Sunday, June 30, 2013

Of Two Places

I don't know how my parents felt as they aged and returned to the land from which they had sprung to visit friends, drive the old roads, and look at the places of their formative years.

Mother, Poplar Tree Farm, 1946

Daddy, Poplar Tree Farm, circa 1947
By the early 1990s, construction of homes on expansive lots of rolling hills and hardwood trees encroached the land surrounding the Spout Spring Farm of my mother's birth. Our family of twenty plus gathered in Lynchburg, Virginia, for my Aunt Eleanor’s eightieth birthday in July of 1990. We drove the country roads of Appomattox, some recently “black topped,” and took a walk, with permission of the current, land owner, through their stomping grounds and Poplar Tree Farm, where they had lived. Four of the remaining five sisters, Eleanor, Ava, Harriett, and my mother, shared memories of a spot perhaps where something had stood, pointed out the footprint of the house, both in and out, showed us the pole barn [still standing], or told the age worn stories of the spring behind the house and of the creek that my oldest brother Hunter crossed by himself when he was barely four, the time when their Papa put up tobacco, or they stood nostalgically under the tree that held a swing where they had day-dreamed their futures.

The four sisters didn't shed tears, but they drifted occasionally to these long away looks about a past time.

My father took several long trips to Fulton, Missouri, in search of information for his memoir, A McDaniel Remembers, which he completed in 1994, one year before his death. He dedicated his memories to his grandchildren in “the hope that this book will give them a glimpse of the life and world in which their grandfather lived on a farm in Central Missouri in the early part of the twentieth century.” Daddy always talked fondly about his family, the horse he rode to school, and the dusty, country roads he drove in Callaway County, the seat of his birth and growing up years. A sentimental man, my daddy could get teary eyed and seem to go somewhere else as he recalled his past.

 Daddy on a road in Missouri, circa early 1980s

As children we didn't travel to daddy's home land – his parents dead, and his cousins scattered into places like Texas and Arkansas. We went to Virginia where my mother had “living” kin.

We always knew more of Virginia than Missouri --- and there are many underlying reasons perhaps for this – other than kin – or maybe because of kin. My maternal family made up of sisters, who when they were together told stories and laughed – my dad – an only child – didn't have those connections.


If you read my blogs, you know I have that longing --- not for it especially – but of it --- my childhood, the neighborhood, my parents, the shared memories, and the love that they surrounded me with as I grew up.

I now live on the northern side of Atlanta, my childhood roving fields thirty miles to the south, so those areas where I rode my bike and later rode around have not been traversed by me much since 1978 when my parents moved to Roswell. There they lived for another eighteen years until their deaths in 1995.

My siblings and I went to college, got jobs, later married, and set ourselves up in the northern environs of the metropolitan Atlanta area. My older brother set up roots even farther away in Virginia and then later Colorado.

In the last forty years, I may have exited the Interstate at Lakewood Freeway or State Road 166 [renamed Langford Parkway] to ride through my old haunts a total of five or six times. At each visit, the places appeared smaller, more dilapidated, and surreal – street names changed, businesses altered or torn down. Did I really grow up here? Is this the same place?

My elementary school, Perkerson, Atlanta Public Schools demolished a decade or more ago: the original building where I attended school, built in the 1920s, made way for a newer, more modern building --- not a smidgen of its old image left as the new building sprawled across the playground and ate up its space. The products of that old school lost bragging rights to those lesser elementary schools  in that area [Capitol View and Sylvan Hills] when that happened cause we had proudly boasted about the square footage of our "grounds" -- big enough to run a football, baseball, and soccer game simultaneously.

In the last two weeks, through the power of Facebook and email, the news came to me of the end  of two more physical reminders of that life I had in south Atlanta.

*makes sad face*

Now set for demolition is my high school, Sylvan Hills High School, built in 1949, to make way for a new middle school.

 from the Golden Memories, Sylvan's yearbook, 1967

 from the Golden Memories, 1967

 from the Golden Memories, 1970

And, the church of my youth, Mary Branan Methodist, will close its doors tomorrow with a “final benediction of … hymns, prayers, and covered dishe[s].”

 from an ad in the Golden Memories, 1967

 from an ad in the Golden Memories, 1967

Mary Branan United Methodist Church, Sylvan Hills

part of my church, youth group in Savannah, 1969 -- Diane, Linda, Gloria, Robin, Cheryl, and I (thanks to Linda for that snapshot)

So, good bye to those two places of ---

bonfires, a stained glass window of Jesus at Gethsemane, pass or fail, hand held fans, pep rallies, Vacation Bible School, Atlanta Dairy's small carton of milk, Annie Maude's sandwiches, homeroom with Mrs. Powell, Easter dresses, Civics with Mr. Elder, revival meetings and “Blessed Assurance,” casement windows, living in the steeple stories, the Ramp, choir practice, drill team, “ please can I sit in the balcony for church service?,” the Golden Bear donated by the class of 1966 in the foyer, coffee and doughnuts between Sunday school and church, the clinic with Mrs. Savage, The Good News, the principal's office with its long counter full of forms, baskets, and other detritus, Christmas pageants with angels on the roof, suits and ties, saddle-oxfords, bulletins, detention, MYF, the quarter system, playing Dots and Boxes on the backs of offering envelopes with those stubby, dull pencils, early morning waiting in the gym for school to start, church solos, football games at Cheney and Grady stadiums, youth trips to Wesley Gardens, learning to type, memorizing Bible verses, Algebra with Reverend Rogers, pot luck suppers, sub-freshmen,....

Kenneth, Golden Memories, 1971

Margaret, 1969, Golden Memories

Hunter, 1967, Golden Memories
Harriett, 1971, Golden Memories

When I reminisced with my brother Kenneth about the endings of these two settings of our youth, he set me up: “Looks like you got a lot of stories to tell for your blog.”


I think I do.

Note: When I heard Sylvan was being demolished, I did an Internet search to try and find some background on it. This is what I found --- 

  from the Golden Memories, 1969

 from Golden Memories, 1967

 from Golden Memories, 1967

Friday, June 21, 2013

For the Longest Day of the Year







I sat on the deck with Tallulah.
It was good.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


During my teaching career of over thirty years, I adapted to different textbooks, but the literary selections stayed consistently the same until the twenty-first century. Then, bam! the old reliable disappeared and new texts appeared – some of this was a good thing, some not so much.

In the last years I primarily taught American Literature and to say the “canon” shifted is understatement, but, eh, not going write about that early on this Saturday morning.

The American literature course began, of course, with the early days of American history, and the textbook offered limited fare: William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, John Smith's Jamestown experience, and William Byrd's History of the Dividing Line. Even though I found merit in each of those, my students yawned and complained and whined that this stuff was “awful” and that if the course continued in this way they might have to “revolt.”

As they might quip, but let me beat them to it: Whatever.

Then, with the “new” textbook material, emerged an excerpt from the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, a minister's wife living in Lancaster, Massachusetts, who, along with three of her children [one died six days after], was held hostage during the short but devastating King Philip's War of 1675. Until this appeared in the recently adapted anthology, I had never heard of it.

This revealing story of naked Indians “thunking settlers in the 'noggin,” starvation, faith, and death finally piqued the interest of my students.

Massachusetts Survivor?

In my humble opinion their imaginations should have allowed them to see that with William Bradford, but if it took Mary Rowlandson and the bloody attack on her town – so be it.

What I wished I'd had as a companion piece to stimulate the interest of my students in the origin of their country was Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.

Published in 2006, Philbrick's research, anecdotes, maps, and prose laid the foundation on how those first men and women made a go of it in a land where others had failed. Not only does he tell of the harrowing trip aboard the most recognizable ship name in history, but he takes the story beyond the first Thanksgiving and into the difficult years after that memorable first year.

In those fifty-five years that followed, as much as the settlers and natives lived peacefully, the seeds of greed, race, religion, and violence had been planted, and it would be the grand-children of those “new” Americans who would meet the inevitable fate of the repercussions of the loss of trust when those seeds produce ugly fruit.

Philbrick concludes Mayflower with an in-depth look at the events, deceptions, and mis-communications that led to one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history – King Philip's War.

A compelling read, Philbrick continues to be the go to writer for the layman interested in history.

If you are an American literature teacher out there reading this blog, add this book to your suggested reading list. Just sayin'.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hallelujah Hydrangeas!!!

I don't know what it was about this spring, but my hydrangeas have been on steroids. The blooms on the oak leafs are 12 inches in length -- spectacular. I've been working in the yard so much that I haven't been writing my stories. I know you're missing them. 


Chipmunks lurk and linger under those hydrangeas. 

Plump and juicy.

Hold in paws.

Play catch and release.

Except not.

Me bite.

The flowers?