One of the most well-known lines from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” occurs in the final scenes where Dorothy is clicking together the ruby red slippers and repeating, “There’s no place like home.”

Sixth and seventh grade students at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School recently spent a day learning more about what makes our hometown and its history special and unique.

Beginning with a visit to the Texas Forestry Museum, they were able to hear the history of how timber and the railroads impacted the growth of our region. Townsites flourished or faded based on the train lines, and Lufkin was no exception.

From there, they enjoyed lunch at Ray’s. The famous Lufkin landmark is well known for its burgers and fries delivered to the car window years before curbside delivery became commonplace.

The final part of their day of Lufkin learning began at Jennings Station where they trekked through the downtown area following the growth of the town of Lufkin. Local historian Dickie Dixon offered his expertise and insight as they researched and explored a map of the 1882 public sale of town lots in the town of Lufkin at the junction of the Houston East and West Texas Railroad and the Kansas & Gulf Shore Short Line.

The day offered students not only a historical view of our town but also the imagery of a city emerging from a pine forest where families came to form a community, jobs were created, schools were opened and commerce began. Today we call this home: Lufkin, Angelina County, Texas.

Our town was begun by individuals, much like our students, coming together with ideas and visions for the future and the ability and willingness to contribute toward something larger than themselves.

While our students were learning about history that day, they also were learning about the results of individual effort and responsibility and the importance of people working together to create and develop neighborhoods, communities and towns they call home.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks writes, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” Her work tells us we are all responsible for nurturing each other. More than individuals, each of us has an important role to play in order for our communities to thrive and grow as the people living in them thrive and grow together.

During this season of Thanksgiving, we should all take time to think about the many things we enjoy because of the families who purchased the first town lots in our town and the many others who came to areas where there was wilderness and carved out lives and livelihoods building towns that continue to grow and thrive today.

Neighborhoods, churches, schools, civic organizations, libraries, museums, drive-ins and the opportunity to explore historical downtown as a school group tour are part of what makes our community feel like home. We are thankful to the early citizens of our hometown and truly believe there is no place like it.

Sherry Durham is Head of School for St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School. Her email address is sdurham@saintcyprians.org.