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New to city, but where are the native Charlotteans?
I've learned there are transplants galore
Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 9:00 am
by Michele J. Chilton

In the 1950s, folk singer Pete Seeger asked the question, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”1 For all you pre- and post-millennials, ask a friendly Baby Boomer or Generation Xer to explain it to you.

Then again, perhaps the generation gap is quite fitting, for today I very well might ask, “Where Have All the native Charlotteans Gone?” Have they been plucked, wilted, withered away or moved aside and bloomed in neighboring towns just to get away from the crowds of newcomers?   

I can’t tell you how many people here in Charlotte have told me that they were from some other part of the country or even from different cities in North Carolina. As a fellow newcomer myself – all of six weeks – I am among Charlotte’s new breed of transplants from California to Connecticut. While we are not “born and bred” Charlotteans, we are ready to make our mark on a city growing by leaps and bounds.

Now with all this progress, I suppose it’s inevitable for a loss of charm to occur. I experienced this first hand a few weeks ago at a local business. And what’s up with the whole uptown- downtown motif? I thought you were supposed to “Take the A Train” Uptown.2 It’s another Baby Boomer reference.

And while I’m in an inquisitive mood, is there any reason why there are so many streets named Sharon – Sharon this and Sharon that? Who is this woman named Sharon, and what is her claim to fame or infamy that has lent itself to such confusion on the streets of Charlotte? And while I’m still on my tangent, can anyone tell me what happened to the street I was just on? As I was traveling south on Tryon last week, the street just up and disappeared as I found myself on Camden Road.  Can anyone help a directionally-challenged sistah out?

Thankfully, I recognized The Post and with a bit of help from a gentleman on the street, I was able to get back onto Tryon. So much for not talking to strangers! Well, I guess I missed the boat on listening to one of mom’s top-10 lists of does and don’ts – right up there with making sure you have on clean underwear just in case you are in an accident.

Oh boy, nothing like a good rabbit trail to get you off track. Well, back to my business account. How shocking to observe the half-hearted smiles and grunt-laced hellos as the greeting employee attempted to welcome customers coming through the doors.  Was this the South I had pictured and so eagerly expected? Where was the “How you doing baby?” and “I’m so glad to see you” I so anticipated.

I, admit, I expected that stereotypical Southern hospitality at its finest to embrace me like a warm blanket on a cold-winter’s night. I guess you can tell I’m a Northern girl. I’m a neophyte as green as grass so I see from a fresh perspective of my newly espoused dwelling place. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my new spot, but part of me is still longing for the quaint, nostalgic days of old – a step back in time, but not too far as that is a serious topic for another day’s column.

Still, I’m pleasantly surprised and quite frankly amazed how many people are aware of the history behind the city’s central landmark – Trade and Tryon Streets. Kudos goes out to all of you for that lesson learned! So, I guess, there still is some Southern charm lingering after all.

I believe while taking my evening constitution this past weekend I discovered it. Block by block, I was melodiously drawn in. Harmonious sounds permeating the atmosphere led me past a local restaurant featuring an outdoor musician until I finally reached the center. At its very core was an R&B, jazz band lighting up the night sky for all those – like myself – assembled to take note.

Eventually, there were some who, overcome with sheer excitement, decided to join in the festivities via song and dance. What a picture-perfect scene for all those living and visiting, especially a shout out to the beauty and talented women dressed in pink and green, Alpha Kappa Alpha, in town for their 66th boule’. Welcome ladies and thank you Charlotte for welcoming me, yet another newcomer to your royal city.

Pennsylvania native Michele J. Chilton moved to Charlotte to study at Charlotte School of Law.    


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