WSB radio is 95 years old. On March 15, 1922, The Atlanta Journal received a telegram authorizing it to broadcast weather bulletins. The telegram instructed the station to use the call letters WSB. (Later, a station in Nashville was named WSM.) While the letters were later said to stand for Welcome South Brother (as well as World Series Baseball, and We’re So Boring), they appear to have been randomly assigned at first.
WSB is a 50,000 watt, clear channel station. At night, it can be heard for hundreds of miles around. It’s transmission tower is on LaVista Road, across the street from Northlake Mall. In the seventies, you could hear broadcasts on pay phones in the area.
WSB was owned by the Atlanta Journal, and had it’s first studio in their building downtown. The radio station moved to the Biltmore Hotel when it opened in 1926. In 1926, WSB joined the NBC radio network. (Station logs show a broadcast of the inaugural NBC broadcast in November, 1926.) In 1939, the Journal, and WSB, were sold to James Middleton Cox, who founded Cox Enterprises. In 1950, Mr. Cox bought the Atlanta Constitution.
The thirties and forties were the glory days for radio. In the fifties, television started to move in. WSB-TV started to broadcast on Channel 2. A studio known as “White Columns on Peachtree” was built in 1955, and was the home WSB, radio and TV.
When PG was old enough to listen, WSB had a format which is no longer in use. It played “middle of the road” music, and had lots of news broadcasting. As FM radio began to dominate music broadcasting, (including WSB FM), the venerable AM station evolved (devolved) into a news-talk format. This is what you hear today.
HT to Peach Pundit. This is a repost, with pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library” and WSB.
Several movies have had a world premiere in Atlanta. We will take a look today. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. Information about the films is from the Internet Movie Database. This is a repost.
As some of you may know, “Gone With The Wind had it’s world premiere at the Lowes Grand Theater on December 15, 1939. The Lowes Grand site is the current location of the Georgia Pacific building. There is a vacant lot next door, on top of some MARTA paraphernalia. This lot was the site of the Paramount Theater, another movie palace that did not survive.
The GWTW premiere was a big deal. Ten year old Martin Luther King Jr. sang with his church choir. Clark Gable requested a private meeting with Margaret Mitchell, who became the envy of every woman in America. When Mr. Gable checked out of his hotel, a lady was going to be given his room. The clerk asked for a minute to change the sheets on the bed, and the lady said, no, I want to sleep on the same sheets as him.
It was the golden age of movies, and the next year Atlanta hosted the first showing of “Who Killed Aunt Maggie”. The premiere was at the Rialto, on October 24, 1940. The review at IMDB said it was an enjoyable mystery, even if it was a cliche fest. It is not often seen today.
In 1946, “Song Of The South” had it’s premiere at the Fox Theater. SOTS is a controversial item these days. It was based on the Uncle Remus stories, which were written down by Joel Chandler Harris. For those who don’t know, these stories were told by the rural black people that Mr. Harris knew when he was growing up near Eatonton GA. As Wikipedia tells the tale “Controversy surrounding his southern plantation themes, narrative structure, collection of African-American folklore, use of dialect, and Uncle Remus character, however, has denigrated the significance of Harris’ work”. In other words, Brer Rabbit is not politically correct.
The reviews at IMDB tell a different tale. To them, SOTS is a happy children’s movie. The Disney company seems to wish it would go away and be forgotten. Copies are tough to come by these days. PG would say to see it for yourself and make up your own mind, but Disney won’t let you.
The female lead in SOTS was Ruth Warrick. Miss Warrick was a versatile talent. Her first movie role was in “Citizen Kane”, as Kane’s first wife. She was in many movies, before moving to television. She was perhaps best known as Phoebe Tyler, in the soap opera “All My Children”. Wikipedia tells a story about her, that is ironic for the female lead of “Song Of The South”
“In July 2000, she refused to accept a lifetime achievement award from the South Carolina Arts Commission because she was offended by legislators’ decision to move the Confederate flag from the state Capitol dome to another spot on the grounds in response to a boycott of the state by flag opponents. A lifelong supporter of African-American rights, she felt the flag should be removed completely, and commented, “In my view, this was no compromise. It was a deliberate affront to the African-Americans, who see it as a sign of oppression and hate.”
In 1949, the Paramount had the first screening of “The Gal Who Took The West”. The female lead was Yvonne De Carlo, who later achieved immortality as Lily Munster. In November 1951, the spotlights returned to Lowes Grand for “Quo Vadis”.
The last film in the GSU picture collection is “The Last Rebel”. This western had it’s premiere at the Rialto, May 27, 1958. The movie was a return to Atlanta glory for Olivia De Havilland. The film is the story of a man, whose wife dies in a fire during the war between the states. PG questions the use of the Stars and Bars on the marquee.
In 1974, Ringo Starr produced and acted in “Son of Dracula”. The movie had it’s world premiere at the Cherokee Plaza Theater. Cherokee Plaza is a shopping center on Peachtree Road, just east of the Atlanta city limits. The theater was torn down during a renovation, and the space is currently the produce department at Krogers.
A local radio station hired a band to play in the parking lot at the premiere. At some point, a long limousine pulled up to a stage, and Ringo Starr and Harry Nillson got out. Both were wearing sunglasses, even though it was after dark. Ringo got on the stage, waved a wand at the crowd, and said “I am turning you into frogs”. He went inside to see the movie, the crowd went home, and the movie was mercifully forgotten.
In 1981, PG went to a supper in an apartment building (now a vacant lot) across from First Baptist Church on Peachtree Street. There was a commotion down the street at the Fox, and PG went to see what it was. “Sharkey’s Machine” had it’s World Premiere that night.
PG decided to go to Pasaquan a few hours before the event. He had been before, in 1995, give or take a year. This was a few years after the death of Eddie Owens Martin, aka St. EOM. Pasaquan was in disrepair. The guide that day spoke of a pine woods wonderland, created with concrete and Sherwin Williams paint fueled by marijuana and madness.
The plan was to meet at the site at 1pm. PG did not know how many people would be there, and had only a GPS guess how to get there. After a gas station stop on I-185, the GPS device was plugged in. OD, the travel companion, got a phone out, and fired up a complimentary GPS. This worked well, until the older GPS said to take a left, and then a right. After a mile, the road was closed. PG turned around, and went back on the two lane. A little while later, the GPS said to turn left on Eddie Martin Road. You have reached your destination.
A festive group was on hand for the tour. The two guides told a bit of the Pasaquan/St. EOM story.
The compound has been gloriously renovated, with the assistance of the Kohler Foundation, and Columbus State University. (Here is a video, St. EOM’s Vision for Pasaquan’s Future ) This video talks about some of the challenges of renovation. While St. EOM was a visionary and an artist, he was not a builder. Many of the structures were falling down, and had to be carefully stabilized. Only then could the four acres of paint be brushed on. Many decisions had to be made… how to follow the vision of St. EOM, and exactly what is this vision?
Here are a few videos shot at pre-renovation Pasaquan: A, B, C, D. Eddie used whatever paint was on sale at the oops section, and it often did not work well on concrete. As for Sherwin-Williams, the 1995 guide was part of an effort to get the paint company to help sponsor the renovation.
There are many, many stories about St. EOM. He made his living telling fortunes, (St. EOM, Pasaquan, and Fortune-Telling, ) as well as selling drugs, and running a gambling house. He learned a few things as his days as a New York hustler. There were stories about keeping rattlesnakes in the bamboo, which he could call by whistling. There is also the legend of the Pasaquonians, who received messages from the cosmos through their cone head hair. This paragraph might not be an accurate account of these stories.
Eventually, it was time to get lunch. PG wound up at a combination grocery store/Mexican restaurant in Buena Vista. Afterwards, he missed the place to turn onto I-185, and soon found himself in Alabama. The GPS was reemployed, and after a few tense moments, PG and OD were back in Georgia. They survived the trip on Georgia interstates, and made it home.
The first time PG saw the word Zappa, it was on an item at the Poster Hut. It showed a man sitting on a commode, with the words Phi Zappa Krappa rendered above. The poser, Frank Zappa, later said “I’m probably more famous for sitting on the toilet than for anything else that I do.”
It was 1969, give or take a bit. FZ was already well known in some hip circles. His band, the Mothers of Invention, played at something called the Cosmic Carnival at Atlanta Stadium, where the music lovers were actually allowed onto the field. PG paid $1.98 for a copy of We’re Only in It for the Money at the Woolco on Buford Hiway. Years later, he would pay $16.00 for a CD of this piece of work.
The records started to come out like clockwork, with or without the Mothers. FZ started to become a star, with an appeal to druggies who fancied themselves intellectual. It should be noted that FZ was notoriously anti drug. His music made fun of the establishment and counterculture with equal glee. FZ was also a capitalist, known to be tight fisted when it came to paying hired hands. He stayed with his second wife, Gail, until his death, and produced four children… Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.
The concerts came to town every year or so, and people liked them. A show at the Fox Theater in 1974 may have caught FZ at his peak. PG heard the raves about this show until he bought a ticket for his next show. This was in 1975, at the Municipal Auditorium. PG brought a half pint in with him, and didn’t remember a lot later, except some song about the Illinois Eneman Bandit.
Life goes on. Nine years later, FZ was in legal hell with a former manager, and could only make money by touring. One night, a friend had an extra ticket to a show. PG arrived after the band had started, and FZ was playing a fine guitar solo. This was going to be good.
Only it wasn’t. The rest of the show was social commentary. The man had opinions on everything, and was generous with them. At one point, the band started to sing “He’s so gay”, while a double headed dildo was lowered from the ceiling. PG thinks he heard FZ sing “one day you might be gay too”, but by then it really didn’t matter.
Frank Zappa was many things to many people. He had lots of opinions, which were dutifully recorded by the press. Here are a few .
Rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, in order to provide articles for people who can’t read. // I think that if a person doesn’t feel cynical then they’re out of phase with the 20th century. Being cynical is the only way to deal with modern civilization, you can’t just swallow it whole. // When God created Republicans, he gave up on everything else. // Let’s not be too rough on our own ignorance; it’s what makes America great! // The U.S. is a mere pup tent of a civilization. We’ve got two hundred years of stupidity behind us and we think we’re right up there with everyone else who’s been doing it for thousands of years. // Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die. // After all, he wrote this book here, and in the book it says he made us all to be just like him! So if we’re dumb, then God is dumb — and maybe even a little ugly on the side. // Remember there’s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over. // Do you think you are protecting somebody by taking away seven words? // For the record, folks; I never took a shit on stage and the closest I ever came to eating shit anywhere was at a Holiday Inn buffet in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1973. // If you wind up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest or some guy on TV telling you how to do your shit, then YOU DESERVE IT. // There is no hell. There is only France. // The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced. // Children are naïve — they trust everyone. School is bad enough, but, if you put a child anywhere in the vicinity of a church, you’re asking for trouble. // People make a lot of fuss about my kids having such supposedly ‘strange names’, but the fact is that no matter what first names I might have given them, it is the last name that is going to get them in trouble. //
The reviews at Amazon sometimes have insights into the truth about an artist. Here are a few one star reviews of We’re Only in It for the Money.
I just don’t get this October 11, 2010 By Neomorphus “Neomorphus” (Superior, Colorado)
This is unlistenable. I could only get half way through before giving up. Too clever for me.
Put the kettle on June 7, 2006 By Noddy Box (New York)
This high-pitched snit fit might rouse the odd smirk if all you’ve consumed is a cup of tea and a Digestive biscuit but on no account listen to it under the influence of anything stronger because then you’re liable to prang right into a hectoring bore who comes off like some renegade member of the school debating team rehearsing his–fnarr fnarr–naughty rhyming rebuttals. Farting around in Edgar Varese’s old corduroys is all well and good but this breathtakingly condescending harangue sounds depressingly like–dear oh dear–social commentary. Jacobs Cream Crackers but is there anything more tedious than windy social commentary set to popular music? And the exhortation to read Kafka in the liner notes? Please Frank, rock stars should never mix their drinks, or at least not so the stitches show. Zappa is much more bearable when he takes his own advice, shuts his cakehole and plays guitar. Like on Hot Rats, where the only vocal is the sublime Beefy on Willie the Pimp and Frank in the kitchen the whole time cooking up a kettle of wordless aural gumbo–a movie for the ears I think he called it, something like that anyway, it’s right there on the sleeve, good description at any rate of one of the authentically crunchy Zappa records. Well he did release over sixty of them after all, I mean he was bound to get it right once or twice, wasn’t he? So toss this turkey on the fire and get yourself out onna porch of the Lido Hotel.
This is a repost. Your archive is your friend.
Lost Atlanta is a coffee table book. The content is the buildings, and institutions, that no longer exist. Atlanta has a long love affair with the wrecking ball. General Sherman was a minor player.
PG is a native, and knows a few things about the city. While looking through LA, he began to take notes of things he did not know. The names behind the Ferry Roads is one. Plantation owner James Power established Power’s Ferry in 1835. Hardy Pace established his ferry in the 1850s. The fare was 62 cents for a full wagon, 50 cents for an empty wagon, 12 cents for a man and a horse, and 4 cents per head of cattle. The last ferry to cease operations was the Campbellton Ferry, in south Fulton county. The Campbellton Ferry ceased operations in 1958.
Wheat Street Baptist Church is a prominent Atlanta institution. If you look for Wheat Street on google, all you see is Old Wheat Street. It turns out that Wheat Street was renamed Auburn Avenue. “Originally called Wheat Street, the road was renamed in 1893 at the request of white petitioners who believed Auburn Avenue had a more cosmopolitan sound.”
Bald Hill, aka Leggett’s Hill, was leveled in 1958 to make way for the East Expressway, later known as I-20. On July 22, 1864, the Battle of Atlanta was fought there. After the unpleasantness, Frederick Koch bought farm land on the site. His house was at 382 Moreland Avenue. The house was demolished in 1953. South of I-20, 1400 McPherson Avenue has a monument. Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson was killed at that location.
The outfield wall at Ponce De Leon park was covered with advertising. One sign was for Southern Bread. The picture had a “Southern Colonel”… apparently the only type of officer in the CSA … saying “I’d even go North for Southern Bread.” This ad was also painted on the side of a building on Tenth Street, just off Peachtree. The late Jim Henson produced a tv ad for Southern Bread.
Jacobs Drug Store was a prominent chain at one time. It was founded by Joseph Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs had a store in the Norcross building, on Peachtree Street at Marietta Street. In 1886, the soda fountain mixed John Pemberton’s patent medicine with carbonated soda water. The rest is history.
There are a few notes, which do not justify a paragraph. The Governor’s Mansion was at 250 The Prado, in Ansley Park, until a new GM was built on West Paces Ferry road. The Henry Grady hotel did not have a thirteenth floor, but went from 12 to 14. This did not stop the building from being demolished, to make way for the Peachtree Plaza hotel.
When Laurent DeGive built his grand opera house at Peachtree and Houston (Now JW Dobbs,) people were horrified. The central business district was south of five points. The area north, where the opera house went up, was residential. In 1932, the opera house was renovated, and opened as the Loew’s Grand. In 1939, it hosted the world premiere of “Gone With The Wind.” On the other side of Houston Street was the Paramount Theater, and across Peachtree was the Coca Cola sign. The GP building occupies the site today.
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
Java Monkey Speaks finished with a bit of snark last night. The poet, “Gabriel,” had been sitting next to a loudmouth. Worse, the loudmouth was hitting on a lady. The loudmouth was boasting about how enlightened he was, by talking over poets. The fact that it was a warm evening, and the patio was open, made it worse.
“Gabriel” did not get to hear the performers. He was not pleased, and did what poets do. He wrote about the man who would not shut up.
Performance … on stage, or in the audience … is a tiny percentage of the JMS experience. Most of your time is spent listening to other performers. When one person speaks, the other people listen. Many of the poets are terrific, and if you don’t listen, you miss out. We don’t need to talk more. We need to listen more. This is true for the rest of the world.
One problem is that listening is seen as passive, while speech is active. Our culture values action. Even if you make the situation worse by speaking, many people cannot keep their mouth shut. The patio romeo did not seem to get this. The fact that there is a room next door, designed for conversation, did not seem to occur to this man.
Last summer, PG went to JMS. It was the sunday after Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling, died. PG had a conversation with “Gabriel” after this evening. “One of the other white men felt the same way. He opened his poem by saying that it was not his struggle, and it was not appropriate for him to speak. (Those were not the exact words.) PG spoke to him at intermission. He said to think about this… what if you were a black person, coming to read on a night with much black pain. You looked in the audience, and there were no white people to listen?”
Read your smutty poem is one result of that evening. java monkey speaks black white mix, americas bad week two black men, shot dead by police best thing for , white man to do is be there listen, not your struggle not appropriate, read your smutty poem shut up.
One issue is the limited amount of time available for speakers. JMS has an 11 pm curfew. Towards the end of the evening, performers should go up, read their piece, and sit down. When you are on stage, you are not aware of how long you are up there. PG was a couple of spots before “Gabriel,” and was wondering if he would get to perform. “Gabriel” wrote his poem in anger, after the patio performance. The poem will be better with editing.
At the end of the night, things seemed to work out. PG and “Gabriel” got to speak before 11pm. There will be other times where not everyone will get to speak, because someone else did not know how to listen. (And not just at Java Monkey.) The white savior complex is alive, well, and annoying. It is not known whether the patio dude impressed the lady. Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
In the winter of 2003, it was obvious that America was going to war. Congress had voted approval, the modern version of a declaration of war. The troops. and supplies, were on the borders of Iraq, waiting for the order to go in.
PG felt the need to make a statement. There was no illusion that it would affect the overall decision to invade Iraq. However, PG wanted to go on record as being opposed to the folly to come.
It was a low risk act. In America, we have freedom of expression. This does not mean that the powers that be listen to the people. The only expression that matters is by people who pay the authorities. The people can say anything, but nobody in charge listens.
There were three representatives in Congress to contact. The two Senators were Saxby Chambliss and Zell Miller. The 4th district was represented in the House of Representatives by Denise Majette. She was new to Congress, having defeated Cynthia McKinney in the 2002 election.
The area that PG lives in is gerrymandered into different districts every ten years by the Georgia legislature. This is partly the legacy of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the voting districts in Georgia to be approved by Federal authorities. Today, PG is in the 6th district, represented by Republican Tom Price.
The letters are lost in hard drive crash fog. It started out with the phrase “you were elected to represent me.” Apparently, this left Zell Miller out. He has been appointed to finish the term of Paul Coverdell. Democrat Zell Miller was appointed by Democrat Governor Roy Barnes to complete the term of Republican Paul Coverdell. After this, Zell Miller gave the keynote address at the 2004 Republican Convention. This is what Georgia has come to expect from Zig Zag Zell.
The anti war letter was not great writing. It basically said that the invasion of Iraq was not a good idea. The letter did not address the tax cut. In a bizarre move, Congress approved a tax cut, with an economically ruinous war on the horizon.
The responses to the letter are attached here. Denise Majette gave a thoughtful reply. She did not say “I agree with you” in so many words, but it is clear she is not gung ho about killing Iraqis. Miss Majette said, and PG agrees, that once the war begins, the debate should cease.
Saxby Chambliss sent two replies. Both talked about how well the war was going, and how wonderful it was to be killing people in Iraq. It is a good question whether his staff read the original letter from PG, which opposed the war.
In the 2004 election, Denise Majette ran for the Senate. Zell Miller chose to retire, and his seat was up for grabs. Republican Johnny Isakson won the Senate seat. Cynthia McKinney made a comeback, and won the fourth district House seat.
Saxby Chambliss was re-elected in 2008, and retired in 2014. The conflict in Iraq continues to this day. It is a disaster. The withdrawal of American combat troops did not end the civil war. Currently, Iraq is the scene for combat operations from the Islamic State military force.
The financial burden of the war has been immense. The military depends on contractors for many basic services, at increased cost to the Asian war financiers. The National debt has been increasing by a trillion dollars a year. Revenge for nine eleven, directed at a marginally responsible country, has been horribly expensive. Pictures for today’s entertainment message are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. This is a repost.
Mary Cheney became famous in a traditional way. Her father is Dick Cheney, former VPOTUS, hunting guide, and terrorist. Apparently Ms. Cheney felt the need for attention recently. She posted the following matter on facebook.
“Why is it socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for men to put on dresses, make up and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.) — but it is not socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans?”
When it comes to getting people to look at you, Mary Cheney is not in the same hemisphere as RuPaul. By remarkable coincidence, there is going to be a new season of a cable tv show, about drag queens, hosted by RuPaul. The comments by Ms. Cheney were seen by RuPaul as an opportunity to promote product. The video is embedded above.
We are not going to discuss the moral calculus of blackface vs drag in this post. That’s what facebook, twitter, and comment sections are for. This blog does not have the intellectual gravitas as youtube comment sections. Mary Cheney and RuPaul are getting the attention they require.
The pictures today are from The Library of Congress. These ladies were participating in “Inter city beauties, Atlantic City Pageant, 1925.” There is something appropriate about beauty pageant pictures illustrating a discussion of the relative political correctness of blackface and drag queens. If you want a picture of Mary Cheney, go somewhere else.
The second part of this feature is a repost. The show was performed in 1979. I recently saw “Carroll.” He lives in Pennsylvania today, and has a beard nine inches long.
Reading about Shirley Q. Liquor brought back memories of a night long ago. A young man, who I will call Carroll, grew up across the street. In his spare time, he did drag shows. What I was expecting was Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin, using his own voice. One Sunday night, free admission and a buffet was all I needed to venture downtown and see the show.
The venue was an unpretentious bar called Club Sheba. The clientele was mostly lesbians, many of whom were African Americans.
Club Sheba was located on Forrest Avenue. The street was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General who, some say, founded the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest Avenue late became Ralph McGill Boulevard, named after the former editor of the Atlanta Constitution.
As show time approached, I saw a table that had empty seats. I pulled back a seat, and a beefy lady informed me that she did not want a man to sit at that table.
The first act was what I expected. The reputation of Carol Burnett did not suffer, and Lily Tomlin was still in the closet. After the first act, I shot a game of pool with my friend, and went to the buffet for a second plate. A lady stopped me. ”You’re not supposed to get full”
I went back to the pool table. After a while there was a crowd standing around, and it was evident that a second act was going to start soon. I saw a black lady in the crowd making faces at me, took a second look, and realized that it was Carroll.
He did not use his voice this time, but lip synced to Grace Jones and Diana Ross. He wore blackface, and an afro wig. The crowd at the Club Sheba enjoyed this part of the show. Many of the Black Lesbians went to the stage and stuffed dollar bills in his faux bosom.
Today is National Fruitcake Day PG sees a chance for some text to put between pictures. He would be nutty as a fruitcake to turn down this chance. This is a repost. Part two of this recycled holiday blog party is a tribute to The Fruitcake Lady.
Fruitcakes were buried with the dead in Ancient Egypt. It’s true. Ancient Egyptians used to fill the tombs of the dead with all the supplies that they would need to enjoy the afterlife, including food and water. Fruitcake was often put into the tomb of a deceased person because a fruitcake soaked in a natural preservative like alcohol or fruit juice would last a long time. It was thought that the preserved fruitcake would not spoil on the journey to the afterlife. Fruitcake was a staple food of other ancient Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean cultures as well
Candied fruits are used in fruitcake because using sugar was the only way to preserve the fruit long enough to get it back to Europe from the Middle East. When the Crusaders began carrying exotic fruits back to their European home the fresh fruit would spoil long before they were able to get it home. Ingenious traders began drying the fruits by candying them with sugar which made them an even more delicious treat and preserved them indefinitely. Once the candied fruits were sent to Europe and to other parts of the world they were baked into cakes so that they could be shared with family and friends on special occasions.
Fruitcakes will last for years without spoiling. It’s true. A fruitcake that is properly preserved with an alcohol soaked cheesecloth that is then wrapped in plastic wrap or foil can be kept unrefrigerated for years without spoiling. In the past, before refrigerators came along, families would make fruitcake for holidays and special occasions months in advance of the actual event and then let the covered fruitcakes sit wrapped in an alcohol soaked cloth until the event happened. As long as the cloth was remoistened with alcohol occasionally the cakes not only didn’t spoil, they actually tasted richer and sweeter because they had been soaking in brandy and rum for a couple of months.
To millions of fruitcake consumers, the town of Claxton GA is very special. This south Georgia town, just down the road from Reidsville, is home to Claxton Fruit Cake . The story of the Claxton Fruit Cake company is a sweet one. Savino Tos founded the Claxton Bakery in 1910. He hired Albert Parker in 1927, and sold him the business in 1945. Mr. Parker decided to sell Fruit Cake to America.
No story about fruitcake is complete without mentioning the “Fruitcake Lady”. Marie Rudisill , an aunt of Truman Capote, wrote a book of fruitcake recipes. She became a tv celebrity, before going to the bakery in the sky November 3, 2006.
The urban dictionary has nine listings for fruit cake. The ones for homosexuals and crazy people are there. UD gets creative with this selection: “The act of releasing green chunky diarrhea onto your partners face then, ejaculating on it, then punching him/her in the nose causing the colors to mix together to form a fruit cake like color.”
If you tire of jokes about fruitcake, you can go to The society for the protection and preservation of fruitcake . (If you click on the “new URL”, you will be invited to join in the green card lottery.) There used to be a link on the society page that enables you to buy Fruitcake Mints. “Keep your breath fruitcake fresh with these festive mints!”
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.
There was a political comment on facebook. The last sentence was “No wonder Georgia turned Republican after the Clintons sold poor people out.” The person making this comment was born in 1980, the same year Georgia elected a Republican to the US Senate. This person also was born and raised in Florida. PG thought of a smart comeback. This is a repost.
There was a famous video by the Fruitcake Lady. In the first part, a young lady asks who to vote for in an upcoming election. FL makes a face, and said “you’re gonna ask someone who lives in FLORIDA how to vote?” This is along the lines of a Floridian transplant explaining the Republicanization of Georgia. Unfortunately, the video with the Fruitcake Lady had been taken down for copyright infringement. The spell check suggestions for Republicanization: Recapitalization, Cannibalization.
PG wasn’t really doing anything, and was in the mood for a google wild goose chase. This led to an amazing article, Sweet as Sugar, Rude as Hell, My Lost Interview with Truman Capote’s Aunt. A writer for the fishwrapper went to a mobile home in Hudson, FL. He talked to Marie Rudisill, who was best known as Truman Capote’s “Aunt Tiny.” The meeting took place in 1997, and was not what the writer expected. A family friendly version of the meeting was published The journalist received a slice of fruitcake in the mail. Everyone concerned went on with their lives.
Marie Rudisill died November 3, 2006, after becoming famous as the Fruitcake Lady. As for the journalist: “When I left The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009, I stashed 27 years of old newspapers, tapes and ephemera in my garage. Nothing is more depressing to me than those boxes of old newspapers. It’s my own private morgue — replete with the sickening scent of dust and roach pills…. When I finally mustered the courage to dig around, I found the Lewis interviews — as well as a cache of other recordings. Three of the tapes had Rudisill’s name scribbled on them. I was not quite ready to listen, though. I put them in a box and labeled it.”
In 1924, Truman Streckfus Persons was born in New Orleans LA. His mother, Lillie Mae (Aunt Tiny’s older sister) left her husband behind, and took the boy to Monroeville AL. They lived in a wild household. A neighbor was Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Miss Lee was a close friend, as was Sook. This is Truman’s cousin, the fruitcake chef herone of “A Christmas Memory.”
After a while, Lillie Mae married Joe Capote, who adopted the boy. They moved to New York, where Aunt Tiny joined them. Truman was sent to military school. Everyone, except Lillie Mae, thought this was a terrible idea. The effort to butch up young Truman did not work.
Aunt Tiny wrote a book, Truman Capote: The Story of His Bizarre and Exotic Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him. It was published in 1983, a year before Truman died. “The book scandalized Monroeville — and Capote. He told The Washington Post: “If there are 20 words of truth in it, I will go up on a cross to save humanity.” Said Harper Lee: “I have never seen so many misstatements of fact per sentence as in that book.”
There is one story that sticks out…. “Rudisill breaks down just once during our interview. It’s when she recalls “the first time Truman ever had a sexual encounter with a priest.” She was living in Greenwich Village, having followed Lillie Mae and Truman to New York. “He was sitting on my doorstep when I came home from work, and he had blood all in his pants, and then he told me about this priest. And nobody, I don’t think anybody in the world ever knew that but me.”
There is more to the story. If you have the time, you might enjoy reading the full article. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.
With one day before it was due, PG finished reading Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor , by Brad Gooch. The author is a professor of English at William Patterson University in New Jersey. He spares no citations, to show where he gets his information. This is a repost.
Chamblee54 has written before about Miss O’Connor , and repeated the post a year later. There is a radio broadcast of a Flannery O’Connor lecture. (The Georgia accent of Miss O’Connor is much commented on in the book. To PG, it is just another lady speaking.)
Mary Flannery O’Connor was born March 25, 1925 in Savannah GA. The local legend is that she was conceived in the shadow of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, a massive facility on Lafayette Square. Her family did leave nearby, and her first school was just a few steps away. This is also a metaphor for the role of the Catholic Church in her life. Mary Flannery was intensely Catholic, and immersed in the scholarship of the church. This learning was a large part of her life. How she got from daily mass, to writing stories about Southern Grotesque, is one mystery at the heart of Flannery O’Connor.
Ed O’Connor doted on his daughter, but had to take a job in Atlanta to earn a living. His wife Regina and daughter Mary Flannery moved with him, to a house behind Christ The King Cathedral. Mr. O’Connor’s health was already fading, and Mother and Daughter moved in with family in Milledgeville. Ed O’Connor died, of Lupus Erythematosus, on February 1, 1941.
Mary Flannery went to college in Milledgeville, and on to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She dealt with cold weather, went to Mass every day, and wrote. She was invited to live at an artists colony called Yaddo, in upstate New York. She lived for a while with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald in Connecticut, all while working on her first novel, “Wise Blood”. In 1950, she was going home to Milledgeville for Christmas, and had been feeling poorly. She went to the hometown doctor, who thought at first that the problem was rheumatoid arthritis. The illness of Flannery O’Connor was Lupus Erythematosus.
Miss O’Connor spent much of that winter in hospitals, until drugs were found that could help. She moved, with her mother, to a family farm outside Milledgeville, which she renamed Andalusia. She entered a phase of her life, with the Lupus in relative remission, and the drugs firing her creative fires, where she wrote the short stories that made her famous.
Another thing happened when she was recuperating. Flannery was reading the Florida “Market Bulletin”, and saw an ad for “peafowl”, at sixty five dollars a pair. She ordered a pair, and they soon arrived via Railway Express. This was the start of the peacocks at Andalusia, a part of the legend.
During this period of farm life and writing, Flannery had several friends and correspondents. There was the “Bible Salesmen”, Erik Langkjaer, who was probably the closest thing Flannery had to a boyfriend. Another was Betty Hester, who exchanged hundreds of letters with Miss O’Connor. This took place under the stern eye of Regina O’Connor, the no nonsense mother-caregiver of Flannery. (Mr. Gooch says that Betty Hester committed suicide in 1998. That would be consistent with PG stumbling onto an estate sale of Miss Hester in that time frame.)
The book of short stories came out, and Flannery O’Connor became famous. She was also dependent on crutches, and living with a stern mother. There were lectures out of town, and a few diverse personalities who became her friends. She went to Mass every day, and collected books by Catholic scholars. Flannery was excited by the changes in the church started by Pope John XXIII, and in some ways could be considered a liberal. (She supported Civil Rights, in severe contrast to her mother.)
In 1958, Flannery O’Connor went to Europe, including a trip to the Springs at Lourdes. Her cousin Katie Semmes (the daughter of Captain John Flannery, CSA) pushed Flannery hard to go to the springs, to see if it would help the Lupus. Flannery was reluctant…” I am one of those people who could die for his religion sooner than take a bath for it“. When the day for the visit came, Flannery took a token dip in the waters. Her condition did improve, briefly. (It is worth speculating here about the nature of Flannery’s belief, which was apparently more intellectual than emotional. Could it be that, if she was more persuaded by the mystical, emotional side of the church, and taken the healing waters more seriously, that she might have been cured?)
At some point in this story, her second novel came out, and the illness blossomed. Much of 1964 was spent in hospitals, and she got worse and worse. On August 3, 1964, Mary Flannery O’Connor died,
PG remembers the first time the name Flannery O’Connor sank in. He was visiting some friends, in a little house across from the federal prison.
Rick(?) was the buddy of a character known as Harry Bowers. PG was never sure what Harry’s real name was. One night, Rick was talking about Southern Gothic writers, and he said that Flannery O’Connor was just plain weird. ”Who else would have a bible salesman show up at a farm, take the girl up into a hayloft, unscrew her wooden leg and leave her there? Weird.”
Flannery O’Connor was recently the subject of a biography written by Brad Gooch. The book is getting a bit of publicity. Apparently, the Milledgeville resident was a piece of work.
PG read some reviews of this biography, and found a collection of short stories at the library. The book included ” Good Country People”, the tale about the bible salesman. Apparently, this story was inspired by a real life incident. (Miss O’Connor had lupus the last fifteen years of her life. She used crutches.) And yes, it is weird. Not like hollywood , but in the way of rural Georgia.
Some of the reviews try to deal with her attitudes about Black people. On a certain level, she is a racist. She uses the n word freely, and her black characters are not inspiring people. The thing is, the white characters are hardly any better, and in some cases much worse.
The stories are well crafted, with vivid descriptions of people and places. The reader floats along with the flow of the story, until he realizes that Grandma has made a mistake on a road trip. The house she got her son to look for is in Tennessee, not Georgia. She makes him drive the family car into a ditch. Some drifting killers come by. Grandma asks one if he prays, while his partner is shooting her grandchildren. Weird.
In another story, a drifter happens upon a pair of women in the country. The daughter is thirty years old, is deaf, and has never spoken a word. The drifter teaches her to say bird and sugarpie. The mother gives him fifteen dollars for a honeymoon, if he will marry her. He takes the fifteen dollars and leaves her asleep in a roadside diner.
There was a yard sale one Saturday afternoon. It was in a house off Lavista Road, between Briarcliff and Cheshire Bridge. The house had apparently not been painted in the last forty years. Thousands and thousands of paperback books were on the shelves. The lady taking the money said that the lady who lived there was the friend, and correspondent of, the “Milledgeville writer” Flannery O’Connor. This is apparently Betty Hester, who is mentioned in many of the biography reviews.
PG told the estate sale lady that she should be careful how she said that. There used to be a large mental hospital in Milledgeville, and the name is synonymous in Georgia with mental illness. The estate sale lady had never heard that.
This is a repost. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. It was written like James Joyce. An earlier edition of this post had comments.
Fr. J. December 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm I am glad you take an interest in Flannery, but to say baldly that she is a racist is to very much misunderstand her. For another view on Flannery and race, you might want to read her short story, “Everything that Rises Must Converge.”
chamblee54 December 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm “On a certain level, she is a racist.” That is not the same as “baldly” labeling her a racist. (And I have a full head of hair, thank you). As a native Georgian, I am aware of the many layers of nuance in race relations. I feel that the paragraph on race in the above feature is accurate.
Obviously,there is something to be said for wanting to speak up, but not having anything to say. To prove that, I am going to talk about a word…esoteric. According to Wiktionary , esoteric is :”1. Having to do with concepts that are highly theoretical and without obvious practical application. 2. Understood only by a chosen few or an inner circle. 3. Confidential; private.”
The “E word” plays a role in a story from 10th grade English. We were discussing a story, “The Rocking Horse Winner”, by D.H. Lawrence. The story was, well, boring and obscure, just like most of what I have seen by Mr. Lawrence.
The summer after 10th grade I worked in a movie theater. The ushers wore ghastly yellow uniforms, and saw the movies over and over. When I started, the Lenox Square 2 theater was showing “Women in Love”, based on a novel my D.H. Lawrence. Glenda Jackson copped an oscar for her portrayal of Gudrun Brangwen, and young Larry Kramer was one of the screenwriters. It did not improve my opinion of D.H. Lawrence. If the censors had not touched “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” D.H. Lawrence would be forgotten today.
Back to 10th grade english. We were discussing this wretched story, and a girl raised her hand. Why would any author would write something so esoteric? The teacher had never heard of this word before, and was amazed to hear it.
The Lenox Square 2 theater was a long, slender thing with a small screen. This was in 1970. The multiplex concept had not matured. LS2 was under a grocery store. When their automatic door openers operated, you could hear the motors in the theater below. The movies the rest of the summer were Fellini Satyricon, The Christine Jorgenson Story, and The Landlord.
Back to esoteric…or did I ever go away? Before you can understand esoteric, you must plumb the depths of pedantic. “1. Like a pedant, overly concerned with formal rules and trivial points of learning. 2. Being showy of one’s knowledge, often in a boring manner. 3. Often used to describe a person who emphasizes his/her knowledge through the use of vocabulary; ostentatious in one’s learning. 4. Being finicky or picky with language.” Pedantic is an adjective that describes itself. This repost has pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives Georgia State University Library”.
Around this time 152 years ago, Atlanta was on fire. General Sherman was preparing for his March to the sea, and wanted to destroy anything of value in the city. The fire is reported as being on 11-15 of November, depending on what source you use.
The November fire was the second great fire in Atlanta that year. On September 2, the city was conquered by the Union Army. The fleeing Confederates blew up a munitions depot, and set a large part of the city on fire. This is the fire Scarlet O’Hara flees in “Gone With The Wind”.
After a series of bloody battles, the city was shelled by Yankee forces for forty days. There were many civilian casualties. General Sherman was tired of the war, angry at Atlanta, and ready for action. This is despite the fact that many in Atlanta were opposed to secession.
Click here to hear a lecture by Marc Wortman at the Atlanta History Center. Mr Wortman is the author of “The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta”. The hour of talk is fascinating. This is a repost. The pictures are from The Library of Congress
About this time every year, there is a post about the burning of Atlanta. One of the sources is a lecture by Marc Wortman. If you have an hour to spare, this talk is worth your time. One of the stories told is the tale of Mr. Luckie.
“According to folklore, two stories abound as to how Luckie Street was named. The first is that its moniker came from one of Atlanta’s oldest families, and the other, probably closer to the truth, regales the life of Solomon “Sam” Luckie. Luckie, as it turns out, wasn’t so lucky after all. When General William Tecumseh Sherman first came marching through Atlanta in 1864, Luckie, a free Black man who made his living as a barber, was leaning against a gas lamp post in downtown talking to a group of businessmen. A burst from a cannon shell wounded him; he survived, but later died from his injuries. Folklore suggests that he may have been one of the first casualties of the assault on Atlanta during Sherman’s March to the Sea, and Luckie Street, an extension of the city’s famed Sweet Auburn Avenue, was later named in his memory.”
Marc Wortman wrote a book, The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta. The one star review, and comments to that review, are unusually detailed. Here is a selection.
“…People forget – or were never taught in school – that most Confederate soldiers descended from Revolutionary War patriots or were up-country poor sons of farmers. Many Confederate soldiers were relatively recent new arrivals to the U.S., semi-literate dirt poor immigrants from Ireland and Scotland who’d never had the chance to own even an acre of their own land in Europe. In the mix were well-educated, elite merchant business owning French Huguenot refugees of the Catholic Bourbon genocide of Protestants. These immigrants had nowhere else to go, 9 times out of 10 never owned a slave, and fought for the CSA to keep what little they’d hardscrabble carved out over a decade of arrival into the U.S.”
The War Between The States continues to be a source of controversy. After the Charleston church killings, many comments were made about the Confederate battle flag. (If you can’t talk about gun control or mental health, you talk about a symbol.) This led to discussions about the war itself. There were ritual denunciations of slavery, which was assumed to be the sole cause of the conflict. The fact that the vast majority of white southerners did not own slaves was dismissed.
The notion of autonomous states in a federal union was novel when the United States Constitution was written. The debate over federalism versus states rights continues to this day. States that want to legalize marijuana may be the next battleground. (Few are expecting secession over bong rights.) Many in the CSA saw the Union as being a conquering army, and fought to defend their homes. While slavery was certainly a factor in the creation of the CSA, it was not the only Casus belli. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.