Editor’s Note by RJ Walters

History is the story of people who came before us that will continue to impact the people who come after us because of how it affected every one of us.

Our stories are not just intertwined; they depend on each other.

When you visit your favorite local restaurant, think about how there was someone who dug out the first road, laid the first block and hung the first “Open” sign.

When people gather to worship at church, consider the congregation’s origin is usually a small, devoted group of people whose united passion has been a catalyst to provide hope and healing to future generations.

When you read stories of locals who have overcome difficult pasts to enjoy great triumphs, it is a reminder that sometimes history is ugly, sometimes it is beautiful, and it is always being made by the people – including you and I – who are the characters present in it.

The stories of Lakeland officially started in 1885 when the city became incorporated, but the history started well before that.

As you travel with us through time, consider:

History often looks funny – but so do your high school pictures to friends and family 

History is often swift and slow-moving at the same time; in 1893 Lakeland was noted by the National Register of Historic Place as an important rail yard with nearly 20 locomotives arriving and departing daily, yet our feature on Lakeland legend Doc Dockery includes the ever-present struggle to bring high speed rail to Florida

History is more than a written record, it is sights, sounds and smells – like a Coca-Cola building turned into a fire department, chatter of walkers around our many lakes, and fresh baked pies at Reececliff

History is worthy of both admiration and loathing because it has made us who we are but not everything about who we have become is quite where we need to get

I believe we make the best kind of history when we first seek the welfare of our neighbor because that means not only are we considering someone else’s perspective, but someone is also stopping to consider ours. As the editor of The Lakelander, I want to listen to your stories, carefully place them into our shared history and strengthen a community that is rich with culture, character and possibility.

Let’s continue to make history together – one that makes a positive indelible mark that storytellers of the future can simply not ignore.