Stranded in Jamestown

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Article Contributed by
Jill Jack

My adventure began at 6 a.m. Friday, November 16, 2018 on a very snowy day in Cleveland, Ohio. I had a lovely performance the night before with two other songwriters and was ready to hit the road towards Jamestown to perform live on WRFA 107.9 Radio show. As I checked my emails and texts before setting out, I learned my Saturday, November 17 venue had caught fire Thursday night. My gig and 2 night accommodations were canceled.

I had never been to Jamestown, so I had no idea what to expect. But I was going to spend more time there than expected and had no idea where to stay.

The roads were bad and I got to the radio show just in the nick of time. This is where my luck changed. I found a parking spot right in front of the station. I got out of the car and thought, “what a cute town.” The Christmas lights were already up and the town was bustling. 

I rode the elevator up to the 2nd floor with a painter and a builder who were kind enough to guide me in the direction of the radio station door and wished me luck on my performance. I liked this town already.

Jason Sample, DJ extraordinaire of WRFA, greeted me at the door with such warmth. We had a wonderful interview promoting the Rolling Hills Radio Show. After the interview, Jason had asked where I was headed next. I informed him of my predicament and he recommended that I see Frank Besse at Labyrinth Press, a Coffee House just down the street (the website makes it easy for us out of towners to find, listing its address: USA, Earth, Milky Way). He said that Frank had an Airbnb just above the coffee house and maybe I could stay there. That sounded awesome, especially considering my addiction to coffee!

I was starving, had one hour to eat, talk to Frank about a place to stay, and get to my next commitment – the Prendergast Library for a songwriter’s workshop I was presenting.

I walked into the Labyrinth and saw a poster with my face on it. I said, “Hey that’s me,” to anyone willing to hear. The people behind the counter smiled. I waited in line as a mother with her baby were ordering. The baby was adorable and I asked her name. The mother smiled and said, “Penelope – she is a wonderful baby.” I reached in my bag, gave the mother my lullaby cd, and told Penelope to enjoy. Then I ordered and explained my situation to the counter girl. She was so empathetic and said, “Hang on, I will go get Frank.”

Frank told me there was no room at his Airbnb but he recommended an apartment I could get at a reasonable price. It gave me privacy and space to work and write some songs. By the time I was done with lunch I had my apartment booked and leftovers for dinner. 

I found my way to Prendergast Library and was greeted by Tress. She had been such a huge help coordinating my workshop, making posters and promoting. One by one, the room filled up. By 1 p.m. was surprised I had a room full of only men. The men were so giving of their thoughts. So willing to think outside of the box and share their written word. By the time the hour was up, I felt like I had known them my whole life. They asked me to sing for them and were so appreciative. I was going to miss these guys!

I packed up my materials, called my husband, and told him that I felt I was dropped into the middle of a Hallmark Movie. He responded by saying, “Well, just don’t take off with some ranch hand, the girl who always gets stranded in some small town falls in love with the ranch hand!” I promised not to. 

At the apartment, I started unpacking to make it my own. By morning I was ready to take on the day. I got some booking done, wrote the beginnings of a song and felt pretty proud of myself. 

Then I received a text from Ken Hardley, Rolling Hills Radio host where I was to perform on Monday. He invited me to lunch at Labyrinth where I was welcomed like an old neighbor. Ken and I ate lunch, talked about music, politics, radio, and anything else under the sun. It was refreshing to have someone to talk to and very inspirational. 

He invited me to join him at his gig that evening at Alleghany Park’s Concerts by the Fireside. As we drove, I was enchanted by the beautiful snow-touched trees and surroundings. We pulled up to this log cabin looking area. Men in their hunting jackets were waiting there in a big room that held a bear in glass case. I quietly named him Ben. This city girl knew she wasn’t in Kansas (Detroit) anymore. I could feel the people’s kind energy, ready to enjoy their evening.

Ken did an amazing job of entertaining the audience with his humor and his heart felt songs. He introduced me, explaining how I pretty much was stranded in Jamestown and he took me under his wing. We did a duet and then I did a few songs. The crowd’s response warmed my heart.

As the evening ended, a lovely couple introduced themselves as Eileen and Jim Goodling, the folks hosting me Monday night after my Rolling Hills Show. They generously said I was more than welcome to come early. I felt bad checking out of the Airbnb, but I was on a musician budget. The apartment owners, Ashley and Ryan, refunded my money and were so kind about it. Wishing me luck!

Photo by Lori Savaree.

Ken invited me to a meditation group the following morning. After only one day of meeting people at Jamestown, I felt this would be good thing. The next morning I was surprised to find Jim Goodling there. The thing I noticed about Jim and everyone else in Jamestown is they all talked to me as if they had known me all my life.

At around 2 p.m. I drove to the Goodlings’ home in Ashville with beautiful farm country all around. Jim and an extremely friendly cat named Eddie greeted me warmly.

Jim helped me with my things to a beautiful, cozy bedroom with a huge sleigh bed and a big sign on the wall: “Home Sweet Home.” Eileen got home from work soon after I arrived. They made me homemade chili and corn bread. I convinced Jim to read me some of his poetry. After dinner, Eileen and I played guitar and sang songs from the sixties while Jim did the dishes. Eddie never left my lap.

The next morning the house was quiet. I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat with my journal where I had a beautiful view of the trees and property. As I was writing, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little bit of snow drop off the tree. 

I thought hmm…the snow is melting from the trees. I wrote the thought down, thinking I may use it in a song at some point. Then I wrote Jamestown town next to it. 

Photo by Lori Savaree.

An entire song started pouring out of me. With all the emotion, love and appreciation that I had felt for the last 3 days that literally felt like a lifetime. The town just came alive in my head and I couldn’t write fast enough, as the words spilled on to the pages of my journal. When I told Jim, he was so excited for me and encouraged me sing it that night.

When I got to the Rolling Hills Radio Show, wonderful people I met there also encouraged me to sing it. I saved it for last. I could barely breathe with stage fright for a new song I’d never performed before. But then I looked up and saw so many of the people who helped me during my stranded days in Jamestown and I really wanted to give them a gift. I wanted them to know how they restored my faith in humanity. 

So, I took a deep breath and sang with as much conviction as I could stir up. The response was incredible. I knew I did the right thing. 

This Jamestown Town lyrics

I have to admit, driving away from Jamestown to go home, I felt such sadness. Of course, I missed my husband and was looking forward to seeing my family for Thanksgiving. But my heart was heavy. 

I am so thankful for being stranded in Jamestown. It WAS like being in a Hallmark movie. If I ever doubt that there are good people in this world ever again, I always have the “Jamestown Towns” people to remember as proof that good people do exist. 

Snow is melting off the trees in this Jamestown town
People getting ready for the holiday
I’m just a stranger roamin’ thru this Jamestown town
But they treat me like I’m here to stay

Where everybody knows your name
And everybody’s shared your pain
It placed in my soul hope that will remain

When the kindness of strangers gave new meaning
To that big old world of empathy
I guarantee will stay with me til my dying day
In Jamestown town

Lots of boarded up buildings in this Jamestown town
With twinkling lights to hide the pain
I walk the night streets of this Jamestown town
Feeling the cold of the winter’s strain

Where there’s a hand to hold
And a prayer that has been told
And a long dark road to carry me thru the night

And poor lost souls just like me
Surrounded by a family
With stories of laughter that make me feel like I’ve been here
All my life in Jamestown town

Bridge

Just when I was about to give up on all mankind
The kindness of strangers have changed my mind

Time to pack up my bags and leave this Jamestown town
I know I’ll never be the same
It may be the first, not the last, in the Jamestown town
Hey I now know everybody’s name

Because I’m different then I was before
This old town has changed the score
Of what I thought this poor world was coming to
And as I move on down the road
To the next old town that I’ll call home
I’ll be thinking how my dusty soul feels shiny and new
Thanks to Jamestown town