Where Past Meets Present

Beloit Winterfest - Big Hill Park

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Hope For 2018

Teresa Nguyen

Teresa Nguyen

By Teresa Nguyen
RCHS History Teller
January, 2018

Happy New Year from the Story Squad!

Got a New Year’s resolution? A New Year’s resolution is a firm decision to take new action in the new year, usually to make a positive change or improvement in one’s life. It is akin to a determination to reach a particular goal.

Recently, in my role as History Teller, I attended various Rock County events to collect interesting stories, and especially to find out about people’s New Year’s resolutions, the Story Squad’s January theme. One would think it might be too personal to ask such a question. However, to my delight, I found that most people were very willing to share with me their thoughts, hopes and personal goals.

The beautiful Janesville Performing Arts Center was busy with friendly ushers welcoming the visitors with smiles into the black box theater for the “One Acts” night of plays. The collection of one acts were brilliantly performed by three different theater groups in one big collaborative production as part of Local Talent Month.

I was moved from laughter to fear to warm and fuzzy emotions all within a couple of hours. The acting was superb, directing dynamic and in the end, the rows of filled seats burst into delightful applause. What a treat for Rock County to have this cultural hub in our midst. And what a pleasure for me to mingle and chat with such approachable attendees during intermission.

Interestingly, many of the folks I spoke to said they did not have a New Year’s “resolution”, but still shared with me various personal goals for 2018. Some mentioned a desire to work on themselves, on their outlook, to be more positive. Couldn’t we all work on that one? Yes, indeed!

Others spoke of improving their health. This may seem like a common goal, yet each person’s goals for well-being were unique. Some planned to focus on eating habits. Others hoped to work out more, while some aimed to avoid stress, detox with healthier foods, or to experience more joy in life. Worthwhile pursuits, indeed!

Off to Beloit Winterfest

The twisted design of thin, treetop branches against a gray January sky gave me the desire to dig out my watercolor paints. At the time I was driving, so that creative urge would have to wait. As a nature lover, this was a welcome site on a misty January afternoon at Big Hill Park in Beloit.

Numerous young families were awaiting their turn on the free carriage rides in the park for this fun, annual festival. As pictured at the top of this post, two gorgeous, dark brown horses pulled the old-fashioned carriage through the quiet of the woods. There was something so serene and beautiful about this ride, reminiscent of olden days when life was much less hurried, simpler, and the outdoors were as much a part of “home” as the glowing fireplace in a pioneer’s log cabin.

Local New Year's Resolutions

Surveying your goals & resolutions

After snapping some photos of the passing wagon and smiles on the excited children’s faces, I entered the Welty Environmental Center to talk with the mix of visitors. One of the volunteers spoke of her son’s life-threatening illness, so her resolution revolved around spending more time with family as well as working to raise awareness and funds for research. Another wanted to work toward more environmental protection and activism. Wow, such profound intentions to make a real difference, and suddenly my own personal resolution to read more books felt awfully trivial in comparison.

There were some unusual individuals who had no resolutions or goals at all. For them I have two thoughts. Either they lack vision or ambition toward their future, or they are so perfectly content with life that they desire little else. How fortunate to feel so happy! In any case, the goal-less people were few and far between.

Beyond personal goals, several others had professional goals, as well. A few hoped to find new jobs, including a retired man who wanted to start a fresh career, one that he would truly enjoy. Others aimed to simply work harder to make more money.

I attended a fundraiser at the lovely Mocha Moment coffee shop for the Doty Mill Alley Beautification Project. The cozy, cabin style café was bustling with supportive patrons sipping the perfect latte or hot chocolate on that chilly winter morning. A young banker and his team from the Leadership Development Academy hoped to complete the Doty Mill Alley project by October. It seems they are on their way to their exciting 2018 goal!

Continuing to tell your stories in 2018

As the RCHS History Teller, I hope to enhance my own professional goals, as well. Expanding the Story Squad and collecting more stories from the surrounding communities are just two of the upcoming changes. We would love to gather more interesting stories from folks in Evansville, Clinton, Edgerton, Milton and Beloit as well as folks in the most rural areas.

Another goal is to showcase more diversity in our featured online stories. And finally, it makes sense to capture more memories of our local history, including significant events, which in various ways, have impacted Rock County and its citizens throughout the decades.

Janesville GM Plant - photo by David Abb

Janesville GM Plant – photo by David Abb

Looking to Janesville’s future

Speaking of significant events … with the sale of the GM Plant, it seems an important, final chapter of our community’s General Motors history has come to an end. That said, we can choose to view this prominent landmark, that lonely, quiet smokestack through sad eyes, or we can accept where we are today and embrace the path forward to a new kind of economic growth.

As the demolition of the plant begins, we will have no choice but to face the future. Change is difficult sometimes, but often it brings surprising and wonderful opportunity that we fail to see when that first door clicks shut.

Our beloved community has its own new goals for 2018, which will inevitably bring new development, especially to our downtown Janesville area. Through my own involvement and participation, it has been made clear to me that ARISEnow, Downtown Janesville, Inc., The Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Janesville all have a strong, collective passion for our community, hope for its future and a sense of ownership of these positive, civic goals.

We all are the caretakers of this great City of Parks and its surrounding area, and it is up to us, all of us, to keep our hopes alive with real action. We must be determined to make our great community, and especially our downtown, a more vibrant area and an economically sound place of local pride.

Wilson King Stone House

Wilson King Stone House

Change coming to RCHS

2018 brings new change to the Rock County Historical Society, as well. We have begun the transition from the past to the future with our fantastic Interim Executive Director, Tim Maahs, and await the selection of a new leader for RCHS.

In a recent Gazette interview (subscription may be required), our wonderful former Executive Director, Mike Reuter, shared his own hopes and visions for the Rock County Historical Society. And if we can seamlessly proceed with realizing his vision, we will find success in many areas, including progress on the renovation of the Wilson King Stone House on our beautiful campus. With all that Mike Reuter accomplished in his five and a half years at the helm of RCHS, and with continued community support, we are now poised and ready to move positively forward toward future growth!

As our esteemed President Abraham Lincoln once said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

In our wonderful preservation of Rock County’s history, our thoughtful reflections of our past and a determination to accomplish our goals, we can surely find the well-lit path to a brighter future.

Let us all raise our glass to hope for 2018!