Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Downton Abbey in Atlanta, part 2

In an older entry of the Harvard University's blog a post was titled "No, it's not just you: why time "speeds up" as we get older." A short article then gives one of he reasons" "...over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time 'speed up' as we grow older..." you can read the argument here. Could be one of the reasons time is speeding up for me. Year 2022 is almost at the finish point but I feel that we should only be halfway through it. It seems that the years quicken as my birthdays accumulate. Last December 2021 I wrote a post on an exhibition in Atlanta on Downton Abbey, part one, and before I could write part two, we were already in March, and too late for a holiday post. But since we are back in a month of December, and the clock is ticking quickly toward year end, below is part two. You may wish to go to part one to look back at some of the photos and explanations - click on "Downton Abbey in Atlanta, part 1."
For those not familiar with the television series Downton Abbey, it is a period drama that was shown during six seasons. It represented an English aristocratic family, the Crawleys who lived at the Downton Abbey estate. We followed their lives from 1912 through the 1920s. The show depicted historical events as well as how life was for the nobility and their servants during this rapidly changing time. Downton Abbey is fictitious but the estate where the series was filmed is in Hampshire, England. The real Highclere Castle, set on 5,000 acres of land, was built in 1679 and is the country seat of the Eighth Earl of Carnarvon, his family, staff and seven dogs. There are 300 rooms in Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey, 40 to 50 of them are bedrooms but none have showers - only full baths. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
The estate is open to the public for self-guided tours during the summer months and at Easter and Christmas. I certainly would like to visit it, but this would be the estate as it is now in the 2020's, not as in the post-Edwardian times shown in the series. Exterior shots of the abbey, the main hall, dining room and drawing room use Highclere Castle in the TV series, but the servants' quarters, kitchen and family bedrooms were sets created at the Ealing Studios. The Atlanta Downton exhibit showed those sets, such as the dining room, Mrs. Patmore's kitchen, Lady Mary's bedroom, Carson's pantry plus many artifacts from the show. At this exhibition you really felt like you were in the kitchen and in the servants' quarters. Actually you were, because they do not exist in the real Highclere Castle. There is no downstairs kitchen area there, that area is now devoted to an Egyptian exposition.
I visited the Atlanta exhibition last year early one morning in mid-week. There were not many visitors and I found myself alone in the reconstructed servants' quarters. I took many pictures. It felt like the servants were just around the corner,
and the bell board was going to summon the staff any minute.
Then I entered the kitchen that was so very busy during the TV shows.
Walking by the pantry of Mr. Carson, the butler in the show, I could visualize him writing at his desk.
Back upstairs I entered a large room and sat in one of the chairs. The walls became alive with an immersive, multi-media image projection of several rooms of Downton. In this three-sided video you could see doors open with characters conversing. Then there were black and white scenes of World War 1 with explosions, soldiers running into tranches transporting you to the horrors of this war; more scenes followed and it ended with images of the staff of Downton Abbey.
Moving on in front of Lady Mary's bedroom I could almost see her sitting by her dressing mirror, or reading newspapers in bed.
I took several photos of the gorgeously appointed dining room, decorated for the Holidays.
This was such an expansive exhibition with 50-plus costumes and a multitude of early 20th century artifacts. There were displays explaining the society, the culture and issues of those times; a great number of film clips and photos of the TV show were all around.
A beautiful hat display made me sigh. I own several lovely hats that I never wear. Apart from sun hats for gardening there are not many occasions to wear fancy hats nowadays, at least in the United States.
Several rooms contained actual outfits worn by the actors during the shows. They ranged from riding outfits to country tweeds and lavish evening gowns. There were faithful reproductions of the jewelry and garments aristocratic ladies and gentlemen might have worn in the 1910s through the 1920s in England, as well as their servants' outfits. Some of the dresses, or parts of the dresses, were authentic such as the extensive beadwork on some of the gowns. (Don't forget to click on the collage to enlarge and see better.)
Lady Edith's wedding short sleeve dress was a vintage original garment, I understand. The lace was exquisite. For a 100+ years old lace it looked stunningly fresh, see the first 3 top photos in the collage below.
Many of the gowns had intricate detail work, such as Lady Rose's presentation dress below. It is an adaptation of a vintage original, with a green applique ribbon. The costumes on the TV show were always elegant.
I had come to the end of the exhibit. Mr. Carson, the butler, gave some parting words through a hologram ending with: "Perhaps we'll meet again. You never know."
It had been an enjoyable exhibition - this fully immersive,multi-media extravaganza made me feel like I had visited the Crawleys at Downton Abbey during the yearend holidays.
The gift shop offered many souvenirs from the show, mugs, teas, books, etc.
I already own several books on Downton Abbey including the Countess of Carnarvon's "Christmas at Highclere." It includes a narrative of traditions at the castle, recipes and details on the elaborate Christmas parties there.
In her book, Lady Carnarvon gives a behind the scenes look at the rituals and routines of the castle throughout the Holidays. It tells of Highclere Christmases past and present including the raising of a 25-foot tree in the saloon, an opulent room designed for the 4th Earl in the 1860s. (This is one of 60 Christmas trees thoughout Highclere.) There are beautiful illustrations of the Castle grounds as well.
Cold Christmas 2022 is gone now. I watched King Charles' first Christmas speech on the BBC via youTube. I'll quote some of his ending words: "While Christmas is of course a Christian celebration, the power of light overcoming darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief. So whatever faith you have, or whether you have none, it is in this life-giving light and with the true humility that lies in our service to others, that I believe we can find hope for the future. Let us therefore celebrate it together and cherish it always." These are noteworthy words, indeed.
My final words are not that eloquent. I only wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2023 will bring you joy, happiness and good health; stay well and stay warm,
and ...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Old Car City in White, Georgia

On Sunday 6 November, 2022 I drove the 4 1/2 hours from Nashville to Greater Atlanta so I could vote in the mid-term elections on Tuesday Nov. 8. Before, I usually voted during advance voting at the main Cobb County polling place, but this time I could not. At about 10 am I drove to where I used to vote in my area. There were just a couple of cars in the parking lot; I thought they had moved the voting location but a sign showing "vote here" was in front of the door so I went in. I was first in line and it took me only ten minutes to vote. Of course I live in the extreme northwest of Cobb County, in the rural area where houses are far in between (my neighbor has 40 acres between us behind the lake, and the next one is a farm.)
Thursday Nov. 10 was a bright and sunny fall day begging for me to stay oudoors, but where to go? In early 2020 I had planned to become a member of the Nashville Photo Club; then Covid happened and I did not. They met monthly and went on regular outings, near and far. They had been planning to drive to White in North Georgia to an old car junkyard-museum. I checked and realized it was only 26 miles from my Georgia house. If they were willing to drive 4+ hours to visit, I certainly could drive half an hour to take a look. So this is what I did that day. My house is not far from the Bartow county line. The red dot below, between Acworth and Kennesaw, is where my house is located.
Arriving around 10:30 am there was just another car in the parking lot (from Pennsyvania.) Old Car City is on highway US-411 with just a small southern restaurant across the road. I went in and paid the entrance fee (cash only.) There was an eclectic assortment of memorabilia, vintage collectible, antique toys, Americana, an old piano, etc. in the interior area.
I was shown a map then told the property had 6.5 miles of trails on the 34 acres (137,593.12 sq meters.) I walked by a sign with a short history of the business and a witch left over from Halloween when they offered a spooky "Haunted Trails." (Click on collage to enlarge and read better.)
The parents of Dean Lewis, the current owner, started a general store in 1931 that sold various items from tires, gasoline, clothing and car parts. Because of the Great Depression steel was scarce so they changed their line to scrapping cars; by the late 1940s it had become a salvage yard. When Dean acquired the business in 1970 there were 40 cars on the lot. He had a passion for old cars and spent decades acquiring wrecked and junked vehicles from recycling yards, auctions and private parties. But Dean did not like to sell the old vehicles' parts, he wanted to preserve them. He kept collecting them, had to buy more land; he stopped counting when he had collected over 4000 rusting metal carcasses. People were stopping by to take a look or take pictures, so about 15 years ago Dean realized that the business could be better sustained as a museum charging admittance. I started walking on the grounds, passing more unusual items, rusting bicycles and tricycles.
Then I entered the trail, looking in awe at all the decaying cars covered with pine needles and creeping vines. Some cars had trees growing through their bumpers or windshields and even lifted them. Some cars were on top of each other, maybe as they had been delivered. After more than 80 years the cars had been taken over by nature, they were part of it. This is why the slogan here is "Nature, Art, History and Cars." It was an amazing sight, but very quiet, with just the birds chirping, and no one else around.
Stopping to take photos, walking, turning, I knew I was getting lost, but so what.
Along the way there were random unique hand-painted signs, with optional spelling.
It was in the high 70s (26 c) but under the pine canopy it felt cool. It was a forest, really, with some very large trees and a heavy carpet of pine straw on the ground and covering the cars.
Actually with all the pine straw it was hard to read the make of the cars. I like vintage cars but I am not an enthusiast and unless I can read it I can't distinguish between all the different brands and certainly can't tell the models or years. Maybe after a good rain, if the straw moved it would be easier to read. I kept stopping and snapping - I had brought my Nikon D5200 and my small Sony DSC-HX90V plus took some with my Iphone. There was an embarrassment of choices - where to point?
I read the oldest car there was a 1918 Buick, then a few from the 1920s, more from the 1930s and most vehicles from the 1940s to 1972. They included Packards, Desoto, Chevrolet, Studebakers, Hudsons, Fords, Edsels, Mercury, Buicks, Plymouths, Oldsmobiles, Dodges, Cadillacs, Chryslers, Pontiac, Lincoln, some buses, a 1941 Mack milk truck and a few foreign cars - I recognized some VWs. From a distance I thought I read "vagabond" on the back of a car. Getting closer, sure enough, it read "vagabond." I never knew such a model ever existed. Back at home I researched it. From 1946 to 1951 the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation made upper-medium price luxury automobiles; their Frazer Vagabond was a unique hatchback sedan. The Vagabond shown below (courtesy Wikipedia) has been restored to its prime glory. (I wish I could be restored...)
There certainly was a plethora of rustic relics from days gone by and I understood why another of the Old Car City's slogans was "Photographer's Paradise." How to select the best angle to snap these decomposing dream cars?
Some metal chairs were placed in some of the trails for a quick rest or meditation or reflection?
Then I saw it - a car I knew. Flying to France in 2008 I watched on the flight the movie "Gran Torino" starring Clint Eastwood with his prized muscle car, a 1972 Ford Torino. Here was a poor sweet green Torino resting under the Georgia pines.
It was already past 1:00 pm. I had been wandering in the forest among this chrome and rust cemetery for 2 1/2 hours. It was time to go back and cross the highway to the restaurant for lunch, but which way to get back? I kept going up and down trails, and they all looked alike. I did not reach the restaurant until close to 2:00 pm!
I understand that locals gather there for lunch and it gets quite busy, but by then there were just a couple of patrons. Wes-Man Restaurant is a typical rural southern restaurant. They open 6:00 am to 3:00 pm. Inside it looked cozy and tiny with license plates covering the wall along old newspapers, old high school annuals, etc. The lunch menu has a large selection of classic southern comfort food with burgers, salads, blue plates (meat and 3) and more.
There were bags of water hanging over the booths - to prevent flies they told me. I ordered the standard southern vegetable plate: fried okra, turnip greens, black eye peas, fried green tomatoes and corn bread. I'm pleased they served the vinegar pepper sauce for the greens, as they often don't in Tennessee. For dessert I had the blueberry cobbler. Everything was tasty especially the okra and fried green tomatoes.
Now that I had re-fueled my body I was ready to cross the road back to the forest of disintegrating relics. Close to the front of the lot the cars and trucks were parked on cement or gravel, not under pine trees. Many had moss and grime from all the decades they had been stationed there.
I wish I recognized some of those cars, like that long black one above. I did drive two vintage cars back in the days. My father, in the late 1940s, had bought a 1936 Simca-Fiat coupe, with stick shifts, for my mother so she would learn to drive. She always refused. The car spent years in storage in a French country warehouse until she gave it to me for my 18th birthday. I drove that old car all over Paris in the early 1960s and had so much fun. I also drove my boy-friend's 1939 Chevrolet coupe in Great Falls, Montana, a couple of times. The Chevrolet is in the bottom photo, below.
Walking back to the forest trails I passed some vehicles that were under shelter and some above the shelter's roof.
I kept on my little trek stopping here and there to snap hood ornaments, car remnants, ghosts of VW Beetles and vans, and crumbling school buses.
At 3:30 pm I was ready to head back as they close at 4:00 pm. Getting back to the main building I stopped by a collectible automobile in great shape. It was the maroon 1977 Lincoln Mark V Elvis Presley bought in 1977, just months before he died.
Later I read some negative comments about this unusual museum. Some said it was useless hoarding these pieces of junk. Other said the land would be better used in more money productive ways or that the owner Dean Lewis would profit more by selling the land than keeping that garbage around. I don't think Dean is interested in that. He says "I don't know what I would do if I couldn't get up every morning and look at old cars."
Since a little boy Dean had a passion for old cars. He was able to build a business around it and make a living. Eighty plus years later, Dean is still around his beloved old cars (he was born in 1937.) There is a lot to be said about this - life is not just measured in dollars. These vehicles had their day, their use and now can freeze in place and give pleasure to others. About 99% of them are unsalvageable. They have another use - a destination for families to walk in an uncommon forest. They are ideal as photo opportunities for professional photographers, ad agencies, media companies, videographers, photo clubs or just people like me who enjoy shooting unusual and unique pieces.
Another comment was: "A friend and I just traveled almost 1400 miles to photograph the incredible cars at Old Car City. We arrived at opening and stayed till closing for 3 days and didn't even come close to seeing/photographing it all!" There have been visitors from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, China, Russia, Canada and the UK in addition to domestic visitors. I truly enjoyed getting lost in this one-of-a-kind forest and snapping these lovingly neglected car remains fading away under the Georgia sun.
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