31 October 2013

The Piedmont Chronicles as seen in the pages of About Covington to Madison: November 2013

*From the November 2013 edition of About Covington to Madison magazine.
Greetings! I hope this column finds everybody well. And welcome back to another installment of The Piedmont Chronicles in the pages of About Covington to Madison magazine. I’d like to take a moment and thank everyone for all of the kind comments and feedback on last month’s column on Newborn, GA. Thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing it and am glad that so many of you enjoyed reading it. And I know at least a few of you also enjoyed reading the expanded version with some of my personal recollections of living in Newborn that I posted on my web page. I’ve recently come across a self-published book by a Mr. J.G. Stowe that recounts his experiences and memories of growing up in Newborn in the early 1900’s. Fascinating, fascinating stuff. I’m planning on getting some excerpts of that up on the online version of the Chronicles, so keep an eye out for that.

As I mentioned last time, my second column ever in this “little book” was about Newborn, but what I didn’t mention was the other town I covered in that original column was Mansfield. Just down the road from Newborn, it is also a fine Southern town with some beautiful homes and lots of history. I’m planning on doing a full write-up on the town formerly known as Bob Lee (and also Carmel Junction) in the very near future.
Also, I’d like to give a big thanks to The Historical Society of Newton Co. for having me as the featured speaker at their latest meeting. As I’ve told a few folks, I consider myself an amateur historian and maybe a semi-decent writer at best, and that’s really about it. It was truly a pleasure to be asked to do that. The Society is a great organization and I would urge anyone who considers themselves enthusiasts of local history to join. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the Morehouse family for hosting the Society meeting out at Burge Plantation. I tell you what - Burge is truly a Newton Co. treasure. That place is amazing, and just beautiful. I always love going down there.

Well…there’s one more thing I’d like to address in the column. And for us UGA fans, this is kind of a sore subject. As I type this, our Dawgs have just fallen to 4-3 on the season and are licking their wounds after a loss to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt! Man, this season has really taken a turn on us, hasn’t it? Remember how we all felt after that LSU game? We were on top of the world – the sky was the limit. Now, just a few weeks later, and we’re seriously wondering if going 8-4 on the season might be considered a minor miracle. As several of you may know, my column before the Newborn one discussed UGA and I had made the prediction that we would go 11-1 in the regular season, win the SEC, and have a shot to play for the BCS championship. As a few folks who have gotten their digs in have let me know, I sure blew that one.

So, what happened? It ain’t rocket science. You just can’t lose your top 2 running backs and 3 of your top 4 receivers and expect to just keep rolling along. This season, to me, has been reminiscent of the 1965 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs. After huge wins over Alabama with the infamous flea-flicker play and Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Dawgs found themselves as highly ranked as number 4 in the country until injuries ripped the team apart and they limped to a 6-4 finish losing four of their final six games.

But as many of us know, it’s not just the injuries. Our special teams play has been especially horrid while our defense just hasn’t jelled like so many of us thought they would. Add to that offensive line play that has gone back and forth between brilliant and awful, and you’ve got a recipe for some tough times. With all that said, there’s something to keep in mind – one win can go a long way towards making things better. After a bye this weekend, the Dawgs head to Jacksonville to take on the Florida Gators. A win in that one would be huge. Hopefully we can get some folks healthy, regroup, work some things out, and finish strong. I sure hope so…

Alright, that’s all I got for this one. Like I said, a write-up on Mansfield is in the works, as is the long-awaited interview and corresponding column with a local musical legend. Stay tuned and definitely check out the online version of the Chronicles when you get a chance. Until next time.

02 October 2013

Newborn, GA

From the October 2013 edition of About Covington to Madison magazine. Additional online-only content can be found below at the end of the original article. Thanks for reading!
The Lovely City of Newborn, GA
Lots of Exciting Things Going On...

Howdy folks! Hope all is well out there. I'm glad so many of you enjoyed my 2013 UGA Football Preview in the last edition of About Covington to Madison. Looks like my prediction for the Clemson game missed the mark, but what a win against South Carolina! Hopefully we'll continue to improve and grow as a team and achieve the results that we all desire. Go Dawgs! 

This month I'd like to write about one of my favorite places in all of Georgia – good ole Newborn, GA. As a few of you might remember, my second column ever in this magazine published back in the Spring of 2009, covered this fine town. As I said then, “Newborn holds a special place in my heart as I lived there for four years after my Athens days. And I must say - I think of my time in Newborn often and fondly.” It's true. There's just something about that place. I still feel it now when I visit.

Originally named Sandtown (or maybe Cross Road), the Newborn area was first settled in 1819 making it the oldest settlement in Newton Co. with the exception of Winton (Brick Store). Newborn’s history is full and ups and downs. There was a time when there was a bank, hotels, multiple stores, a theater, and a thriving train depot. As was the case with many old, small towns in Georgia, the railroad was its lifeblood, and like so many southern towns, the boll weevil was its biggest detriment. And naturally the Depression did no favors for the area, either. And there were other tragedies as well. But through it all, Newborn survived, which is not always the case. Just look at towns we’ve covered like Webbville (Factory Shoals) or New Berlin (North Oxford) here in Newton, or Smith's Mill or Leakesville down in Jasper as well as several others in this general vicinity that would end up dying and returning to nature. But not Newborn. There's a resiliency there – you can feel it.

Newborn and her people are also rather unique. Some might say eccentric. Well, their motto is “A Town With Characters,” and that would be an apt description. Maybe there's something in the water. Regardless, it's just a really cool place with some very good people. And there's so much history in Newborn. And that ties in to one of the things I wanted to cover in this piece...

Zeigler-Childs Building (Town Hall)
A new book is being released next month about the history of this town. Newborn, GA — Characters, Places, Tales is a 500+ page book written by 8 different contributors under the name of The Happy History Committee of Newborn. The book has many different stories and accounts of several long-time Newborn residents and families and many historical events. There are upwards of 500 pictures in this book as well. And as I understand it, there's a good bit of stuff about the late Jeanette Zeigler. As anyone who knew her would tell you, Ms. Jeanette was simply a marvelous woman. There is also a lot of content about families like the Pitts, Childs, Epps, Adams, Webbs and others. There is a good bit of information specifically about John Pitts, the Union sympathizer who hosted Sherman during his March to the Sea, and the one person most likely responsible for why Newborn wasn't burned to the ground. A very interesting story that's in the book that I hadn’t heard about deals with a shooting at the Childs Store in 1916 when Ole Man Estes gunned down Clifford Childs over a land dispute. Man, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!

It will be released on October 19th and can be pre-ordered at www.newbornga.com or via mail by sending in a check for $25 for a black and white copy or $60 for a color copy to P.O. Box 160, Newborn, GA, 30056. After talking with both Julia Wilson and Beth Scarbrough about the book, it seems like there's a definite theme: despite the ebb and flow and the tough times over the years, Newborn has always maintained a strength and vitality and an appreciation of its value and what it has to offer. 

Also on the 19th of October is the much anticipated Newborn Tour of Homes and Landmarks. Set to begin at 10AM and put on by the Newborn Garden Club, the tour will showcase 6 homes: the Porter Manor House and Gardens, the Burge/Bolton House, the Burge Plantation Cottage and Grounds, the Sandtown/Hodges Home, the Plott Home, and the Dobbs Home. Also included are four historic landmarks: the Newborn Schoolhouse & Cemetery, Newborn United Methodist Church, the Pitts General Store, and the Zeigler-Childs Building (the current site of the Newborn Town Hall and Library).

Porter Manor Home and Gardens
One of the featured homes, the Porter Manor House and Gardens, is owned by a local couple, Susan Oliveto and Chris Dapkus. These two have done a remarkable job renovating this beautiful home. Built in the 1890's, it has a traditional shotgun-style dogtrot bordered by same-sized rooms, but the exterior, however, is rather unique. For starters, it's the tallest building in Newborn and it has something you won't find much in the South – a mansard roof, flat on top with curves coming off the sides in a English Manor style with a bit of a Second Empire feel. And Chris, a horticulturist by trade, has by all accounts done an outstanding job with the grounds and landscaping. They bought the house in 2008 and have loved living in Newborn ever since. “This town is so special,” according to Susan, adding that there's very much a sense of pride in Newborn and they are happy to be a part of it.

There is also a reunion for alumni of the old Newborn Schoolhouse on the 19th. That will be taking place at the Schoolhouse at 11AM. Lunch will be served and any and all alumni as well as their families are invited to attend.

Bigger Family Band at the Newborn Jubilee
And last but not least – the 19th is the third Saturday of the month so that means it's another installment of the Newborn Dixie Jubilee at the Newborn Schoolhouse. Hosted by Mr. Steve Biggers, my father-in-law, the Jubilee is a always a big event. Joined by his house band, the Dixie Gentlemen, they play old-timey country and gospel music and always have a good time. Music starts up at 6. Doors open at 5:30. Food and Refreshments available. 

So there you have it. Lots of exciting stuff going down in Sandtown! Hope you enjoyed that. I'm really excited about next month's article, so keep an eye out for that. And definitely check the online version of the Chronicles as I'm writing a good bit over there these days. I will also be posting an expanded version of this column with some additional content and some of my personal recollections of Newborn. Until next time. 
Online-only additional content for my latest edition of The Piedmont Chronicles as seen in the pages of About Covington to Madison magazine

As I mentioned in the original write-up, I lived in Newborn for about four years after I graduated from the University. I moved to Newborn in September of 1998 and moved back to Covington in October of 2002. It was a really cool time for me. I was sort of “finding myself,” you might say, but was very much enjoying the ride. Even though I had just gotten a college degree in real estate about 8 months prior, I was really just looking for a job to be able to pay the bills. That job turned out to be at Bess's Place working for Andy and Julia Wilson. I would work there for about two years and absolutely loved it! I still think about those days a good bit. More on that in a minute...

The house I used to live in no longer stands, but I'll have you know that it had a front porch that was voted the best beer-drinking porch in the great state of Georgia for several years running. I've had folks jokingly ask me if I was the reason why the house was demolished. I don't think so as it was torn down many years after I left and moved back to C-town. Some of you might remember it. It was the turn-of-the-century white house with the big porch right next to the RR tracks on 142. We had some big times in that place! A few parties, lots of “yard golf,” and maybe the occasional ruckus. Squirrels lived in the attic and would often play “squirrel soccer,” in which they would seemingly kick and pass pecans all across the attic floor.

One time I made some muscadine wine in a dark closet just off of the kitchen. I got a recipe with the right amounts of sugar, yeast, and muscadines. After a month, and that stuff was pretty damn good! What I failed to realize was this: after it hits the right point, then you need to properly bottle it or refrigirate it. I just left it in the big jar I made it in with some cloth over the top of it. After a couple of months, it kinda turned but I neglegted to mention that to a buddy of mine who wanted to try it. Let's just say that it didn't agree with him...
Bess's Place

As I mentioned, I often think back to my days working at the “Pecan Grove,” AKA Bess's Place, putting out some great food and making some great memories with the likes of Andy, Ms. Julia, Bobby D, Ms. Virginia, Patty, Chris and Chris, the rest of the crew, and of course, Mr. Bobby Savage - God rest his soul. Thinking about Bess's also makes me think of Ms. Alice Adams. She was Ms. Julia's mother and would always eat lunch at the restaurant. She was such a great lady. Super nice and sweet, but not without a bit of spunk and a keen sense of humor. For months I would always make the mistake of telling her, after my daily visit to ask her how her food was, to have a nice day. She'd always shoot back, “don't you tell me what to do!” Ha! I loved that woman.

I'll also never forget September 15, 2001. I had planned and promoted a big show out on the new deck at Bess's called, “The All-Star, Feelin' Good Newborn Music Revue.” I had five different acts lined up for a big, four hour show. A couple of my groups at the time were playing, St. Moore's Fear and The Cosmic Rednecks. I even had a pretty well-known singer-songwriter out of Atlanta, Brian Ashley Jones, lined up as well. We all know what happened on the Tuesday before this show, that Tuesday being September 11th. There was some definite discussion as to whether or not we should cancel. It seemed like it was about 50/50 from most folks involved – musicians, Bess's people, friends, and fans. In the end, as promoter, it was my call. I felt like we had to do it. A good buddy of mine's parents had this huge American flag. We got it up on the side of the building right behind where we were playing. It was perfect. As it turns out, I think most folks were glad we did it as we had a huge crowd with more people than space on the deck. Most of the show there were dozens of people out if the parking lot or in the field next to the restaurant who couldn't get on the deck. I had many folks tell me the highlight of the night is when I did an electric, Hendrix-style rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. A few folks said they cried. So many people came together to make that show happen. It was a very special night.

I could probably write a book about my four years in Newborn. So many characters. So many interesting events, people, and things. There's really no other place on Earth like Newborn. But I do love that little town.