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.
The Skinnie: 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?
Anna Quindlen: 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.
TS: 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?
AQ: 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!
TS: “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.)
AQ: 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!
TS: 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?
AQ: 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.
TS: 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?
AQ: 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.
TS: 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?
AQ: 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.
TS: 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?
AQ: 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.
TS: 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?
AQ: 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!”
TS: 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?
AQ: 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.
TS: You frequently quote Dickens. Who are other favorite writers?
AQ: 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."
The Skinnie: So what is The Next Generation?
Ginna Carroll: 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.
TS: How did it begin?
GC: 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.
TS: What kinds of things do the kids like the most?
GC: 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.
TS: What is the organization’s connection to Skidaway Island?
GC: 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
TS: What about the educational part of The Next Generation.
GC: 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.
GC: 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.
TS: How did you end up at The Landings?
GC: 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.
TS: How is Luke (the boy mentioned earlier) doing?
GC: 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.
The Story of Sandfly
By Charles Hendrix
When Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, took Savannah in December 1864, he conducted interviews with local black to determine their support for the Union and their ability to sustain themselves if freed from slavery. Sixty-seven-year-old local minister Garrison Frazier was selected to speak for those present. When asked if he thought blacks should live among whites or by themselves, he replied, “I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over.”
Ex-slaves from plantations settled together in areas like Sandfly, forming closely-knit, supportive networks of families. It was these former slaves who gave the community its colorful name. According to some, slave boatmen were often at the mercy of pesky gnats in the marshes and used to sing “Sandfly Bite Me” when they rowed over from Skidaway. After the Civil War, the plantations’ former slaves received land grants in the area and built their own modest homes and small businesses.
Plantation work experience formed the foundation of African-American trade skills, such as carpentry and masonry, so the settlement progressed without help from outside builders and planners. In Sandfly, tradesmen passed their skills from one generation to another via methods like community house-raisings and running family businesses. Nearly every Saturday found the community raising a new home. The work depended upon a “skill pool,” from which residents drew on the specialties of individuals. Brick masons, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians all gave their talents freely to the building of the community.
Building skills formed the basis for many slave descendants’ livelihoods, and Sandfly tradesmen found jobs constructing Savannah area roads and buildings. This connection to the land generated a strong attachment to the area. Even today, this devotion remains strong in Sandfly, where the residents recently challenged the establishment of a Wal-Mart superstore.
Unlike downtown Savannah and suburban developments such as Ardsley Park, Sandfly was not a thoroughly planned community. The settlement evolved without the direct involvement of a professional designer, planner or engineer. The slave descendents who moved to the area, mostly from nearby Wormsloe Plantation, had free reign to organize their environment, placing churches at focal points of the landscape.
Sandfly is home to several African-American churches and cemeteries, including the Union Baptist Church, which organized during Reconstruction in the 1800’s. The most-attended church, Speedwell United Methodist, is situated at the intersection of Montgomery Crossroads and Skidaway Road, the geographic heart of Sandfly. Founded and originally built in 1884, Speedwell’s sanctuary was rebuilt twice as a result of damaging fires, first in 1934 and again in 1997. Located just across the street on the southwest corner of this intersection is the Southside Worship Center. Macedonia Baptist Church was erected in 1877, just down Montgomery Crossroads from Speedwell. The other major crossroads of Sandfly is the intersection of Norwood Avenue, Ferguson Avenue, and Skidaway Road. Isle of Hope Union Missionary Baptist Church and Union Skidaway Baptist Church are situated along these roadways in close proximity to their intersection.
The community’s cemeteries have rich histories as well. Old Church Cemetery on Skidaway Road and Eugenia Cemetery on Montgomery Crossroads serve as burial grounds for these churches. Old Church Cemetery traces its origin to 1863 and is named in honor of a Catholic Church that once stood on the site. Like Old Church Cemetery, Eugenia is still an active burial ground for the community. Its headstones date as far back as 1828, and the cemetery was established as a final resting place for slaves and their descendents.
After 1870, Sandfly’s Central Avenue became a principal route for streetcars, which connected Isle of Hope to Savannah during the Reconstruction era. Sandfly served as the suburban hub for the streetcar system, linking Vernonburg, Beaulieu, Montgomery, Isle of Hope, and Thunderbolt to downtown. In the early 20th century, both Norwood Avenue and the causeway connecting Isle of Hope and Sandfly were lined with palm trees. The causeway and other Sandfly roads were also used in the 1908 American Grand Prize Automobile Race.
Sandfly has continued as a community where African-Americans own and shape property. Ownership has been passed down through families for generations, creating a strong sense of connection with the place. Like many small, historical communities of African-Americans, Sandfly is struggling to preserve its heritage and lifestyle in the face of rapid commercial development. In recent years, burgeoning enterprises and road-widening projects, with their attendant home condemnations and resident displacement, have begun to fragment and erode the edges of this quaint residential community.
A 26-page plan adopted by the Georgia Conservancy in 2004 addresses the historical significance and need to preserve the character and cohesiveness of the Sandfly community. The primary concern that surfaced during the workshops that led to the creation of this comprehensive document was maintaining the community’s peaceful, residential character, and preserving its family- and church-oriented heritage, natural surroundings, and unique sense of place. This study involved city and community leaders, as well as industry professionals and volunteers from the Savannah College of Art and Design, who established recommendations for maintaining the Sandfly way of life. Some of the commendable achievements that sprung from this exercise are the establishment of the Sandfly Community Betterment Association, the application process for listing the community on the National Register of Historic Places, and rezoning a significant portion of the community to reflect current and desired future land use.
By Charles Hendrix
The Mascots are important symbols for groups, clubs and teams. They become the physical identity of an organization. Two of our most iconic American symbols are the elephant and the donkey, representing the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.
But why these two continentally-divided beasts of burden as political animals? We dug through the dusty archives in the back of the library - okay, we Googled it for starters - and found the answer.
As a party symbol, the donkey is the older the two, going back to 1828 and the campaign of Andrew Jackson. Jackson, a populist who in that year ran for office with the slogan, "Let the people rule," was labeled a "jackass" by his political opponents. There being no such thing as bad press, Jackson co-opted the strategy and used the donkey on his election posters. Renowned for his stubbornness, the association of man and animal stuck throughout his presidency and beyond - in 1837 political cartoonists took him to task as still trying to lead his party though retired and he was represented in newspapers and illustrations as struggling to wrangle an ass.
Technically, then, the Democrats didn't choose a donkey; a donkey was thrust upon them. Nor, for that matter, did the Republicans choose an elephant. Political cartoonists were again behind the birth of this symbol as early as 1860, but it was one artist in particular who made both the images truly the respective parties' enduring mascots.
Thomas Nast came to America in 1840 as a six-year-old boy, and was sufficiently unimpressed with what he saw over the next 30 years, so he devoted his life to making wisecracks about it with pen and ink. The donkey reemerged in his cartoons in 1870 as the representative of an anti-war faction, stubbornly kicking Abraham Lincoln's late and literally lionized Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. The image resonated, and the donkey reappeared in later works as associated with, but not yet a symbol of, the Democratic Party.
On November 7, 1874, however, Nast gave the future Democrat donkey a recognizable and recurring protagonist.
Earlier that year, the New York Herald raised a cry of Caesar-ism against Ulysses S. Grant and the possibliity of his winning a third presidential term. The issue quickly became a hot button for the Democratic Party. Nast knew good material when he saw it. The cartoon of the 7th, published in Harper's Weekly and titled "The Third Term Panic," showed a donkey wearing a lion's skin in order to freak out the other animals running amok in Central Park. Donkey = The Herald, skin = Caesar-ism, other animals = the people. One of the animals was an elephant, who specifically stood in for the Republican vote, as it was persuadable Republicans that the Democrats were hoping to scare over to their side. Note that the donkey is still not the Democratic Party symbol in that cartoon; there's a fox playing that role, sitting back from the brink of chaos into which the elephant seems ready to plunge.
Apparently the strategy worked. The Republicans lost the House of Representative that November and, on the 21st, Nast delivered the second part of his one-two punch. He portrayed an elephant caught in a trap set by a donkey, representing the success of the Herald's "deception." Pictures and parties became more closely connected in the public eye, but were not yet one and the same.
Throughout the 1870’s, the Democrats and Republicans appeared in cartoons variously as lions, bears, tigers, foxes, fish, lambs, sheep, roosters, bulls, and so on. Elephants were sometimes the Republican voters, sometimes the entire American public. It wasn't until the Electoral College controversy of 1877 that the elephant fully belonged to the Republican Party. When the Electoral Commission declared Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, President, Nast took the qualifying "vote" away from his elephant's label and made it the last animal he'd use to represent the party.
In the 1880 election, other cartoonists picked it up, and took the donkey, with its Jacksonian pedigree and close associations through Nast's work, for the more or less permanent symbol of the Democratic Party.
Though the elephant is now in fact the official mascot of the Republican Party, the Democrats have yet to formally adopt the donkey.
By Kevin Smith
Acquaintances commonly ask me how I came to appreciate higher-end wines. Rarely can we remember the date, time, place and occasion for such a mundane event, but I do. It was May 12, 1976, at Joe Wheeler Lodge in northwest Alabama. My bride and I (who I affectionately call “the demon”) were just married by Judge Bobby Lee Day in Morgan County, Alabama. Judge Day, who was umpiring a Little League double-header, between games threw his chamber robe over a chest protector and shin guards, and hitched us in an outdoor chapel at Point Mallard Park. On the way to the lodge for our first of many days of bliss, we downed a 1.5-liter bottle of Riunite white wine.
Upon arrival and check-in at Joe Wheeler, the desk clerk shoved several pieces of paper in front of me to sign. Pleading insanity - I’d just been married - I begged off filling out the paperwork until the next morning.
That night, my bride of 29 years-11 months-and-one-day-now, gave me a wedding gift that would change my palate and wallet forever. The gift was a 1969 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. After chilling the bottle in that quintessential square hotel ice bucket, we toasted the future and settled in for the evening. The next morning, I walked out onto the balcony that overlooked the Tennessee River and overnight the entire river had turned from a dark green to grocery-sack brown.
Needing to complete the paperwork at check-in from the night before, I inquired at the desk about the color of the river. The confused clerk looked at me and said “Sir, we had a tornado come down through the slough last night!”
I smiled at the clerk and said, “That was no tornado, it was me in room 317!”
Actually, it was the Dom Perignon that created an uninterrupted night’s sleep. A bottle of wine so good that it could mask the roar of an Alabama twister. From that night on, I have been a slave to higher-end wines, and especially champagnes. But what is Champagne?
Basically, you utilize three grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (moon-yay) and Chardonnay. The first two are dark grapes, with Chardonnay being white. Most champagnes today are white and can be made from any combination of the three. The pulp from these grapes is gently pressed so as not to impart any color from the skins of the dark ones, yielding a white wine. Once the wines are assembled, the winemaker will decide what percentages should be blended before the bubbles are added by the methode champenoise.
Making champagne is a mix or alchemy, luck and magic. Bottles are filled with the blended still wine to the winemakers taste. Thick glass bottles are used to resist the strong pressures created in the process. A solution of sugar and yeast (liqueur de triage) is added, and the bottle is sealed with a strong cap. Then, you wait for the yeast to create more alcohol and carbon dioxide. Given that the gas cannot escape and is building up pressure, it will dissolve into the wine. This is how those beautiful tiny bubbles are created. Next, you patiently wait, sometimes five years or more, to allow the lees (dead yeast cells) to impart richness into the wine.
Over time, gradually turn and tap the bottle so that it winds up top-down with the dead yeast cells congregating in the neck. This is commonly referred to as remuage, or riddling. When the winemaker feels his masterpiece is ready, he dips the neck of the bottle in freezing brine that creates a frozen plug, encapsulating the dead yeast cells in the neck of the bottle. He then pops the cap and the frozen plug complete with lees becomes airborne. This is commonly referred to as degorgement.
Top the bottle off with a dosage of sweetish wine, seal with a cork, wire capsule and foil, and sell this concoction for anywhere from $25 to $500. But when it comes to sparkling wines, I think its all about what tastes good to you.
One of my favorite bottles comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The folks at the Gruet vineyards make several smashing bottles of bubbly for under $20 a pop. But legally, it can’t be called champagne, because it is not produced in the Champagne district of France. The French are pretty hard-nosed about this issue, and rightfully so.
Going up in scale, my second choice would be Drappier Carte D’Or. Planted by the Gallo Romans circa 1 AD, this offering is 90 percent Pinot Noir grown on a 99-acre estate. It is crisp and clean and pairs wonderfully with oysters or my favorite scrambled eggs. Drappier retails around $35 per bottle.
If I’m feeling frisky and in the mood to heckle fellow golfers from our deck on Marshwood #5, I have to pull out a bottle of Bollinger RD from the Reims district of France. While pricey at $200 a bottle, I think Madame Jacques Bollinger summed up what champagne is all about from her famous quote: “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch the stuff unless I’m thirsty.”
Everybody Loves Cecil
A Smiling Force of Community Strength
By Charles Hendrix
Often the most influential people are the ones who go about their lives with the least fanfare. Cecil Abarr is the kind of guy whom everyone would like to be when they grow up (even if they’ve already grown up). Cecil isn’t necessarily the action hero who swoops in and saves the day in dramatic fashion. Nor is he the sports legend who threw the winning touchdown in overtime back in his heyday. He is simply the guy who gets the job done. Or jobs – plural – more appropriately. While offering an indelible smile to everyone he meets along the way. Simply put, everybody loves Cecil.
From small-town Iowa farm boy to president of The Branigar Organization and beyond, Mr. Abarr has a list of accomplishments and accolades that keeps growing even as he approaches his 80th year. He started out working full-time in addition to going to school when he was in eighth grade. Those long days spent doing the chores on his granddad’s farm are part of what molded Cecil into the man he is today. His grandfather was from the anything-worth-doing-is-worth-doing-right school of thought, and that axiom has stuck with him.
Cecil’s most esteemed role model would have to be his mother. The greatest gift she had to give was love, a gift that Cecil passes on freely to those in his world. Cecil’s mother was a woman who led by example. The children observed how hard their mother worked and how she cared for them as well as the community. And being the second oldest of seven children, Cecil always felt responsible for helping his mother with the other six kids. This devotion to caring for others has been a recurring theme throughout his life.
At 17, Cecil enlisted in the Army. Shortly thereafter, he and about 5,000 of his fellow freshly buzzed buddies departed on a three-day cruise to Okinawa, Japan. At that time, you could sign up for an 18-month hitch, a stretch long enough for Cecil to progress to the rank of sergeant. After the Army, it was on to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. The GI Bill allowed Cecil to serve his country while earning credit toward an undergraduate degree. During his 18 months of active duty, he earned 30 months of college time, so he studied straight through the summers and earned his degree in three years.
Cecil’s first job out of college was with a small carbon-paper manufacturer. He was fortunate to be riding this wave of popularity in one-use carbon paper, and the company rapidly grew from a small family-owned business to the largest carbon-paper manufacturer in the world. Cecil gained invaluable manufacturing experience and was exposed to all facets of business and management and the enterprise grew rapidly.
Massey-Ferguson opened up an administrative headquarters in Des Moines and Cecil decided to try his hand at the tractor business. His experience in manufacturing enabled him to change roles within the company rather freely, holding several positions until he became head of all treasury operations for North America.
Cecil’s next order of business was to hook up with the founders of Holiday Inn Hotels, Kemmons Wilson and Wallace Johnson. This was, however, not a foray into the hotel business but his first venture into real estate. It was a tough time for the real estate market and large companies were buying up smaller ones. One of those biggest enterprises was Union Camp, which had purchased Tecton, a homebuilding company and Branigar, a development company. Cecil was recruited by Union Camp in 1974 to work for Tecton, which was later merged with Branigar and operated under the Branigar name. He was named senior vice president in charge of administration for the combined company. There was tremendous subsequent upheaval within the organization and Cecil was charged with finishing up many Tecton projects around the country.
In 1978, the parent company decided to move Branigar’s headquarters to Savannah, and Cecil was part of that relocation. The company was focusing heavily on marketing The Landings at this time, and Cecil was to be part of a group taking photos around the marina to be used for advertising. He was introduced to a group of people that included a young lady named Lou who was the office manager at the Marshwood Club. The photographer staged some shots on a boat and then asked Cecil and Lou to stroll hand-in-hand on the pristine beach of Wassaw Island for a shoot. A year later, the lovely Lou would become Mrs. Cecil Abarr, and they have been married more than 25 years now.
As a newcomer to Savannah in the late 70’s, Cecil would quickly get to know the movers and shakers in this relatively close-knit Southern town. As is typical, there was some resistance to overcome as he weaved his way through the mazes of local commerce and culture. The locals weren’t exactly keen on the concept of a $3.5 million bridge to Skidaway Island to be built with tax dollars. But Cecil and his colleagues helped Savannahians to see the potential impact of Skidaway development, and lasting relationships were soon formed. Old Savannah eventually began to understand the potential talent pool and economic engine that Skidaway Island would provide to the community, and Cecil was part of that education process, largely by example. Today, nearly every charitable and nonprofit organization in Savannah relies on Skidaway Island residents for crucial human and financial capital.
Cecil’s own charitable work began with the Salvation Army and he has been on that board of directors for decades, holding the position of chairman a few years ago. After then-president Rich Burke left Branigar to pursue his own interests, Cecil was promoted to his post. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to join the board of Candler Hospital, serving on numerous committees and eventually becoming chairman of that board as well. Cecil retired from Branigar in 1994 to start his own firm and developed the Henderson Golf Community. Friends jokingly say he was retired for about 20 minutes.
In 1996, Cecil and the board of Candler Hospital began work with the board of St. Joseph’s Hospital to merge the two organizations into St. Joseph’s/Candler. Steering the companies through this complex merger was virtually a full-time job for more than a year, but in the end the transition was successful and saved the hospital some $14 million the first year. He stepped down from the board at the imposed age limit of 75.
In addition to running his own business, roughly three years ago Cecil became broker-in-charge for the real estate firm of Maloney, Mitchell and Denton, a commercial operation specializing in large tracts of land for residential developments. You might think that Cecil has remained so busy he has little time for more charitable work. But he staunchly believes that he should give back to society through both financial means and his work. He feels fortunate to have been blessed with the success and good health that allow him to serve the community that has given so much to him.
As a member of Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, Cecil is heavily involved with the organization of the South Georgia Conference and the 40-some churches that comprise that body. He is and has been on the boards of several committees within the Methodist Church. Proof positive of the adage: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
Throughout his career, and now into his “retirement,” Cecil has served on the boards of numerous charitable and philanthropic organizations. He attributes his success at handling the pressure in both his volunteer and professional life to the ability to compartmentalize. He works on one project, one task at a time, rather than letting a wide variety of thoughts overwhelm him. He learned this strategy early when he started running and cycling. Fifty-odd years ago, a jogger on the roads of rural Iowa was not a very common sight. Cecil remembers folks peeking out of their windows as he ran by, while drivers stopped to ask if he needed a ride.
But his runs were his quiet time - time to order his thoughts and plan the next project. The same goes for cycling. Thirty-five miles every Saturday for years. And then there were the triathlons and half-marathons he used to run. He even has a marathon finish under his belt.
Cecil also stresses that he has never stopped taking classes to learn as many things as he can. He notes that when he used to interview someone for a job, if the person said he was done with school and never intended to go back, Cecil considered that a negative.
Cecil has obviously never stopped learning, loving and living for his country, his community and his Creator, as he describes it. With his dedicated wife by his side, he has chosen to spend his retirement years as he has spent the rest of his life, serving with humility and selflessness rarely witnessed anymore. He could be traveling and relaxing, enjoying the fruits of his labor, but this is the way he prefers. The world is a better place because of people like Cecil Abarr. Savannah should be proud to consider this Iowa farm boy as a de facto native son.
Gone to the Dawgs
By Charles Hendrix
Heading off to college is a big transition for any graduating senior. Attending school miles away from the comforts of home (even with Mom and Dad’s VISA card) presents a new set of challenges for even the most self-disciplined teen. For a fortunate few, their athletic acumen also propels them into the ranks of Division I college sports.
Authenticating the “local kid makes good” axiom, Skidaway spirit sprite, Lauren Medinger, has joined the rarefied ranks of University of Georgia cheerleaders. And if you don’t think cheerleading is a sport, just ask this veteran of the Cheer Savannah All-Stars about her training and workout regimen. Practice is three days a week for at least two hours and she works out with a personal trainer two days a week. But Lauren is quick to point out that the university is committed to working with the student-athletes to provide scheduling assistance and tutoring to ensure academic success.
Lauren is a part of the 20 member all-girl “Black” cheerleading squad, as opposed to the co-ed “Red” squad composed of six to eight couples. The Black squad works all of the home football games.
Lauren describes the vibe on the field as an incredible rush. The energy from the crowd and the players is the inspiration for what she does on Saturday afternoons. When asked about the benefits of cheering for Georgia, Lauren is quick to point out that she has had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, attend special appearances and be seen on national television, although she has never seen a replay of herself. Not to mention that her position in the squad’s formation puts her about two feet from the world-famous dog, Uga VI.
Tough to Bring Down
By Dean Moesch
When you first see Skidaway Island teen John Moesch, you may not imagine him to be a force to be reckoned with on the football field. But play 48 minutes against this senior from Savannah Country Day School and you’ll quickly rethink your first impression.
The 5’ 8,” 165-pound Moesch leads the Hornets on both sides of the ball, as they, at the time of this printing, sit 5-3 overall, and a perfect 4-0 in region play. Through eight games, Moesch leads the Coastal Empire in tackles from the safety position, and has run for more than 700 yards from his tailback spot in the Hornets backfield.
This three-sport athlete has accumulated an impressive array of awards during his four years at Country Day, but his proudest achievements have come off the field and in the classroom. Last week, Moesch was inducted into the National Honor Society, an elite group of students who excel in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership and character. It is routine to see his name consistently on the honor roll while dedicating himself to excellence in all his athletic pursuits.
Despite his lack of eye-popping physical size – Moesch is impressively fit and solidly built but measures small by typical major-college standards - his hard work and dedication have paid off as he has caught the eyes of coaches at the collegiate level. Washington and Lee, Tufts, Sewanee, Harvard, Bowdoin and Wesleyan have contacted the senior and expressed interested in him as either a football or baseball player at the next level, or both.
The Hornets know it is their last year with this talented athlete, but he’ll be missed for more than his touchdown production. Moesch is known throughout the Country Day community as a person of the high integrity with a kind heart. When a friend’s mother was asked about John she replied, “If the world was filled with more John Moeschs’, it would certainly be a better place.”
Moesch is a study in quiet determination. So it’s for certain that this special young man will continue his athletic career after graduation this spring. The college for which he elects to strap on his cleats will be very lucky to have him not only as a player, but as a solid campus citizen with a bright future.
Where There Was Smoke...
THERE'S PIGEON ISLAND
By Charles Hendrx
The coastal waterways of Georgia are dotted with tiny, uninhabited islands that pique the interest of boaters, fisherman and naturalists alike. By their geographical nature, these little hammocks, accessible only by boat, have undoubtedly been pit-stops for ne’er-do-wells and scofflaws looking for a place to lie low or set up moonshine stills over the years. In this day and age, most lay quietly embraced by the rivers and creeks that encircle them, playing host to the seasonal flora and fauna taking up residence, and inviting the occasional adventurer with a boat ashore for a respite from the humming of the outboard.
Gazing out over the marsh heading west on Diamond Causeway, Pigeon Island looms to your left just past the newly paved entrance to the public boat ramp. Less than one square mile in area, the island is at once familiar and foreign. So close in proximity but guarded like a castle by the moat of saltwater surrounding it, keeping her off-limits to those not nautically inclined.
In colonial times, the island was used by Capt. Noble Jones and his Northern Company of Marines to patrol the Skidaway Narrows searching for Spanish privateers approaching from Florida. Known today as the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Inland Passage was a critical route to protect colonials from enemy advancement into early settlements. General Oglethorpe authorized construction of a watch house on Pigeon Island in 1740 to warn troops stationed at Jones’ Wormsloe Plantation of approaching invaders. Wormsloe was officially deeded to Jones by a King’s Grant dated 1756, although he had occupied the land since 1736. Pigeon Island was gifted to Jones in 1761.
Over the years, the island has seen several owners, held at times by individuals, a local family, and private interests seeking to develop the land for home sites. Today, Pigeon Island is once again part of Wormsloe Plantation. The 1997 purchase was part of Gov. Zell Miller’s Rivercare 2000 project benefiting riverfront land facilitating wildlife-management areas, parks, natural and historic landmarks, and greenways.
Thankful to have Pigeon Island back as a historically significant part of Wormsloe, the staff of the storied plantation is at once proud and reluctant. The island appears from a distance to be a lush natural landmark teeming with life. And it is. Unfortunately, further exploration tells a more sordid tale. The tree line just beyond the beach is littered with bottles and cans alongside remnants of campfires which are strictly prohibited. And the undergrowth bears the charred remains of the fire a few months back. It’s painfully evident to anyone who comes ashore why the Wormsloe crew doesn’t want to draw additional attention to Pigeon Island. The last major clean-up effort yielded six dumpster loads of refuse. And there is plenty more littering the island’s interior right now.
So if you decide to stop by Pigeon Island for a picnic or to birdwatch (we spotted a bald eagle on a recent visit) or simply to enjoy your own private beach for an afternoon, please clean up after yourself. And consider making a difference by taking a few other pieces of trash with you as well. Mother Nature and the animals and plants that live on the island will be very grateful.
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography Update
Fish Farm Can Feed Sushi Lovers
By Mike Sullivan
Sushi may be one of Japan’s most popular culinary-concept exports but, before too long, that California roll you dip into soy sauce may trace its roots to Skidaway Island. Scientists at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are developing an aquaculture system they hope will provide fish suitable for sushi and economic opportunity for South Georgia at the same time.
Professor Dick Lee has been raising black sea bass in a closed-cycle aquaculture system to develop a process that is commercially viable and environmentally friendly. “We are raising black sea bass,” says Lee, “as sushi chefs tell us this is a very tasty fish they really enjoy using to make sushi.”
Black sea bass is a relatively small saltwater fish, running approximately two pounds at market size. Typically, black sea bass in the wild take two years to grow to that weight but, in Lee’s system, the fish are ready for market in an average of 11 months. The key is the diet. Lee is feeding his black sea bass juvenile tilapia, a freshwater fish. “The tilapia makes an excellent, high-protein diet for the black sea bass, and they are thriving,” notes Lee.
Lee continues concerning the objectives of his work, “Ideally, we would like to be able to demonstrate this could become a money-making business for farmers in this region.” Aquaculture systems could provide alternative land use for farmers currently raising other crops.
A big issue with many aquaculture projects is their effect on the environment. Typically, in most aquaculture systems, some clean water comes into the process and some waste water is returned to the environment. The Skidaway project is a closed-cycle system that results in no discharge into the environment. The project team operates two separate systems, or cycles, in their greenhouses. On one side is the black sea bass, raised in saltwater tanks. On the other side is tilapia, in freshwater tanks and ponds. The juvenile tilapia are hand harvested to be served later to the black sea bass. In a typical fish-farm set-up, the fish are fed food pellets. Many of the pellets go uneaten. They sink to the bottom or float to the top, and generally foul the water. In the Skidaway system, the baby tilapia just swim around until some hungry sea bass sucks them down in one gulp. “No muss. No fuss. And much cleaner water,” says Lee’s assistant, Karrie Brinkley.
On both the saltwater and freshwater sides of the system, the researchers use algae and bacteria to cleanse the natural fish byproducts from the water. The water is pumped into a series of trays full of algal mats and bacteria. It takes roughly 45 minutes for it to flow downhill from one tray to the next, until the water at the bottom is relatively clean and then pumped back into the tanks. What looks like an unwanted mess to the casual observer is actually a great filter.
One more twist exists on the freshwater side of the system. It turns out that what is bad for fish water is great fertilizer for plants. So Lee and Brinkley also grow hydroponic vegetables in the freshwater trays. This serves a dual purpose. The vegetables help pull waste elements out of the water and use them as nutrients, while also providing a second tasty crop. Currently, Brinkley frequently puts her latest crop of cucumbers or lettuce out in the Skidaway Institute lunch room for her friends and co-workers to enjoy. But in a larger commercial system, the effect would be two distinct revenue-producing harvests for the farmer – fish and veggies. “The vegetables are a side benefit, but they could provide an additional revenue source for a farmer,” explains Lee.
Right now, Lee’s project is fairly small. He raises the fish in a handful of tanks enclosed in two greenhouses. However, he envisions a time when a South Georgia farmer may have dozens or hundreds of tanks and greenhouses and produce adult black sea bass on a commercial level. Last summer, Lee had some help designing such an enterprise. He had a group of interns from Clark-Atlanta University working with him for the summer. However, not all were science majors; some were business students. Their final project for the internship was to produce a business plan for a start-up fish farm using the Skidaway system.
One question that hasn’t been answered: “So how do these black sea bass taste?” Lee is currently setting up a taste test. He has been raising some black sea bass on the traditional food-pellet diet for comparison purposes. He would like to find some knowledgeable sushi fans and offer them some delicacies from black sea bass raised on both the food-pellet and the tilapia diets. Any volunteers? Contact the institute.
We’ll let you know how the “Sushi Challenge” turns out.
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a scientific research facility, a unit of the University System of Georgia, located at the north end of Skidaway Island. Mike Sullivan is the institute’s External Affairs Manager.