Friday, May 29, 2009

Smith Motel in Kennesaw

In 1922 the State of Georgia started a road program to help the economic problems caused by the "Cotton Bust." Highway 41, about 5 miles from of our house, was completed in the late 40s and was a major avenue which people used until I-75 was finished. The Smith Motel was built on Highway 41 in the early 1950s to take advantage of the renewed travel in the area. There was a restaurant in the front of the motel, which, by the time we moved to Cobb County , had become a popular Mexican restaurant where we often ate. Here is a postcard showing the Smith Motel when it was first built by Mr. Buick Smith.

After the I- 75 freeway was finished the interstate trucks and cars switched and rarely used Highway 41 anymore. Slowly the motel started to decline due to lack of business. We drove by the motel a few weeks ago and were surprised to see that the motel had totally disappeared and, instead, there was a vast open area. Even new construction had stopped, apparently because of the economic downturn. I hope that the economy will pick up, but in the meantime it is nice to have an uninterrupted panoramic view of Kennesaw Mountain.

I did some research and found out that the City of Kennesaw had decided that the acreage occupied by the Smith Motel should be “redeveloped” into at least 250,000 square feet of retail businesses, even though a couple of miles away there is a shopping center with department stores and chain stores. They declared that the motel site should be razed because the area was “blighted” (read: without another strip mall.) But I am sure that there are enough visionary and creative architects out there who could have designed a beautiful area comprising green condos, a park and several little stores while retaining part of the vintage motel.

I find it interesting that in this country many buildings and houses are destroyed rather than being restored or preserved. It is a very different mindset from other countries. How many American tourists would like to visit quaint little towns in Germany or Italy if their mayors had the same attitude as the Kennesaw’s mayor? Would they fly over the ocean to look at another strip mall? I saw a blog by an American woman who just moved to France and she thought that the reason there were so many open spaces in the country side was because World War I had killed too many men - many men were killed, but this is a result of strong building regulations and historic preservation.

Here is a picture of buildings in Lucca , Italy, that were allowed to grow old. I took this picture a few years ago, but I bet if you go there this summer, they will still be there not a strip mall.

Thinking about this, I looked on the Internet and found Mr. Rypkema’s Heritage Strategies Blog which has many good posts concerning historic preservation. For example he says that “Now France has as big a case of economic chaos as we do. Their economy shrunk last year the most since World War II and their unemployment is expected to reach nearly 11%. So, of course, President Sarkozy had to introduce his own economic stimulus plan. But here's a big piece of his approach - committing 100 million extra Euros per year ($130 million) for the restoration of historic monuments in France for the next 4 years. So about 1.5% of his stimulus package is going toward heritage conservation.” You can read his interesting posts by clicking here .

This is a picture of the empty motel site looking toward Highway 41 -

In conclusion I’ll quote from Mr. Rypkema's Heritage Strategies Blog again, who is talking about another building as an example but makes the point much better than I could: “We all diligently recycle our aluminum cans because we’re told it’s good for the environment. Here is a typical North America commercial building – 25 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Let’s say that today we tear down one small building like this. We have now wiped out the entire environmental benefit from the last 1,344,000 aluminum cans that were recycled. We’ve not only wasted an historic building, we’ve wasted months of diligent recycling. And that calculation only considers the impact on the landfill, not any of the other sustainable development calculations like embodied energy.”

This is the corner where the popular (and good) Mexican Restaurant stood -

As long as we elect officials who are primarily interested in short term profits resulting in much suburban sprawl, many of our buildings won't be rehabilitated and revitalized. They won't have a chance at getting "old" and be part of some heritage conservation program of future generations.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Recollection: From Postcards to Travels and Memorial Day

When I was a very little girl, my mother took me often to stay with my grandparents on week-ends. There were not too many toys and no other children to play with, so my grand-dad, on Sunday mornings, while I was waiting for breakfast in bed (yes, I know, I was spoiled) would bring me a small suitcase filled with postcards. My grandfather had traveled widely and sent many cards to my grandmother as in those days, without telephones and internet, postcards were a quick way to stay in touch. Friends on holidays would always send postcards.

Click on the postcards to enlarge them.

I would look at all these cards from far away places and try to imagine how it would be to visit them. I believe that is when I started my love – and need – of traveling. All these postcards, and my stamp collection, nurtured all the voyages I planned in my mind. So far, I have visited 46 countries (not counting countries where I went numerous times or long layovers at airports like I did in Prague , Jeddah and Sierra Leone.) It is Steinbeck, I believe, who said and rightly so: “Wanderlust is not a curable disease."

When I was about 6 years old I sailed to Istanbul with my mother, and stayed there 4 months on family business. This trip gave me even more impetus to explore far-off places when I grew up. At 13, I went to London on my own to stay with a family (organized by a school program). At 16, I tried to join the French Navy, but they would not have me because I was a girl. I learned from each travel – they are part of who I am today. It is an urge in a way like writers who “have’ to write. I am happy when I am planning the next trip, whether it is local, national or international. I am always looking at travel “deals” or ideas, or reading travel literature. I kept my grandfather’s postcards and added many to his collection by purchasing vintage postcards and buying new postcards in each place I visit. Actually in this country postcard collecting is called “Deltiology” and you can read more about it here

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played over and over again in the quietest chambers…the mind can never break off from the journey.” -Pat Conroy

Since Memorial Day is near, here is a 1909 postcard commemorating the Veteran Soldiers of the Civil War. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was first observed on 28 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I it was changed to honor all soldiers fighting in any war instead of honoring only those from the Civil War.

A Lament

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings—
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

- composed by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson in 1918

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pickett’s Mill Battlefield State Historic Site

In the spirit of finding interesting places to explore close by, my husband, Jim, and I checked our local map and realized that a very important historical Civil War Battlefield was located only 8 miles from our home, and we had never been aware of it. We always drive toward Atlanta , and this site is behind us, near a small town called New Hope, Georgia . The state of Georgia had bought the land and in 1990 opened the park in time for the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Pickett's Mill. Click on any picture if you'd like to enlarge it.

The park includes 765 acres, a visitor center with a film, a museum with artifacts and interpretive exhibits. A complete trail guide is provided with extensive notes on the major areas of engagement. This is one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation. The battle was fought from May 25 to May 28, 1864. The 9,600 Confederate troops held their line against the 14,000 Federal troops attempting to outflank them. The Federals lost about 1700 men, the Confederates about 500 men. This was a clear victory for the Confederate side, but a minor loss for the Federals in their advance toward Atlanta - it only delayed them. General William T. Sherman, in charge of the Federal side, did not even mention this defeat in his memoirs.

This postcard, taken by Steve and Daniel Yost, shows the battle reenactment which happens each year close to the battle dates, usually the 27th May.

A cabin, built in the 1850s, located a few miles away from the park has been moved to the site. Once a month, it is used for demonstrations of candle making, cooking, sewing, etc., as it would have been done by a civilian family before the war.

The land was originally occupied by the Cherokee Indians, but when gold was discovered in North Georgia, it brought many greedy settlers who pushed the state of Georgia to remove the Cherokees to lands in the west (this removal became known as The Trail of Tears). The land was subdivided into 40 to 60 acre lots and distributed to white settlers through a Lottery. The Pickett family received one of these lots of land, built a cabin on it and operated a grist mill close to the creek on that property.

The brochure with maps and information on the trails indicates that the terrain has not changed very much since 1864. One walks on roads used by both the Confederate and Federal troops, hikes up and down the same ravines where many died and can observe the earthworks built by the fighting men. Click on The Battle of Pickett's Mill here if you'd like to read more details on this battle.

We walked on the trails of the battlefield on a sunny day in mid-week. There was no one ahead or behind us and when we arrived at the corn field, site of a furious fight between the two sides, we could well imagine how bloody the battle must have been.

One would not know that such a terrible battle occurred here as it is so peaceful now.

The South is a land that has known sorrow;
it is a land that has broken the ashen crust and moistened it with its tears;
a land scarred and riven by the plowshare of war and billowed with the grave of her dead;
but a land of legend, a land of song, a land of hallowed and heroic memories.
- Edward Ward Carmack (1858-1908)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chacaltaya Glacier is gone

Often we do not pay close attention to all the bad news we hear on television or read in the newspapers. We are getting immune to them. Last week, however, I noticed an article in the BCC News online saying that the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia , had disappeared.

For decades, thousands of visitors would visit Chacaltaya glacier, the highest ski run on earth at 17,400 feet high (5,300m) in the Andes . This is an 18,000 year old glacier and it is a terrible loss for Bolivia and the world, not even thinking about the critical supply of drinking water it provided to the 2 million or more people living in the area. I kept checking the news on TV to find any commentary on this loss, but could only find what Miss California, beauty queen, had said about gay marriage.

Photos are from the BBC and the article is here -

Now you see it, now you don’t

Dr. Edson Ramirez, head of an international team of scientists who have been studying the glacier since 1991 said “Chacaltaya has disappeared. It no longer exits.” Dr. Ramirez and his team will hold a special ceremony this month to mourn the passing of this mighty glacier. All of us should mourn as well. We have done brilliant things, technically important things, but when was the last time we could repair/replace a glacier?

Prince Charles said: “ We should be treating, I think, the whole issue of climate change and global warming with a far greater degree of priority than I think is happening now.”

Yes, we should because this glacier has many cousins all over the world. They are next. It’s no longer “if”. It’s “when”.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

News about the Swarm of bees from the azalea bush

As you may recall,in my post of 20 April 2009, entitled "Swarm of bees in the azalea bush" - which you can find below - I explained how this swarm of honey bees was removed by Cindy Bee, Bee's Honey Bee Removal, a beekeeper in our area, while I was taking pictures of the operation.

She sent me a follow-up on these visiting honey bees. Here is what Cindy said:

"The bees are doing very well and the queen has taken off in egg laying. The workers are bringing in pollen and have almost finished drawing out the 10 frames of comb in the brood chamber. They're packing in honey and I'm ready to add another super (box) on the hive. Their pollination abilities alone make them so important to our environment."

In the newspapers I had read that honey bees are disappearing in at least 24 of our states. This is why I was trying to have a professional remove them safely. The mysterious disappearance of honeybees is not only affecting the livelihood of the beekeepers but the pollination of numerous crops. In the United States, up to $14 billions of seeds and crops of vegetables,fruits and nuts are pollinated by honeybees. So this disappearance is very alarming.

If this trend continues, we won't see anymore of these "over the top" pictures.

These are French bee keepers - see the beret below...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recollection: Mother's Birthday - L'anniversaire de Maman

My mother would have been 99 years old today as she was born on 12 May 1910. She was born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Paris has 20 "arrondissements" which are municipal districts, as re-defined on 1 January 1860 under Napoleon III. The 14th district is called The Observatory district, and where I grew up, in the 9th district, it is called The Opera district as it includes the Opera area downtown all the way to the bottom of the Sacré-Coeur basilica in the area of Paris known as Montmartre.

It had been a hard year in Paris, in 1910 when she was born, as the town had sustained much flooding.

Mother, just before she passed away in a nursing home before Christmas 2002, at 92, wrote a short memoir, which was given to me afterwards by the nursing staff. It contained many new details of her life that were unknown to me. For example, when she was born, my grandparents sent her to a wet nurse in Normandy until she was 15 months old. I believe this type of child care was used by many families in those days. Until about 4 or 5 years of age she lived with her paternal grandparents, who were originally from Alsace.  They had left the province of Alsace for Paris. Here is a picture of my great-grandparents, my mum's grandparents.

They then were retired and lived on a large estate in the country, the Crèvecœur estate. My mother's grandfather worked as manager of the estate and castle, and his brother-in-law (my mother's great uncle) worked next door, as the manager of a large farm called "Beauregard" next to a castle with the same name.  Her aunt Blanche (her father's younger sister) also lived on the estate and spent a great deal of time with my mum until Blanche's marriage in 1914 with Antonin. Here is a picture of my mum and a picture of her Aunt Blanche's wedding day. Mother had bright red hair and pale blue green eyes, turquoise really, and they do not show well in photographs.

An old castle used to be on the estate but was partially destroyed during the Hundred Years War and was in ruins by the 16th century.  The castle my mother knew at Crevecoeur was built in 1897 on the site of the old one - see postcard below.

Her parents would visit on the week-ends. In the picture below, my grand-mother is the second from the right (with an "X" above her head) and mother is in front of her.

Mother was an only child and only grand-child, and was much cherished. She had full access to the large garden and woods on the estate and had a great time.

My grandmother owned a dry cleaning store in Paris, in the 14th arrondissement, and was very busy as my grandfather was working for the war effort and was away most of the time until 1919. Here is my mother in a cart built by her uncle, her mother's younger brother Louis. Her mother, my grandmother who I called Mémère, is standing behind him.

In 1916 after the battle of Verdun my grandmother moved to an apartment and brought my mother back to live with her in Paris where mother started primary school.

Finally the war ("to end all wars...") was over and her father worked closer to home. I have much more to tell about Mother, but that will be in future posts.  It is hard to see in the picture above, but mother was already very conscious of fashion - her outfit was just right for the occasion.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Unfortunately both my mother and mother-in-law are gone now. So, this post is dedicated to mothers near and far, to mothers in this country and the world over. I shall write more on my mother later, in another post.

Many years ago, when I was a young mother in the 1970s, I planted over a hundred rose bushes in my garden. Along the years, due to bad weather, insects and neglect, the rose bushes disappeared. But one old rose, somehow, became wild and started growing amongst the weeds and the honeysuckle, and this year, even climbed a tree.

Only One Mother

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.
-George Cooper

Since my mother did not speak English, here is a poem she would have liked -

Pour ma mère

Il y a plus de fleurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans tous les vergers ;

Plus de merles rieurs
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Que dans le monde entier ;

Et bien plus de baisers
Pour ma mère, en mon coeur,
Qu’on en pourrait donner.
-Maurice Carême (1899-1978)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Historic Oakland Cemetery

Now that Jim and I have the time, we are visiting sites nearby. For years, when vacation time was restricted, we tended to visit far away places, so we really do not know well many of the interesting sites around us. One of these sites is the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. This is a 48 acre "rural garden" cemetery that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It was designed as a rural garden cemetery, a concept imported from France, which started in this country in the mid 1830s. It is located only five blocks east of the State Capitol Building in Atlanta.

I am not a "tombstone tourist" but after touring three notable cemeteries I think that they are great places to visit and good links to our past. The word "cemetery" comes from the French "cimetière", which comes from the Greek word koimeterion meaning "a place to sleep". The first large historical cemetery I visited was a few years ago with my daughter Jessica, in Paris, le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, which has over 5300 trees (it was the first private cemetery ever created, in 1804.) She was interested in seeing Jim Morrison's grave who is interred there. We found it and could see by all the flowers on the grave that many other visitors had been by, too. It is a huge cemetery with many famous people buried there, like Oscar Wilde, Bizet, Modigliani, Molière, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, (click on picture for larger size)



Marcel Proust , and many others.

The second large cemetery Jim and I visited was the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. I believe this to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the United States. It has invitingly laid-out paths, large avenues with gigantic live oaks draped with Spanish moss and graceful statuary.

In the Victorian era, cemeteries used to be favorite places to visit. Families went there to have picnics and carriage rides - it was very fashionable. Some cemeteries, in England, were so renowned that admissions tickets were sold (a profitable business!). Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, founded in 1840 had, by 1860, 1/2 million visitors a year. The Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta was popular then and still today thousands of tourists, locals and students visit it.

This fountain named "Out in the Rain" is a replica of a fountain made for the 1876 US Centennial in Philadelphia.

Oakland Cemetery was founded in 1850 on 6 acres. By 1867, it had grown to 48 acres in order to accommodate the burial of 7,000 Civil War soldiers.

Also interred on the grounds is Robert Tyre Jones (1902-1971) a.k.a "Bobby Jones", generally considered one of the greatest amateur golfer extant. He co-founded and co-designed the National Golf Club in Augusta, site of the famous Masters Tournament. Click on the picture to see all the golf balls laid by fans by the headstone.

Another notable person buried here is Margaret Mitchell Marsh (1900-1949) who wrote the best-seller and Pulitzer Prize winner "Gone with the Wind". She was often seen riding her pony on the grounds of this antebellum cemetery.

The grave that moved me the most, maybe because it was so simple, by itself on the grass, with just flowers and a purple ribbon, was Maynard Jackson's (1938-2003). He was the first African American mayor of Atlanta, first elected in 1973 and re-elected 2 more times. I saw him often on television and still listen now to his wife's show, Valerie Jackson's "Between the Lines" a book review show on our local NPR station.

"Death twitches my ear. 'Live' he says. 'I am coming." -Virgil, Roman Poet, 70-19 BC.

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