• 86°

Another amazing Rylander discovery

The Rylander Theater has revealed to us many amazing finds. From its architecture to its story, to the entertainment it provides, to the people who make it all come together, the Rylander is a great resource to hear the story of Americus throughout the years. The Rylander has once again found a lovely discovery in Evangeline Athanasiou. Evangeline is a Ph. D. student in musicology at the City University of New York. Evangeline comes to Americus with fresh eyes. She made Americus her home when she married Jacob Ross, who is employed by the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park. Jacob and Evangeline were married in July 2020, and Evangeline moved from Washington DC to live in Sumter County as a newlywed. Evangeline began investing in her new hometown of Americus by simply walking the streets of downtown with Jacob. As most downtown visitors do, she immediately became intrigued with the Rylander.

Although she readily admits she is not someone who archives for a living, she does find such activities to be interesting and she has formed somewhat of a hobby in the art of preserving history. To meet the requirements of a class, she approached Heather Stanley, the Director of the Rylander to see if she could undertake the theater’s archives as her project. Heather welcomed Evangeline into the Rylander family and from there Evangeline immersed herself into the stories around the theater. She describes landing at the Rylander as “serendipitous” and adamantly proclaims her stance on our home. “I love this town, getting to know the people and knowing its history.” In a labor of love for both our city and on behalf of researchers who would like to hear and see the Rylander’s story with the ease of an internet search, she began to identify archives from what she refers to as “the first life of the Rylander” as well as the restoration and current life.

She found very interesting telling’s in her perusing of Rylander documentation and quickly determined this information should be archived on behalf of people who have enjoyed the theater as well as those of us who continue to find our way to the theater. She has written several grants on behalf of The Friends of the Rylander, one of which was for the Digital Library of Georgia. The grant was awarded and soon we will have a collection of digitized archives to enjoy. The digitization will be completed by professionals in the field. One of the advantages to the grant is not only will it ensure our history is preserved; it also can be added to as more history is discovered. While visual history is important, oral history will also be a piece of this collection. There is a standing invitation for folks to submit programs, pictures of those attending events, even ticket stubs, but there is a call for oral histories. Evangeline is hoping to hear the stories associated with the theater. Mike Saliba has already been submitting his oral history of the theater as his memories of being at the soda fountain and enjoying time in the building are many. Evangeline refers to Mike as “wealth of information.”

Evangeline would like to hear other stories. She hopes you might have memories, whether in stories or in physical memorabilia to add to the collection. She sees Americus’ citizens, both past and present as being the real story to tell about the Rylander. She is hopeful our neighbors will bring their unique flavor to the Rylander’s story. If you have memorabilia, stories from grandparents who attended the theater during its “first life” please contact her. She is taking this project as a labor of love on behalf of the people of Americus and wants to highlight how we gather at the Rylander. She is interested in anything from the era, however, there is no need for newspaper articles as The Americus Times-Recorder has already been preserved. What she treasures are those memories which belong to people both past and present who spent their time enjoying a movie or show at the theater. If you remember a tale of your grandmother’s, a date she went on with the man who would later become her husband, please consider passing it on. If you have pictures of your great grandparents at the theater, please pass those on as well. A ticket stub from a movie long since played? A perfect addition.

We are a charmed little town. We have memories worth cherishing throughout generations. Evangeline sees how precious they are and wants to document them for all to see. Another reason she feels so passionate about this project? In the world of academia, documentation of the rural southern culture can be a tough find. To document in this way allows researchers to put better pictures together of life in a small county town.

If you have anything which adds to the story, please feel free to contact Evangeline at eathanasiou@gradcenter.CUNY.edu. You can also contact the theater by telephone at 229.931. 0001. In addition to adding your flavor to the story, you will also get a taste of the discovery that is Evangeline. She is indeed a neighbor you want to know!