Friday, October 30, 2009

Across the Seas

This post is being published while I am away “across the seas” as we left for a little trip. My daughter will administer the comments for me while I am away.

Rather than telling you where we are I thought I would post some postcards, vintage and new, to give you a hint of the countries and cities we will visit. Let me know if you recognize any scenery.

No. 1 - We flew to this city and may visit this building –

No. 2 - Then we will take the train to this city. The port used to look like this years ago – and it could look the same. I shall take some pictures and bring them back.

No. 3 - Then we will stop in this city and visit this park, may be –

No. 4 - After all the walking we will be pleased to stop in this country and eat some local food –

No. 5 - This will be my first time in this country, which is small but quite old –

No. 6 - I have been in this country several times but never on this island –

No. 7 - I visited this town many years ago when I was a teenager. I am sure much of it has changed, but on the other hand, a lot will be the same –

No. 8 - I stopped in this port with my mum when I was a little girl so I won’t recognize any of it and it will be fun to re-discover it.

So this is my little trip. I picked up the idea of the title for this post by reading one of my vintage cards. The few lines were written by Clifton Bingham (1859-1913) who wrote many verses for children’s picture books in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. He was from England and started working in his family’s extensive bookselling business but then branched out to writing and composing. He wrote the lyrics for the famous song "Love's Old Sweet Song" which was sung by Deanna Durbin the famous Canadian movie star from the 1930s. Here is the well known chorus -

"Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go.
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes love's old sweet song."

Here is Clifton Bingham’s little poem from my vintage card, shown below:

What happier greetings can there be,
Whatever may befall,

Clasp hands with me across the sea,

And God be with us all.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Haunted Windsor Hotel in Americus, Georgia

Last August my husband and I drove to middle Georgia where he was attending a sports event. I dropped him off and kept on driving to Americus in Sumter County which is about 116 miles (187 kms) south of Atlanta. We had made reservations at the Windsor Hotel there. This hotel was originally built in 1892 for rich northerners escaping the winter cold.

In 1991 a total of $8 million dollars was invested to restore it authentically. This is an eclectic Victorian hotel with a landmark tower, balconies and an unusual array of window styles. The five-story Queen Anne castle-like structure covers almost a full block of downtown Americus.

Click on the picture to enlarge it
I had heard that this hotel has been recognized as a haunted hotel by the Big Ben Ghost Trackers, a north Florida paranormal group. Their report on the Windsor Hotel, which you can read here, states that based on their investigation they can certify that this hotel is haunted indeed. It seems that in the early 1900s a little girl and her mother who lived in the hotel - as the head housekeeper - were murdered when they were both pushed down the elevator well. Their ghosts still haunt the hotel. Staff and guests have seen the reflection of the woman in a long black gown in a mirror in the hall of the third floor. I went up to the third floor that afternoon, all was quiet and I did not feel nor see anyone.

The kitchen staff has also reported that late at night they have seen pots and pans flying around or are misplaced while the radio is turned on and off mysteriously. Another spirit reported to haunt the hotel is a faithful doorman named Floyd Lowery who worked at the hotel for 40 years.

As I entered the lobby I really felt like I had entered another time of genteel southern elegance. A three-story atrium greets you with balconies, palms, antique chandeliers and comfortable furniture. I loved the original antique golden oak and marble floor.

There are 53 period-style guest rooms with 12-foot ceilings, ceiling fans and plantations shutters. We had a standard guest room. It looked better than in my picture below –

All the guest rooms are individually appointed so that no two rooms are the same. It is rumored than John Dillinger and Al Capone, the famous gangsters, spent the night in what is now the Bridal Suite and had armed bodyguards posted at the bottom of the stairs. The Presidential suite was renamed in honor of President Jimmy Carter who is a native of Sumter County and lives in Plains, about 10 miles from Americus. The Roosevelt Boardroom is so named because Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in the adjoining balcony in February 1928 – when he was Governor of New York. The hotel itself was named after John T. Windsor, a leader in Americus in the 1880s. You can read more on the history of the Windsor Hotel here.

It was a warm Friday afternoon with few guests in the hotel so I inspected it well, with my camera. I checked the veranda where wicker chairs were inviting me to sit down and relax. I thought it would be better to come back at dusk with a mint-julep or early in the morning with a strong cup of coffee.

From the patio, close to the tower, I could see the other historical buildings facing the hotel.

Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them

Downstairs the mahogany phone booth and cozy parlor looked like they should be in an aristocratic hotel in England rather than in the peanut growing area of middle Georgia.

The dining room looked elegant and inviting -

On the second floor Rosalyn Carter’s Tea Parlor was closed unfortunately – I would have enjoyed a spot of tea there!

Leaving the hotel to take a stroll in town, I passed the 1921 Rylander Theatre where President Jimmy Carter, with 600 guests, celebrated his 85th birthday on 27 September 2009. Passing by the theatre I saw the imprints of President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter’s hands in cement on the sidewalk.

Americus is also the home of Habitat for Humanity International which is a charitable organization working to eliminate housing poverty around the world. They renovate, repair and make housing for disadvantage families. They have a global village in Americus where you can visit life size Habitat houses from around the world but I did not have time to visit it as it was getting dark, so after a quick picture of an historical marker it was time to go and pick up my husband then drive back to the Windsor Hotel.

The next day we visited the small town of Plains where Jimmy Carter grew up and still lives. But that visit will be recounted in a future post.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Road in Cobb County, Ga. (Part 2 of 2)

This is a continuation of my post of October 9th where I explained that my road passes through the Kennesaw Civil War National Battlefield Park. Below is a postcard showing this park –

About 2 miles from the park, going toward our house, is an old farm which has been on this road since before the Civil War. In 1993 this farm, called Lake Laura Gardens, was awarded the Centennial Heritage Farm Award by the State of Georgia. The Centennial Heritage Farm Award honors farms owned by members of the same family for 100 years or more and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A “Georgia Centennial Farm” marker is on the grounds.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them

Troy, the owner, is 89 years old and still works in the field. He is tall with piercing blue eyes. He told us how the original farm was burned down in 1864 when General T. Sherman’s troops passed by. During the war Troy’s ancestor lived in a cabin in the back of the field, then as soon as the war was over he and his neighbors built a new house, in 1865. The hardest part was to obtain nails Troy told us. Troy was a pilot in World War II. He was stationed in England near the English Channel for 1 year 3 months. He flew to and over Normandy on D Day and told me that it was a very foggy day. It is chilling to hear him talk about his 359 combat hours during the war and it seems so far away from his peaceful gardens. Troy is a proud Democrat and if you have the time he will tell you why the Iraq war was started irresponsibly and under false pretenses (and illegally) by President Bush resulting in our economic problems today. He has a nice fig tree facing our road – they are of the Celeste figs variety - my figs are of the Brown Turkey variety. Below are pictures of Troy and his fields and my husband picking some figs.

When we moved to this road in Cobb County most of the houses were small and more of a “vintage” style. But as time went by the fields were sold and McMansions started to appear. For example looking to the right of our house, about 3 houses up is this house below which is quite old and basic.

If you look down to the left from our house, the site welcoming us is still a country type scene and there are cattle in some of the fields.

But on our side of the road, our next door neighbors, if you can call this house that, since it is about ¼ mile down the road is the house below with many extra buildings in the back. We do not know who has been living there for the last fifteen years (they have not come over yet.)

Continuing down our road, these are the next two houses that can be seen. The creek near these houses was flooded during the last bad Georgia flood and the road was closed starting from in front of our house. I enclose a picture of the flooded field below and the way it looks today, with the banks eroded – note the same red barn in the bottom two pictures.

Further down my road there are more houses, not very close together, but of different styles and ages. Here is an old one by the look of its trees –

And here is an assortment of other houses near my road. Obviously the Cobb County Planning Commission has let everyone built anything they wished - an estate next to an old country cabin with the ever present kudzu vine in between. What? A building code in Cobb County? When I think about my mother who had to wait one year to get the OK from her suburban town near Paris to build a small one room addition to the back of her house….but that was in France, where building codes are very strict.

Don't forget to click to on the photos to enlarge them

As we turn around and go back down the road toward my house I see all the houses that have become very familiar because I have driven by them for years. But I do not know the people who live in them. The neighbors we knew passed away or moved away. From our house we see no one but the trees and it is very private. This is good because during the rush hours the road now has vehicles bumper to bumper for miles. When we moved here there were not many houses and the battlefield park had been finished and inaugurated by the park service only six year before.

Since the advent of Newt Gingrich – Cobb County is his district – many rich super Conservative Christians have been moving in or building the mega houses. Another church has been built on my road a couple of years ago as well as an expensive and exclusive strict Christian private school. They purchased 40 acres to build their large dominion high school and advertize “The mission of our High School is to glorify God as we prepare students in mind, body, and spirit to meet life's challenges with a Christ-centered Biblical worldview and with Christ-centered academic, moral and spiritual instruction.” I wonder how an evangelical and selective “biblical worldview” without a broad and tolerant religious inclusion is going to prepare these students for the international challenges needed for tomorrow when 7 or more out of 10 people in the world are not Christians (although if you count the practicing Christians only the figure would be closer to 2 out of 10 – including all the various Christian denominations.) One report I read stated that 42% of evangelical Christian schools in the US failed to meet the standards in promoting tolerance and respect for other cultures and faiths. This school is less than a mile away and when I try to drive out of my driveway now I have to be very careful of all their huge SUV zipping by my home before I can access the road. Yes the community has changed and it has changed my road. It is not longer Rural Route No. 4.

In spite of all the building and “progress” just down my road a little family produce store, which was there when we arrived years ago, has survived. We can still walk to it to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.


Life goes on within and without you. -the Beatles.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Road in Cobb County, Georgia (Part 1 of 2)

In my post of 26 September 2009 I showed how my road was closed because of flooding, so this time I would like to show my road as it looked in mid-August on a sunny day. My road is located in Cobb County northwest of Atlanta. When we moved to Georgia we first lived in Decatur, south east of Atlanta. But when in first grade our daughter Céline was tested and found to be “gifted” we decided to move in a county where the schools had challenging courses for talented children. One of my friends, Charlie, had a house in Cobb County so we decided to find a house there. Our youngest daughter Jessica was also identified as "gifted" a few years later, so they were both enrolled in the Cobb Gifted Target Program.

Gold was discovered in North Georgia before the Civil War which was one of the reasons Georgia wanted the Cherokee Indians out of the state. In 1830 a large number of white settlers came to obtain one of the 342 land and 4360 gold lots which were raffled off. The larger Cherokee County was divided into 10 smaller counties one of which was Cobb County. In 1834 Marietta was made the county seat. There are 5 other cities in Cobb County. One of them is Smyrna, where the Oscar winner Julia Roberts was born and went to school. Below is her photo in the Campbell High School yearbook.

Photo courtesy of Preston Howard

Here is a newer photograph of Julia –

The pioneers who came found beautiful meadows, streams, rolling hills, forests and mountain peaks in Cobb County. We bought a house in West Cobb County and at the time there were quite a few farms. The road was known as Rural Route No. 4. Here is the postcard I used at the time to send our change of address to family and friends. It shows the Twin Peaks of Kennesaw Mountain.

Our road goes through the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park where in June 1864 General William T. Sherman described the twin peaks of Kennesaw Mountain as a scene too beautiful to be disturbed by the horrors of war. But as you can see it was the scene of a great battle.

Old photograph of battle scene

Below is how my road looked in the 1950s (photo courtesy J. B. Glover V.)

Federal Troops attacked entrenched Confederates on June 27, 1864. The attack was a brief and bloody failure. Later, the Union flanking maneuver forced the Confederates to retire to Atlanta. Below is a painting by the Louis Prang & Co. of Boston showing this battle.

We moved to our road, pass the battle site, in the mid seventies and I drove by it almost daily to go to work. It is still down the road on our way to and back from town.

This photo was taken this morning – as you can see the leaves are not turning yet.

Hikers park on my road to walk to the top of Pigeon Hill and Kennesaw Mountain. Many tourists come as well to visit this Civil War Park. Across part of the historical battlefield is a field of non historical/non native llamas. We stopped to take some pictures –

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

About ½ mile from the battlefield shown above is a small trail going into another part of the park, next to the brick sign announcing the park. This trail is not marked, but we know it. We followed it that day so I could take some pictures. Civil War trenches can still be seen close to the trail.

My road is pretty long, about 11 miles. It encompasses quite a variety of landscape. It has houses full of history like the one below –

and it also has many new and beautiful houses. Their golf course can be seen from my road –

There is another page written for this post which I was going to publish today however I found out late this afternoon that this was Homecoming Day for Harrison High School which is located about 1 mile from my road. I dropped everything and went to watch the parade and took some pictures. I decided to cut this post into two parts as it would be much too long with these additional pictures. We live closer to Kennesaw than Marietta so our daughters attended North Cobb High School in Kennesaw which is about 8.5 miles away. A few years ago Harrison High School was built and it is only 1 mile away. This high school has received many awards the latest being the invitation to have their marching band perform at the Macy’s Parade this next Thanksgiving in New York City. This is a high honor as only 11 high school bands are invited among the 50 states in the country. Several students have also been invited to perform at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena in 2010. Many an evening we can hear the band playing from our house.

The parade started with the Cobb County Sheriff throwing Sheriff star stickers to the kids on the road – a facsimile star as seen on his police cruiser.

The Honor guard was next –

Followed by the High School Principal driving her red sports car –

The Harrison High School Band and the Flag Corps came next –

Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge them

The Homecoming Queens rode by throwing candy to the kids –

The HOYAS Cross Country Team following up –

The recycling trash crew came last

The Park Ranger ended the Parade.

My next post will complete “My Road in Cobb County.”
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