired old Frisco City was once such a vibrant place. 
To me, these photographs are powerful first steps in exploring, deepening, and eventually moving toward answering the questions I've begun forming about what happened between the 1970s and 2010 that made Frisco City the deteriorating town it seems to be today. Look with me at Frisco City's changes, and listen to its residents' stories. 

*I am especially grateful to several Frisco City residents who have loaned Frisco City School yearbooks (with wonderful pictures in the ads sections), family photo albums, Frisco City Women's Club scrapbooks, and personal photographs to me for this project: Ronnie Ray, Dot Sims, Ginny Hudson, Fredia Tatum, and Tim Taylor.
I am also deeply grateful to the people who loaned me their faces and voices for the interview clips you'll see: Jimmy and Fredia Tatum, Ronnie Ray, Lou Dunn, Annie Laura Tatum, and Tim Taylor. The list becomes infinite when I try to include everyone else who has graciously stopped on the sidewalks and in the businesses downtown to help identify people and places and to share memories.  You all have enchanted me with your stories of "old Frisco City," and this project could not have happened without your help. Thank you.