Marshall, the seat of Madison County, NC, is a one stoplight town on the banks of the French Broad River that has been in the process of evaporating for as long as I can remember. Each time I went to town with my grandmother or my dad, there seemed to be fewer businesses. The only place that showed any sign of activity was the courthouse—the benches out front were always occupied by old men). The Depot sat at the far end of the street and was falling apart. The time was long past when the trains would actually stop in Marshall. Now the Depot was on the brink of being condemned.
My grandmother remembered meeting my grandfather getting off the train at the depot when they were courting. Upset that the property would be torn down, she called my uncle, who had been a railroad man. After a lot of work, the railroad came to an agreement with the town that made the property available for town use if they would do something with it.
Do something they did. A lot of lumber and paint later (as well as a donated sound system), the Depot was reborn as a venue for live music performance. Free admission, open stage (as long as you sign up on the list) and traditional dancing.
I listened on Friday to the band—a pick up ensemble, my mother told me, “and not very good—but they’re having fun.” As I watched one man in his seventies play an old National steel guitar, I had to disagree. They were good. In fact, they were the best thing I had seen in Marshall in a long, long time.