By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #19
The girl is crying, or maybe not. It’s hard to say. She’s across the street and the blazing late-day sun has painted everything a flat, hazy yellow. There’s a dog at her feet. Lying on the burning bricks, resting. Content. Waiting for her mistress to start again.
But the girl doesn’t move. Instead, she looks at me, and I’m able to confirm it: Yes, she’s crying. Hard. She looks terrified. Why? She has a big animal with her. Nobody’s going to mess with that.
I’m downtown. It’s not Times Square, but it’s not Deer Creek, either. So my urban instincts are active. If I see a girl who looks a little disturbed, a part of me – one of the parts I’m not proud of – propels me on. Just keep walking. Don’t get involved. From the width of Bull Street away, her distress is clear. Her brow is furrowed and her eyes are pressed into a squint. “Can you help me?” she calls across to me in a shaky voice. “Please?”
My head pivots so that my gaze returns to the direction I had intended to go. I’m walking. I take another step…straight ahead, and noticeably not towards the girl. My next move is unsure. Then, I stop, and turn sharp left. “What’s wrong?” I call back.
“It’s my dog.”
So my eyes disengage with the girls’ and pan down towards her feet. Her German Shepherd rests like an oversized furry blanket wrapped around her ankles. Except this blanket’s moving. Heaving wildly, in fact.
The girl – who is not really a girl, she’s a grown-up living on her own, no doubt, but still much younger than I – says with fear in her voice, “She collapsed. She can’t move.”
The dog is panting frantically, as if she’ll never be able to catch enough breath to satisfy her basic needs. I look down, think for a second, and look back at the girl.
She explains, “We were in the park. I was playing with her. We were only there for 15 minutes or so. We started to walk back…now she can’t get up!”
“Do you live close by?” I ask, making a point to exhibit calm.
“Right around the corner over there,” she points and wheezes because of her tears.
“Go grab a pitcher of water and a big bowl. I’ll stay here with your dog,” I detail the plan with definitive resolve.
She pauses, then, “Okay.” The girl says the word as quickly as it will come out. And she’s off running across the bricks.
I’m standing with a long, limp leather leash in my hand, looking at the ground, watching an animal fight for its life. And I realize that the girl had something very different in mind. She wanted me to lift the German Shepherd into my arms and carry it home like an exhausted infant at the end of a long day. But I hadn’t provided the opening. Instead, I seized control of the dialogue without reservation, like I’m wont to do, for better or worse. And now it’s just me on the sidewalk, my walk interrupted, and a dying dog.
Five minutes pass. And my worst, most cynical self reappears. She’s gone, I think to myself. The whole thing was just a scam. She wanted to unload a dog and now here we are. What am I going to do with this thing? I can’t bring it home. Do I take it to the Humane Society? Is there some number to call? And does this mean I don’t get to go for my run?!
A woman walks by. She’s in fitness shorts and a visor, arms swinging wildly in exaggerated arcs. She’s moving fast, until she stops. I’ve seen her before. “Is your dog okay?”
“It’s not mine,” I’m quick to correct her. And I tell a short version of the story above, including the bit about the water that might or might not come anytime.
“What we need is ice,” the lady says like she knows, and her declaration feels like a sudden blow to my authority. It seemed like I had a reasonable plan. The visor lady turns around and heads back in the direction from which she came. Her arms stay closer to her side now as she walks away. She has a new purpose, presumably she’s going somewhere for ice.
I look down again. The dog continues to gasp at its unsustainable pace. Then, her eyes appear to focus like a contracting wide-angle lens. Instead of looking at nothing, she’s connecting with me. Unceremoniously, she unfolds herself and comes to her feet.
I offer hesitant praise: “Good girl. Good girl.” But I’m still not sure how this will turn out.
Soon, the girl rips around the corner, plastic pitcher and oversized bowl in plain view. She bends as she comes to an abrupt stop, placing the bowl by the dog’s mouth and pouring, all in one move. The dog’s unfurled tongue slaps at the water while the girl pets the animal’s head. Then, the girl looks up at me from her crouch. She relieves me of the leash and thanks me before turning her attention back to the dog.
“I’ve got it from here,” the girl informs me. And, evidently, that is that.
I start walking toward the park again, feeling buoyant and empty at the same time. The dog lives, the girl is happy; yay! But a part of me wants more from the moment. I had a hand in it, why do I have to be dismissed?
My run is a good one. I feel fast and relatively light on my feet. My breathing is easy today. I pass the ice lady. We’re circling the park in opposing directions now. I nod knowingly, suggesting everything is fine.
Then I’m back in my own head. It occurs to me, I hadn’t done anything special. There was nothing remarkable about the scene that had just played out. We were just people reacting to an unspectacular set of circumstances as you would expect any normal folks would. And it worked out well. There’s no story in any of it. No message. Or maybe there is.
Alfred H. Smith Jr.: Anchors A-weigh
By Ron Lauretti
Navy veteran Alfred (Al) Smith, Jr., is a venerable veteran of World War II and a 26-year resident of Skidaway Island.
Al, a Chicago native, joined the Navy just a few days after graduating from high school in 1943. He served until February of 1946, much of his time in the Pacific “hot spots” of New Guinea, Pelileu, the Philippines and Japan. His father served with the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, and advised his son to enlist in the Navy. Although the senior Smith never talked much about his service experience, the younger Al surmised that his father might have had a rough time as a “Doughboy,” which might explain why he recommended his son to choose the Navy.
After enlisting, young Smith reported to the Farragut Naval Training Station, Idaho – the second largest training base in the world at the time –?for basic training. Upon completion, he was accepted to radio communications school, and after that stint, the petty officer third class was sent to far-off New Guinea.
Arriving at Milne Bay on the southern tip of Papua, Al spent his first month transporting messages back and forth across the wide bay. The newly constructed airfield at Milne Bay was vital to the ongoing battle for the unsecured mainland of New Guinea. Four weeks after his arrival, Smith was sent forward to Hollandia, halfway up the northeastern coast of New Guinea, near the combat zone in an unforgiving jungle. He delivered paper messages over barely passable trails to front-line Allied troops. Often traveling up to 20 miles, his team would travel in a line of three jeeps, and the front and rear jeeps would return fire against the occasional attack from enemy snipers.
The New Guinea campaign was long and costly – torrential rains, tropical disease and impregnable swampy jungles were almost as problematic for the advance of Allied troops as the resistance of the Japanese. Besides some unpleasant memories, Smith has a unique souvenir from his time there. One day he found a Nazi combat dagger in an abandoned Japanese field hospital. Time passed slowly in New Guinea, as Smith and his mates did not enjoy mail service to connect them to their homes. However, he fondly remembers Bob Hope coming around and delivering a very well-received USO show.
After five months in New Guinea, Smith took his first airplane ride to Leyte Gulf. The Marines had not yet secured the entire island of Peleliu, and during the overnight refuel stop, he slept on the ground next to his plane. Naturally, it rained most of the night.
The next destination on his long journey across the Pacific was Luzon, in the Philippines. He arrived in the town of San Fernando near Clark Field (which later became the headquarters of the American 6th Army) just a few days after the invasion of the Philippines. He was assigned temporary duty with the Army’s 16th Signal Operations Battalion. The Clark Field perimeter was guarded by a unit of Army Rangers. Half the men provided base security while the other half patrolled. As the situation around San Fernando improved, Smith became friendly with a nearby Philippine family. On May 1, 1945, the date of his 20th birthday, they surprised him with a birthday cake, a much appreciated gesture for an American sailor a zillion miles away from his Windy City home.
For the first two months of his stay in the Philippines, distant artillery fire was a constant reminder of the conflict. When the Japanese officially surrendered on September 2, 1945, “high-octane” native celebratory drinks were enjoyed by Al and his company. He was especially relieved to learn of the surrender for another reason. As a trusted communicator, he was privy to top-secret radio messages relayed to Gen. Walter Krueger, commander of the 6th Army. He knew that the 16th Signal Operations Battalion would be in the third assault wave on Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese home island. Judging from Japan’s fight-to-the-death defense of Okinawa, it was expected that the entire Japanese population would follow that same fatal strategy, resulting in heavy casualties to both sides.
Soon after the Japanese capitulation, Smith found himself headed for Kyoto, in the central part of Honshu, the largest Japanese home island. As much needed humanitarian aid began to arrive, Japanese civilians quickly realized the occupying American troops were more friend than foe. On Thanksgiving Day, 1945, after two months of occupation duty in Kyoto, Smith boarded a destroyer escort for return to the U.S. A few months later, he took a train from San Diego back home to Chicago, where he was honorably discharged at Great Lakes Training Center, on February 16, 1946.
Using the G.I. Bill, Smith enrolled at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1949 with a B.S. degree in economics. He then joined Armour and Company, a dairy, poultry and food oil company. After a six-month training program in sales and marketing, his first assignment was in Charleston, South Carolina, where he met a Southern belle named Carey Hill. One year later, the couple married. Smith recalls Carey saying (more than once over the years), “Al was lonely, and I was ready.”
Al spent his entire career with Armour and Company, which was eventually acquired by ConAgra Foods. Most of his management and sales assignments were in the South, except for a one-year managing director position with an Armour subsidiary in Hallesworth, England in 1974. In 1987, Smith retired, and he and Carey moved to The Landings. Retirement gave him opportunity to enjoy golf, tennis, Rotary Club membership and church activities. He and Carey were married for almost 61 years until her death two years ago. They have two daughters: one a Methodist minister and the other a Presbyterian minister. There are five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Eighty-eight years young, Al remains in good health and enjoys golf, tennis and church activities. And 70 years ago, when duty called, he answered, taking his place among the many men and women who preserved the nation’s independence and freedom as part of the “Greatest Generation.”
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #18
What’s that faint sound you can barely hear floating on the late summer breeze?
It’s a collective groan, rooted in despair, emanating from Athens and Boise. Mixed with sighs of resignation from Berkeley and Blacksburg; Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Corvallis and Fort Worth; Piscataway, Pittsburgh and Pullman; Starkville, Syracuse and West Lafayette. It’s a big we-can-finally-stop-holding-our-breath exhale from Lincoln and Oxford. While quiet contentment punctuated with a bit of boisterous boast resonates from Columbia and Columbus; College Station and Clemson; Tuscaloosa, Eugene and South Bend. And in Nashville, not Memphis, they’re singing the blues.
College football is back.
In a few hours, after months of anticipation, pallets full of printer ink and as much airtime as Fox dedicates to ACA repeal, have been sacrificed in service to previews and predictions, and rabid fans are sent to suffer for another year. National title aspirations evaporate into the muggy late-August air. And the radio waves carry cries of heartbreak and outrage soon after the final whistle sounds. All because one group of teenagers and twenty-somethings scores a few more points than its counterparts sitting across the way.
Silly as it may appear on the surface, seemingly wrought with misplaced hysteria - this whole college football craze – I LOVE it. It’s the best time of year for a sports fan, if you ask me. I’m up for an annual trip to Sanford Stadium, for sure. I maintain my season tickets at cozily collegiate 16,000-seat Murray Goodman in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and manage to find my way to there a couple of times each fall. I make sure I know the Nittany Lion broadcast schedule each week from September through the dead of winter, and I plan my Saturdays around the three and a half hours of viewing required. And I won’t surrender easily after the game of the week on ABC ends around midnight; I’ve been known to find the Sun Devils or Rainbow Warriors somewhere in the high-700’s on Direct TV and lock in until it’s only a few hours until church.
For some, it’s pride of place: “I’m from Louisiana; I live and die LSU,” a Bayou Bengal fan might explain.
For others, it’s family tradition: “My daddy was a Vol. His daddy was a Vol. Our family room was painted orange as I was growing up.”
For the rest of us, it’s an ongoing celebration of some of the best years of our lives.
I dropped my daughter off at her dorm in Lexington, Virginia, about a week before you’re reading this. She’s a freshman now. Yes, I’m still as sad as I am grateful and proud. Although the Generals of Washington and Lee might not be the Trojans of Southern Cal, I noticed some boys returning from practice to the quad. They looked a lot like I remember my high school teammates in T-shirts and shorts. I wondered, somewhat masochistically, what I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to suffer through two-a-days again.
The grass is lush and green thanks to summer storms. Some nights, a hint of the coming fall chill teases your skin. You’re rested and refreshed from vacation, yet noticeably excited about what lies ahead. The world presents a dizzyingly tempting menu of possibilities, and your team has 12 chances to win before the pads are put away again.
Life is full of little connections that link us to our roots, grounding us, making us feel comfortable and safe. As we drove into Lexington, VMI’s stadium rose to the left of the car. My mind flashed to a snapshot deep in my inner album: A framed schedule – crafted with the layout and fonts you see on prizefight posters – detailing the slate for the 1958 Lehigh Engineers. I can see the bold letters, “at VMI,” on the middle of the page on the picture in my head. In another cobweb-covered snapshot confined in the recesses of my memory – my father’s jersey (number 35), dirt-stained, stapled to our cabin’s white pine door.
When we returned from Lexington, I mentioned the sight of the stadium to him. “I got my only penalty there,” he said with humor and just a little regret.
Up the hill from VMI’s turf, I found the field where the Generals play. The best friend I had on my high school team went on to run pass routes there in the mid-‘80s. And now my daughter was a student at the same place, just off an interstate that you could take north and end up at my childhood home.
We climbed the stairs to my daughter’s room. A few minutes later, her roommate walked in. Through the magic of social media, they connected last year and committed to share dorm space. The girl is from Virginia, though her mother is San Diego born and bred like my wife. And the new roommate’s mother was running with the mother-in-law whom I never met, the day the latter died of a heart attack. Now the two granddaughters share a pair of loft beds and twin desks.
So the journey is ambling. Yet we have a way of finding where we’re supposed to go. Leading up to kickoff, we’re full of hope. After a loss, it’s like the end of the world. But it’s not. There’s next week. And next year. And the year after that. Each one somehow connected. Wet early-autumn grass and old jerseys and friends and family we can’t see anymore. Still, it’s all there, like a framed schedule from 55 years ago, a reminder of a collection of many very precious days.
A Voice From Heaven
By Ron V. Taylor
My love story begins in New York City’s Grand Central Station. It’s the spring of 1944 and I have just won my pilot’s wings. I have seven days of leave from my base in Arkansas and I’m returning home to Brooklyn. There are a number of officers like me, looking for the exit out of Grand Central when, out of nowhere, we’re surrounded by several striking young women. I soon learn that they’re wealthy debutants showing their wartime loyalty for men in uniform by offering to take them out for an evening of dinner and dancing…
I remember it like it’s yesterday…
I recall a particularly fetching blonde grabbing me by the arm and propelling me into a waiting car. She told me her name, which I barely remember – perhaps it was Ann – and about 20 minutes later the driver stopped at an apartment building on Park Avenue where I was introduced to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Singer – yes, of Singer Sewing Machine fame. Ann was nervous and excited, and whispered to her mother about taking me out somewhere for cocktails and dinner.
Before I had time to catch my breath, we were back in her car and dropped off at a hotel on 59th Street overlooking Central Park. We took a flight of stairs down to the hotel’s lower level. A discrete sign read “Casbah,” marking one of the city’s fashionable supper clubs. A maitre d’ with the Middle Eastern appearance to match the joint’s name appeared at the door and accepted Ann’s reservation.
The club was crowded, the main room decorated as a huge Arabian sheik’s tent. Our table was in the rear. A small musical group was playing quietly. The diners slowly stopped talking and began to applaud. In the center of the club was a tiny dance floor, and a lovely young woman emerged and began to sing. I had never heard a soprano sing so expressively and with such an astonishing voice. The audience cheered wildly, yelling “Bravo” along with me.
Two hours later, after cocktails and dinner, Ann said it was time to go. Her driver dropped us off at her apartment. I thanked her with a kiss goodnight and returned to Grand Central to retrieve my luggage and catch the IRT home to Brooklyn. But I couldn’t forget the bewitching performance at the Casbah.
Several days later, I found myself again at the Casbah with a date. My memory is not clear about the details any more, but it had to be Ann Singer. I’m sure I needed the Singer magic to get in. She agreed to the date, but only for cocktails since she had another commitment later that evening. So, there I was again, waiting for the soprano with the voice from heaven that left me bedazzled. Suddenly, she appeared. Throughout her performance, I clapped so hard my hands turned red.
Ann told me that she had to go. Her date for the rest of the evening was waiting outside. I was in no way upset. I was there to see and hear this magical creature sing. I learned that her name was Lillian Clark. About midnight, she sang her last song and walked off stage. I followed, and told her loudly, how much I enjoyed every minute. I asked the hatcheck girl how I could reach the singer. “Write to her like the rest of her fans,” the hatcheck girl responded matter-of-factly.
And so I did, from my base in Blytheville, Arkansas. Weeks later I was surprised to receive a letter saying that Lillian Clark would be visiting her family in Du Quoin, Illinois, for Mother’s Day weekend. I had never heard of Du Quoin. A map revealed the town was a small one, with a population of 7,000 and no nearby airport. I had hoped I could fly there from my base.
I wrote back that I would like to meet her and would arrive by train. It took 12 hours. I showed up about midnight. A car with its lights on was waiting for me. Two heads appeared, a grinning man and a smiling Lillian Clark. I was speechless. The Clarks drove me to their house. A bed was inviting. I was dead tired.
The smell of frying bacon woke me in the morning. I walked into the kitchen where the Clark family - Lillian, her parents, two brothers and two sisters, were all smiling and laughing. I felt at home. After breakfast, they all went to church except Lillian and I. Her father said that Lillian would drive me around the town and show off the sites. At the quarry and reservoir, Du Quoin’s most scenic site, we got out of the car and walked up a s
mall incline to view the waterworks. She turned to say something to me when I kissed her. She did not stop me. Then I blurted, “I love you and I want to marry you.” We stumbled back to the car and returned to her house, neither of us saying a word.
The rest of my one day stay, you may well imagine, was a bit awkward. But it didn’t seem like Lillian was upset by my sudden outburst of affection.
Returning to my base late that evening, 24 hours of train riding over a two-day span notwithsta
nding, I was happy. I knew I had found the woman of my dreams. I was deeply in love. I rushed to the PX on base and purchased an engagement ring with a diamond setting of .52 carats for $500. I airmailed it to Lillian with a little note saying how much I loved her and wished with all my heart that she felt the same.
Days went by, perhaps weeks, before she responded. A month or so later, we met again. This time she came down to Blytheville, staying at a motel near the base. Seeing her again overwhelmed me. I kissed her and we had lunch. She told me about her career and what it meant to her. She needed time to think about my proposal… at least several months.
On July 2, 1944, almost two months after our first date, we were married in Du Quoin and honeymooned in the Dells of Wisconsin. When I returned to Blytheville, my flying buddies gave me the thumbs up when they saw Lillian. I was so proud.
Late that October, Lillian and I left for my home in Brooklyn for a new life. We were together until Lillian’s passing on May 11, 2013, Mother’s Day weekend, 69 years to the day since we had our first date in Du Quoin.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #17
My life’s trajectory has me whizzing by a conspicuous collection of milestones that are making me feel a little old.
Although you might not think it if you know him – he has some youthful tendencies, let’s just leave it at that – my father turned 79 last week. That’s 80 minus one. Which gives one momentary pause. Is 80 the new 60? I’m betting on it.
With the next issue of The Skinnie, this magazine will turn 10. Which suggests we’ve inked some 260 issues to date, give or take. I remember a report I heard, that another local publisher predicted our demise within our first year. Who knows if such hearsay is rumor or fact? But one truth is undeniable: We’re still writing a decade on, making me feel both a little accomplishment and a tad long in the tooth.
But more profound in its impact on my psyche than either of these aforementioned things: My older girl leaves for college for the first time in less than a week.
If you’ve gone through it, you have your own memories – a mix of elation and agony, pride and fear. I was visiting my parents last weekend and my mom addressed the elephant in the driveway (we were standing outside). “You’re going to have a rough time…that day is hard,” she cautioned, her words softened by a knowing smile. “I remember like it was yesterday. When we left you, I was really upset.”
What could I say in response? So I chose nothing. Then my dad chimed in. “Nonsense.” I’m not sure he said exactly that, but it’s what I heard. But his meaning was clear as he continued, “You should be excited for her and happy that she has the opportunity. It’s great.”
He’s right, but so is Mom.
I chose to change the subject as I spoke to myself in my head, driving away. Forget the college trauma, I’ve got a few more days of denial ahead. Instead, I focused on the simple exchange I just witnessed between the only grown-ups (besides my buddy, Joe) who are compelled to offer me – almost 50 myself – unsolicited advice.
My parents often approach issues from very different perspectives. And each is not timid as he or she articulates his or her case. Yet, somehow, with astonishing regularity, at the end of the discussion, they arrive at some sort of common ground. It’s not that they simply retreat to co-occupy some metaphorical demilitarized zone – a repository for unsettled disputes. Rather, they have this uncanny knack to retain mutual respect for one another and still disagree. Like, “You’re dead wrong, but you have the right to be, and I don’t really need to change your mind.”
“Opposites attract,” say the proverbial they. I think that oversimplifies the analysis. It might be that the noticeable things on the surface of a successful union are, at face value, unique, but coupling is unsustainable without a common core. In the example above, even though my father left me with a case of beer and man-to-man handshake as he walked out my dorm door for the first time, I know he was a little sick inside. And despite the fact that my mom did that thing that people do when they fight with their own faces as they postpone tears, I’m sure she was overjoyed imagining what was likely to come my way. So, essentially, they each agreed with one another to start with. Yet, they retained (as they are wont to do) independence that enabled them to frame their singularity in different ways.
We are products of our childhoods. And I notice my wife and I consider questions much the same way as my mom and dad. We each stake out our territory at the onset of the exchange. We vigorously hold onto it during some spirited back-and-forth. There’s surrender, or cease-fire, or occasionally one will overrun the other’s flank. But she’s a good, smart and thoughtful person, and I believe she thinks the same of me. So we’re fine. And on the big things, we’re of one mind.
And that leads us back to thoughts of next Friday, when my freshman sits for the first time to listen to a dean tell her how exciting the rest of her life is sure to be. We’ll make sure her room is neat, at least for that first day. We’ll go over items that are both important and mundane – like campus bank account details and medical forms. We’ll notice that she’s dying to run free for the first time, to tear down the hallway and out to the oversized lawn. Yet, she’ll try to suppress her excitement just a little, in sympathy for Mom and Dad. Then, we’ll hug for not as long as I’d like to, and too long from her point of view. Her mom and I will walk to the car. Heads up, smiles shaky. We’ll unlock the doors, slip into our seats, look at each other, and probably cry. And that will be that.
“This day is tough,” I’ll say, and my mother’s voice will echo in my mind.
“But she’s got such an exciting opportunity,” Louise will add. “It’s going to be great.” Just like Dad said.
Elation, agony, pride and fear. And a seven-hour drive to contemplate each.
By Louise Lauretti
I first heard the term “land-grant university” in the late ‘90s when I was working on a proposal for the University of Missouri. The descriptor usually refers to a higher educational institution that has been chartered by a state, in accordance with the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890, when the majority of large, public state colleges and universities were granted federal land to establish a campus. The mission of these institutions, at the time, was to provide a practical, as opposed to general liberal arts, curriculum - one focused on agriculture, science, military science and engineering as a response to the industrial revolution. Having just been through the college process with our soon-to-be college freshman, I wondered whether the University of Georgia (UGA) was a land-grant institution like so many other state schools we had visited.
As I have come to learn, this is rather an ironic question, since the Georgia General Assembly first endowed a “college or seminary of learning” in 1784, almost 80 years prior to the adoption of the Morrill Acts. When UGA was incorporated by the General Assembly on January 27, 1785, Georgia became the first state to charter a government controlled and supported university. Here again, I find evidence of the pioneering character of Savannah’s first settlers - those who were willing to participate in the irresistible experiment that became the colony of Georgia.
It’s unsurprising, then, that “the Birthplace of the University of Georgia” historical marker resides on Bay Street in Savannah. Directly across the street from the marker, there formerly stood a brick building next to the Cotton Exchange, known as the "Coffee House,” which was the meeting place for the General Assembly in 1785. Owned by Thomas Stone, himself an elected representative from Chatham County, the Coffee House was a 10-room building “unequalled in size or comfort by any other house in the state” for “business,” according to a local newspaper.
The Georgia General Assembly was created in 1777, during the American Revolution, and is older than the U.S. Congress. When the British captured Savannah in 1779, the legislature moved to Augusta and stayed there until the British left Savannah in May of 1782. Between 1783-85, the assembly met in both Savannah and Augusta, but it was at a Savannah meeting that the legislators formed the governing body, the University of Georgia Senatus Academicus, and granted it 40,000 acres. The Senatus Academicus was composed of the Board of Visitors and the Board of Trustees, with the Georgia Senate presiding over those two boards. The initial meeting of the University's Board of Trustees was held in Augusta on February 13, 1786. The meeting resulted in the installation of the school’s first president, Abraham Baldwin, one of the original signers of the U.S. Constitution, a native of Connecticut and graduate of Yale University.
For the next 14 years, the university existed only on paper, as Georgia's leaders, occupied with the business of creating a state, used the land designated for a college for other purposes. On July 2, 1799, the Senatus Academicus met again in Louisville, Georgia (then the capital), and decided that the time was right to officially open the university. After first selecting Louisville and then Greensboro, Georgia as sites, a committee of the Board of Trustees finally selected a plot of land in 1801. John Milledge, a lawyer, legislator and later a governor of the state, purchased 633 acres on the banks of the Oconee River in Athens-Clarke Country and gave it to the board. Abraham Baldwin, author of the school's charter, resigned when the doors to the university opened, and was succeeded by Josiah Meigs (also a Yale graduate). Meigs was the sole faculty member and taught the first classes.
Work began on the initial college building in 1801and was completed in 1806. A three-story brick structure, originally called Franklin College (in honor of Benjamin Franklin), was the sole university building until 1821. Benjamin Franklin had served as an ambassador and diplomat in England, representing the Colony of Georgia, from 1768 to 1774. The university graduated its first class on May 31, 1804. Franklin College of Arts and Sciences still exists today, but is joined by 17 other schools and colleges that carry on the university’s programs of teaching, research and service.
The curriculum of traditional classical studies was broadened in 1843 to include courses in law, and again in 1872, when the university received federal funds for instruction in agriculture and mechanical arts. The university has three main campuses in Athens, Tifton and Griffin. The flagship campus in Athens is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as a designated historic district.
The young school struggled financially in its early years, and only the College of Arts and Sciences existed until 1859, when the School of Law was started. During the Civil War, most of the students entered the Confederate Army. The University closed its doors in 1864, and did not open again until January of 1866, with an enrollment of 78. Those who were veterans were able to utilize an award of $300 granted by the general assembly to injured soldiers younger than 30. In that same year, the legislature appropriated $2,000 for the creation of a College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. But the agricultural department within the university did not open until May 1, 1872, as the university was struggling financially.
The university escaped possible bankruptcy in 1872 when it accepted federal funds and was designated a land-grant institution under the Morrill Act. In 1873, a portion of the funds granted were used to establish a branch of the agricultural department in Dahlonega, which developed into North Georgia College and State University. The military department of the university was abandoned in the years following the Civil War, but its campus at Milledgeville, including the former state capital building, became Georgia Military College.
UGA began educating female students during the summer of 1903, but women were not admitted as full-time undergraduates until 1918. Before official admission, several women were able to complete graduate degrees through credit earned during the summer sessions. The first woman to earn such a degree was Mary Lyndon, who received a master of arts degree in 1914. Mary Ethel Creswell earned the first undergraduate degree in June of 1919, a B.S. in Home Economics. North Georgia College opened its doors to female students in 1873, and in 1879 became the first public institution in the state to award a degree to a female.
Named for the late Dr. S. V. Sanford, former president of the university and chancellor of the university system, Georgia's Sanford Stadium celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004. An overflow crowd of 30,000 saw the stadium's first game on October 12, 1929, when the Yale squad made its only trip to the South.
In 1931, the General Assembly of Georgia placed all state-supported institutions of higher education, including UGA, under the jurisdiction of a single board, the board of regents. The creation of a University System of Georgia in 1932 brought the university and the state's 25 other public colleges together under a centralized administration. The board of regents’ executive officer, the chancellor, was to serve in a general supervisory capacity over all the institutions in the university system, with each institution having its own executive officers and faculty.
In January of 1961, UGA became racially integrated after notable tension with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Two college students from Atlanta, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, transferred and became the first African-Americans to enroll. Later that year, Mary Frances Early, an African-American who was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, transferred to UGA. In 1962, she received a master's degree in music education, becoming the first African-American to graduate. Holmes and Hunter graduated in 1963. Also in 1963, Chester Davenport became the first African-American admitted to the UGA School of Law and its first African-American law graduate in 1966.
In 1985, UGA became the first public institution of higher education in America to celebrate its bicentennial, at the same time completing its first major fundraising drive. Nearly $400 million worth of construction was completed or started between 1987 and 1997, during the administration of school president Charles Knapp. East campus was opened, featuring a $37 million arts and music complex, a $40 million student physical activities and fitness center, and a $10 million student health center.
A research leader in such fields as agriculture, biology and biotechnology, UGA has always attracted superior students from across the country. However, the university has seen its academic reputation and enrollment rise markedly since the HOPE Scholarship Program was started in 1993. Since 1996, the university has had seven Rhodes Scholars, and its students have won 37 Goldwater Scholarships and 10 Truman Scholarships. The HOPE Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) was created under the supervision of Georgia Governor Zell Miller. HOPE is a unique, merit-based scholarship and grant program that rewards students with financial assistance in degree, diploma and certificate programs at Georgia public and private colleges, universities and technical colleges. HOPE is funded entirely through the revenue raised from the Georgia Lottery. This scholarship keeps in-state student costs among the lowest at major public universities in the U.S. The national college rankings place UGA among the top 20 of all public universities in America, and a top-10 best value.
Although UGA eventually became a land-grant university, it had not been the beneficiary of federal land or the proceeds of a federal land sale. Furthermore, given that the Civil War was in progress in 1862, if the university had depended on federal funds under the first Morrill Act, it would have been in violation of provision six of the act, "No state while in a condition of rebellion or insurrection against the government of the United States shall be entitled to the benefit of this act.” It wasn’t until 1890 that the act was extended to the former Confederate states, yet somehow UGA was funded under the Morrill Act in 1872. The 1890 Act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Among the 70 colleges and universities that eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's historically Black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, these new land-grant institutions were afforded the same legal standing as the 1862 Morrill Act colleges. With a few exceptions like Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nearly all of the land-grant colleges are public.
As to whether UGA is the oldest public university in the U.S, that title is also claimed by two other universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the College of William and Mary. Each has a distinct basis for the claim, with Georgia being the first to receive a charter to function as public university, North Carolina being the first to open to the public, and William and Mary having the oldest founding date of any currently public university. I would argue that UGA should retain the title since it was the first university in America to be created by a state government, and the principles intrinsic to its charter helped lay the foundation for the American system of public higher education.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #16
I pressed the lobby button to call the elevator and waited. Then I waited some more. I noticed a handwritten sign on one of the two sets of automatic doors. “Not in service,” it read.
Still waiting, my peripheral vision sensed something approaching me around waist level at my 3 o’clock. I turned to face the oncoming mass. It was an elderly lady in a motorized chair.
Side by side, we remained silent, the lady and I. I wished hard for the indicator bell signaling the car’s arrival to ring. Nothing. Two men appeared from the side opposite that which the lady had come. One carried a ladder. They wore well-used work clothes and splatters of spackle and paint on their skin. The taller of the two had a crew cut; the other, a modified mullet and a facial patch. The crew cut man’s skin was the yellow-gray that suggests the he buys his cigarettes by the carton rather than the pack. They were talking to one another, and then they weren’t.
We clustered in front of the one working shaft. The doors parted and a small crowd started to spill out. We divided our ranks down the middle – the wheelchair lady and I slid left and the workmen pair took to the right flank. Our maneuvers, complicated by the oncoming foot traffic, were awkward. A chorus of “Pardon me” and “Excuse me” filled the air.
Eventually, the coast was clear. Our makeshift foursome reformed in a fairly small square. Then, nobody moved. We three men assumed the wheelchair lady would know to go first. She hesitated anyway. We motioned her into the box. She pushed her chair’s joystick straight forward with her right thumb, and she was off on a direct line. The ladder man followed and wedged himself in behind her in one of the corners. His move didn’t have the desired affect. He banged the chair with his ladder bottom and struggled to turn himself back around facing front. His partner cautioned the ladder man to wait and reconsider his bearings. Meanwhile, I made myself skinny and slinked along the far wall.
The wheelchair woman came away from the back of the box just a little and angled to her right. The rest of us pivoted and jostled and inched to fill in the open floor space. We were at once settled and still. Until we realized – all at the same time – that the numbered buttons were out of our collective reach. The wheelchair woman couldn’t extend her arm far enough to press them, and the rest of us were blocked.
The lady grabbed her joystick again and I looked down to watch her moving hand. I was immediately fascinated by the digital display that indicated she was readying her chair to roll 12 degrees to her effective north. Still, I was undeniably annoyed. I had important stuff to accomplish, for which I was now a minute late. And she was compelling me to move out of her way again.
Forward, she went. Then, a short reverse. Two more of the same back-and-forth; like a kid with a learner’s permit trying to parallel park. Ladder man leaned his aluminum payload against the wall next to my left arm. It fell my way, saved from crashing to the floor by my rigid frame. I returned the ladder to its upright state, the woman grew content with her new position, and the mullet man found his way to the call button panel somehow.
“What floor?” he asked.
“Foo-or,” the lady answered, in at least two syllables, maybe three. She was wearing a hat. A church hat. Handsome, yet conspicuously dated as to its style.
“Five,” I added quickly.
The mullet man pressed both.
We started upward and it was quiet in our box. Until the ladder man addressed the lady: “How are you today, ma’am?”
“Me? Oh, I am blessed,” she exclaimed in the cadence of a gospel hymn. “I was able to get up, get myself ready, and now I have the opportunity to visit the clinic here.”
A momentary pause.
“So, I’m blessed, I sure enough am,” she finished her thoughts.
I felt my shoulders slump just a little and my face lightly flush. “I’m worked up about a feel busy meeting, and this woman is genuinely grateful, yet she can’t even walk?” I chastised myself inside my head.
My temporary shame subsided and I allowed myself to smile.
We arrived at floor 4. The doors opened and the joystick sought its 12 o’clock. “Keep spreadin’ that sunshine,” the ladder man enthused to the lady as she left.
“What’s that?” she asked without turning back.
“Keep spreadin’ that sunshine all around today,” the man repeated. “And we’ll all be better off.”
“Ain’t no need for me to spread it, it’s all around. Just open your eyes. If you don’t see it, look up.” And she was gone.
We started moving again. Ladder man, mullet man, and me. On 5, the door reopened. We all waited.
“No. After you.”
Three arms stretched out. Then we lunged in tandem and caused a three-sided crash. We untangled ourselves and started to laugh as if on cue. A half finished pack of Marlboro Reds fell from the ladder man’s pocket onto the floor. I reached down to grab them, straightened back up and put them in his palm. We separated and eased out of the box. We criss-crossed and navigated towards opposite halls. The ladder man tossed the cigarette pack in the garbage as his buddy turned to the window across the way. “It’s clearing up,” the mullet man said to neither of us in particular.
“Yep,” ladder man said. “Looks like the sun’s coming out.”
Penny in Profile
by Stefanie Chipperfield
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” so goes the old adage. But sometimes a truly great work of art by a passionate artist is worth something more emotive altogether - a smile.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone more passionate than Penny Thompson. So energetic, yet still down-to-earth, she lives in a picturesque lagoon-view spot on Seawatch Drive out by scenic Delegal Marina. I had barely taken a step in the door before she insisted I come and see the sprawling oak in her backyard. Illusorily larger with each step around it, it looks like a something out of a fantasy novel come to life. I asked her if she planned to try and paint it. She said she might tackle it someday.
Like many Landings residents, Penny started out as a Yankee. “I grew up in upstate New York,” she recalls. “My father was a chemist up there and worked for a carpet company. So I went to school [there]. When I got out of college, I lived at home for a few years working and then I went to teach down on Long Island. I taught high school math for 35 years.”
“My father was raised during the Depression,” she continues. “He made sure that all three of the girls that he had were going into academics so they had something to fall back on. I would have loved to have pursued phys. ed. or art or something like that — but he said ‘No, you’re going into an academic field so that in case one job falls apart you can go into something else.’ So he pushed us into the math and science fields, which were fine, they worked out well.”
Still, destiny had other plans.
“I was very bored up north in the winters,” Thompson explains. “It was just cold; it got dark early, and I didn’t like to watch TV. So I kept thinking, ‘Well, what would I love to do?’ I started looking at art and art books. ‘I’ll paint,’ I thought. I wanted nice paintings in my house. So I went and took a course.”
As it sometimes happens, Penny and her instructor didn’t see eye to eye. So she wound up at the library by her lonesome checking out books on painting. “But then I realized that I couldn’t draw!” she admits with a chuckle. “So, I got a book on how to draw. I taught myself to draw and, eventually, how to paint. Once I got confident enough, I began to teach painting at night. So I taught watercolor classes for 10 years.”
One of the women from her courses said that her husband had opened a gallery and wanted to carry Penny’s work. At first, she was hesitant, but her student convinced her, so she exhibited a few pieces and they sold immediately. Then another gallery picked up her work. She now has her paintings in quite a few galleries in Long Island.
“That’s when I started really gaining confidence,” she says. “When I realized that other people wanted to buy my paintings.”
The rest, they say, is art history.
Once retired, she and her husband were originally bound for Naples, Florida. But during a sailboat ride down the Intracoastal Waterway, towards Hilton Head, a friend called and suggested that the couple stop and check out a place outside of Savannah, called The Landings.
“We stopped, got off the boat, and fell in love with it,” Penny says. “I’m a golfer and a tennis player and a biker and a gardener — I said, ‘This is paradise!’”
The Landings Art Association (LAA) formed in 1987, by a woman named Betty Skinner. Seeing that there was a lot of talent in the community, she wanted to form an organization to support it. Their first big project was a book with paintings of island locales, including several of the golf courses. Today, the LAA is still going strong with 250 members, the majority from Skidaway Island.
Penny says, “It’s for experienced artists, struggling artists, people who want to be artists, or people who appreciate art. It caters to everybody. We have shows, we have workshops, and we have meetings with speakers. Anything that you’re looking for, you can find there. If you want to meet other artists, we have instructors listed on our website. If you want to take lessons, you can. If you just want to come and see art, we have so many shows that are available.”
One of those shows is the annual “Fabulous Fakes,” wherein members have to replicate a master’s piece or make a sort of spinoff of it. Thompson chose Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” putting herself in the 17th century scene and calling it “The Old Lady with a Pearl Earring.” As usual, she went above and beyond, appearing at the Plantation Club in costume. Needless to say, the piece sold.
Though she began working with oils, she says, “They take too long to dry. I’m impatient. Then I did acrylics for a little while. Once I started with watercolors, that’s what I fell in love with, so I stuck with them.”
Penny has her paintings hanging throughout her house. Her two favorites are dew-dropped roses and a sailboat moored in the sunset. “I love flowers because they don’t have perspective, really,” she explains. “I love to paint boats because I’m always into boating.”
She admits, “The hardest for me is to paint faces, which is why I’m taking courses on how to do it. And animals are hard.”
I’m stumped as I look around at her work. If flowers lack any dimension, she’s certainly given them plenty. Every piece looks just shy of a snapshot, with gorgeous effects of color and light and texture that no modern software algorithm could match. Faces and places all look so fantastic and vivid. Even the work-in-progress lying on her drafting table has so much tangible depth.
Right next to the bedroom that she commandeered for her art room, Penny has a small office that she uses primarily for matting. She confided in me that occasionally when she deems a piece unsalvageable, she will reuse the other side of the same piece of paper. If you happen to be a connoisseur of her work, carefully check under the frame to see if you’ve purchased a rare Penny bonus double. One doesn’t often think about the rough sketches and very beginnings of famous artworks, but it’s esteem-building to know that underneath it all, even art idols are just people, taking missteps on their paths toward something great.
Penny is proof that even if you lack a natural knack for something, if you’re passionate enough about it you can be as good or as great as you want to be.
On my drive home, I find myself in silence, radio and CD player off for the moment. My mind is racing with thoughts of the art. And I notice, I have the biggest, ear-to-ear smile on my face. Art works.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol 11, #15
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...” So said Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir.
In 1923, a New York Times reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to return to Mount Everest and climb again. The British teacher, war veteran and mountaineer had scaled parts of the revered Himalayan mass of earth and stone in 1921 and 1922, but he hadn’t reached the summit. The newspaper printed Mallory’s (purported) response, which has endured as one of the most recognizable three word phrases in our shared lexicon: “Because it’s there.”
In June of 1924, Mallory set off to conquer the mythical peak. He and his climbing partner died in the process.
Charles Darwin wrote, “Man, with all of his noble qualities, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” So, alpine philosopher Tom Patey observed, "If everyone made a point of remembering Darwin, we might be spared a lot of mountain philosophy and psychoanalysis. And Mallory might have been better informed. 'Why do you climb?' Because it's the natural thing to do.”
In other words, we have hands and feet and natural curiosity, just like the earlier versions of ourselves. When we look up and see something challenging in front of us, we’re preternaturally inclined to want to scale it. We can’t help ourselves.
It was our first evening in the Dolomites. Eleven American tourists and a pair of guides – one American and one Spanish, or Catalan, as she would prefer to say. Earlier in the day, we had hopped off a train into a van, driven to a castle-cum-picnic area, donned our daypacks, and trekked a few miles, breaking a sweat on the uphills, but spared real discomfort by long stretches of gentle meadows in between. Now, having cleaned up rather nicely, we sat together around a long rectangular table with delicate linens and enough forks at each place to confuse Emily Post. The American guide tapped one of her wine glasses with a fork. “We’d like to go around the table and get to know each other a little better. Your name, where you’re from, why you’ve come on this trip to the Dolomites to climb.”
“I’m Margaret. Since there are the four of us (a husband and two 20-something daughters), I wanted to go somewhere where the decisions about what we would do were made for us, so we wouldn’t have the opportunity to disagree.”
Margaret’s husband: “I’m the checkbook, and she made the reservations.”
Another man: “I’m an avid photographer, and the natural beauty here is supposed to be off the charts.”
His wife: “It’s Italy…incredible food, ancient culture, great exercise…what’s not to love?”
Their college student daughter: “I’ve never been here before. It sounded fun. And I’m meeting friends in Venice after and my parents are ditching me, so I’m going backpacking through Austria and ending up in Amsterdam.”
The group laughed.
Another couple – the man, first: “I work for the company (the tour operator). And we love to take all of the trips.”
Me (oddly nervous and uncomfortable despite the assembly’s small size): “We like active vacations. Friends recommended this company. Initially, we wanted to cycle the mountains of Slovenia, but we couldn’t make the dates work. This itinerary fit. The kids didn’t want to go, but we booked it and here we are.”
Would she or wouldn’t she?
My wife: “Hi. I’m Louise. I found out I had stage-4 cancer within the last year. I’ve done treatments and recently I got a clean report. I’m currently cancer free. So why not climb?”
The group was quiet for an awkward instant. Then the next person, one of the daughters, took her turn.
Behind us, just up a little grade, the village church looked down on our group, its onion dome proudly watching over a stunning glazed green tile roof. To my right, the setting sun was painting the sheer limestone faces of distant peaks with a distinctive orange-red hue – alpenglow. It was turning chilly, just enough to notice. I sipped my sparkling water, looked at my wife as she looked down, and thought to myself, “We choose to live.” The church bell chimed. I looked back over my shoulder in the direction of the sound. My eyes climbed to the point of the spire rising up from the dome. “Thank You,” I said silently in my head.
After the first full day, you can tell who wants to push it and who prefers a leisurely stroll. The group dynamics are starkly primal. You lead if you can, follow if you must, hope for humility, attempt to mask resentment, and the distance between the front and back of the pack continues to widen all the time.
At dinner the second night, the Catalan guide looked at me with a knowing smile. “Tomorrow is the Sassonger peak (the stiffest challenge in the area, we’d later learn). Brigitta, a local mountain goat will take you up. There are cables near the top. I think you’ll love it.”
Lousie met my gaze. “We’re in.”
They don’t tell you much. Perhaps it’s better that way. You just get on Brigitta’s heels and stay close. Which is like a manatee chasing a mountain goat.
Three of us tried…the college girl, Louise and me. A few hundred feet from the top, exhausted from the 3,300 vertical already below us, things got hairy. The first of the cables appeared in the rocks. The trail wasn’t a trail anymore. Hands became as important as feet. The college girl straddled a crevasse that seemed to have no floor. Her legs began to shake uncontrollably. She had warned us that she was afraid of heights. Brigitta gave her a jacket and told her to wait on a (relatively) flat spot. Enough is enough.
Louise and I grabbed at outcroppings and slowly scrabbled up, stopping often, begging for air.
“I’m done,” Louise said.
I realized I had never seen her quit at anything before.
“No you’re not,” I answered. “Get in front of me. I’ll push you if it comes to that.”
A white bandana covered her head with the hair that has grown back in over the last few months. It reflected the brilliance of an unchecked high mountain sun.
She started up again. So did I.
At the top, we found a delightful surprise. An ultra-fit couple and a shining steel cross. They greeted us kindly. “You’re from Australia,” I said when I heard his voice.
“Yep. But we live in London now.”
His wife was Asian.
“She’s from Sweden,” he said, matter of factly. Why not?
In the middle of her muscular frame, her form-fitting clothes revealed a basketball bump. Five months pregnant, she revealed.
We took pictures, shared M&M’s, chatted and laughed, and marveled at God’s work all around. We touched the steel cross and started back down.
Why do you climb a mountain?
Because sometimes it’s the only way to get to the other side.
A Tale of Two Shipbuilding Cities
By Louise Lauretti
One of my favorite things about traveling is the chance to make a dent in the ever-expanding pile of unread books sitting on the bedroom nightstand. However, each time we visit a new spot, it seems to come with another recommended reading list. Although I have been to Italy before, never had I ventured to the picturesque Dolomites on a hiking expedition of soaring limestone peaks.
To prepare, our tour company suggested “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind,” by Beppe Severgnini; a clever and hilarious revelation concerning the modern Italian psyche combined with some history to explain the evolution of such cultural idiosyncrasy. In the first chapter, the author describes Italy as a country that is not easy to explain, especially when you pack a few fantasies in your baggage and customs lets them through. For me, those fantasies are probably not unlike yours, and have been partially shaped by popular movies and novels like “The English Patient,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “A Room with a View,” “Catch-22,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and “The DaVinci Code.” What several of these stories have in common is their setting during, or shortly after, World Wars I and II. Hence my romantic notions of and my fascination with wartime Italy.
Some of the mountain towns we visited were on the Austro-Hungarian side before the first World War and the Italian front ran right through the Dolomites. Last fall, two soldiers’ bodies were found interred in the ice on the Presena glacier in the area, nearly 100 years after being killed in fighting with Italian forces.
To continue with the wartime theme, in Severgnini’s book he discusses how the 1946 invention of the Vespa, the small motorbike that remains one of the quintessential fixtures of Italian life, was a product of a former World War II factory that once produced fighter planes. The Piaggio factory at Pontedera in Tuscany had been severely damaged by bombing in 1944. When the war was over and Italy agreed to the Allied-imposed cessation of all wartime activities, Piaggio had to invent a new product or risk closure. Using the starter aircraft motors left over in the warehouses, and with the help of a couple of aeronautical engineers, Enrico Piaggio launched an affordable vehicle that could navigate the disastrous roads resulting from heavy war bombings.
The engineers were inspired by American-made Cushman scooters, which were used in Italy during the war as field transport for troops and Marines. Upon seeing the prototype for the first time, Piaggio himself exclaimed, “Sembra una vespa!” (“It resembles a wasp!”), thereby naming the product on the spot. The Vespa featured advantages of a motorbike, including low fuel consumption and low bulk, and none of the inconveniences, since it was light and relatively quiet. The millionth Piaggio scooter was sold in 1956 – costing about one-third as much as a car, it had revolutionized Italian transportation by bringing motoring to the masses.
So what does any of this have to do with Savannah history, you ask? Well, the Piaggio family business began as a manufacturer of ship fittings in the late 1800s and evolved into a builder of trains, aircraft engines and planes. During World War II, Piaggio contributed strategically to the Italian effort by producing the great four engine P108 aircraft, the only heavy, long-range bomber used by the Italian Air Corps. Analogously, between 1942 and 1944, 88 Liberty Ships, which was the name given to quickly constructed wartime freighters designed to transport supplies and equipment oversees, were constructed by Savannah’s Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation. At the behest of President Roosevelt, the United States Maritime Commission started a $350 million shipbuilding program (260 ships) in September of 1941 to bring “liberty” to Europe.
The Atlantic-based campaign was an intense strategic initiative for the Allies, intended to keep vital supply routes open for food, equipment and men. The speed at which Liberty Ships could be constructed allowed the U.S. to build cargo vessels faster than German U-boats could sink them. Nationally, the average construction time was 42 days, and by 1943, three Liberty Ships were being completed each day. This continuous supply, along with Allied military successes against the U-boats, ensured that Britain and Allied forces in Europe remained well-supplied during the war. By 1945, 2,751 Liberty ships had been constructed in 14 shipyards across the country, and they have been credited with securing an Allied victory over the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous campaign of World War II.
Many Liberty ships were built in Georgia at shipyards in Savannah and Brunswick. Savannah Shipyards was initially awarded a half-dozen shipbuilding contracts, but these contracts carried many special provisions that had to be met. The firm was required to recruit a full staff, show sufficient capitalization, and complete its facility within 30 to 60 days of signing the contract. The builders failed to meet the requirements, so the commission took possession of the yard, redesigned the facility from a three to a six-way shipyard, and awarded management to a new company, Southeastern Shipbuilding.
Southeastern launched its first Liberty Ship, the SS James Oglethorpe, in February of 1943. Sent across the Atlantic in a large convoy, the Oglethorpe unfortunately was attacked by German U-Boats and sunk a few months later. Average cost for a Southeastern Liberty Ship was $2,043,000. Subsequent contracts were awarded to the yard for the construction of C1-M-AV1 cargo ships and AP-type transports. Over the ensuing two years, many other ships with historic Savannah names came off the company’s assembly line on E. President Street. Ships included the James Jackson, Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett, John Milledge, Florence Martus, Robert Toombs, Casimir Pulaski, George Whitefield, Joseph Habersham, Juliette Gordon Low and Francis S. Bartow, among others. On September 14, 1945, the shipyard christened its last vessel, the SS Half Knot.
The production of ships in Georgia's shipyards prompted major social changes in the state with regard to urbanization, race and women. The industrial demands of the war brought people from rural Georgia into the cities, bringing their families and leaving their agricultural existences behind. Workers flocked to Savannah in droves from Springfield, Blitchton, Pembroke, Clyo, Statesboro, Brooklet and a dozen other South Georgia towns. Most had never seen a ship, much less built one. Many were taken out of high school; others were in their 70s or 80s.
By necessity, women were recruited for construction jobs – traditionally male territory. Many women experienced out-of-home work for the first time. The war also brought African-Americans into the high wage shipbuilding industry. Federal law mandated that all workers building ships for the government received high wages, and this included black workers. Blacks fared much better in Brunswick's shipyards than they did in Savannah because many aligned themselves with the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America.
New housing was constructed, and workers moved into places like Pine Gardens, Tattnall House and Deptford Place. The workers labored in the heat, through mosquitoes, and in the bitter cold. Their work was dangerous and boring, but many worked double shifts, nights, and seven days a week. There were 45,000 during the four years of the shipyard's existence. The crews built ships and built them well.
Although the manufacturing center disappeared shortly after the end of the war, it remains the largest single industrial development the area has ever seen. Southeastern Shipbuilding pumped millions of dollars into Savannah’s Depression-era economy, providing thousands of jobs and changing Savannah’s demographics forever. Oddly, no markers or monuments to the yard, or the 88 Liberty ships it produced, have ever been erected. There is a tribute to “Rosie the Riveter” at the World War II Memorial on River Street. There, bricks have been laid to commemorate some of the more than 2,000 women who worked at Southeastern at one time.
On October 13, 1947, the U.S. government sold Southeastern’s property, approximately 90 acres, to the Savannah Port Authority and Industrial Commission, for $357,112. Savannah native Tony Cope has written a book, “On the Swing Shift,” about the era of Liberty shipbuilding in Savannah. In it, he explains, “When the war ended, they thought they were gonna get peace time contracts out there, and of course that didn't happen. The shipyard began laying off people very quickly, and the property was sold to the city. Almost everything on the property was sold as scrap."
The majority of those who had come to work on the ships and put down roots in east Savannah stayed on to find other work. Many found jobs at Union Bag, the paper mill on the city’s west side (now International Paper). While the influx of population certainly boosted Savannah’s economy, the impact of an ongoing manufacturer and employer could have been so much greater.
According to Severignini, the Italians have their faults: they talk on their cell phones and gesticulate too much; they are obsessed with food; their politics and institutions are inefficient and unreliable, but here is one example where their ability to innovate far surpassed ours.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #14
It’s no surprise we forgot again. We’ve probably remembered fewer times than we haven’t over the years.
Because they never appeared to make a big deal out of it, we didn’t either. In retrospect, their nonchalant approach seems inexplicably peculiar, as they are very devoted to one another otherwise. Thinking more deeply, though, it makes sense. They never shined bright lights on themselves, which sounds like a strange thing to say about a nearly 80-year-old guy who rides a red-white-and-blue motorcycle with flags attached, and his wife – also known as my mom and dad.
They came over to our house on July 5th for dinner. Fireworks long fizzled from the evening before, it was a good night for a filling family dinner at home. At some point - I think between the pasta course and the whole fish – it - this passing factoid - slipped into one of the concurrent sub-conversations that spread from kitchen to dining room. It’s their anniversary. Number 51.
The date itself conjures a conspicuous sense of irony. Married the day AFTER our national celebration of independence. Two individuals, independent no more.
My dad loves to share the stories of men and women who have served their countries, communities, families and friends. I’m going to turn the tables and tell you the abbreviated tale of a 28 year-old man and a pretty woman, who was a couple of years younger than him, more than half a century ago.
The early 1900s building, most likely a former single-family home, had been divided into pieces. Each piece served as a simple apartment. The residents shared a common staircase that rose from the entry vestibule, itself separated by the sidewalk from the street. It was “downtown,” in the way that small communities had centralized areas that were slightly more dense than the farm fields a few miles away. Main Street was close by. Where it intersected with its perpendicular counterpart, you’d find the town square – Methodist Church on one corner, Presbyterian on another, county courthouse on the third, and a bank branch filled the fourth. From overhead, the three steeples must have looked like a trio of oversized bowling pins awaiting a second-ball spare roll.
Walk away from the square in any direction and you’d find – more or less – the same things radiating out from the square: barber shops, beauty parlors, dress stores. There was a menswear place where farmers came to buy their funeral suits and where bankers replaced worn blue blazers with newer versions of the same, and the salesmen talked high school football with anyone who’d drop by to hide for a few minutes from the rest of the world. You could choose from a handful of places to eat, though your favorite might not stay open past lunch. Folks had a particular way of referring to these joints, calling them “rest-rints,” two syllables instead of the usual three, accent squarely on the first. Along the most commercially interesting of the four spines, you’d find places to buy an engagement ring, a camera to capture the memories from the wedding, an office where you’d book the honeymoon trip, and a shop to buy your son his first baseball glove, once he finally grew big enough to throw with you in the yard.
They…we…came from an uncomplicated place.
Back to that brick cube with the collection of one-bedrooms and efficiencies carved up inside…My dad lived there alone, when he wasn’t at the shoe factory learning all the secrets stuck in his father’s head. My mom lived there, too. They hadn’t met, until a third resident saw to it.
My father’s aunt, Ruth, had a place on the ground floor. Aunt Ruth noticed the quiet, striking blonde who popped in and out on her way to and from classes at nursing school. Aunt Ruth, former purveyor of world-class, sizzling platter, 25-cent T-bones and homemade candy, until her Greek husband Bill died way too young, set the whole thing up. She invited the nursing student and the shoemaker to dinner one night. And the die was cast.
She was raised mostly in an orphanage, so there were no parents to give her away. Anyway, they were a little older than the typical betrothed twosome of the time – closer to 30 than 20, each. So they eloped.
They got in his convertible two-seater and drove farther than most people would ever want to. From Pennsylvania to New Mexico, where one of her sisters lived. They took their vows on July 5 and did what anyone would do right after – got back in the car. At the Grand Canyon, they traded their bucket seats for a pair of donkeys’ backs. They descended from the rim of the canyon along a twisting dirt path until they reached the floor below. Knowing my mom, she was silently scared and determined to hide it every time her mount stretched his neck beyond the solid ground along the trail. At the bottom, they spent their first night as man and wife.
Like the donkey ride, there have been awkward bumps and unexpected turns during their extended trip. And like the donkey ride, they have negotiated them together, never truly considering turning around or riding away. It hasn’t always been glamorous or conventional, but it’s been adventurous, satisfying and a lot of fun – like a ride into a magnificent canyon, this journey through life.
So we forgot again this year. But since they were at our place for dinner, we declared it a celebration of them. Maybe next year we’ll plan something in advance. In any case, I’m sure glad it’s all worked out this last half-century and then some.
The Skinnie Minute: A Bird's Eye View of Skidaway Island
By Pat Brooks
Vol. 11, #13
When life gives you lemons you can make lemonade…or you can buy a lemon-colored amphibious plane. Which is exactly what Dave Myers did. When the construction industry turned downward, Dave looked upward and followed his dream of having an office in the sky. If you are on Diamond Causeway early in the morning or near sunset, you’ve likely seen Dave and his seaplane, “Mello One,” on the water at Butterbean Beach and above the island.
It doesn’t take long to get a sense of Dave’s passion for flying, his enthusiasm for sharing it, and his appreciation for the natural beauty of the island and the people that he gets to share it with. The next time you see him at the boat ramp, strike up a conversation and you might just find yourself with a new perspective on this island we call home.
So how did all this get started?
I took an introductory flight while on vacation in 2010 with Paradise Air Hawaii on Oahu. By the time we got up 100 feet and cleared the tree line, I knew that I wanted to do this for a living. Of course, they had heard this before, but they didn’t realize I was serious about it. Although I did not have an aviation background, I just fell in love with the feeling of being in the air in an open cockpit. When I got back home, I asked around to find out who the best instructor was for this type of aircraft. I was directed to an instructor in Virginia and that is where I began the process to get my license. Prior to that, I had been a carpenter all my life and in the military.
How was the transition from carpenter to flight instructor and small business owner?
Actually, smoother than you might expect. I was fortunate to team up with Skidaway Island banker, Jamie Chisholm, who believed in me and my business plan enough to give me a loan to start the business. I bought the plane, which is a Special Light Sport Weight Shift Control Aircraft, from a company in Ft. Walton Beach, for $57,000. It has the same safety standards as a Cessna or a Piper, and a big requirement is ongoing inspections and maintenance by a certified mechanic. We spent a lot of time focusing on the safety aspect of the business plan, to make sure that with doing everything first-rate, that the numbers still worked. A significant percentage of my flights are with Skidaway Island residents. I also have a good mix of people throughout Savannah and the surrounding areas. Some people are just visiting Savannah, so this gives them a unique perspective that they may not otherwise see by land or by boat.
So this is your third season?
It is. Most of my flights are from Butterbean. Before I started the business, I contacted the various authorities to let them know what I was planning to do. I’ve had an excellent relationship with the Coast Guard, FAA, Department of Natural Resources and residents of the island. A lot of people want to fly over their homes. We can certainly do that, but at the same time, we are respectful of everyone’s space and do our best to be good neighbors. This past year we had a lot of success with things like Internet coupons, and most people who fly with us will buy the video card of their flight to share with their friends. Things like Facebook and our website, combined with word of mouth, have been helpful to us as a small business getting started.
Give us some specs on the aircraft.
It’s a Sea & Sky Cygnet amphibious trike. It is built in America to strict FAA standards. It is an “N” numbered Special Light Sport Aircraft and is rated for 6 Gs positive and 3 Gs negative. That’s much higher than most conventional airplanes. We only fly when conditions will provide the smoothest possible flight. We mostly go low and slow. No acrobatics or under the bridge flying for us. We tend to fly around 45 miles an hour, plus or minus 10, depending on a headwind or a tailwind. At that speed, you really get to see what is going on and can enjoy the awesome scenery we have around the island. We tend to fly between a few hundred feet and 1,000 feet, depending on where the smoothest air is. The plane has a wingspan of 34 feet and weighs 640 pounds when empty. It has an 80 horsepower motor with dual ignition components.
So what happens if the motor stops working?
The aircraft has an excellent glide ratio, so we would basically fly to the nearest flat area and land as usual. As an amphibious craft, we can land on water or engage the landing gear and land on the ground. I specifically wanted to have the amphibious aircraft since most of my flying is over water, and it is just such a cool experience to take off and land on the water.
How long are most of your flights?
Typically from around 30 minutes to an hour. I’ve been doing sunrise as well as sunset flights the past two years. This third year, the sunrise adventure flights have really taken off (no pun intended). We typically fly out around Wassaw and land at Raccoon Key to walk around a bit and explore. We then take off and fly towards Tybee or downtown, and then return to the boat ramp. These adventure flights take about two hours and have become really popular. I can’t think of a better way to start a day. It is beautiful to see the sun come up over the horizon while you are in the air.
Your flights are designed as introductory flight lessons. If I don’t really want a flight lesson, and I just want to go for a ride, can I do that?
Every flight we do is a lesson, but that is a good thing. This way you get to go through the pre-flight briefing, as well as the taxiing, take off and landing procedures. It really gives you a sense of the theory behind how and why an aircraft moves through the air while you are actually in the cockpit. Our goal isn’t to “make you fly.” Our goal is for you to have a great time and to come down with a new appreciation- not only for these types of aircraft, but for flying in general.
Is there an age or weight limit?
So far we’ve flown from age 5 to 85. Of course, maturity and an adult legal guardian’s permission are required for children to fly. The weight limit is 250 pounds because of a predetermined safety factor.
We wish you continued success in the air and on the ground.
Thanks. I love being a part of Skidaway Island.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #13
“Youth Will Be Served.”
In addition to being the title of your favorite 1940 Jane Withers musical film, it’s a well-recognized English proverb. A more cynical version of the same proverbial theme goes like this: “Youth will have its course. Let the young enjoy themselves while they can.”
The sentiment informs the verse:
When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then they, for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.
So, “Every dog has his day.” Familiar words from our modern lexicon.
Nineteenth-century English writer George Borrow wove the two thoughts together and said, with modest acclaim, “Youth will be served, every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one.”
“What the heck is he talking about?,” you’re asking yourself right about now. The truth is, I’m “killing two birds with one stone.” (A phrase itself borrowed, from the Icarus myth and/or an old Chinese saying, depending on your perspective). First, I’m filibustering; avoiding the admission that I’m not crafting an extended personal essay this time. But I’m also redirecting the spotlight to the stars of this issue – the young people on pages 10 through 15, inside.
You’ll find the faces and future plans of 32 Skidaway teens who have recently graduated from high school. This installment of the magazine is about them. Let youth be served. I won’t keep you here any longer. Enjoy our annual tribute to the kids.
A Portrait of Tragedy
By Louise Lauretti
I was so intrigued by a miniature portrait of Julia Scarbrough Barnsley, reprinted in a Georgia Historical Society pamphlet, that I was compelled to delve into the story of this woman’s life. There is so much substance, intrigue, success and tragedy in the Scarbrough family story, that it will be hard to do it justice in just one article – it is the miscellany of a gripping Southern novel.
Recognizing the Scarbrough name from previous research on architect William Jay, I recognized the names in this once wealthy and prominent Savannah family. Scarborough House, commissioned by shipping merchant William Scarborough, is the earliest example of domestic Greek Revival architecture in the Deep South. Completed by Jay in 1819, just in time for a visit by President James Monroe, the mansion was the site of some of Savannah’s most noteworthy society parties and galas while in family hands.
William’s wife, Julia, called the parties “blowouts,” and a visitor to the city wrote, “Mrs. Scarbrough lately sent out cards of invitation to 500 persons. Three hundred attended. Every room in a large house was newly furnished for the occasion, the beds etc. sent out; refreshments handed round from garret to cellar through the night.”
However, William was declared an insolvent debtor within two years of building the mansion, and it was sold along with the furnishings in a bankruptcy proceeding in 1820. The very endeavor for which he became most renown, was also the cause of his financial ruin – an investment in the S.S. Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.
William was born on Belfast Plantation in North Carolina in 1776, educated in England and served a commercial apprenticeship in Denmark, England, Germany and Spain. At 26, he moved to Savannah, built a commercial and shipping business, became a bank director, manager of elections, member of the Board of Health, vestryman of Christ Church, Vice Consul of Denmark and Sweden and Consul General of Russia. In 1818, at the zenith of his wealth and importance, Scarbrough formed the Savannah Steamship Company and became the principal investor and president.
The investor group (Scarbrough and 20 associates) bought (for $50,000) a brand new hybrid sailing vessel with an auxiliary paddle wheel and steam power. After giving President Monroe a ride to Tybee and back on May 11, the S.S. Savannah left for Liverpool. A world record 29 days later, she arrived in England. From England, she steamed to Stockholm, and finally St. Petersburg. In Russia, the captain tried to sell the ship to Czar Alexander Pavlovich, but the Russian wasn’t interested. Other buyers were sought to no avail, and the ship returned home a commercial failure.
The steam engine was removed and the S.S. Savannah transported cargo between New York and Savannah, until sinking in a storm near Fire Island, New York in 1821. Scarbrough never recovered financially, and was forced to sell his share in Belfast Plantation. He became an agent for the Upper Darien Steam Rice and Sawmill in Darien, Georgia, wrote papers on the steam pump and was awarded a patent in 1835 for improving the steam engine. He died in 1838, while on a business trip with his son-in-law in New York City.
The “Castle,” their Jay-built home on W. Broad Street, had since been purchased by Scarbrough’s brother-in-law, Robert Isaac, then willed to his niece, Charlotte Scarbrough Taylor, in 1827. The extended family continued to live in the house, and subsequent renovations, including the addition of a third floor were financed by second daughter, Julia Scarbrough and her husband Godfrey Barnsley.
Godfrey arrived from Derbyshire, England in 1824, when he was only 18. He quickly amassed a fortune in cotton exportation without the aid of pedigree or distinguished education. He was employed as a brokerage clerk to a prominent cotton shipper, and it wasn’t long before he had his own fleet of ships sailing between his warehouses in Savannah, New Orleans, Mobile and Liverpool. He is reputed to have sent the first bale of cotton from Savannah to England. Godfrey was recognized by ministers of trade the world over, for establishing significant American/foreign trade relations, and served as vice-consulate to European and South American nations. Godfrey fell deeply in love with Julia and the two were married in 1828.
The match was a good one, both romantically and socially – the Barnsleys were one of the most prestigious couples in Savannah society. It is said that the Barnsley Ball, held in 1837 to celebrate a return to prosperity after a period of depression, has not been eclipsed since. After 12 years of marriage, Julia had borne five children and was not well; the sweltering heat, and threats of yellow fever and malaria on the Georgia coast were taking a toll. In 1838, shortly after the Cherokee Indians had been removed, Godfrey took an exploration trip to Bartow Country in North Georgia. He and the three friends who accompanied him - Henry Stiles, Rev. Charles Wallace Howard and Francis Bartow - would all have a lasting impact on the fledgling county.
In order to escape the disease and temperatures of the Georgia low lands, Godfrey transported his wife, family, and a fleet of servants into the cooler climate of the Georgia upcountry in 1841. By then, Godfrey had amassed a huge fortune on the Savannah waterfront, which enabled him to purchase large tracts of old Cherokee land. He began planning and building a dream manor for his beloved Julia on 10,000 acres. The site chosen for the house was an acorn-shaped hill reputedly cursed, and legend warned it should be avoided as an unlucky location. Godfrey was undeterred and forged ahead with a grand estate and gardens that was to be called “Woodlands.”
The splendid 24-room home was designed in the style of an Italian villa, crafted from handmade bricks, and included a tower. It also featured such rare conveniences as hot and cold running water. The family kitchen had an innovative spring-wound cooking spit that automatically turned cuts of meat over roasting coals. A copper tank to the right of the chimney furnished hot water to bathrooms, and a similar tank in the bell tower supplied cold water to house and gardens. The wine cellar held plentiful imported wines. Tiles for the veranda were imported. Doors and paneling were fashioned by London cabinetmakers, and mantels of black-and-white marble were brought from Italy. Godfrey was particularly concerned with the gardens, and he designed them in the style of Andrew Jackson Downing, considered America's first great landscape architect. He brought in every known variety of rose and numerous exotic tree, plant and shrub specimens. Priceless collections of artwork and furniture from the four corners of the world were transported to Woodlands.
Fortune changed for the Barnsley family shortly after moving to Woodlands. An infant son died and Julia became very ill, returned to Savannah, and died in 1845 of tuberculosis. Godfrey’s beloved wife never saw the completion of the castle built in her honor. Heartbroken over her premature death, Godfrey stopped construction of the estate, left his children under the care of his servants, and traveled away for a time, hoping to find some sort of solace. But his travels provided him little comfort, and he eventually returned to Woodlands. He continued to feel the presence of his beloved Julia each time he roamed the gardens. A short time later, Godfrey reported that Julia appeared to him in a dream, pleading with him to finish the estate. He immediately wrote to his overseer that construction should be resumed and he took his eight children to New Orleans while workmen continued construction of the home.
In 1858, the second Barnsley daughter, Adelaide died in the house. The oldest son, Howard, was killed in 1862 by Chinese pirates, while he searched Asia for exotic shrubbery to complete his father's garden. In 1861, with his ships turned over to the Confederacy and two of his sons, Lucien and George, enlisted in the army, Godfrey returned to Woodlands to wait out the war. With the majority of workmen in the area serving in the Confederate army, work on the estate came to a halt.
Although the Civil War depleted Godfrey’s fortune, the great house remained. In 1864, Union Gen. James B. McPherson fought a cavalry battle on the grounds at Barnsley. Reportedly, McPherson forbade any looting of the unfinished mansion, but his orders had little apparent effect. When Union troops later raided the estate, they had to contend with Mary Quin, the Barnsleys’ Irish housekeeper. Mary was already furious over the looting of valuable china, the consumption of fine food and wines, and the theft of the linen sheets on which McPherson had slept. When a soldier stole Godfrey’s watch and tried to burn down the house, Mary tackled the soldier in the scullery. When he escaped, she followed him to McPherson’s headquarters in Kingston, stated her grievance to the general and recovered the watch.
During the Woodlands invasion, it was Godfrey’s tenacious, strong-willed daughter Julia, who rescued the estate from starvation. But long after Sherman had passed, Federal stragglers raided the home and did untold damage to the structure, furnishings and Italian statuary.
The war's end brought little relief for the Barnsleys. George and Lucian returned home, but refused to sign the oath of allegiance to the Union and moved to South America, instead. Godfrey returned to New Orleans to try to rebuild his wealth, leaving his son-in-law Capt. Baltzelle and daughter Julia to manage Woodlands. Godfrey died in New Orleans in 1873 at age 68, and his body was returned to the family burial plot at Woodlands.
At the turn of the 20th century, A. A. Saylor, a noted chemist and mineralogist from Pennsylvania, found his way to the Barnsley estate and married granddaughter Adelaide. Bearing out the prophecy of bad luck that lingered over the estate, Saylor died while their two sons, Harry and Preston, were quite young. A tornado in 1906 tore away the roof of the main house and forced the Saylors to move into the intact kitchen wing.
During the Great Depression, two great-grandsons, a prizefighter and his brother, struggled fiercely to keep the family property out of the hands of land acquirers. In 1935, Preston Saylor, a nationally recognized heavyweight boxer under the name of K.O. Dugan, killed his brother over a birthright dispute and was sent to prison. When Addie Saylor died in 1942, the estate and its remaining furnishings were sold at auction.
The property was bought by W. Earl McClesky and used for farming. In 1988, Prince Hubertus Fugger and his wife Princess Alexandra, of Bavaria, purchased Barnsley Gardens. The remains of the old estate and gardens were rescued from 40 years of neglect. All that remains of the grand castle is an empty shell with fingers of brick reaching toward the sky. The gardens have been rebuilt, though still remaining are the oval boxwood mazes, the great lawns, the English and Japanese yews and the ancient roses. Now, visitors travel to Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands to enjoy the unique resort, historic gardens, museum and golf course.
The Scarbrough and Barnsley stories are both fascinating and tragic. Members of each family achieved and subsequently lost great fortunes. But, it wasn’t until Julia and Godfrey moved to north Georgia that the family experienced a string of catastrophic events that lasted for generations. Tales of supernatural manifestions, particularly those of Mrs. Julia Barnsley, have been plentiful over the years, adding to the mystery of the family’s saga. One cannot help but wonder what life might have been like for the family if the estate had not been built on the reputed Cherokee-cursed ground. Returning to the portrait of the lovely Julia Scarborough Barnsley, it is almost as if her melancholy expression foretold the family’s fate.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #12
You’re a man. You have a baby girl. You’re over the moon. She’s perfect. She might have a clump of hair stuck to the top of her tiny head or just a few wisps of silk. Still, her shining eyes radiate a distinct femininity from day one. Her lips purse delicately. She’s a she. And you’re her dad.
Which means the dread clock starts ticking right away. Will all my sins be revisited upon me? Is her adolescence destined to serve as a form of parental penance? How long can we keep her away from boys?
Soon, among your buddies, you pepper conversations with flippant firearm references. “I’ll be sure to be cleaning my gun when some kid stops by to pick her up.”
You feign inflexibility. “She won’t date until she’s 30.” Or “Prom?! Not as long as she’s living under my roof.”
And then you go about enjoying the early years. It’s easy. She climbs into your arms like a cat on one of its friendly days. She naps on your chest. She crawls across the floor to you, flashing a tooth or two, ecstatic that you’re growing even bigger in her wide eyes as a result of her approach. Soon, she’s walking, and reaching up to hold your hand. Then she’s pigtails and jumpers and you’re still a superhero, more or less.
But the dam can only hold for so long. The torrent is too strong.
My wife and I have been relatively lucky, or so we think. Our older girl has largely dismissed boys as a collective nuisance, though I can sense her building hope that college delivers “social opportunities” that she has avoided thus far. Our littler (but not little at all) one is a bit more open to the notion of romance. She notices boys and they notice her. Leading us to where we are today: She’s got a boyfriend, and she admits to it and so does he.
Oddly, the world has not fallen into cataclysmic chaos. When I (finally) shook his hand, my arm didn’t quiver with an involuntary hate-filled response. He smiled, I smiled, he called me by the name that still sounds foreign to me – Mr. Lauretti, she got in the car, and we drove away. The subsequent silence was awkward, just a tad, as she tried to suppress her short-breathed excitement and portray herself as unflinchingly composed. Like I would have with my sister, I teased her annoyingly to break the ice.
He came to our house, the boy. At what time do you insist he leave? They watched a movie on her computer. Definitely NOT in her room, but do we stay on our own floor while the two of them sit in the parlor below? Once, I drove up on them unknowingly while they were sitting in his pickup out front. I was startled, they were startled. Either they’re agile and observant, or nothing, thank God, was going on.
Did I notice something on her neck? A mark? Sure I did. Or maybe not. I glanced at the maybe-spot over and over, trying not to give my suspicions away. But what man – what obsessive, possessive, somewhat confused father – can bite his tongue forever? So I said something. She sort of chuckled, and we dropped it, until I mentioned it again.
They go to dinner. Often. More than I remember doing when I was that age. But he’s got a job, and they like Mexican food, so it’s a manageable indulgence. Still, she’s out, more or less, for some segment of every night.
There are little victories for dad in this struggle to reallocate her affections, though. And I celebrate them quietly inside my head. “Let’s go out on the boat this weekend,” she suggested to her mom the week before I sent this to print.
I wasn’t included in the conversation, but I imagine her mother’s reply went something like this: (Pause to ponder schedule constraints.) “Sure, how about Saturday? We can go somewhere for lunch. I’ll talk to Dad. Do you want to bring someone along?”
Which, when translated for me, yields: “Gabby wants to go out on the boat Saturday. We don’t have anything else we have to do. We could go up to Kiawah. It’ll be fun.” (Long, long pause.) “Oh, I told her she could bring a friend.”
I assume it’s the boy.
“No,” my wife corrects me. “She’s inviting Taylor.” Lord of Unending Mercy: Taylor is a girl.
It’s two and a half hours up. We take the ocean route. The volume adjustment on the radio reads “MAX.” We ride the waves like a mini-coaster, and Gabby and her friend situate themselves in direct line with the sea’s spray. Intermittently, she looks back through the center console window to her mother and me. She’s wide-grinned. Carefree. Still a kid. She covers her head in a bby Jim ORReach towel and wraps it up like an extra in “Arabian Nights.” With her face in tight frame, it registers how much she looks like her old man. She’s singing without inhibition. Every word to every song.
We grab pizza and ice cream and stroll among the little shops. Then back to the boat and down the Intracoastal for the return. More singing. More laughing. More funny faces flashed our way.
My little girl spent an entire Saturday with a boy by choice. And that boy was me. Praise small miracles and keep the necktie. I have my Father’s Day gift already, thank you very much.
Why Should Girls Have All the Fun?
The Birth of the LMGA
By Jim Orr
Quietly, an amazing thing has happened over the last three months on Skidaway Island. Two enterprising Landings Club members founded a new golf association that now boast 200 male members and features weekly shotgun tournaments, off-island competitions and fun social events aligned with golf’s major tournaments. Thirty years after the birth of the Landings Women’s Golf Association (LWGA), the Landings Men’s Golf Association (LMGA) is born.
LMGA founders Dave Breithaupt and Rich Marr are quick to credit others for the near-immediate success of their venture. Indeed, they have enjoyed help from many volunteers and support from Landings Club pros and officials. Still, every organization requires vital leaders, and Breithaupt and Marr continue to steer the LMGA as Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively.
Nearing the end of his three years with New Neighbors (NN), the organization that offers newcomers countless activities and social outlets, Breithaupt realized he wasn’t developing a significant network of male friends that he would continue to see after leaving NN. “The main inspiration for the group was that we were looking for a way for men to meet more men - especially after New Neighbors ends,” Breithaupt explains. “Typically, fellows get here and join a golf group or two recommended by a neighbor. Often, the groups have played together for a number of years and you become the new guy. You are not really on the inside, at least for a while. In contrast, each guy starts out on the same footing in a men’s golf association like LMGA.”
With the help of friends, Breithaupt began making the rounds talking to Landings Club staff and leadership. He found considerable interest in a men’s group if someone would commit to the associated work. Breithaupt says, “At that stage, Rich Marr came along with all kinds of terrific ideas for the group, including organizing intramural competition between the four Landings clubhouses and creating a structure for off-island matches with other local clubs. The idea really took off from there.”
Together, Breithaupt and Marr attacked this challenge with all the energy and organizational skills of two MBAs in their 20s. They developed a business plan, drafted a charter and recruited a number of fellow enthusiasts to help them. A dozen presentations and countless meetings helped to fine tune the nascent organization’s mission and vision and win the endorsement of Landings Club pros, senior staff, Golf and Greens Committee members and, ultimately, the Landings Club Board.
Despite their shared enthusiasm for this new undertaking, Marr and Breithaupt are not actually in their 20s. Rather, they are recent retirees and residents of the Landings. Breithaupt is a New Jersey native who worked as a senior marketing executive for Colgate, Warner Lambert and Church and Dwight, a manufacturer of Arm & Hammer products. He has also always been active in civic activities. Marr had a wide-ranging career in commercial real estate management, development and finance, and he led organizations in Boston, Atlanta, Virginia Beach and Rancho Santa Fe. He also brings with him past experiences in a number of golf clubs across the country.
“LMGA's challenge is to become a member-driven partner of the Landings Club in the planning and design of club events,” Breithaupt says, evidence of his clear vision. “In planning our own events, we will choose activities that lend themselves more to a men’s golf association.” Included will be various member recognition and achievement awards, and golf and social activities well suited to a men’s association – a keg after a shotgun tourney, for instance.
After consultation with club leaders, it was agreed the LMGA would hold weekly Thursday shotguns with regular course rotation so players visit each of the club’s six courses in sequence. “An added advantage of our regular 9 a.m. shotgun format is that all 50 or 60 players finish at the same time and we can regroup in the clubhouse to decide the winners and grab lunch or other refreshments together,” Marr adds.
Creating opportunities to socialize within the group is a big priority for the LMGA’s founders. Only a few weeks after its formation, the LMGA held a series of successful and fun events surrounding the Masters tournament, including a Wednesday Par-3 shootout and Sunday men’s and couples’ tournaments. While Angel Cabrera was battling Adam Scott for the green jacket, LMGA members and wives watched the action live on a big-screen TV in Plantation’s ballroom. There they enjoyed food and beverages, while prizes were awarded and the pool winners were determined. LMGA Tournament Chair Mike Barber and his team are now planning comparable events to coincide with the British Open and other major golf tournaments.
According to Breithaupt and Marr, each Thursday of a month features a different theme and purpose. The first Thursday is match play, with players competing against others with a similar index. This event will also serve as the qualifier for those wishing to participate in inter-club (off-island) play.
“We hope to name the second Thursday of each month ‘Skills Improvement Thursday,’” Marr says. “Assuming we can interest the pros, we would have a multi-station game clinic run by the Landings Club professionals.
The third Thursday of each month means an LMGA member invitational event, where members can form their own foursomes with other LMGA members or invited guests. A complimentary keg of beer will be provided at the end of play to ensure conviviality.
The last week of the month is “Meet Your Fellow Members” Thursday. All foursomes will be comprised of one player from each of the four Landings clubhouses. The game will be will be flighted with Stableford scoring.
The Golf and Greens Committee has appointed the LMGA to administer inter-club play with other area golf clubs. Although open to all Landings Club members, the LMGA will conduct the qualifying events to choose the players to represent the Landings in off-island play. Gene McDonald has scheduled home and away competitions with Savannah Harbor and Hampton Hall, and discussions continue with five other clubs. Based on the results of the May 9 qualifier, Ken Ura will lead a team of Deer Creek players against Savannah Harbor on June 13.
Breithaupt emphasizes the close working relationship between the Landings Club and the LMGA. “The LMGA is open to all Landings Club golf members, and we certainly feel we are here for the benefit of all male golfers in the club,” he says. “But the degree to which anyone decides to participate in the LMGA is up to the individual. We will do our best to provide a platform for any club member who wishes to be active and participate in LMGA events.”
Marr adds, “One of our founding principles is to encourage more participation in key Landings Club events, like the Invitational, for example. We have pledged to the Golf and Greens Committee that we will do this.”
Marr and Breithaupt make special note of the LMGA’s efforts to stage competitions between the island’s clubhouses. For example, Marshwood golfers will compete against Plantation players. Deer Creek will take Oakridge on. Marr observes, “The Landings Club is actually four clubs within one. Each of us lives in a neighborhood with a nearby golf course and a clubhouse. Organizing LMGA play around the clubhouses is a logical focal point for competition.”
The LMGA is developing a point system like that used in many golf clubs whereby men’s participation and results in Landings Club golf events and LMGA events will be measured and tracked. The points a player earns will accrue both to their individual account and to that of their local clubhouse. “Players will vie for honors including LMGA Player of the Year and Most Improved Golfer, while the clubhouses will be in competition for the King of Clubs award and the right to hold the trophy and display the plaque for the next year,” Marr explains.
Asked what they expected in terms of membership growth, Breithaupt and Marr say they anticipate steady growth from the LMGA’s current level of 200 members. “We’re getting eight to 10 new members each month as the word spreads about how much fun the events are,” Marr says.
Adds Breithaupt, “It may play out this way: When you move to the Landings, the first thing you do is join New Neighbors. The second thing you’ll likely do is join the LMGA, because it’s a great way to meet people beyond New Neighbors and have opportunities to socialize with the other guys. For low handicappers it’s an opportunity to meet other low handicappers, and similarly for higher handicap players.”
In the minds of the two founders, however, size doesn’t really matter. They feel that the success of the LMGA will be measured in the level of participation and enjoyment among members. Participation at this stage is very high, and reactions have almost all been positive. So far, so good.
For more information regarding the LMGA, visit the website at www.landingsmensgolf.org.
He Served: Harry McMahon
By Ron Lauretti
Over the past decade, we have had the distinct honor of profiling 251 men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces. Sixty-six of these veterans served in World War II. Harry McMahon is our 252nd subject and he, too, is a World War II vet.
World War II vets deserve a special place in our military profile series. While a massive force of 16 million Americans in uniform from 1941 to 1945 led the global fight to victory against the Nazi and Japanese war machines, we are losing hundreds of World War II vets every day to time, and it is estimated there are only a few hundred thousand left alive. It is only fitting that we honor as many of the “Greatest Generation” as we can while they are still with us.
Harry McMahon served in the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1946. He fought in two bloody Pacific Island campaigns, and narrowly escaped deadly kamikaze attacks on our fleet supporting the Okinawa campaign.
After victorious Allied campaigns in 1943 and 1944 in the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to Tarawa, it was decided to capture Saipan and Tinian. Communications between the main Japanese bases and their forces to the south and west could be cut from these outposts. These islands also served as airports for the new B-29 Superfortress long-range bombers, with their operational radii of 1,500 miles.
The 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division were ordered to invade on June 15, 1944.
The 2nd Marine Division suffered 3,407 casualties seven months before while capturing Tarawa . Replacements were brought in to bring the division up to its full strength of 20,000 before the amphibious landing on Saipan.
One of these replacements was a 21-year-old corporal. Harry.
Six months after Harry graduated from Avalon High School near Pittsburgh in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Harry tried to enlist in the Marines but was rejected for being too skinny. As the need for manpower escalated, his enlistment offer was ultimately accepted in December of 1942. Harry was sent to Camp Lejeune for training after finishing boot camp. Belying the reputation that Marine chow was not very good, Harry put on some weight. But not enough to avoid being nicknamed “Slim.”
Harry’s next duty station was Camp Pendleton in California. When his division shoved off for “exotic ports of call,” a disappointed Harry was rerouted to the upstart 5th Marine Division. Two months later, after being promoted to corporal, he received another transfer. This time to the officers’ mess hall at nearby Camp Elliott. Harry wondered why he kept getting bypassed for combat duty. He got up the nerve to ask his colonel for permission to speak to the commanding officer, Gen. Vandergrift. It was certainly not normal protocol. But the bold move worked and Harry was soon steaming toward Saipan.
He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division during the voyage. Harry quickly learned combat survival tips from some of the old salts in his company who were veterans of the bloody Tarawa campaign.
After beating back countless Japanese attacks and cutting off supply lines, Harry’s mates defeated the garrison of 31,000 enemy troops on July 9, 1944.
Most of the Japanese combatants fought to the death. Only 921 were taken alive. Allied killed and wounded totaled 13,790.
The Marines’ next target was the island of Tinian, about 3.5 miles across the strait from Saipan and defended by 8,800 Japanese soldiers. The siege of Tinian began on July 24. The 2nd Marine Division made a successful feint for the major settlement of Tinian Town, allowing the 4th Marine Division to land on the north end of the island. Harry remembers cruising in on the feint amphibious assault and then his Division’s real landing on a very narrow beachhead, barely wide enough for their tracked landing crafts.
The Marines initially encountered only light resistance. But as they fought north, they encountered the same type of enemy tactics witnessed on Saipan – the Japanese retreating during the day and attacking at night. Harry had two close calls during the advance. One, he admits, was his own fault. Too tired to dig a deep foxhole one night, Harry ended up taking shelter under a Jeep during a mortar attack. Bad idea. He ended up taking some shrapnel in the leg. Harry did not report to the field hospital until the next morning. As the corpsman patched him up, Harry said he had cut himself and reported back to his unit.
The second close call involved riding in a Jeep under enemy fire, delivering ammunition and water to a company of Marines that was pinned down on the end of the island. He and his Jeep party had to dodge incoming mortar fire the whole way. After that action, Slim and the Jeep driver received personal thanks from the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Willie Jones.
The battle for Tinian ended August 1, 1944. Again, most of the Japanese garrison fought to the death. Marine casualties included 328 killed, 1,571 wounded. As on Saipan, suicidal civilian leapt from cliffs rather than being killed or captured. The scene was very sobering.
Tinian became an important base for Allied operations in the Pacific. Fifteen thousand Seabees built six long runways that were used for attacks by B-29 Superfortress bombers on targets in the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands and mainland Japan, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No one realized it at the time, but the capture of Saipan and Tinian would significantly reduce the duration of the war. Harry returned to Saipan for a brief bivouac after Tinian was secured.
Iwo Jima was the next island the Marines sought to occupy. But because the 2nd Marine Division sustained so many casualties at Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian, they got a break from combat while the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions had the bloody mission of taking the “Sulfur Island.”
The fight for Okinawa, the largest amphibious assault during the war in the Pacific, began in April of 1945. Harry’s division remained aboard a troop ship during the attack. The 2nd Marine Division made two fake amphibious landings on the well-defended island. Harry remembers many kamikaze attacks on their flotilla of about 20 troop ships filled with nervous Marines. One ship directly next to Harry’s took a direct hit resulting in numerous casualties.
Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945. The 6th Marines occupied Nagasaki and disarmed the military and civilian home guard. On December 6, Harry reported to the departing 5th Marine Division at Sasebo and was on his way home. He was honorably discharged on February 26, 1946. There were seven hard earned ribbons attached to his uniform, including three Presidential Unit Citations.
Harry used his well-deserved G.I. Bill benefits to attend Penn State University, earning a degree in commerce and finance. He was elected student body vice president during his senior year. Harry joined the Armstrong Cork Company after graduation. The company later changed its name to Armstrong World Industries. Harry worked there for the next 36 years, becoming the Senior Marketing Manager for the New England territory. He and wife Nancy (deceased six months ago) raised one son and one daughter, and the McMahon family spent many pleasant days sailing off the East Coast on their sailboat, Ebb Tide. Harry favored golfing in his early corporate days, but Nancy “decreed” that sailing was a better family sport.
Although Harry retired from the corporate world 27 years ago, this World War II combat vet never completely disengaged from the Marine Corps. He is a lifetime member of the Second Marine Division Association and proud of it.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #11
“Can you believe this is happening?” I asked my wife. We were sitting next to one another. I was whispering straight into her ear, my lips only a few inches away from the side of her head. She didn’t flinch. She stared straight ahead. She neither cocked her head toward me to hear better nor did she pivot her neck to face away. She just stayed still. And watched. She battled a building tear and stiffened her quivering lip.
“No, I can’t,” she finally responded. “Can you?”
“It’s unreal,” answered I.
It’s been quite a year. Ups and downs. Downs and ups. The lowest lows, the highest highs. Peaks, valleys, and not nearly as many memorable in-betweens. So the spectacle we were witnessing with amazement fit perfectly into the script. Joy, agony, and numbing truth all rolled into a 90-mintue program. Graduation. Our big girl is moving on.
We’re delighted for some things, and grateful, too. She’s healthy. She’s bright. She’s diligent and serious and pushes herself. Far more mature than I was at her age, she has recognized the opportunity associated with her good fortune, and worked doggedly to deserve it rather than wasting a single day. We’re pretty sure she’s going to continue doing OK.
Still, we’re quietly sad. It’s clear she’s ready to claim her independence; to turn the page. And we understand. But acceptance doesn’t make the sting of separation feel any more benign.
It feels like only a few minutes ago when she was my little girl. During those afternoons, conspicuous happiness filled her saucer-like eyes as daddy came in visual range. It’s different now. I have to carefully consider every sentence. There’s a very good chance I’ll say the wrong thing. Or many wrong things. My messages get garbled. It seems like “I love you” as it rolls past my lips, but the look on her face suggests she’s hearing nails on a chalkboard, instead.
I’ve come to appreciate my parents more and more with each passing year. Still, I refrain from thanking them as often as I should. I bristle at them more easily than I ought to. At times, I express frustration at my father’s flagging memory, without compassion or reasonable restraint. And then I notice my daughter dodge my outstretched hands and I see, clear as Lucite, her cheeks tighten with involuntary disdain. I suppose she’s daddy’s little girl in more ways than one.
When I was in high school, I was pretty smart, too. So, naturally, without much more information than a vague sense of salary-envy and the notion that the best students are supposed to do it, I declared medicine to be my grown-up goal. Upon further consideration, concurrent with my plummeting second semester senior year grades, I refocused on engineering. The math supporting my reimagined future made irrefutable sense. Just manage a 2.something GPA and you’re looking at close to 30 grand. (Which was enough for an apartment, occasional all-you-can-eat sushi and plenty of fancy beer, at the time.) I genuinely believe my daughter is different. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t wind up taking the Hippocratic Oath.
What do you get the girl who has everything? I posed the question tongue-in-cheek in this column a few issues past as I pondered the perfect gift to celebrate my wife. After surgeries and mountains of medicines and a second shot at life, a bracelet might be a little trite. But I recently heard my inner voice asking myself nearly the same thing: What do you get the young lady who has everything ahead of her? What do you get your little girl as confirmation she’s growing up mostly right? What do you get your daughter to commemorate the moment she finally leaves you behind?
I credit her for the answer, actually. She suggested my old watch. Resized, of course. So a trip to the jeweler is required. Which got me thinking about a proper inscription. And after much deliberation and frighteningly few reasonable ideas, it’s settled. “Sofia, I pray you enjoy the most graceful passage of time.”
It’s a watch…get it? Time… Anyway, I hope the engraver-man can write extra small. And I hope she realizes we’ll miss her terribly every minute from the first minute she waves goodbye.
Crabbing With Bill Eswine
by Pat Brooks
The Skinnie spent some time with local waterman and maritime sage, Bill Eswine. Bill is the Science Specialist at Savannah Country Day School for grades K-5. He is a sought-after speaker and presenter in the area for young and old marine enthusiasts alike. With a building enthusiasm for crabbing activity at Delegal, Landings Harbor and other more tucked away spots on Skidaway Island, Bill shares his tactics and tips for catching crabs.
The Skinnie: How long have you been catching and eating crabs out of the local waters?
Bill Eswine: As long as I can remember, probably about 42 years or so.
TS: Any issues with water quality or eating the crabs you catch locally?
BE: None at all, except the fact that I’d always like to catch and eat more.
TS: How has the crabbing been this year?
TS: A lot of people don’t believe we have stone crabs in Georgia. Can you comment on that?
BE: They would be correct (laughing)! No, actually we have a good presence of stone crabs locally, but you sort of have to know where to find them, and when to catch them. The best way to learn how to catch stone crabs is to find someone who has experience catching them and watch what he does and where he goes. It takes some real time and commitment. So, by default, most folks catch blue crabs.
TS: Explain the difference between a pinch from a stone crab versus a blue?
BE: The blue crab will pinch you and it may hurt for a little while. The stone crab will crush whatever it gets a hold of and can take part of you with it if you are not extremely careful. In catching a stone crab, the process is to carefully remove one claw and return the crab to the water. If done properly, the removed claw will grow back and the remaining claw allows the stone crab to protect itself. Stone crabs are fond of keeping their claws, so you better know what you are doing if you are going after them.
TS: If you’re pinched by any crab, instead of thrashing about or trying to crush the crab, you have an excellent way to get them to let go…
BE: Put them back in the water and they tend to let go and swim away in a hurry.
TS: As far as catching crabs, what are the rules and regulations that people need to know?
BE: For recreational (non-commercial) crabbing, the first step is to have a valid Georgia fishing license if you are between the ages of 16-64. At age 65 and older, you still need a license but it can be obtained for free from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. New in 2013, in addition to a Georgia fishing license, anglers in saltwater also need a Saltwater Information Program (SIP) permit. This is a free permit that you can add to your license by calling the Georgia DNR, or you can go online to their site to add it.
TS: Some folks might think that if they use a private marina dock or even their own personal dock at their residence that they are exempt from some of the rules, but that is not the case?
BE: That is correct. The rules are the same for everyone. All blue crabs must be at least 5 inches from spike to spike across the back. I’d recommend making a wooden jig or a slot tool to make sure that you can easily measure crabs before you put them in your “keeper” bucket.
TS: If a crabber ties his trap up to a dock, does it still need a proper lime green float with the owner’s name and address on it?
BE: That is correct. I simply use a can of spray paint and a soldering iron to melt the letters into the float. I’d make sure to have about 50 feet of line on a trap if you plan on having it in about 10 feet of water at low tide.
TS: How often do you recommend checking traps?
BE: Daily, or at least every other day.
TS: What do you typically bait your traps with?
BE: I use chicken (necks and backs and any pieces that I can find on sale). It tends to hold up well in the water and is durable with our strong tides. People have asked me about using road kill, and I certainly don’t recommend that. If crabbing from the dock, chicken on a string with a nail or weight is about as easy and fun as it gets. Kids love scooping crabs up in a net as you slowly and carefully pull the string toward the surface. Once the crab sees you or the net, he takes off. It is great fun for kids and adults alike.
TS: We will have to get you back again for tips on cleaning as well as eating our local crabs.
BE: I’d be glad to do it. Good crabbing to you all!
He Served: Lieutenant Colonel William T. Golden
and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
By Ron Lauretti
Never underestimate the power of persuasion. Bill Golden learned that as a young man…on three separate occasions.
Bill had little desire to go to college. But his mother had other ideas. In 1988, she took it upon herself to enroll Bill at Livingston University in Alabama. That’s persuasion number one, thanks to Mama Golden.
Two years later, he transferred to the University of Alabama. Like the idea of college, Golden had little or no interest in the military at the time he joined the Crimson Tide family. That is, until a new friend, Chad Ward, now a lieutenant colonel in the Army, convinced him to enter the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at ‘Bama. It didn’t take long for cadet Golden to take a serious liking to the military, and three years later he began a long and successful career as an Army aviator. Persuasion number two; courtesy of Chad Ward.
During college, Golden met an attractive coed named Carey Lee, in Tuscaloosa. The couple got serious about one another fairly quickly. Thanks to Carey’s influence, he went from an average to excellent student, adding to his achievements as an outstanding ROTC cadet. Carey’s power of persuasion, the third major outside influence on the trajectory of Golden’s life, came in the form of the positive push she made to help him be the best student and soldier he could be.
Looking back, he credits the positive direction his life has taken to those three early motivators. He calls them all “life changers,” and says he is forever grateful for them.
Golden was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army after graduating from the University of Alabama in 1993. He had three goals for his military career - he wanted to fly, he wanted to lead soldiers, and he hoped to join the best aviation unit in the Army. Already fully engaged in the first two objectives, he achieved the third goal in 2001, joining the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), commonly known as the “Night Stalkers.” The prestigious unit is a special ops force that provides helicopter support to Joint Special Operations Forces. Its attack-and-assault missions are usually conducted at night; at high speeds, low altitudes, and on short notice.
The 160th SOAR (A) amazingly guarantees an arrival at the mission target within 30 seconds of schedule…every time. To be this precise, only the Army’s best aviators and support soldiers are accepted into the regiment after receiving intensive preliminary training. The regiment consists of four operational battalions - the 1st and 2nd at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the 3rd at Hunter Army Airfield; and the 4th at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. They fly Little Bird (both assault and attack), Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters.
Golden took command of the 3rd Battalion on June 16, 2011. Before that, his assignments included a deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997, in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a deployment to Korea in 1998-1999, a deployment to Iraq in 2003, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and later deployments to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During his tour in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he served as a support platoon leader, then as an aircraft commander, and was promoted to captain. In Korea, he flew roughly 100 missions, logging 250 hours of flight time. His time in Saudi Arabia from July to September of 2002 was spent as a liaison officer in the buildup for Operation Enduring Freedom. From March through May of 2003, Golden flew multiple support and attack missions with Operation Iraqi Freedom as coalition forces rapidly overcame Saddam Hussein’s retreating army. His last combat deployment was to Afghanistan, July through September of 2011, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as task force commander for the Night Stalkers, responsible for his unit’s readiness and operations. He flew dozens of missions in Iraq.
The Night Stalkers fly some serious birds. Blackhawks are versatile, and facilitate tactical troop transport and casualty evacuations, while carrying hundreds of pounds of various armaments. Chinooks specialize in heavy lifting. They are used primarily for troop movement, battlefield re-supply and casualty evacuation. All of the Stalkers’ helicopters are equipped with the most advanced avionics and electronics available.
But great equipment is just part of the picture. There are roughly 635 top-notch troops in the 3rd Battalion under Golden’s (now a lieutenant colonel) command. He is justifiably proud of his team and honored to serve as their commander. As he explains in his unique way, “We don’t take choir boys. We have to have a warrior type of soldier that can fly or support multiple, difficult and dangerous missions and yet return to family, friends and fellow soldiers with emotional stability. That takes a special kind of dedicated and motivated volunteer.”
The selection process is very thorough. “Has to be,” he says. “We commit a lot of time and assets to the training of a Night Stalker. Our dropout rate is very low. Which means that we don’t waste much money.”
He says that being the commanding officer of the 160th SOAR (A) Battalion is one of the best assignments he has ever had, for a couple of reasons. First, the battalion executes with such precise efficiency, so the work is very demanding and exciting. But, best of all, he gets to know all 635 of his charges, each one a dedicated patriot and professional.
“It’s not just about helicopters and missions,” he explains. “We are sort of a large family, and my soldiers gladly participate in many local community activities.”
Golden mentions that of all of the places he has been stationed, the citizenry surrounding Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart are the most supportive and military-friendly he has ever known.
After 20 years of dedicated and rewarding service as an Army aviator, Golden will retire from active duty next month. He hopes to use the corporate finance degree he earned from the University of Alabama to enter the financial world. Or perhaps he’ll find a new professional home in the civilian aviation industry. Either way, Bill and Carey, who is a teacher, along with their three sons, would like to remain in the Savannah area. Sounds good to us.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #10
Borrowing from Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
As Frank Sinatra sings in “That’s Life,” “You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May.”
The following sequence misses Ol’ Blue Eyes’ time line by a day or two, but the sentiment is the same:
Wednesday, May 1. Nagging anxiety surrenders, suddenly, to euphoria. The weight of my worries dissipates in an instant. I’m floating. We’re floating. God is great!
Sunday, May 5. I’m speechless. I’m stunned. I don’t believe what I just heard. It’s impossible. My friend has died. So young. Too young. Is there a God?
For a long stretch – years, actually – I kept God at arm’s length. We didn’t chat much. Rarely saw one another; at least I never seemed to run into Him. I wasn’t upset, nor was I consciously avoiding Him. Rather, time passes, and we had just seemed to go our separate ways.
Then, oddly, unexpectedly, I began to encounter Him everywhere. Bouncing like late afternoon light off the churning sea. Curled up like my cat against the back of my knees as I napped. Staring straight at me with a knowing smile, like the sparkle in my daughter’s eye when she laughed at me even as she tried not to.
He touched me through my friends’ hands as they said grace. He soaked me as I stood and watched the loud, flashing sky. He arranged a meeting between me and my genuine self, and sat back satisfied as we reconnected.
Soon, it was just like old times. Our relationship was refreshed; we had barely missed a beat. He finished my sentences. He knew my thoughts. He answered my questions. It was just plain nice to have Him around, even if we didn’t have anything special planned.
Amazingly, He wasn’t noticeably resentful. Sure, I could have managed my side of things better. I could have reached out to Him any number of times over the years. I could have simply checked in to let Him know I was thinking about Him. But the silence was easy. It saved me from the shame of admitting I had made a mess of our relationship. If I left Him alone, he’d eventually forget. Forget that I isolated myself from Him. Forget that I had done things that embarrassed us both. Forget me altogether. He was fine. Plenty busy. We could both move on.
But He’s bigger than that. Although He has a very full plate, He was genuinely glad to see me again. He didn’t berate me. Nor did He rhetorically ask where I had been. We just got back to doing what friends-as-brothers do. And I was grateful enough to admit my gratitude out loud.
I’ve been talking to God a lot lately, like I’ve been keeping the line open. But I might have a faulty connection. Because it can be tough to make out what He’s trying to say.
For my part, I’m very conscious of coming off as excessively needy. I don’t want to be the kind of guy who just takes, takes, takes. Sure, there are things I require God to help me with. But I try to keep the list manageable. I want to make sure He’s getting something from our time together, too. Our conversations all seem to follow a similar script. Opening pleasantries. I make sure to thank Him for the things, help, wisdom He’s given me. We reminisce a little, then He implores me to cut to the chase. I’m a salesman, of sorts, so I hope I’ve said enough nice stuff before I ask for what I want.
“Please, please, please give me the strength, grace and courage to be the man you believe I can be.”
“OK. Please watch over my family, soften my rigid edges that might keep my loved ones more distant from me than I’d like, infuse me with your spirit so that I may serve as a vessel for your example in their eyes.”
A little high-minded, but I get where you’re going with it.
“How about this then? Please heal my wife. Let her live. Make her well.”
“I appreciate your directness. That’s why I’m here,” I think I heard Him say.
On Wednesday, May 1, God boomed back at me with his response du jour.
I had been dreading the day for at least a week leading up to it. I tried to lose myself in a period novel during the two flights to Texas. For a few minutes at a clip, I’d succeed. Then I was right back inside the trap laid by my fear. What would the doctors say? Was she getting better, or was she not?
“Amazing,” the research nurse said. Later, the PA said the same. “Amazing!” I think the doctor made it three-for-three. “Amazing!’
I heard lots of other words that day. And I didn’t hear anything else at all. I remember “amazing.” I remember we hugged. I remember she almost cried.
God who orchestrates moments like that…that’s a God I get. All goodness and compassion and magnanimity and reward.
The God who sits back and watches as my friend’s life slips away in an instant, leaving a devastated wife and two uncertain young boys…I can’t figure Him out.
He bugs me. Confounds me. Sometimes I suspect I don’t really know Him at all. The God of the morning of May 5 doesn’t seem like much of a god at all.
On May 8, another friend spoke to me. His voice steady. His face calm. Greg is teaching us. God is teaching us. He’s reminding us to make the most of every day. He’s imploring us to submit to the possibility of true happiness and fulfillment. He’s shining a special light on Greg so the power of his example radiates through all of us. He’s nudging us to pass the gift of this simple understanding along. Or something like that. At least, that’s what I heard. From my friend. From Greg, though now silent. From God.
And then I remembered, “Amazing.” And I remembered Greg’s smile. And I considered what my friend said outside the chapel. And I realized God speaks in so many different voices. And sometimes I enjoy the message, and sometimes I hate what He’s trying to say. But underneath it all, the meaning is the same. Love. It’s light. It’s heavy. It’s warm. It’s cold. “Love each other, love yourself, love me,” God is saying. Things won’t be easy, but you’ll never be alone.
Coastal Hazards Website Informs Island Residents
By Mike Sullivan
Residents of the Georgia coast are subject to a variety of threats simply because they live near the ocean. These range from storm flooding to coastal erosion. Coastal residents and public officials can now visualize threats to their section of the shore through the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal, a new website created by a scientist at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.
“We are interested in allowing managers and the regular public to view and to get some sense of their exposure to hazards like storm flooding,” explains Skidaway Institute scientist Clark Alexander.
The portal complements a larger effort by Alexander and his colleagues to develop a better picture of coastal hazards all along the Southeast Atlantic coast. That effort is taking place under the auspices of the Governors’ Southeast Atlantic Alliance, and involves scientists from Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, in addition to Georgia. Its overall goal is to develop a computer-based, geospatial tool to evaluate the coast’s physical and economic vulnerability to hazards like sea level rise, flooding, storms, hurricanes and erosion, and to do so in a uniform way throughout the region.
“The Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal is one way we are making this information available to residents who may be affected and to coastal managers who may be able to anticipate and mitigate future problems,” Alexander continues.
The core of the portal is an interactive map of the Georgia coast. Users can select what they want to view from a menu of options, like flood zones or historic hurricane tracks, and overlay them onto the map. The portal allows users to select and display multiple threats at the same time, and to see how multiple threats might combine to increase vulnerability.
Flooding from tropical storms and hurricanes is an issue of concern to many coastal residents. One key component of the portal is the “Sea, Land and Overland Surges from Hurricanes” or SLOSH layer. This is a modeling dataset produced by the Corps of Engineers. It considers storms from all possible directions, the orientation of the coast and other factors to predict the extent of maximum storm inundation for a particular area.
“We also have a relative coastal hazards vulnerability assessment we created using Sea Grant funding several years ago,” notes Alexander. “It takes into account elevation, vegetation and flood zones, and ranks different parts of the coast in terms of high, medium or low vulnerability.”
The portal includes data on erosion rates on the barrier islands, the Intracoastal Waterway and some of the larger creeks in the coastal counties, and historic photographs dating back to the 1940s. Historical information is an important element of the portal. There are old photographs of the coastal region and of hurricane damage. Each photograph is identified by its location on the map, including photographs of Hurricane Dora damage on St. Simons Island from 1964.
“You can pop this imagery up and see what a particular part of the coast looked like in the 1940s, and compare it to the 1970s or the 2000s to get an idea of how land use patterns have changed,” Alexander says.
The portal also includes data on armored shorelines, invasive species and wetlands. Moreover, users can see how an area may be affected by rising sea level.
“If sea level rises a meter in the next hundred years- a very reasonable projection based on current data; the land-sea boundary will move significantly inland,” explains Alexander. “You can use the portal to show you the areas that, based on their elevations, would be inundated at high tide if sea level rises that much. It’s a way for people to start getting a better sense of their exposure to hazards.”
The portal is an evolving tool, and additional information will be added as it becomes available. Alexander credits Noel Perkins from the Chatham County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), along with Claudia Venherm and Mike Robinson, for their contributions to the portal.
Avoiding a Fall or Battling Back from One
by Elizabeth Walker
I have a vivid memory of watching my mother’s feet as she walked along our small cobblestone sidewalk leading from the front door to the side porch. I knew that a cobblestone had been cracked and since removed, leaving a two inch recess in the walkway. But as her foot was in midair, about halfway over the recess, my heart froze. Did she see the uneven ground?
If I held her arm to redirect her, I’d most surely hear: “I saw it and I don’t need your help!”
But what if she really didn’t see the hazard ahead? What if she fell?
The tiny trip that could have resulted from a missing cobblestone made me realize that as we grow older, a fall no longer means a scraped knee from a missed monkey bar on the playground. A fall can result from virtually nothing - maybe a loose rug, a small patch of unlevel ground, or just trying to keep pace with a younger person while placing one foot in front of the other; but the effects can be irreversible.
The statistics behind the long-term effects of falls on senior citizens are glaring. Falls are the leading cause of injury death in people over 65. The combination of muscle weakness, low bone density, and balance disorders leads to falls causing fractures and, possibly, requiring surgery. Falls can also result from medications that cause dizziness.
“There may be a great deal of risk in a person’s home that he or she may not even know about,” says Dr. Eric Bull, CEO and co-founder of Spine & Sport Physical Therapy. “As we grow older, the way that we walk changes. Our toes don’t lift off the ground to the same height as they once did. When the toe is not coming off the ground as much, it becomes statistically more likely that our toes will bump something or get caught on something, propelling us forward and leading to a fall. The most simple fall prevention technique is to remove all throw rugs, no matter how expensive they are or how nice they make your entryway look. If someone is a fall risk, throw rugs will only increase their chances of a fall.”
There are many options available to those ages 65 and up who would like to decrease their chances of having a fall. Many providers of in-home health offer fall risk assessments. However, if you or your loved one isn’t homebound, there are options such as House Calls by Spine & Sport that offer in-home evaluations and fall prevention techniques.
Before House Calls by Spine & Sport was available, if a person in the Savannah area wanted physical therapy to treat pain, restore range of motion, or increase strength, but were not homebound, they would need to visit an outpatient physical therapy provider. This can easily become a problem when someone may not have access to consistent rides or is at the point where they don’t feel comfortable driving themselves anymore.
House Calls by Spine & Sport brings doctors of physical therapy into a person’s home, at the patient’s convenience. The service is covered by Medicare.
If you or any of your loved ones may be a fall risk, or for more information on the prevention of falls, Dr. Bull and the House Calls team can be reached at 877.826.1909.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #9
I first realized MY mom was A mother when I was 3. Until January 6, 1968, she had never been away from me, or me from her. Then, suddenly, she was gone from our house. As was my father. My aunt Ruth was watching me. I was sitting on the living room floor – a place we rarely went, as it was more for display than use – when Ruth told me, “Your Daddy took Mommy to the hospital.” Was she sick? Nope. “She’s getting you a little baby brother or sister to play with.” It turns out the baby was a girl.
I search my mind for sweeping anecdotes. Big, important, epic tales that define her influence on me. Instead, I come back to the tiniest details. Snippets from what would be considered the slow parts if I were watching the movie of my life.
Like succotash. She introduced me to her version early on. Corn and lima beans, and nothing more. I loved it. So she made it often, without waiting for me to ask.
We went to the Farmers’ Market before it was hip. Because I grew up surrounded by farms. The kind with real farmers. Older, stout men with overalls and accents, not urbanites with little beards in the middle of a social experiment. We sat in a booth in the block-walled restaurant in the corner behind all the stalls. I had pancakes week after week, until my mood shifted, then I’d order eggs for a while. I learned how to choose corn by watching her – the way you peel a little piece of husk back and take a peek. She squeezed tomatoes gently; picked up cantaloupes and brought the dimpled end close to her nose. We bought pork chops overfull with yellow stuffing and sausages still strung together in a row. I carried some of the bags for her. It made me feel proud.
Our side of the street consisted of three side-by-side-by-side ranch houses in between two more that bookended the trio from their more prominent corner lots. An older couple lived three doors down from us, on the corner at the other end. He was a retired colonel who was always chomping a cigar. He spoke with a twang that seemed a mix of Tennessee and the Victorian court. The sound was nasal. His head was round, completely unbothered by hair and always brown from the sun. His wife was from Connecticut, by way of old Virginia, with a hint of fancy. She wore below-the-knee dresses and proper shoes. She had oversized pores and discoloration that comes from smoking too long and too much. She carried a pack of Vantage’s in her hand like a change purse, even when she was puttering in the yard.
The old lady was a talker. And her kids had kids of their own and lived far away. So every night after dinner and the dishes, my mom would walk the couple hundred feet to visit. She’d sit on the screened-in porch and listen to stories and ignore the smoke. Sometimes I’d make my way down and find them right where they always seemed to be. The old lady in her seat, and my mom in the one that was assigned to her. I’d sit, too, close to my mom. Listening to the old lady was like watching PBS. A little exotic, sort of stuffy, fun once in a while, boring in between. Still, my mom never abandoned her, even when her blue hair faded to pure white and her husband died and left her all alone.
We rode bikes. Not fast for the purpose of rigorous exercise, but leisurely, more like a stroll on wheels. In the evenings, in the summer, just before fireflies replaced the dusk. She was 40 then. She’s approaching twice that now. Yet she still rides, exactly the same way. Her posture, her pedaling, her inadvertent zig zags at slower speeds…it’s like a rerun, except these days she has shorter – or less voluminous – hair.
She never got heavy. She still doesn’t show her true age. She’s a continuous blur of energy, although now she collapses before the end of TV’s prime time most nights.
My dad’s a guy’s guy. And both my parents have opinions that they - without inhibition – strenuously declare. But my mom is the real boss-behind-the-boss. Her influence like a maestro’s wand to my father’s blunt-hammer style.
My mom’s genius is subtle, understated, inconspicuous. Her formal education truncated in the middle of nursing school. She grew up without the benefit of parents. Yet every problem I’m faced with, every quandary that nags me, I approach my decision process in the same way: What would my mother do?
Mercifully, if I can’t conjure the answer to that oft internally posed question, all I need do is ask. If I call her, she’s still right there. Just like she was every day before, and after her brief time away, to have my sister that overnight in 1968. Sometimes her phone rings and she can’t get to it. So she’ll assume it’s me, and dial right back. “Did you just call?”
“I heard the phone but I was outside,” she says trying to catch her breath.
“It wasn’t me,” I reinforce the fact.
“Okay. I was just checking.”
Of course she is. That’s what she does. Checks. To make sure everything and everyone is okay. Before she checks herself. After all, she’s A mom. She’s MY mom. Thank God.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Pulitzer Prize Winner Anna Quindlen Visits Skidaway Island
by Jane Thimme
Anna Quindlen is an author with whom many of us would like to meet for coffee. As one reader said, “Almost every time I read one of her columns, I have the feeling that she has climbed into my head, pulled out my jumbled thoughts, and rearranged them onto the page so that they make sense.”
On May 16, ticket holders will enjoy coffee, lunch and conversation with Anna Quindlen at the Plantation Club on Skidaway Island, at noon.
Novelist and journalist Anna Quindlen has authored books that have appeared on fiction, nonfiction and self-help bestseller lists. Her Pulitzer Prize was earned in 1992 for her New York Times column “Public and Private.” Quindlen’s 2012 memoir, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” is the focus of her luncheon talk.
At age 60, Quindlen looks back and ahead in this collection of essays considering marriage, friendship, parenting, aging, loss and faith. Her honed observations are seen through the eyes of someone keenly aware that knowledge of our own mortality is a great gift - one that she traumatically assimilated when her mother died at age 40, when Quindlen was only 19 years old. “The lights came on for the darkest possible reason,” she wrote.
The Skinnie questioned Quindlen about her collection of insightful anecdotes that comprise her latest book.
You have written that as a young girl you were not afraid – in fact you were gutsy and independent. Where did this confidence come from?
I think my confidence came from being raised as my father’s oldest son. My father seems to have been in denial about my gender until the moment I first told him I was pregnant. He pushed me constantly and unwaveringly, and while for years I resented it, there came a time when I had to admit that it had worked for me.
In your own parenting of two sons and a daughter, you advise that children should have enough freedom to be themselves once they’ve learned the rules. Do you see today’s uber-moms and helicopter parents doing a disservice to their children?
Of course. If your parents are stage-managing your schoolwork, your activities and your friendships, you can’t take any credit for your own success. For many kids, their lives feel less like their own and more like some complex reflection on their parents’ self-worth. I also think I learned a lot in my own life from failure. Too many kids today are not permitted to fail, to stumble, to do poorly. That means the first time they hit a major speed bump is in the work place. You need way more experience in setbacks before you encounter them on the job!
“Stuff” – an issue that resonates with many, if not most. Will you comment on desire versus need, the responsibility of stuff and the gender differences regarding possessions? (Many in our community consider downsizing to make better use of their time and energy for fun.)
Let’s get this out of the way: For many prosperous Americans, shopping has become an activity, like reading or playing golf. That’s new. My mother did not shop to pass the time. To pass the time, she changed diapers and vacuumed. She shopped when, for instance, she needed new clothes for us to wear to church on Easter Sunday. Shopping as an activity means we buy way more than we need or even really want. At a certain point we wake up to that. After 60, you start to throw or give things away. I have a new standard for myself - if I buy something, an amount similar to what I’ve spent has to go to some charity. Meanwhile, when our kids moved into their apartments, they went shopping in our attic and basement!
Girlfriends – “…the joists that hold up the house of our existence.” How and why do these relationships grow richer as we age? And why is it so important for women to learn to take help instead of charge?
Too often, we women feel we have to be perfect to meet the standards of the unrelenting world. With our girlfriends - our real girlfriends - we can be our real selves and stop playing that horrible perfection game. That enables us to accept help from the women who love us, and know us best. I’m happy to say that my daughter and her friends seem to have realized this earlier than I did.
In your “Generations” chapter, we’re reminded that each generation can be misguided in judging the one ahead and the one behind. How can we work on avoiding “creeping codgerism” and become role models instead of old coots?
Remember, when you’re getting ready to pass judgment on 16, remember yourself at that age. Remember your dumb outfits and romantic entanglements, the books you found profound and the issues that seemed so important. I was an infinitely better mother to my teenage children when I channeled myself at their ages.
As we progress through these aging transitions and analyze our history, the what-ifs play in our heads. Is part of that an effort to make peace with unrealized expectations?
I actually think the what-ifs we remember most are those that would have led us astray. I suppose there are moments when I wonder what it would have been like if I’d actually gone to med school, but I more often dwell on the roads not taken that would have led me off a cliff, or away from the life I have today, which I very much like having.
In coming to terms with aging manifestations and how we see ourselves, you note differences in how women and men adjust. What general gender differences need consideration?
One study showed that women generally think they are less attractive than others find them, whereas many men think they are much more attractive than they truly are. That says it all. On the other hand, I think as they age, many women don’t give a damn, which is hugely liberating, while men often feel depleted because their self-images are so tied to the notion of potency, both physically and in the work place. Gloria Steinem once said that women are the only group who become more radical as they grow older. I think that’s so.
Your mother died when you were 19. This terrible loss, you explain, marked a dividing line in how you see the world - the clock is ticking. You share the philosophy of, as you quote Laura Linney, “…the privilege of aging.” Can you make this contagious?
I don’t think I need to. When I went on tour with this book, I thought I was going to hear all kinds of naysaying from older women. In fact the reaction was more often - thank God that someone actually reflected how contented we are at this time in our lives. And my personal faves were four different women in four different cities who said almost the identical thing to me: “You think 60 is good, wait until you get to 70! That made my year!”
On the issue of solitude, you as a writer yearn for it and need it. As most of us age, do you see a natural turning in? Instead of the hero’s journey out into the world to slay dragons, is older age a time to turn inward?
I think some of that drawing in is inevitable. The kids have their own lives. Some of the friends die. I spent about an hour in a Starbucks this morning in conversation with an 82-year-old woman who obviously wanted to make some human connection in a somewhat solitary life. I feel lucky that the solitary life has always spoken to me. If nothing else, I can surround myself with all the people in my books.
You frequently quote Dickens. Who are other favorite writers?
Austen, Wharton, Faulkner. Alice McDermott, Don DeLillo, Russell Banks. I hate making lists because there are always more. So many great writers, so little time.
“The older we get, the better we get at being ourselves,” writes Quindlen. “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” helps readers to understand why, and is a book worthy of second helpings. It confirms Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.
Included among Quindlen’s formidable list of fiction and nonfiction bestsellers: Fiction – “Every Last One,” “Rise and Shine,” “Blessings, Black and Blue,” “One True Thing,” and “Object Lessons.” Nonfiction – “Good Dog. Stay,” “Being Perfect,” “Loud and Clear,” “A Short Guide to a Happy Life,” “How Reading Changed My Life,” “Thinking Out Loud,” and “Living Out Loud.”
He Served: Fenton A. Ludtke
By Ron Lauretti
Vol. 11, #9
Fenton Ludtke was a military policeman under Patton during World War II. He was also involved in the North African
campaign preceding the Allied invasion of Europe.
He participated in the liberation of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, followed by the crossing of the Rhine River into Germany. Fenton clearly recalls the elation on May 8, 1945 as the news of Germany’s surrender swept over the ranks.
Ludtke’s most unforgettable experience was serving as a personal honor guard during Eisenhower’s strategic meeting with Patton after the crossover. Amazingly, he later had a second encounter with Eisenhower, while Ike was making his bid for the presidency in 1952.
A Skidaway Island resident for the past eight years, Ludtke grew up around the Motor City. He graduated from Cranbrook Prep in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1942, then went on to Dartmouth College. He was only there for one semester. Uncle Sam sent him his draft notice, and a couple of months later he was on a train bound for boot camp at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was assigned to the 503rd Military Police Battalion after 60 days of accelerated basic training. It wasn’t long before the fresh-faced recruit boarded a boat bound for Morocco.
His unit escorted a large group of Patton-captured German prisoners to the U.S. Ludtke received a three-week furlough when his group got home. That was the first, and last, time off that he enjoyed during his hitch in the Army.
He reported back to San Antonio for advanced MP training. Upon completion, he found himself once again on a crowded troop ship. Destination: Scotland. He laughs as he remembers how glad his mates were to be back on terra firma after the rough boat ride.
Prior to the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, much of Patton’s 3rd Army was assembling in Knutsford, England, and Ludtke’s battalion was assigned to be his security detail; a job that they continued for the duration of the battle for Europe. The 3rd Army did not begin taking part in the invasion until July for two reasons. The first being that during the successful campaign in Sicily, Patton fell out of favor with Eisenhower because of several controversial personal actions, and secondly, because the Allies decided to use Patton as a decoy.
The Germans figured Patton would personally lead the invasion across the English Channel using the shortest distance from Dover to Calais, so they kept a large reserve force in the Calais area. This depleted their defense perimeter forces in Normandy, the eventual Allied invasion area. Ludtke and his battalion unloaded on Utah Beach on July 6, 1944, and dug in. As he sloshed ashore, he tipped the scales at a svelte 123 pounds. “But all my gear – rifle, backpack, helmet, gas mask, boots, ammo belt, bayonet and canteen – probably weighed more than I did,” he jokes. “Good thing the water wasn’t over my head.”
The men spent the first fitful night bivouacked in an apple orchard, followed the next morning by a surprise greeting from the enemy. A captured U.S. fighter plane, obviously flown by a German pilot, began strafing the surprised soldiers. Ludtke remembers the double row of bullets digging up the dirt on each side of his prone body. The rogue plane was quickly brought down by anti-aircraft fire.
The Allies made their big breakout from the Cotentin Peninsula on August 6, and from then on, Patton put his 3rd Army in overdrive against Hitler. The force was making steady progress towards Paris. However, the Americans were ordered to detour so that French general, Charles de Gaulle, could officially be recognized as the liberating hero. This did not register well with Patton but he did as he was ordered because he had three stars and Ike had five.
Patton led his men towards Metz, France where, on November 22, the 3rd Army was forced to make a rare halt. They met fierce German resistance at Metz, but worse, they ran low on ammunition and supplies. Although the “Big Red One” supply transport division did its best to stay even with Patton’s accelerated offensives, rear-echelon supply dumps were not always able to allocate ample supplies to the various armies pushing towards Germany.
A month later,Ludtke’s unit was ordered to break down its tents, pack up its gear, and climb aboard troop carriers. The Battle of the Bulge was raging and Patton was ordered to assist the 101st Airborne Division, which was surrounded at Bastogne. His armored column made the difficult trip in just two days, and helped to defeat the last major German offensive of the war.
Soon after Bastogne, the 3rd Army crossed over the Rhine River near Erlangen, Germany. It was here that Ludtke served as a personal honor guard when Eisenhower visited Patton’s headquarters. He recalls that Ike was a little late for the meeting. When the Allied commander arrived, he said to the honor guard, “Sorry I’m late. Your time is as valuable as mine.” That comment from the top general made a favorable and lasting impression on all the waiting troops.
Soon, the 3rd Army continued to push eastward into Austria. The force was headquartered in Salzburg on May 8, 1945, when Germany officially surrendered and the war in Europe was finally over. Within days, the men were transported to the city of Bad Tolz, near Munich, where they provided security for the war weary townsfolk and the depleted German troops. Ludtke was there until October. Then the MPs were relieved of duty, transported by boxcars to Marseilles, and boarded a troop ship for the long-awaited journey home.
The private first class (Ludtke jokes about being permanently attached to his one-stripe rank) was honorably discharged on Dec 7, 1945. He was the proud recipient of five Battle Stars, along with a coveted Presidential Unit Citation Award.
When he got home, he reenrolled at Dartmouth. He used the G.I. Bill to cover much of the cost, and graduated in 1949 with concentrations in government, English and creative writing. Thus began a successful and rewarding civilian career. He spent five years in the print media industry; 19 years with the Campbell Ewald Advertising Agency, where he rose to assistant chairman of the board; two years as a founding partner of the Hall, Ludtke and Gordon Public Relations firm, and 16 years with the Chrysler Corporation as a public relations officer. He retired in 1989 to Ft. Meyers, Florida, and lived there until moving to The Landings in 2005, with his wife Barbara (Bunny), who is, of course, his number one fan.
Not many World War II vets, especially enlisted men, can say that they were directly involved with both Patton and Eisenhower. Ludtke can even do one better. As a cub reporter for the Pontiac Daily Press in 1952, he was assigned to cover Eisenhower’s presidential campaign stop in the Michigan town. He never expected to find himself next to the future president. But for some reason, Ike’s train was delayed at the station. He was able to make his way to the rear car platform. He ended up right next to the potential President and was surely surprised when Ike reached out for a handshake. Gathering his wits, he told Eisenhower that he was present when the two generals (Patton and Ike) met in Germany after the Rhine crossing. Ludtke’s jaw must have hit the deck when Eisenhower said something to the effect of “Oh yes, I remember saying to all you waiting MPs, because I was late, something about your time being as valuable as mine.”
He was astonished at Ike’s recollection and never forgot that moment. You can probably guess for whom his presidential ballot was cast.
By Scott Lauretti
Vol. 11, #8
What do you give the girl who has everything? Or at least a bunch of stuff that most other girls don’t have – like a big scar in the spot where a surgeon went in to take more than half of her liver, or the little reminder on her noggin that another doctor drilled a hole in her skull, or a medicine cabinet that’s as well stocked as any CVS, or a standing date with PET-scan technologists and an extended oncology team.
When your wife’s at war with melanoma, her birthday becomes a whole new kind of thing.
I’ll start with two candles, as time sort of reset in 2011 when she was first diagnosed. This, then, is the second April 18th since that day. So, in a way, she’s turning 2.
She’s changed a lot. We all have. And, oddly, in ways that mostly feel like we’ve been blessed. Disease compels you to reconsider your reality and then navigate one path or another. Onward and upward, or begin your descent down a dark hole. For us, this challenge has drawn our family closer together as we choose to appreciate all of the good fortune we have. A common enemy can be a powerfully unifying force.
You’ve heard someone say it. “I’m not having anymore birthdays. I’m forever 39.”
When you’re starting over – when you’re newly two again, for the second time – you rethink that perspective. Each passing year marks an increasingly meaningful milestone. You’re overjoyed that the number keeps going up.
So a cake with two candles. Probably her favorite coconut or some kind of deep chocolate thing. That’s a reasonable start.
But beyond that, what’s appropriate? What do I imagine she might want?
If I were omnipotent or particularly clever, I’d give her unflagging hope. Except she already has it. And it’s coming from a much richer font than I can claim. She’s a rock. Her spirit unyielding. Her strength defies physics; she’s a heavyweight brawler in a flyweight frame.
If I had the power of the Almighty, I’d guarantee her front-row seats. To our daughters’ college graduations and the preferred pews on their wedding days. And I’d see to it that she plays with her grandkids one day with the same spunk she has – on occasion - run 26 miles. But life doesn’t come with guarantees. So all I can do is remind myself to help her make now the very best today it can be. And then tomorrow. And the day after that. Lather, rinse, repeat. The next thing you know, she’s 3. 4. 5. And suddenly we’re old together, like it was always supposed to be.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Projecting. And living in the moment is a precious art. The quandary that launched this essay remains the same. What do you get the girl who has everything, including a nasty fight on her hands?
She likes clothes. And books. And candy. And we’ve been talking about a Slovenian bike trip. All reasonable possibilities. She’d be happy with any or all.
Or maybe it’s the little things that mean the most. Like a simple birthday message: I’m rooting for her. I believe in her. She inspires me. The truth is: Her birthday is really OUR gift.
He Served: Lt. Col. John W. Owens
By Ron Lauretti
Vol. 11, #8
Lt. Col. John W. Owens, III has been the senior Army instructor at Benedictine Military School (BC) for the past 27 years. He retired from the Army as a career cavalryman and tanker. In the tank turret, leading a platoon of tracked vehicles over challenging terrain, was Owens’ favorite place as an officer. Although rotated through a variety of assignments during his 20 year Army career, Owens will always be a tanker in his heart.
The cavalry has evolved considerably since its origins, but the spirit of a cavalryman remains the same. As Owens says, “I would have been perfectly happy to have had the opportunity to lead horse soldiers against any foe.” Which he would have done had he only been born a few decades earlier. Now, boots and saddles have given way to cannons and tanks – but Owens would be fine either way.
Owens had the opportunity to choose armored cavalry very early in his military career. “It was between armor, motor transport or military police. The choice was easy,” he says with a laugh.
The Savannah native graduated from BC in 1961. He was a member of the city champion football team and an expert marksman, and went on to The Citadel to continue his education. Owens’ military career commenced at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. There, he learned to command an armored cavalry platoon of five M114 reconnaissance vehicles, three M60A1 tanks, one mechanized infantry carrier, and one M2 4.2-inch mortar tracked vehicle.
For the next three years, he was a platoon leader, executive officer and logistics officer for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Kaiserslautern, Germany. American forces in Eastern Europe did not get much recognition at the time because of the nation’s focus on Vietnam, but the Cold War with Russia posed a real threat. Owens advanced to the rank of captain during his time in Germany.
His next stop – Ft. Lewis, Washington. Owens served as company commander for the armored cavalry unit there. He received orders to report to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s (ARVN) 18th Infantry Division, located in Long Khanh Province, South Vietnam. III Corps extended from the northern Mekong Delta to the southern Central Highlands, and Long Kahn Province was a key strategic area of the region. Owens was senior military advisor to one of the ARVN’s 18th ID battalions.
Owens spent some time at Ft. Bragg before heading to Vietnam. His preparation there was helpful, but did not fully prepare him for some of the challenges he would face. The unit he was assigned to command had one major flaw. After locating the enemy, the men were reluctant to engage in combat. They preferred to call in artillery or air support and observe from a safe distance. This was definitely counter to Owens’ instinct to search and destroy. He led his Vietnamese charges by example and persuasion, and pushed the men to take a more aggressive approach. He was eventually able whip the battalion into shape, much to the chagrin of the North Vietnamese (VC) enemy.
Owens transferred to the ARVN’s 5th Cavalry Squadron after six months. The unit consisted of M41 light reconnaissance tanks and M113 ACAV armored cavalry multiple machine-gun-mounted assault vehicles and provided security for the American 60th Land Clearing Company with modified bulldozers with sharp front blades. American commanders needed good roads to enable soldiers to travel across the challenging Vietnamese terrain. The bulldozers cleared the roadside areas, eliminating cover the VC used for ambush. Enemy attacks increased as Owens and his compatriots moved closer to Cambodia, a VC sanctuary.
His men located, disarmed and disposed of unexploded artillery shells, which the VC would use to make booby traps, if found.
As his unit followed a controversial order to cross into Cambodia, he received a serious head wound as his vehicle was hit by a .51-caliber machine gun. He had taken a bullet to the back of the head. The bullet smashed through his helmet and grazed his skull. As he fell to the ground, a Vietnamese medic rushed to administer first aid, albeit bad first aid. The medic gave Owens two shots of morphine. Morphine should never be given for a head wound.
The injections caused temporary unconsciousness, but no permanent damage. “Proof that I have a hard head,” jokes the colonel.
Owens’ injury required two weeks in a field hospital, plus three more weeks in a military hospital in Japan. While he was there, he learned that his well-trained troops destroyed the enemy machine gun nest and made a successful incursion into Cambodia. Owens was awarded a Purple Heart for his troubles, to go along with the Combat Infantryman Badge previously earned, for being in a hostile combat situation for at least 90 consecutive days – his first 90 days in ‘Nam, to be exact.
Returning stateside, he “aced” two schools – the Advanced Armor Course at Ft. Knox and a six-week instructor course at Ft. Benning. He remained at the latter for two more years as a line company instructor. He missed the inside of his tanks, so he managed to wrangle a one year assignment back in Germany as a special staff officer for the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, followed by two more years as a cavalry troop commander at Amberg, Germany. Amberg is in southeastern Germany, on the border with the Czech Republic. Owens’ regiment was periodically engaged in observation and security patrols within spitting distance of the infamous Iron Curtain; a sort of Cold War cat-and-mouse, only with loaded weapons.
His next assignment lasted three years. He was a professor of military science for the ROTC program at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. He says that his students had very good attitudes about military service. While he was there, he was promoted to major.
After leaving the university, Owens returned to his beloved tanks. He spent the next year back at Ft. Knox helping to develop the Army’s plan to accept the advanced XM1 Abrams tank, a battlefield bruiser firing a main gun that was upgraded to 120mm. This was followed by 18 months as the executive officer, 4th Battalion, 37th Armor Brigade.
Owens finished out his active duty career with a three year assignment as the Army plans officer for forces in the Caribbean. At the time, there were multiple trouble spots in the region – Granada, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Owens, now a lieutenant colonel, oversaw war games and crafted strategy.
He retired from the Army on December 31, 1985. But he didn’t completely leave the uniform behind. Owens returned to Savannah and became the senior Army instructor at BC.
The achievements and valor of BC graduates would not be possible without the guidance of an outstanding faculty, which currently includes four Army veterans with nearly a collective century of military service to their credit. Former CW3 Don Schaefer, former M. Sgt. Reinaldo Osorio, and former SFC Stanley Anderson, along with Owens, lead the JROTC program at the school. Since he returned to his alma mater in 1986 to lead the JROTC program, BC has maintained Gold Star status as one of the top 20 percent of JROTC programs in the country.
After 27 years of dedicated service to BC, Owens will be retiring on June 30. He and his wife, Lucia, will then have more time to spend with their three children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He will also have more time to cruise around on his customized Harley Davidson chopper. It may not be as powerful as an Abrams tank, but it serves its purpose.
The Next Generation
By Pat Brooks
Vol. 11, #8
Skidaway Island is recognized as having exceptional volunteer organizations and active, civic-minded residents. Many of our island leaders are retired from high-profile careers and bring decades of real life experience to various Savannah causes. As younger families move to the island, the spirit of volunteerism is being carried forward by the next generation of island leaders. It is fitting, then, that Landings resident, Ginna Carroll, is involved as Co-Founder and Vice President of the children-focused organization aptly named, “The Next Generation."
So what is The Next Generation?
The Next Generation is a volunteer organization that benefits the Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center. It is comprised of young professionals, neighbors, parents and friends throughout Savannah and the Coastal Empire who are interested in donating their time, talents and financial resources to the patients and families of The Children’s Hospital at Memorial. Our mission is to foster a positive healthcare experience for our community’s children and further educate parents on children’s healthcare matters through fundraising, volunteer service and educational outreach.
How did it begin?
A good friend of mine in Savannah, Heather Fountain, had a son in 2007. As an infant, Luke had a heart rate over 300 beats per minute and was not eating. The local medical professionals worked together with other children’s hospitals in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Milwaukee to diagnose and treat his rare condition and, thankfully, Luke is doing great. The Fountains were friends of ours from college, and we followed Luke’s progress while we lived in Atlanta. In February of the following year, my husband and I and our oldest daughter, Mary Margaret, moved to back to Savannah, our home, after spending 10 years in Atlanta. About a year after Luke was born, and things were getting a little bit better, Heather and I were at a Memorial golf tournament and we talked about doing something to help Memorial, while trying to get young families involved. My prior involvement with the Friends Junior Committee of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, gave me some ideas. The two of us put our heads together and came up with the idea for The Next Generation as a way to get young families involved with the hospital. The educational piece was very important to us as something to share with the community. A lot of what the Fountain family went through was looking for resources on who good doctors are and where to find educational information on raising children with specific pediatric issues. So we thought, “Let’s get some local pediatricians involved and other specialists, and lets help young families be better educated on caring for their children.” The aspect of volunteering and ways to enhance the patient experience was also important to us. Fortunately, I have only been in the hospital twice with my children here with minor illnesses. But as people can attest, to have to keep a young child confined in a hospital bed and keep them, and visiting siblings, entertained is certainly difficult. Heather experienced this struggle a great deal while in multiple hospitals with Luke. We have teamed up with the Child Life Specialists at Memorial to come up with new ways to make a child’s experience in the hospital more enjoyable by doing things that are not covered by the hospital’s operating budget.
What kinds of things do the kids like the most?
We have decorated the hallways of the hospital more than 30 times with various holiday and seasonal decorations so it is exciting and colorful for the kids, instead of just bare white walls. We have provided approximately 90 birthday and end-of-chemotherapy celebrations in the past three years. In addition to our members delivering cakes and gifts to the patients, it has been touching to see kids we know outside of the hospital, who have chosen to donate their own birthday gifts to the kids in the hospital. It has been a way to get children involved and teach them at an early age to give to others. We have collected more than 2,000 toys, gift cards, books, DVDs, coloring books and crayons, as well as built out and stocked, the Toy Lending Library for Exceptional Children, providing developmental toys for children to check out and use during therapy. We purchased flat screen TVs and DVD players for all the patient rooms in The Children’s Hospital, and the kids love the five portable gaming systems we purchased for the rooms.
What is the organization’s connection to Skidaway Island?
We have board members and members at large who live on the island. When we started the group, we certainly knew about The One Hundred group, which has a large number of Skidaway members. We saw the success that they have had from a fundraising perspective - I think they are up in the millions over their 15 years. They are an example for us, and we’ve modeled parts of our organization after them. Since we see our organization and our members as, on average, 20 or so years behind them, the name of The Next Generation makes sense. We are thankful that they have paved the way for us and have given us a lot of support. Our fundraising events are usually well attended by Landings residents, and many of the physicians on the island are supporters of The Next Generation and what we are trying to accomplish
What about the educational part of The Next Generation.
A good example is our recent partnership with Safe Kids Savannah. It makes sense that as much as we want to help kids who are in the hospital, if we can keep them out in the first place, it is even better. They have a program called “Buckle Up” that provides car seat checkup events and car seat inspection stations. Their “Walk this Way” program promotes walking to school in a safe manner. Their “Ready to Roll” program provides education on bike helmet use and hosts bike rodeos for children to promote bike safety. If you’ve noticed the loaner kids life jackets at local boat ramps, they are from their program called “Kid’s Don’t Float.” Additionally, we host two or three events per year where local pediatric specialists speak to our group. We send a quarterly newsletter out to our members that contains pediatric health educational material. Facebook has played a big role in our ability to push out links to educational material to our members and our Facebook followers.
TS: Tell us about your fundraisers. We hear that you know how to throw a party.
Our biggest fundraiser is “BBQ, Brews & Bluegrass,” held every October at Villa Marie Center on Isle of Hope, and it draws about 700 people. Through sponsorships, we have a bluegrass band and serve seasonal brews and BBQ. We have bouncy houses for the kids, a dunk-the-doctors booth and arts and crafts. We also have an annual Member Appreciation Party at Bonna Bella, as well as “Back to School Madness” at Monkey Joe’s for the kids. Several organizations, like the Young Insurance Brokers of Georgia, the SeaPort Open and K-Machine Industrial Services, have selected The Next Generation as the title charity for their golf tournaments. We did not go into this thinking we would be this huge money source for Memorial, given the demographic we are targeting as members: roughly 25-40 year olds with young children. Clearly, we are all supporting our families, and making a living. So, that is why it was three-fold, to provide the educational outreach and volunteer opportunities, in addition to fundraising. We are thrilled that we have raised around $200,000 in just a few years.
How did you end up at The Landings?
My husband, Doug, and I both grew up on Wilmington Island. I went to UGA and we both ended up in Atlanta. We decided to move back to Savannah and were looking at Ardsley Park or Whitemarsh. A Landings Company realtor and family member encouraged us to take a look and we loved what we saw. We had friends at the Landings when we grew up here and knew what a great community it was. With a nine month old and thoughts of a growing family, safety for our children was important to us. It is also a beautiful place to live, and we enjoy all that the island has to offer. I left my job in Atlanta with Ernst & Young, and I’m now the Human Resources Director with MacAljon. As a local company, they are big supporters of The Next Generation and allow me the flexibility to be involved.
How is Luke (the boy mentioned earlier) doing?
Luke is doing great. He is able to eat on his own and is an active and fun boy. His feeding tube was removed about a year ago. They still travel to the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital a few times a year for checkups and feeding therapy. The Fountain family credits Memorial doctors for savings Luke’s life, and he is certainly the inspiration for us getting The Next Generation started. We are thrilled with our accomplishments to date…but feel like we are just getting started.
By Scott Lauretti
It’s home. So it’s sometimes hard to remember Savannah is, in many ways, a world-class city masquerading as a shy small town. Sure, we struggle with the socioeconomic complexities that plague our bigger sisters – crime, poverty, a whole bunch of people who don’t seem to know how to drive. But we also enjoy an embarrassment of cultural and recreational opportunities that can, at times, make New York seem like Saskatoon-on-a-slow-day.
I lived in the Big Apple for nearly a decade and a half, and I almost never visited a museum, toured a monument or took in a show. In fact, the only privilege of urban ownership I regularly enjoyed is the pleasure of monthly mortgage payments for real estate that routinely exceeds $1,000 a square foot. Yet, in this quiet, moss-draped hamlet, in one recent 48-hour span, I stood alone in front of masterworks by Boticelli and Titian, sat rapt as I listened to the man who “invented the chicken sandwich (but not the chicken)” quote Psalms 22:1, shook hands with the best-selling author on earth, and dodged a pair of deer on the way home.
The weekend prior to this writing, the Savannah Book Festival came to town. Big names like James Patterson, David Baldacci and Dave Barry took the stages at more than half a dozen venues dotting downtown. Smaller names shared the podia with their more prodigious paperback kin. I listened to a psychologist tell stories from her days in Iraq, where she was assigned to a surgical unit in service of the Marines who were fighting for Fallujah at the time. She described holding a corporal’s hand and watching him die, then later forging an enduring friendship with the young man’s mom. She spoke from the altar of a historic church, following a former vice president of the United States. Instead of watching him, I shared a much smaller room upstairs in the museum with a few-dozen fiction fans, a Skidaway Island couple, and their daughter – a presenting author – who was in from out of town. Admission to all three talks – the Navy shrink, the ex-veep and the first-time novelist: free.
Wander off the beaten path of writer presentations that same Saturday and you might have found yourself in front of a classic painting flown in from Florence for an extended stay on the Jepson Center’s walls. I did. Years ago, on my honeymoon, I dropped in on the Uffizi, the permanent home of these pictures hanging here, downtown, today. The Florentine landmark was nice, but it wasn’t walking distance from a plate of $5 pulled pork.
Later that night, the governor of the Peach State charmed me with his accessible disposition as he spoke to the assembled crowd (seemingly) off the cuff. He introduced two men who have lived amazing lives, and each shared some of his wisdom, a few comic tales and a bit of grandfatherly advice. In defiance of their fading voices, we hung on every word. Truett Cathy built the world’s best chicken sandwich – and the Chic-Fil-A empire in the process – and Herman Russell helped build Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome and Turner Field, while tearing down the color barrier at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Last Saturday night in Savannah, this pair – dirt poor both, once - was inducted as Georgia’s newest Trustees.
Cathy peppered his speech with scripture as he thanked the Georgia Historical Society crowd. For him, the glory of his Savior and the virtues of a crisp piece of white meat are forever entwined. And Russell remembers segregation, but he’s much more focused on what we can all do together today when we follow the Golden Rule.
On Sunday morning, like so many other folks in the South, I took a place in a pew at a local church. After, I had a plate full of fried chicken and other similarly not-so-healthy stuff. Full but not finished for the day, I enjoyed Baldacci’s anecdotes in the darkened Trustees Theatre, and I managed to stay awake.
A single word filled my head on the way home: inspiration. The writers, the painters, the chicken man…they all professed – essentially – the same thing.
If you want it, do it. Whatever IT is. Nobody’s going to do it for you. And you might be amazed what you wind up with when you’re through.
I got all of this feel-good enlightenment and genuine entertainment within a few miles of my front door. Over the course of two days in February. In a little city I’m so lucky to be able to call home.
Go West, Young (or Old) Man
By Ron Lauretti
A little change of pace this time: I took a break from profiling active and former military men and women and headed west. I drove my car across the country and back, stopping to play cowboy a bit along the way.
My two favorite western states are Oregon and Wyoming, for different reasons. Oregon: My daughter, Leslie, lives there, and 28 months ago she and her husband, Eddie, became the proud parents of little Rudy, our only grandson. What makes this exceptional is the fact that Leslie was slightly on the long side of 40 and never thought she would become a momma. But she did, and Rudy is now a new joy added to our family tree. Understandably, we now visit Oregon as often as possible, in spite of the fact that the only states farther away from Georgia are Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Delta Airlines is happy about Rudy, too.
Then there’s Wyoming. I used to hunt there almost every year, trekking over the southeastern mountains and prairies of the Cowboy State in quest of antelope, deer and elk. I became permanently captivated by the relaxed-yet-pioneering spirit of the people and the wide-open spaces. I loved the contrast to the hustle and bustle of my industrial and commercial world east of the Mississippi. As I got older, the hunting took a backseat to family, business and other pursuits. But I always knew I’d head back to Wyoming someday.
With another visit to Rudy as motivation and the wilds of Wyoming still beckoning, I tossed a suitcase into my convertible and headed northwest on I-16. I would make the cross-country trip by car – age (mine) and distance (long) be damned.
Six days later, I pulled up in front of Leslie’s house in Portland. My daughter and her young son were sitting on the porch waiting for me. Rudy did not seem shy around a grandpa he sees only every so often. It was a great visit – the zoo, parks, restaurants, playtime, sightseeing. The sun even shone occasionally, in spite of the Pacific Northwest’s well-earned reputation for rain.
A few days later, I put the car on I-84 and headed toward Wyoming, the second part of my journey. A thousand miles later, I arrived in Saratoga, Wyo., an authentic western ranching, hunting, fishing and cowboy town, little changed from my visits there a few (or more) decades ago. It still has a saloon with swinging doors, wooden floors, a long antique bar and hitching posts outside (although instead of horses, there were a couple of long-haul motorcycles waiting for their riders).
One thing was noticeably different from the old days: The National Guard was in town sandbagging the low spots along the swollen North Platte River. Because of heavy rains and melting deep-mountain snowpacks, most rivers and creeks west of the Mississippi were at or near flood levels as I made my trip through the western states.
The next morning I left for my final destination in Wyoming, the Medicine Bow Lodge, which is 22 miles west of Saratoga on a very scenic mountain highway. It is located in a secluded valley in the Snowy Range at the foot of the majestic Medicine Bow Mountains of southeastern Wyoming. The lodge’s sea-level elevation is 8,500 feet, with surrounding peaks, some still covered by deep snow in late June, clocking in higher than 10,000 feet. Medicine Bow Lodge is an activity-driven guest dude ranch that began 94 years ago as a basic hunting and fishing lodge. Today’s guests enjoy horseback riding (at all levels), fishing (in multiple lakes and streams), hiking, cookouts, overnight pack trips, skeet shooting, birding and various kids’ programs. Or nothing at all for those who just want to lie back and take it easy in one of the most beautiful areas of the West.
The emphasis is definitely on horseback riding, from gentle rides on (sort of) flat meadows to more advanced rides on steep mountain trails. Experienced wranglers accompany all rides, and the more than 20 horses are very well trained.
The lodge operates year-round. Hunters are welcome during the fall season. And when deep winter snows cover the surrounding mountains, there are miles of well-maintained trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The facilities consist of a large main lodge, six double guest cabins and two single cabins, as well as three staff cabins, a large horse barn, and a bathhouse with hot tub and laundry facilities, all on 85 private acres. After horseback riding, the next most popular activity is probably eating -- lots of good food is served in the spacious and comfortable main dining room.
But its owners are perhaps the most interesting aspect of Medicine Bow Lodge. Debbie and Tim Bishop are part pioneers, part entrepreneurs and part ranch hands in charge. Add gracious hosts and good cooks to the list and you have a couple who are nice to get to know and easy to admire.
Debbie, originally from Texas, and Tim, Louisianan by birth, first met while working at a dude ranch for children in Colorado. They hatched a couple of big ideas while they were there – marriage and a mutual desire to someday have a guest ranch of their own. After accumulating a small nest egg and three children, the Bishops began shopping for a ranch in 1996. It took awhile, but the determined couple finally located one nestled in the alpine terrain of the Snowy Range of southeastern Wyoming. It was a lodge with a long history, dating back to 1917.
As mentioned earlier, the lodge was originally a hunting and fishing camp, and it opened as a beautiful pine-log structure surrounded by comfortable cottages and tent houses. In the early years, most guests came from no more than a few hundred miles away, usually arriving by Union Pacific railroad in Walcott, Wyo., and then driving on the only road through Saratoga to the camp. In addition to hunting and fishing, Medicine Bow Lodge also became a popular destination for parties, dances, weddings and holiday celebrations. The lodge was one of the original members of the National Dude Ranch Association, which was founded in 1924.
As the years passed, the lodge expanded and changed ownership several times. Since the Bishops took the helm nine years ago, they have become well-known for their hospitality and all-out effort to satisfy their clientele. Customers come from all corners of the United States, and during my stay there was even a couple who had come from Paris.
But running a year-round wilderness dude ranch isn’t all fun and games. Think of the chores of a bed and breakfast. Now make the place bigger … much bigger. And don’t forget the animals – they need to eat just as much as the guests do. That said, even after a severe setback along the way -- and even with all the hard work -- Debbie and Tim wouldn’t have things any other way.
That setback was a major fire almost two years ago that burned down half of the main lodge and caused extensive water and smoke damage to the other half. To make matters worse, the fire happened on a freezing December night. When the tanker fire truck finally arrived, its water hoses froze. With Herculean effort, firefighters did manage to save half the lodge, including the kitchen and dining area. Fortunately, no one was injured – the Bishops had exited their residence area ahead of the spreading smoke and flames. Not to be denied their dreams, the couple picked up the pieces (literally) and rebuilt the lodge; they were back open for business six months later.
Later this summer, Medicine Bow will take on a distinct patriotic flavor. A large contingent of Air Force families – all with recent Middle East deployments – will spend a long weekend at the ranch. Debbie and Tim and their staff are anxious to put out the welcome mat for this special group of visitors. The charm of Wyoming certainly beats the conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like many other commercial enterprises out west, Medicine Bow Lodge is on United States Forest Service land, with a lease arrangement from the USFS. As part of their long-range plans, the Bishops hope to find and purchase an equal amount of private acreage adjacent to USFS land somewhere, then follow the accepted land-exchange practice of giving the newly acquired land to the USFS in exchange for ownership of the existing Medicine Bow acreage. Knowing the determination of the Bishops, they will probably get it done. It’s a version of modern-day pioneer spirit, you might say. After that, they will be able to make their planned long-range improvements and expansion more easily, with less red tape.
I left Medicine Bow Lodge with renewed energy and a recharged psychological battery. Not to mention a sore butt from those mountain trail rides with Skeeter, my mighty steed.
As Debbie Bishop puts it, “We offer a true Western rustic vacation, but with a touch of elegance.” I agree.
Rephrased because later he mentions it’s a lease from the USFS.
Cabinets: A Love Story
By Charles Hendrix
A good love story is a joy to everyone. It can put a smile on our faces and bring us closer to others. In reconnecting recently with an old friend and client, we came across a special kind of love story – one involving cabinets. Our story begins with Nancy Lavely, a certified kitchen and bath designer through NKBA (the National Kitchen and Bath Association) and a licensed interior designer through the state of Georgia. One of only three people in the state with these credentials, she is the owner of Cabinet Wishes in Marsh Point Plaza, located adjacent to Kroger between Prudential Southeast Coastal Properties and Rep. Jack Kingston’s office.
And just what does it take to become a certified kitchen and bath designer, you might ask? First of all, a candidate must have a minimum of seven years of experience in kitchen and bath work in addition to references from clients, architects and builders. The CKD and/or CKB designations require design and practical exams: computer-aided design (CAD) scenarios that must be completed within six hours time. These exams test practical skills in space planning, placement of fixtures, fitting knowledge, and basic presentation skills. The candidate is required to produce four project documents: a floor plan, a construction/mechanical plan, an elevation plan, and a completed NKBA specifications form. The exam for the Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD) designation also features a two-hour academic component
As for our love story, the object of Nancy’s affection is a line of custom cabinets. The latest advertising campaign for Plain & Fancy Cabinetry in Pennsylvania, titled “Love Stories,” highlights clients like Nancy who have had Plain & Fancy custom cabinetry and remain “in love” with it. Nancy’s particular love story has its origins in Tennessee, where she owned and operated her first cabinetry store.
“I first fell in love with Plain & Fancy through a magazine advertisement,” Nancy remembers. “It caught my eye because it was designed for a rustic camp style, which was widely used in Tennessee and fit with the rustic timber frame and log homes prevalent there. This was perhaps the first theme-designed kitchen I had ever seen. While I had been doing cabinet design for some time, was a licensed interior designer in Tennessee and was studying to take the CKD (certified kitchen designer) exam, this advertisement spoke to me like nothing I had seen before. As soon as possible, I visited the manufacturing plant in Shafferstown, Penn.”
Nancy had read a lot about the Amish people of this region and was fascinated by their culture and heritage. So the trip was a wonderful opportunity to see the rolling hills, farms, horse-drawn carriages and hands-on craftsmanship of the Amish in Lebanon County. The beauty of this craftmanship is in the simplicity of its design. The phrase “less is more” must have been coined with the Amish in mind. The brand name Plain & Fancy is derived from an old Amish saying that things should be plain unless their “fancy” features also have a function.
When she arrived at the plant, Nancy immediately noticed the pride in spotless surroundings both inside and out. True to the Amish way of life, there was an emphasis on quality achieved by the group rather than as an individual effort. “I was amazed to learn that the originator of these ‘theme-designed’ cabinets was not a highly paid New York designer, but Vince Achey, whose father, John, started the cabinet business from a garage in 1969,” Nancy says. Vince’s brother, George, is the plant manager at Plain & Fancy today.
Nancy was shown vignette after vignette of themed cabinets, ranging in style from Asian to Contemporary to Arts and Crafts to French Country to Tex-Mex and beyond. “My creative side was exploding with possibilities,” Nancy recalls of her excitement on this initial visit.
Upon her return to Tennessee, Nancy became the westernmost Plain & Fancy dealer in the country. As a rule, the company doesn’t cross the Mississippi River to do business, but for Nancy they made an exception. She used Plain & Fancy cabinetry throughout her home in Tennessee and was featured on the cover of a national magazine.
“Today, an island and a free-standing pantry piece designed by me and made by Plain & Fancy are in my kitchen at The Landings,” says Nancy with obvious satisfaction. “The more I use these pieces, the more endeared they become to me, like heirlooms. I like to open and close the pantry piece just to hear the sound of quality. I have worked with a dozen different lines of manufactured cabinetry, and Plain & Fancy stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of value and quality.”
On display at Cabinet Wishes is a freestanding armoire in the new Brushmark Crackle finish, an island with horizontal Wenge hardwood, and crisp white cabinetry with a coastal look and feel. Since Plain & Fancy is a fully custom line, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to design and finish. If you can imagine it, Plain & Fancy can build it. And to ensure each project is installed to perfection (while adding another love story to the mix), Nancy employs a husband-and-wife team that has been working with Plain & Fancy for years.
“One of my current clients is a couple whose second Plain & Fancy kitchen is on the cover of the new ‘Love Stories’ ad literature,” says Nancy. “I am working with them on a second home in this area. That makes theirs a triple love story!”
Call for an appointment today to begin your own love story with Plain & Fancy cabinetry while working with the most qualified cabinet design expert in the area. Cabinet Wishes keeps its overhead low to pass the savings on to you.
The Feast of the 7 Fishes
Note: These recipes are sized to accommodate 8 adults, assuming all seven (plus dessert) courses are on the menu. Therefore, they are smaller than portions you would expect at a typical meal.
Raw Oysters with Two Sauces
2 dozen raw oysters, chilled on the half shell
Arrange three (3) oysters on each plate on a bed of ice. Accompany with two small vessels, one for each sauce.
2/3 c red wine vinegar, good quality
3 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
Whisk ingredients together. Cover and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
½ c ketchup
½ c chili sauce
3 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp hot sauce
Combine ingredients and mix well. Cover and store chilled until ready to serve.
Sicilian Tuna Tartare
1 lb fresh tuna, sushi grade
¼ c kalamata olives, chopped
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs, hard-boiled, divided between whites and yokes, and chopped
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp minced shallots
1 handful Italian parsley, chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Coarsely chop tuna. Add mustard and shallots together and mix well. Slowly stir olive oil into the mix to emulsify. Add chopped tuna and other ingredients to emulsification and mix well. Using your hands, form into individual patties and garnish with more chopped parsley and egg whites. Serve with toasted bread, if desired.
Fettucine with Lobster Tomato-Cream
1 lb dried fettucine
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 lb shelled, cooked lobster meat, large shell pieces reserved
2 large shallots, chopped
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
½ c brandy
¼ c seafood stock
¼ c heavy cream
½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Remove from water. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil under medium-high heat. Melt the butter with the oil. Add shallots, red pepper and shells to the pan. Saute for five minutes. Add brandy, turn the heat up to high, and sauté for another two minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add crushed tomatoes and seafood stock, stir well, and cook for another 10 mintues. Season. Remove the shells. Add the cream. Add the lobster meat and cook for two minutes to heat through. Season again. Add the lemon zest. Add the pasta to the pan and toss well.
Fried Shrimp, Squid and Cobia (Fritto Misto di Pesce)
¾ lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ lb squid, tubes cut into rings
¾ lb cobia (or other firm, thick white fish) cut into cubes
3 c cornstarch
fresh lemons, cut into quarters
1 gallon vegetable oil
½ c extra-virgin olive oil
In a heavy pot or deep-fryer, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Pat the seafood dry with paper towels. In batches, by type, toss with cornstarch to lightly but evenly coat. Shake off excess before lowering into the hot oil. Cook for 1 minute in the hot oil. Remove and shake dry. Fry again for another minute and remove and shake dry again. Spread out on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Generously salt while hot. Serve with lemon wedges.
Roasted Grouper with Port Wine and Shiitake Mushrooms
1 ½ grouper filet, cut into a thick pieces
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 c sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 c port wine
2 cloves galic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season fish and lightly brush with some of the olive oil. Place fish in a large baking dish and cook in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining oil and melt the butter under medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms, toss to coat well, and cook for 10 minutes. Season. Add the port wine, turn the heat to high, and reduce for five minutes or until reduced by two-thirds. Season again. Spoon sauce over cooked fish and serve.
Spaghetti with Clams
1 lb spaghetti
2 dozen small clams, scrubbed well
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp butter
Salt to taste
Cook pasta in plenty of boiling well-salted water until al dente. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for 1 minute, taking care to avoid browning the garlic. Add the clams and shake to coat. Add the wine and turn heat to high. Continue to cook until all clams are open. Lower the flame. Add butter and parsley and carefully toss to incorporate all the ingredients. Allow the butter to melt and add the cooked pasta to the saute pan. Season with salt and stir to mix pasta, clams and sauce. Transfer to a large serving dish and pour remaining sauce from the saute pan over pasta.
Sunday Sauce Recipes
This is one of those every-Italian-family-has-its-own recipes. The triumvirate – beef, veal and pork, along with stale bread dipped in milk, are the keys.
1/3 (one-third) lb ground sirloin
1/3 (one-third) lb ground veal
1/3 (one-third) lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 thick slices Italian bread (day-old), crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1/3 (one-third) c milk
1/3 (one-third) c grated pecorino romano cheese
1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ (one-quarter) c extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups basic red sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak the bread pieces in milk for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine (by hand) all the ingredients. Do not overwork, the flavors will blend themselves. Based on your personal preference, shape into spheres as small as golf balls or as large as baseballs. Arrange on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size. In a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame. Carefully add the baked meatballs and brown on all sides as quickly as possible. Add the red sauce to the pan, gently stir to coat the meatballs, reduce heat a bit and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring gently from time to time. Serve with additional grated cheese.
Baked Shrimp with Red Sauce, Feta and Orzo
1 ½ (one and a half) lbs large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound orzo
2 c basic red sauce
½ c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 lb, patted dry and crumbled
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook orzo in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve one cup of the cooking water. Meanwhile, in a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat the sauce over medium-high heat. Stir in the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, until just cooked through. Drain the orzo. In a large mixing bowl, toss the orzo, olives, oil, shrimp with sauce, and a cup of the pasta water. Spread half of the orzo/shrimp mixture evenly across a glass baking dish bottom. Sprinkle with half the feta. Repeat, creating another layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is slightly melted.
Easy Eggplant Parmigiana
2 good-sized eggplants, cut into ½-inch-thick (half) disks
Vegetable oil, for frying
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
4 eggs, beaten
Breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
2 balls whole milk mozzarella (approximately 1 lb)
Basic red sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a high-sided pan with enough oil to cover a depth of ½ (half) inch. Use mostly vegetable oil, but include a bit of extra virgin olive oil for flavor. Heat until very hot, but not smoking. Meanwhile, arrange eggplant pieces on a large tray covered with paper towels, sprinkle with kosher salt, cover with more paper towels and weigh down with heave pan or tray. This will drain some moisture out of the eggplant. Allow to sit like this for 20 minutes, then wipe clean and dry. Arrange three bowls side by side by side – flour, egg, breadcrumbs, from left to right. When you think the oil is ready for frying, test by dropping some breadcrumbs in. If they begin to bubble immediately, you’re ready to fry. Coat eggplant pieces in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and fry till golden brown on both sides. (You’ll need to turn them once to cook evenly.) Remove to a tray lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Rub a large baking dish with a paper towel moistened by olive oil to coat. Arrange a single layer of the fried eggplant pieces to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Ladle and spread enough red sauce to generously cover the eggplant. Top each piece with generous pieces of mozzarella. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, making sure the sauce and cheese don’t burn. Remove and serve with rigatoni coated with the sauce you’ve used.
By Joel Zuckerman
My first exposure to Jackson, Wyoming, came nearly 30 years ago. Three high school buddies and I drove, relay style, non stop from New England in the dead of winter on soulless Route 80, careening cross-continent, dodging ice storms, whiteouts and big rigs in somebody’s AMC rattletrap, taking 10-minute gas-and-rest stops only when needed. Two days going (including an overnight breakdown in Des Moines) five days in town, two days back. Sounds crazy, huh?
I’ve been back to Jackson several times since, most notably, a yearlong hiatus post-college, and have always relished the unique Old West ambience, the incredible open spaces, proximity to some of our most precious national parks, the thriving wildlife, forests, rivers and soaring grandeur of the mountains. But I never thought any subsequent visit would be as risky or pulse pounding as the first. Turns out I was dead wrong.
I’ve read or been told that normal families go on vacation to the beach. Or on a cruise. Or go to a lake, opt for a little camping in the woods, explore a new city, or visit grandma. It’s only the oddballs that stuff a pack, tighten the laces on gummy-soled climbing shoes, make sure their headlamps (no joke) are working, learn to tie complicated knots that would mystify a hangman, lock a carabiner or two, sling a rope over their shoulders and head up. And up. And up, up, up.
A reasonably comprehensive vocabulary is a prerequisite for any writer, but until this most recent family foray to Jackson words like “rappel,” “belay,” “carabiner,” “bowline on a bight” and “wag bag” weren’t part of my lexicon. Of course the alpinists among this readership might recognize the first four as essential elements of mountaineering. The last is a newfangled, portable commode unit, a hard-to-fathom, high-tech solution to the “leave no trace” concept that is thankfully now the standard in pristine natural environments, though both space constraints and delicacy prohibit more detailed information. Suffice it to say that one hasn’t experienced all that life has to offer until you’ve switched on your headlamp in the pre-dawn blackness, stumbled to an elevated outhouse in 40-mile-per-hour gusts, and then read the fine print instructions while trying to make friends with your wag bag.
This all-alpine crash course was administered by the legendary Exum Mountain Guides of Wyoming, who led our family expedition up one of the world’s most iconic mountain peaks - the Grand Teton. At a shade below 14,000 feet, it’s not like the Grand Teton is the highest peak in the nation, far from it. By contrast, neighboring Colorado has 55 peaks that are 14,000 feet or higher. But there are few mountains as recognizable, majestic or beautiful as the Grand, which lords imperiously over the verdant valley floor of Grand Teton National Park, some 60 miles south of our nation’s original and arguably most beautiful national park - Yellowstone.
There are certain qualifications to be met before one ascends to the summit. Neophytes (like us) must go through two days of intensive training, including rope tying, knot knowledge, boulder hopping, scrambling, vertical ascents, climbing techniques and, most memorably, rappelling, which is the French translation of the phrase “scream in terror.” Actually, to rappel a cliff means to gingerly walk backwards down the face, secured by rope and harness, until the cliff face becomes purely vertical, and the climber goes into a controlled descent via the rope line. It’s like being on an elevator, except instead of pushing a button and listening to Muzak, you hang for dear life onto the elevator cable.
Climbing the Grand is a 33-hour thrill ride that requires equal amounts motivation, dedication and perspiration. It’s a seven-plus-mile hike from valley floor to base camp, featuring dazzling wildflowers, gurgling streams, ice-cold waterfalls, expansive snowfields, endless fields of scree and a hundred million tons of boulders that must be scrambled over.
Bedtime comes early at base camp—basically a windblown, canvas yurt the size of a large dining room, strewn with sleeping bags, that climbers share with as many as 15 other like-minded enthusiasts. Slumber hour is suggested for about 8:30 p.m., despite the fact that the sky is bright as high noon at nearly 12,000 feet, and the shadows of the Tetons are just beginning to creep across the valley floor so far below.
Ascent day begins with a 3:15 a.m. wakeup call, water is boiled, coffee and instant oatmeal force-fed, and the summit push begins around 4, headlamps illuminated on helmets. If all goes well, the climbing parties reach the pinnacle by mid morning, the achingly beautiful 360-degree views are enjoyed, the commemorative photos taken and, 20-odd-minutes later, the descent commences before the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms begin to form.
While not for the faint of heart, this type of climbing is not “hang by the fingernails”, either. Teton rock is mostly solid, with reachable, generous footholds and handholds. Make no mistake - danger lurks off every precipice. Lean the wrong way, get caught on an exposed precipice during a sudden wind gust, lose your footing at an inopportune moment, and you might as well yell “Geronimo.” But climbers are roped tightly, there are checks and balances in place, the highly skilled and experienced Exum Guides are supermen (and women) - part nurse, cheerleader, psychologist, meteorologist and confidant, with the endurance, strength and lung capacity that flatlanders can only envy.
The journey to the summit, the accomplishment of such, is unforgettable, an achievement to savor. I’m thrilled we did it. And equally thrilled we don’t have to do it again.
O. Kay Jackson – Then They All Got Naked
This one’s not for the kids! While the subject matter represents a fascinating peek into a world about which much is speculated but little is widely known, it is definitely not family-friendly.
O. Kay Jackson, well-known Savannah author and long-time contributing writer to The Skinnie, has launched her latest book, “Then They All Got Naked,” a view (from the coat room) of what goes on in a swing club.
But unlike “Waking Up Men,” O. Kay’s earlier book about Savannah’s maritime community, where she once worked as a pilots and tugboats dispatcher, her new could just as easily come in an anonymous brown wrapper as its commercially-available hot pink version.
The author explains the raciness of her latest project: “There’s no way it could not be. Because it’s all about the activities that take place inside a long-established swing club where members come to socialize and then fool around, mainly with people other than their partners.” Okay, O. Kay, I guess that sums it up pretty well.
As she did when she took us for a close-up and personal view of life on the Savannah waterfront, O. Kay peeks behind the faux-satin curtains Pennsylvania’s Poconos with an unblinking eye. She has once again gone inside a world most of us know nothing about where she uses humor to illustrate a very real slice of shockingly real life.
In 2005, O. Kay moved north for a time to be closer to the New York publishing markets and found herself living, literally, in the back yard of a “Lifestyle” swing club, a family business, of sorts. Intrigued by the hotbed of adult adventures just outside her window, she took a job inside the club to document what she observed as a fully-dressed employee in a clothing-optional environment.
While the setting of her current book isn’t local, you might be surprised to learn that there are many such clubs in Georgia, including some in this area, according to the author. She’s done her research. “Swingers are primarily married white folks from the upper-to-middle socio-economic strata, and chances are decent that you know someone in ‘The Lifestyle,’ even if you have no idea they are,” O. Kay explains. “In my book I write that ‘estimates of the number of people in the swinging lifestyle swing as wildly as swingers do, ranging from one-and-a-half million to upwards of four million in the United States alone.’ But just the other day I heard Dr. Phil give the number at possibly eight million. The numbers of people involved are increasing very rapidly, mainly because of the ease of connections made through the Internet.”
This book is clearly not for everybody, and we wouldn’t mention it without including a suggestion for caution, particularly if you’re easily offended by open discussions of sex. It does, however, take readers behind otherwise very tightly closed doors, and provides insight into motivations that drive people to behave in ways that are widely labeled “taboo.”
Copies of the book are now available downtown at E. Shaver Booksellers or through the author’s website, www.okayjackson.com.
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