Now let’s forget all that ugly stuff and get back to park planning and research. Establishing the seven historic eras was not all that difficult, nor was thinking up the important events that might be depicted for each era. I started with the profound reference volume, “Know Alabama”, and quickly determined that Montgomery’s past should be divided as follows:
- Antebellum Prosperity
- Civil War and Reconstruction
- Age of Advancement
- World at War
- Civil Rights Struggle
John Gandy and I proudly shared our research with Dr. Bronner, expecting a quick perfunctory blessing. Bronner studied our list, frowned and stroked his chin. “We cannot end on a downer,” he said. “The Civil Rights period has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” he mused, “and our park theme must end on a positive note. You must include an upbeat era after the civil rights struggle, one which denotes progress.”
I wailed mightily, “There is no such era,” I protested. “The wall of history has already been designed and it can have but seven panels.” Gandy, who had not really been involved in the research aspect, took Bronner’s side, and I knew I was defeated therewith. Bronner ordered that we combine the first two eras to make room, and that we invent a final era called “The Future”. I felt that this meant we had ceased acknowledging history and were going to begin postulating fiction.
Today the park features the seven eras which follow that dictum. When the beginning of park construction was announced to the press, I solemnly intoned that decision as if it had come down from the mountain.
Note that we compressed 300 years of history into one tablet, and devoted the last tablet to hot air and platitudes. I feared an avalanche of well-deserved criticism when all the dust had settled. Mary Ann Neeley, the Landmarks Director who helped us with the concept, only sighed and said she understood Bronner’s attitude.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)