Delmarva: A Shared Gem-Part 1

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July 1, 2019, Onley, VA-

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The fitful man stood with his fists clenched and his body rigid, as I glanced over his son’s shoulder, for a split-second, whilst the boy was reading from a placard about flounder.  It occurred to me, momentarily, that a flounder was my my first caught fish, all those years ago, in Lynn Harbor.  I kept walking and found my own space, without any reaction to the father, who didn’t bother me further.

Such is Cape Charles, a magnet for tourists such as the above-mentioned, and a serene place for year-round residents. I came here, over the long bridge/tunnel from Hampton Roads, on the Virginia mainland.  This southern segment of the Delmarva region, more commonly called the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay, is a mix of long peninsula and a myriad of islands.  Tangier, on the western (Chesapeake Bay) side, and Chincoteague/Assateague, on the eastern (Atlantic) side are the best known islands.

Cape Charles, at the tip of the peninsula, is the first place visitors see, once off the bridge.  It is, thankfully, not as commercialized as I had thought it would be, and great care has been taken to safeguard the “land’s end” area. This, and Hampton Roads, are the only places in Virginia where one can witness both sunrise and sunset, over open water.

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The dunes are largely protected from foot traffic.  There is but one trail, along the periphery of the dunes and one trail over the mounds.

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Bird nesting is encouraged, with the placement of platform buoys around the Bay.  Both piping plovers and gulls nest in the area.  Plovers, though, are ground nesters, and are endangered, so protective caging is placed around the nests, while the young are maturing.  Below, is a gull nest.

 

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Marsh grasses help filter runoff from creeks which empty into the Bay.

 

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This resort hotel is one of three in Cape Charles.

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Cape Charles’ downtown did bustle, especially around the ice cream shops, on this sultry Sunday evening.

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I found a comfortable, quiet little motel in the commercial center of Onley, in the middle of  Virginia’s portion of Delmarva.  A bit north of Onley is Accomack, one of the oldest settlements on the Eastern Shore.  Here is a view of the historic Court House.

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I topped off the eastern Virginia excursion, with a visit to Assateague Island, part of Chincoteague National Seashore.  Chincoteague, in the language of the Delawarean (Lenape)  First Nations people who lived on the adjacent mainland, means “large stream” or “inlet”.  Assateague, in the same language, means “a river beyond” or “a running stream between”.  The two words were also used by Europeans to refer to two closely-related groups of Delawarean peoples.  The descendants of these nations are today living  in the area of Snow Hill, Maryland and in southern Delaware.

Two areas of interest on Assateague are the Lighthouse, which can accommodate groups of ten people at a time, and the Chincoteague Pony viewing stations.

Here are a few scenes of, and from, Assateague Light House.  It is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, two members of which greet visitors, at the entrance and on the top viewing area.

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Chincoteague ponies (feral horses) are well-known, around the world, in particular for their annual channel swims. This year’s is to take place on July 24.

Although it is now a human-coordinated event, the ponies probably swam without human encouragement, when the need arose for going between grazing areas on different parts of the island.  Humans may have contributed to the feral horses’ swimming behaviour, by erecting a fence between the Maryland and Virginia sections of Assateague.

 

Here are two scenes of the horses at the viewing point, early this afternoon.

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What appears to be a lone pony is actually a member of a group whose other members were on the move, when this was taken.

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Finally, no visit to a resort in summer is complete without a visit to an ice cream parlour.  So, I stopped for a bit at Mister Whippy!

http://www.misterwhippy.com/

NEXT:  The First State’s Capital

 

 

A Capitol’s Quiet Hour

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June 30, 2019, Raleigh-

Perhaps in a moment of selfishness, I chose to head to North Carolina’s Triad region, specifically to the Capitol, rather than to the west central area, north of Charlotte.  This, though, is what my spirit guides were telling me was in order.

I found Raleigh in a quiet and pensive collective mood, whilst walking about the Capitol District on this morning, when many were engaged in acts of worship.  I pretty much had the area to myself.

The great museums would not open until noon, by which time I was getting my laundry done, in south Raleigh’s International Market, a haven for the area’s Hispanic community.

Part of the Tar Heel story is told on the Museum of History’s grounds.  The frame of a Catawba home is here, surrounded by the lushness of the Piedmont.

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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences takes up the right flank of the Museum Quarter.

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The North Carolina Museum of History occupies the left hand side.

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Three figures greet the visitor to the Museum of History: A woman of Sauratown, Thomas Day and Frederick Augustus Olds.  Sauratown is an isolated mountain region, northwest of Winston-Salem.  The independence of area residents is commemorated by this statue of an unidentified woman.  Thomas Day is celebrated as an example of how much a free Black man could achieve.  He was a skilled cabinetmaker, of the Antebellum period. Frederick Augustus Olds, a journalist, was a relentless advocate of telling North Carolina’s story, especally of “human history” and of the advancement of both Boy and Girl Scouts.

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Here is the Promenade, in its fullness.

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North Carolina is the birthplace of three U.S. Presidents:  Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk and Andrew Johnson.  They may not be the favourites of many people, but each pursued and achieved his goals.  The State Capitol looms in the background.

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Here are more complete views of the State Capitol.

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This statue depicts a naval cadet, of the late Nineteenth Century.  A woman passing by with her young daughter remarked to the child that it must have been most uncomfortable to have to wear such garb, in the heat of a Carolina summer.

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This bell tower, of First Presbyterian church, is framed by the Memorial Garden of the Harden family.

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At the opposite end of the Promenade, near the Natural Sciences Museum, is this statue depicting the naturalist Rachel Carson, listening to a story being told by a young boy.  She was passionate about educating the young, as to the dangers posed by excessive chemical use, in the mid-Twentieth Century.

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My time with the Hispanic people showed that the Tar Heel tradition continues to promote the achievements of the individual, over a mass ideological swell.  May that ethic long continue.

NEXT:  Virginia’s Eastern Shore

 

The Turnstile Island

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June 29, 2019, Charleston, SC-

It was a still, warm day, even on the water, as the Noon ferry headed out of Charleston Harbor, towards Fort Sumter.  The hundred or so tourists and Park Service staff who were aboard were a far cry from the angry men who stormed Fort Sumter, after firing on the supposedly impregnable island fort, on April 12, 1861- the opening shots of the American Civil War.

The fort was one of those which  had been built as a response to the glaring lack of coastal defense, during the War of 1812.  Thus, it is ironic that Fort Sumter should have been the symbol of oppression, to many in South Carolina, and that it would change hands three times, during the Civil War’s progression.  Built with three stories, to convey the image of indestructible fortress, it was leveled by bombardment and was turned into an earthwork, by Confederate defenders, between 1861-63.

I have had Fort Sumter on my to-go list, since 2007, when we made a family “virtual field trip” journey, for Penny’s University studies.  We never made it to Charleston, among other places. Now, though,  the scintillating city. and Fort Sumter, were on my blog-topic itinerary..

Here are some scenes of the ferry route and of the Fort.  The park’s office and waiting area are adjacent to the South Carolina Aquarium, just north of downtown Charleston.

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Whilst waiting for the Noon ferry, I happened upon East Bay Deli, on a row of eateries, three blocks south of the Aquarium.  It is a perfect spot for a full line of made-to-order delicatessen foods.

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Below is a scene of Castle Pinckney, a small fortress from which Confederate forces harassed Union Naval vessels.

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This sand spit is used by Charlestonians as a private beach, and is not part of Fort Sumter.

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The first sight we saw, after the Ranger Talk, was of these cannon portholes.

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Here is one of the entrances to the lower breastworks.

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A full view of the cannon ports faces east.

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Sea shells were used to reinforce the mortar, during the fort’s repairs in 1862.

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The cannon portholes are sometimes shut

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and sometimes open.

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The cannon was always at the ready.

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The supports of the upper stories still remain, in several parts of the fort.

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For the person who has done everything, there is this:

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My money still needs to go elsewhere, but there it is.  This is one such cannon that has been adopted.

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Finally, here is a Howitzer, used by the Confederates, during their defense of the fort, in 1863.  The Union forces won that battle and retained control of the island, thereafter.

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Fort Sumter reinforced my view of the folly of war, when pursued as a means to safeguard ideology or narrow self-interest.  We have far more in common, as human beings, and thankfully have come a fair distance in viewing others in a positive light, since the Nineteenth Century.

NEXT:  Raleigh’s Capitol District

 

Charleston’s Many Colours

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June 29, 2019, Charleston (SC)-

One of the most attractive features of any town or city is the way in which it displays colour-either in street art, botanic arrays, festivals or architecture.   The cultural center of South Carolina has all four.

I came here specifically to visit Fort Sumter, about which more in the next post.  What would keep me coming back are two things:  The warm reception at the north side’s Not So Hostel and the riot of colour, just about everywhere.

Not So Hostel keeps its promise.  Despite one passive-aggressive guest, the place was a serene compound and a fine place to climb to a top bunk and rest the night.

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Driving in Charleston can be a bit dicey.   Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe the narrow streets, but Charleston’s motorists can be as nasty to one another as any in a much larger city.  That is one reason I enjoyed my two walks in the area.  First came North Charleston’s Riverfront  Park, the former Naval Base, on the banks of the Cooper River.  The preserved mansions then served as both residences and administrative quarters.

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Artifacts of the Base’s active days are interposed with the flora, which Theodore Roosevelt had reportedly wanted removed, so as to keep the place in fighting trim.  The proper ladies of North Charleston had other ideas.

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The poignancy of farewells and returns is equally captured, in this sculpture of a Navy family.

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There are a few fountains, like this one, interspersed throughout the Charleston area, for people to cool themselves.  Those in downtown Charleston had many children doing so.

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The Cooper River presented itself as a focal point for a morning’s contemplation.

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The gardens have gradually been restored, thanks to North Charleston’s horticultural societies.

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I headed downtown, after the Fort Sumter excursion, with the goal of walking to The Battery and back up King Street.  Downtown was suitably packed, on this Saturday afternoon.  I found quite a few people were interested in seeing St. Philip’s Church, but it was closed.

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This is about as close as I got to Rainbow Row.

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Along the Battery, houses were meant to provide for the many.

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These days, the many take comfort by walking along Charleston Harbor.

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The Battery’s gazebo was a haven for one family, in the heat, for nearly twenty minutes. I took this photo, once they moved on to a fountain.

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This obelisk is one of several monuments to veterans of the nation’s conflicts.  Confederate monuments are among them.

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Rainbow Row is emulated, here and there, along King Street.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES My last view of downtown Charleston was of Circular Congregational Church, which was founded in 1681 and is still in use.

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NEXT:  Fort Sumter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School of Hope

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June 28, 2019, St. Helena Island, SC-

I am of the opinion that there should be no child left behind-and I don’t mean to throw us back to the Federal educational initiative by that name, which only met the need in a limited fashion.

Truly meeting a child’s needs is something that no “one size fits all” program can possibly address. The basis for any effort to improve a person’s well-being is love for that person, as an extension of one’s love for humanity.

Penn Center, in the heart of this Sea Island near Beaufort, is a shining example of the true meaning of “No Child left Behind”.  Its genesis was the implementing of the Emancipation Proclamation. One thing that was ever in Abraham Lincoln’s mind, when he contemplated freeing the slaves in the Confederate States, was the immediate unleashing on Southern society of millions of illiterate people, the majority of whom were also not trained in any skilled trade.  “Forty acres and a mule”, the mantra of freed enslaved minister Garrison Frazier, turned into a scattershot attempt to relieve that society of its immediate burden, once it became actual Federal policy.  Lincoln himself, hamstrung by his own conviction that any given White man was inherently superior to any given person of another “race”, had no coherent plan to alleviate the situation.

So, it fell to Rev. Frazier and a council of educated Black men, in the Lowlands from Savannah to Charleston, to devise and implement a plan to establish a school for the children of the Sea Islands region. Penn School, established, as its name implies, with the support of the Society of Friends, became just such a school. It was initially established in 1862, even before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.  Truth be known, word had reached the Black community in Savannah that many slaveholders in Virginia, Louisiana and Georgia were teaching their male slaves how to read and write.  Many others had been taught, surreptitiously, by the wives and children of their masters. The former estate of a freed slave, Harvey Gantt, became the site of an expanded school, in 1864. By 1865, Quaker abolitionists in Philadelphia began supporting the school, and it was named Penn School.  In 1901, Hampton Institute, a Black college in Virginia, began sponsoring the school, which was cut off from public funding by Beaufort County’s segregationist leadership. Even with this assistance, though, the school continued to struggle.  In 1948, Penn School closed and Penn Center, a community development and cultural preservation institution, emerged on the property.

Today, Penn Center is a haven for the study and preservation of Gullah language and culture and for the promotion of Civil Rights.  Its York W. Bailey Museum has a wealth of African art and Gullah artifacts.  The Center promotes the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, of which it is the epicenter, and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, from Florida to North Carolina.  It maintains active relationships with people in West and Central Africa, with the President of Sierra Leone visiting the Center, in 1988.

Here are some scenes of Penn Center’s grounds.  No photography is permitted in the Bailey Museum itself.

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The Gantt House  (Pine House) today serves as one of the learning sites for Penn Center.

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These storage cisterns were once the school’s main source of fresh water.

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This is Darrah Hall, Penn Center’s oldest building, built in 1903.  It is used for large events.

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The flat bottom boat is a staple of Low Country transportation.  This one was built and used by freed slaves.

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This is the Center’s Administration Building.

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Here is one of the first classroom buildings of Penn School, circa 1905.

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This complex was a beehive of activity, during my visit.  Vibrant teens were calling out friendly greetings to me, while their teachers were trying to get them focused on the activity of the afternoon.

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As in any community, a small cemetery has sprung up at Penn Center.

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I end with two shots of Brick Church, the original site of the school, and which predates Penn Center.

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There is much to learn, as yet, about Gullah Geechee culture, so I know this is far from my last visit to the Low Country.  Penn Center, though, gave me an excellent introduction.

NEXT:  The Wonder That Is Charleston

 

The World In Harbour Town

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June 27-28, 2019, Hilton Head Island-

I made it to Hilton Head Island, if only for a night and the better part of  a day.  Today was a very full day on the road, with a lunch stop at New Moon Cafe, in far-off Aiken.  I will go somewhat out of my way to visit New Moon, because it’s all about the ambiance. Today did not disappoint.

After a lengthy ramble through the Low Country, I spent an hour or so in Beaufort-first looking for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Center, only to find it had moved and was closed by the time I got to the new location.  The town’s renewed prosperity is reflected in its Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, named for the former mayor, whose passion was revitalizing the dockside area of this port city.  Time was, when “America First” advocates would point to Beaufort as a place where people fighting poverty and famine should “turn, first”, during the Africa Famine Relief campaigns of the late 1960’s.  That is not the case today.  Beaufort is coming back.

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The sense of idyll is also found on Hilton Head Island, which I first visited with Penny and Aram, in 2007. On that particular day, torrential rain visited us, in the early morning. I opened the motel door, to find water at the level of the door stoop.  Fortunately, no alligators were present-as was the case earlier this year, with some other family members.  The property where we stayed in 2007 is now owned by Red Roof Inn.  The manager told me that drainage is still an issue for the property.  Tonight, though, the skies were clear and the ground dry.

I went over to Hilton Head Diner, where we had had pancakes for breakfast in ’07.  This time, I enjoyed dinner-a gourmet burger with waffle fries.  I sat at the counter, kibbitzing with one of the waitresses, Kim, and enjoying the tales of an island native named Mark.  His grandfather had built the causeway bridge that connects HH with the mainland.  After dinner, when I headed to my car, a local woman asked for help, in jump-starting her car. I found her battery had loose, rather poor connectivity. As Mark was a truck driver, I went back to the Diner and asked him for help.  He was able to rig a connection to her battery and we got her back on the road, in short order.

I found it necessary to pay admission to one of the staples of a Hilton Head visit:  Harbour Town, as the access is controlled by Sea Pines Resort- a golfer’s paradise.  I am not a golfer, but I like lighthouses and seaport areas and the day pass was reasonable, so in I went.  A light lunch at this relaxing patio bakery-cafe ensued.  The place was once the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

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Hanging moss abounds in the Low Country.

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Here is Hilton Head Lighthouse, now a gift shop, operated by Sea Pines, which charges admission for those wanting to climb to the top.  The woman on the left and her sons in front were willing to be included in the photo, for scale.

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After walking around the area for several minutes, I came upon the same family looking at this unique boat.  Mystique is constructed almost entirely of teak and mahogany.

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Hilton Head, like other parts of the Low Country, was once the domain of Gullah Geechee culture, which used a blend of several West African languages and English, and preserved much of the traditional culture of enslaved Africans in the area.  Scant traces of the culture remain on Hilton Head, save Mitchelville, on the northwest corner of the island.  There was not much going on in Mitchelville, as I headed towards Penn Center, the first school for freed slave children, after the Civil War.  That unique institution is still offering the children of the Sea Islands a solid and complete education, blending practical skills with state-of-the-art technology and consideration of today’s issues.

As for Mitchelville, I do not take photos of people, especially in impoverished areas, without their consent.  Penn Center, on St. Helena Island, was much more amenable to a photographic record.  It is the subject of the next post.

 

Fair Columbia

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June 25-26, 2019, Columbia, SC-

Fifty years ago, I found myself among thirty or so young men, some a bit more worldly than I, others as green to the ways of the world as yours truly.  We were the trainees of Echo Company, Third Battalion, First Brigade, at Fort Jackson.  There were times that I broke down in the tears of an under-challenged, immature novice to life. There were times that I tried to avoid the challenges that, deep-down, I knew I needed to overcome.  In the end, I managed to overcome my own physical challenges and the constant ridicule from the jaded First Sergeant- and earned the respect of most everyone else.  I was a better person for the time spent here.

Once here, planted for what I thought was a day, at Palmetto Inn, east of town, I got messages from faithful readers, advising as to what I might do in the town.  Among these was word of a Wednesday evening event at a coffee shop, sounding as if it were sponsored by local Baha’is. So, I took the room at Palmetto for two nights.

The day started with a passable breakfast at George’s Southside Restaurant, hearing the plaint that I am finding increasingly common, in the workplaces along the road, this summer:  “I’m alone here, hon.  Please be patient, one co-worker quit and the other overslept. ”

In planning my day here, I focused first on the South Carolina State Museum, then the area around the Capitol and, rather whimsically, thinking I might pay a visit to Fort Jackson.  This last, of course, would not be realized.  Military posts are very well-guarded, even against visits by veterans.

I had a tip from a friend who had also spent time on Fort Jackson, to visit a fine dining spot, with an unlikely name.  Before going to the museum, I followed up on this recommendation.

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Motor Supply Bistro is a gem of a place.  I sat at the bar, for lunch, as I frequently do, when dining alone.  Bars and counters are a great place to feel at home, in an eatery, as one connects with both workers and with other solo diners.  I made several new friends here, as a result and the food is delectable.   There is valet parking here, and the attendant found himself being both ignored and blocked in, by a surly delivery truck driver, when he went to retrieve my car.  I tipped him for his trouble and faced down the ruffian, myself.  I did not get ignored and my car was off the lot, in short order.  I don’t take kindly to my contemporaries treating younger people with such contempt.

The South Carolina State Museum is worthy of at least two hours’ visit.  I focused on the Museum’s take on the Civil War, which was a bit less top-heavy on defending the Confederacy, than I had thought might be the case, before visiting, and on the various industries that took root, after the War, in both the Piedmont and Low Country regions of the state.

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It is always a joy to see the work of students, in public museums.

Here is a map of South Carolina, prepared by children in a Columbia school.

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There is a fine little area that tells the story of Palmetto State paleontology.  The region had its share of dinosaurs-and of megamammals.  Here are an Albertosaurus skeleton

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and a Glyptodont, or giant armadillo.

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The rails were critical here, moving textiles and lumber, even before the Civil War.  This long car was called the Friend of Charleston.

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Textiles were able to be more efficiently produced, by machines such as this.

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The processing and de-shelling of nuts, a major cash crop, was abetted by this machine.

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Coastal hardwoods were much in demand, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century.  This device helped greatly, in hauling cut timber’

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The Catawba people, who lived in the Columbia area, prior to European settlement, produced basketry and intriguing wood carvings, as part of their cultural legacy.

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Here is a mock-up of a traditional Catawba house.

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Finally, I ended my photo-journey around Columbia, by visiting the Capitol grounds.  There are a few statues in honour of the Confederates, but my interest there was the State Capitol as a whole.

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The day ended with a lively poetry and visual media session at Cool Beans Coffee House.  The person who had invited me never showed, but I was made to feel welcome by the program’s hosts, so Columbia left me with a warm feeling.  Gamecocks are good people.

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The Home Base That Wasn’t

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June 25, 2019, Tryon, NC-

In the gloom of Spring, 2011, I was casting about in my mind, as to where I might plant myself.  At the time, I had one immediate goal:  To make my way to New Hampshire and attend the wedding of my sister’s youngest daughter- for whose happiness Penny and I had prayed for several years.  Other parts of life were in a state of suspension.  Though I worked the rest of the academic year, following Penny’s funeral and Aram’s life was slowly coming together, with the Navy on the horizon, I had ME to get settled.

Several locations presented themselves:  I could have relocated somewhere else in the metro Phoenix area, or somewhere else where I had family nearby.  Then, there were places with no family in the area.  One such place, to which I’d never been and of which I knew nothing, was Tryon.

I happened upon this town, whilst en route from Knoxville to Columbia.  It was dinner hour, so at long last, I left the highway and found a space for my car.  The place seemed magical.

It had been a fairly good day in Knoxville.  The East Side was hardly as intimidating as the earlier news reports had suggested.  There were troubled people in the room directly below me, but they kept their troubles to themselves and I had a good night’s rest.  A nice lunch, a workout at Planet Fitness and a car servicing at Big O all took place across town, and by early afternoon, I was back on the road.  If you’re ever in Knoxville and want a good, quick lunch, I recommend “Best Bagels in Town”- a small place, behind a Walgreen’s, just a couple of blocks north of Big O, at 120 S. Peters Road. I promised the owner I’d send a shout out, so here it is:  Best Bagels is true to its name.

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Back to Tryon: The downtown is compact, with a well-known equestrian resort a few miles further east.  I am more of a cozy downtown type, so while resorts are nice and all, give me a small coffee shop/cafe restaurant, any day.  One such place is Huckleberry’s.

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One of the recurring themes in my life is how much I want for the younger generations to realize their dreams, to succeed-often in spite of the powers that be “moving the goalposts” and recognizing when a young man or woman gets things right.

Georgia got it right, albeit being rather self-effacing and business-like. The sign that Huckleberry’s owner put on the wall says it best:

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Georgia did keep busy, though, greeting, seating and doing half the serving.  I’ll say it again and again:  We Boomers are in good hands,  as we hand off the baton.

Tryon has a thing for bears-and for its claim to fame:  Horses.  The first sight that greeted me, as I parked was a wooden bear.

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Horses adorn a couple of spots along Tryon’s two main streets.

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This multi-coloured horse is found near the Post Office.

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Any town which claims Nina Simone as a Native Daughter has my fullest admiration.  A consortium of artists is working to restore the home of her birth.

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I chose Prescott, AZ, of course, as my Home Base-largely because it was familiar and the family had property, for the first 3 years of my time there.  I will continue to call Prescott my Home Base, until we see where my little family settles, next year.  A place like Tryon would not necessarily be out of the question.

NEXT:  Fair Columbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Choo Choo In This Gig

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June 24, 2019, Chattanooga-

I stopped here, “en route” from Crossville to Knoxville, as I have driven on through this fascinating city, several times, on the way to this or that appointment- when going from Atlanta to Nashville or Knoxville.  My idea was to visit at least one of Chattanooga’s Big Three:  Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Summit and Rock City. Ruby Falls got the nod, as it sits off by itself, whereas the other two are  closer together.  Of course, I could have walked the steps up to the Summit, after the two hours or so spent underground, but the heat was lingering-so, another time. Ruby Falls and Rock City are equally pricey-each is $21.95 for an adult; a package runs $43.50.  There is also the “obligatory” photograph, taken before one is allowed into the cave.  In the end, one can choose to purchase the photo ($40 per person/group) or, as I did, say “No thank you”.

The cave is privately-owned, thus the entrance fee.  It is, though, well worth the time and money, to see the deepest underground waterfall in North America.  ( I think VietNam has one that is actually deepest on the planet.)  Several tour options are available- I took the Classic Waterfall Tour, with a group of about twenty people.  Down we went, 26 floors, via elevator.

Here is some of what we saw, in Leo Lambert’s boyhood playground-which he later named for his wife, Ruby, after exploring professionally with a team of spelunkers.

Leo had to crawl, for seven hours, through places like this, to reach an area where he could actually stand.

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Crystal deposits added a magical sense to his meanderings. (The blue lighting, of course, was added by the family, later.)

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It looks like this stalactite is actually holding up the cave, but it just kept on going downward, until it met the ledge.

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Here is where Mr. Lambert was first able to stand up, after seven hours of crawling.  I don’t know as my circulation would allow for that.

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Below is one of the few formations which people are allowed to touch, and even sit.

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The Leaning Tower actually does resemble the landmark in Pisa, though it’s not subject to shifting ground.

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This looks like it came out of a pasta maker.

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Imagine tobacco, drying in the sun.

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This looks like a frozen waterfall, but it’s more mineral deposit.

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The Falls!

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It was for this, that the Lamberts opened the caverns to the public, in 1929- a year when Americans needed all the comfort they could get.  So this afternoon, 24 of us stood, 1,120 feet underground, and marveled at what nature has put together.  It’s not Niagara, but it’s subterranean.

This is one place that Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t going.  Once off the mountain, though, I took an hour to check out downtown and get some fine ramen, with bubble tea on the side.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack up to Knoxville it was, afterwards. I had seen a news report about a gas station robbery, on the east side, a day or so ago.  I ended up at a motel just down the street from that gas station.  No worries, though-people just did their own thing and left me alone, for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Life goes on.

NEXT:  The Little Town That Almost Became Home Base

 

 

Where Rock Got Its Groove On

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June 21, 2019, Crossville, TN-

No, this little city in east central Tennessee has its charms, but rock’s birthplace is not its claim to fame.  That, of course, is a claim to be made by Memphis.

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I visited Sun Studio, one of my “gap” goals from years past.  In the early 1950’s, one Sam Phillips, an eager young musical production visionary, began this studio, on a shoe string budget. He had an idea that Gospel, Country and Blues, when blended together, would produce an amazing new sound. Sam was all about music as a means of expressing personal emotional power and he wanted to hear some rawness in the voices of those he auditioned.

Elvis Presley, happening by from his hometown of Tupelo, MS, was NOT one of those voices, initially.  He crooned, stuck to a mellow vibe-and bored Sam Phillips to tears.  After several auditions, Elvis’ mood changed, he rocked on out with a tune and got Sam and his crew running into the sound room, to see what was happening.  The rest is musical history.  Other musical greats, among them Johnny Cash, Ike and Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howlin’Wolf, BB King and Roy Orbison got their big breaks with Sam and Sun Studio.

Here is Elvis, visiting Sun whilst on leave from the Army, doing a set with three of his contemporaries.  This session became known as The Million Dollar Quartet.

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Below, our host, Lahna, is recounting one of many stories about Sam and his vision of musical fusion.  You can spot a photo of Sam Phillips on the lower right.

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Here are some promos for Howlin’Wolf and Ike Turner (before Tina).  Ike was the pianist on the first-ever Rock n’Roll tune:  “Rocket 88”.

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Fun fact: If Sam DIDN’T like a demo record, this is what happened to it. (See floor).

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He was all about the base.

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Marion MacInnes was Sam’s office manager, and his faithful right hand.  Is anyone familiar with the contraption on the left?

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Lahna is giving her wrap-up for the tour, in front of the sound room window.  Another fun fact:  Larry Mullen, Jr., of the band U2, donated a set of drums to Sun Studio-for display purposes.

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This was an awesome bit of musical history, made all the more enjoyable by a woman who clearly knows her rock stuff.

I took a bit of a ride eastward, well before actually leaving Memphis, and found La Ceiba, the area’s only Honduran restaurant.  Its forte seems to be seafood, yet I was in the mood for chicken.  I ordered the first item on the menu, which puzzled the hostess.  It turned out to be fairly recognizable:  Lightly battered fried chicken, apparently not the hostess’s favourite, but good-tasting, nonetheless.  I also found the chips and sauce, (not salsa), potentially addicting.  La Ceiba is well worth a try.

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A long drive around the fringe of Nashville ensued, as it was getting late and I wanted to get here to my friends’ house, before they needed to turn in.

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NEXT:  Reflections on Three Days By A Pond