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Leila S. Case: Plains retains friendly, vibrant hometown atmosphere

The first car I fell in love with was a Toyota Celica purchased sight unseen.
If my memory serves me correctly, there were 14 miles on the speedometer when I drove it out of the dealership.
Needless to say, I was surprised when my then-husband told me he had found a car for me. I was also skeptical and anxious as he drove me out-of-town to pick it up. I shouldn’t have been. I fell in love with that little car right from the start.
Oh, I had always had a vehicle to drive, but I never loved any like that Toyota Celica GT-S bought without my inspection before signing the dotted line.
Well, that was in 1973, and my two-door sporty vehicle got a workout for the next 13 years until the day the husband mentioned above came home declaring he had found another auto for me. It, too, was a good car but not like my beloved Toyota.
That Celica was a heavenly ride and a real workhorse, especially during the days when Jimmy Carter was running for U.S. president in the mid-1970s. I kept the road hot between the offices of the Americus Times-Recorder on the Vienna Road to Plains and back, driving there so often I sometimes thought the Celica was equipped with auto pilot capabilities.
Something was always going on in Plains and I covered most of it for the T-R during those days like my regular news beat but never officially designated as such.
There was always a story to write with a Plains dateline and I don’t think we missed many good stories and some were exclusive to our paper. I would either be in Plains when the story happened or get a tip. However, we didn’t rely on tips because I was usually on site.
Anyhow, all this to say Plains didn’t retreat into one of Southwest Georgia’s small, sleepy rural towns with boarded up store fronts after President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter returned to their hometown where they were both born and raised. They wanted to “come home” again.
Today, Plains is still hopping. There is much to see and do as I observed on a recent visit, everywhere you look from the small downtown business district to the charming, pristine residential section with shady, tree-lined streets and wide old-fashioned sidewalks that are perfect for strolling. Many homes, some dating to the early 1900s, have spacious porches for relaxing and visiting with friends and neighbors.
Plains has kept its downhome flavor — go visit — stop in at Plains Antique Mall and browse among their unique collectibles and heirloom items — you’re sure to snare a rare find; buy fried peanuts at Plains Peanuts to munch on or something snazzy to wear at Honey Hush, a unique ladies boutique, and then relax over a tall glass of sweet iced tea and delicious lunch at the Buffalo Café or the Silo restaurant.
Take the opportunity to visit Billy Carter’s Service Station that’s been turned into a museum and the old Plains High School, now a part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site that attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to see the exceptional exhibits. Even if you’ve been there previously, it’s worthy of another visit. Georgia’s spelling bee will take place there this month.
I fell in love with Plains at first sight years ago just like I did that Toyota Celica that took me there later.
Meanwhile, Amelia Cohen has enjoyed the week in New Orleans with out-of-town friends, exploring historic sites and dining at some of the Crescent City’s finest restaurants, including Commander’s Palace and Galatoire’s in the French Quarter. While there they stayed at Le Richelieu Hotel, also in the French Quarter; Jeff, Terri and Sydney Joiner enjoyed a weekend at Disneyworld; Rene Smith in Nashville for a business meeting and Angela tagging along to explore the city.
As I went on my rounds this week I encountered folks I don’t see often: Kim Carter Fuller of Plains; Pennsylvanian Kathy Ulery who is spending the winter as a volunteer at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site; Floyd Fitzpatrick, another volunteer; and Tyler Ledbetter of Americus, an intern at the park. I also bumped into Leonard Grover who for several years strung lights on my Christmas tree. Lydia Ann Fowler invited me to Minick Interiors’ new location on West Lamar Street; chatted with Treana Shattles, Jan Hobgood, Janna Teaford, and Joni Woolf, The Rev. Richard Nelson, priest-in-charge at Calvary Episcopal Church, and his wife Deacon Geri Nelson were honored at a reception at the church; Rosalynn Carter is recovering from surgery in Atlanta, and Kent Sole is on the mend after suffering a bad case of the flu. And smile and say happy birthday to Jean Bowen.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.