Goodbye to the Varsity

Going to Athens every summer to visit Grandma and Aunt Marie usually included a trip to The Varsity. So, even though I don’t have a long history with it like others do, it still was a part of my childhood and a big part of the town where I was born.

I’m so glad we were able to take the grandkids to The Varsity back in the summer of 2019 after the Bryan/Bailey reunion. They loved the food, just as we did. But, as you can see, they were mesmerized by the TV; Chuck and I let them have the best view -haha!

June, 2019

This article, A Love Letter to the Varsity in Athens, Georgia by Caroline Sanders via Garden & Gun, expresses the sentiments of many people.

Halloween

October 31, 2020

I decided to take a walk around the hood tonight. I left my candy on a table on the front porch. Still there, and I’m sad. I truly don’t need to eat it.

I only passed three groups of trick-or-treaters. One was a group of three teenagers. The other two were little kids with parents. And though I passed some decorated houses, it was just so quiet.

But, you know what I heard that made me happy? Little voices shouting “thank-you” as they walked back to the street where their parents waited. It reminded me, in the words of TAB, “There’s hope for sure”.

The Avett Brothers

Hankies

image via eBay

I thank God for my collection of hankies. Between sweat, tears, and an occasional speck of blood from a sneaky thorn, I go through two-three a day. I still think of Cathy who had an affinity for hankies just like I do.

I think the days are gone when a gentleman would offer his hanky to a lady. Now, in the days of COVID-19, some might be horrified to be offered a hanky. This wasn’t going to be a post about all the ridiculousness of this “pandemic” mess we are in, but, well, there it is. I am so OVER wearing a mask and feeling coerced because I don’t think the masks do a bit of good.

Back to the hankies. I love to find them in antique stores. But, again, with the “pandemic” I have no interest in going to an antique store. I don’t even enjoy going to the grocery store anymore. I’m about ready to rebel.

I think I better just stop here. Maybe one day I will wax poetic about hankies. Today isn’t that day.

Now and Then

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I guess I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how much things have changed in my lifetime. I’ve had conversations at lunch with other teachers ranging from the lack of discipline at the school where I’m currently teaching to the future and implanting of microchips in people.  In the words of Cher, “if I could turn back time; if I could find a way” I’d certainly do it for the sake of my grandkids.

I was sitting in the car this morning outside a gas station “mini-mart”, reading the signs along the back wall  CRAFT BEER –  BEER –  SODA –  ENERGY.   So weird. Compared to the picture above of a 7-Eleven that looks like the ones of my childhood, people time traveling in either direction would be bound to be confused. Those coming from the past would not understand craft beer and they would wonder how in the world a person would buy energy at a 7-Eleven.

 

dairy farmers ofCanada

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Many people traveling backwards would be clueless about testing TV tubes. Of course, beer and ice cream have  obviously stood the test of time. As has milk, though we didn’t have all the different choices that are available today. My mom would send us to the drive-through milk store when we were teenagers and tell us to get a gallon of homogenized. That’s all I ever remember getting. Now I can get soy milk, almond milk,  coconut, cashew, rice, shrimp (jk),  lactose free, whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, fat-free, etc.

If could go back, I’d like to visit 1969. I was ten for most of that year, and in the fifth grade. I had my favorite teacher, Miss Wilkins. I was still in my familiar, well-loved elementary school. I walked a mile barefoot to go to the 7-Eleven to buy a small Icee for 11 cents. I caught crawdads in the ditch, built forts in the woods, played Barbies with my cousin and visited Mamaw in the summer with my family. Things changed the next year. Not all bad by any means, but some things were lost that could never be regained. Yet, some things were gained, some lessons learned, some memories made that shaped me, for better or worse.

 

Bookcase Browsings #1: Main Street Baptist Church of Auburndale

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We are unloading our bookcases as a first step in our preparing to move. It is a slow process for me as I’m TRYING to get rid of a few books but that’s a super hard thing for me. Then I come across yearbooks, church directories, school anthologies and other such items that make me pause and travel down memory  lane.

Pictured above is the cover of an old church directory, circa 2001. The first page shows the “staff”. Of these ten people, four have passed on. The senior pastor, Dr. Jay Wimberly, is the reason we know and love these people. He and his wife, Shirley, were a big part of our lives for many years. They are both gone, but their daughter, Dawn, who directed the music, still lives in the Winter Haven area. Forrest Gilliam is gone – he was a very special man. His loving wife still lives in Winter Haven. He was a paraplegic for many, many years and she took care of him in a way that always drew my great admiration for her. The other one gone, Gene Manning, was a man that I always saw with a smile on his face. He just made me feel good.

Others gone but not forgotten: Mrs. Brown, Roberta, Helen, Mrs. Hendricks, Cheryl, Grace.

The kids who now have kids: Mindy, Katie, Stephen, Tiffany, Laura, Jarrod, Angela, Kyle, Ben.

I’m sure I’ve  missed a few – we haven’t lived in the areas since 2005. But I still count some of these fellow Christians  among my close friends: Tom, Peggy and Mary. I keep up with others via facebook.

Moving is never easy, but I look forward to being just a little closer to some of these old friends in Florida.

 

 

 

Cypress Gardens Memories

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Legoland – June, 2017

I read the following article, posted by a former student, and it brought back my memories of the last decade of Cypress Gardens.

Before Disney There Was Dick Pope and His Cypress Gardens  

We moved to Lake Wales in 1992, then to Winter Haven in 1994. With a gift from a church friend of a yearly pass, I was able to visit often, especially with my two younger children. It wasn’t all bells and whistles like Disney, but beautiful, entertaining and convenient. A few years later I found myself teaching just down the road from the gardens at Garden Grove Elementary and then Denison Middle School. At Denison one year we had a student who, along with her parents, performed at Cypress Gardens. Really, she was the star and had been performing since she was very young. I think her days were numbered in the entertainment field, however, as she got older. She was an amazing gymnast and one day she climbed up on the desktops and gave us a demonstration. I can’t remember her name, or which Slavic country she was from, but she was a inspiration to me in the fact that she put much effort into her schooling, could speak two languages and helped support her family.

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Legoland June, 2017

After we moved away the transformation was made to Legoland. A few years ago we were able to take our grandchildren to enjoy the park. It wasn’t the same, but we had a great time. One place we took them  that hadn’t changed in Winter Haven was Andy’s Igloo. The burgers, shakes, and malts were just like I remembered them.

Thoughts inspired by MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY #2

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“Ashamed of herself as mothers are when they realize they have passed that point in life when they want more from their daughters than their daughters want from them.” – Frederik Backman

I hit this point many years ago. It has taken a while to settle in my heart that it’s a natural progression, this growing away from our mothers. And sometimes there is a point where we tip back towards them. I was still in that tipping back that comes when the empty nest makes you realize your mother’s nest has been empty a long time, when Mom died. Now there isn’t even a nest for her except in memories. Yet, I try to follow in her footsteps and reach out to those I know are lonely. I have a long way to go, but I have Mom’s example to guide me.

And all is not lost on the mother/daughter front. Sure, I yearn for the days when they were young and occasionally thought I hung the moon. But, I see in them a spark of Mom’s kindness and know that they will always tip back to me now and then.

 

Bell Camp: Day One

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Day one consisted of cemetery/house hopping.

Our first stop was the Oconee Hill Cemetery. It’s a lovely, historic cemetery and the setting for a book called The Song of Daniel by Philip Lee Williams. It is a huge place and I had no clue how to find my relatives except for a photo I had of some steps with my great-grandparents’ names on them. I had the kids and Chuck on the lookout for Baileys and not only did they find some, but also some Eberharts, Seagraves, Bells plus a few other names that the kids thought were funny. It was the photo that saved the day – we found the steps and then nearby the graves we were searching for. I was so excited!

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I had not been to the cemetery since 2000 for Aunt Marie’s funeral. Our little Juliette Marie is named after her as am I and my cousin Susan and my daughter, Leah. Juliette is also named for her mom, Claire Marie, her Noni and two great-grandmothers on her Mom’s side. We are all MARIE STRONG!!

 

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I found the resting places of my grandmother and great-grandparents, also. We found a random Sorrells headstone, which is how my husband and I are connected, but that’s another story for another day.

 

The next stop was the Friendship Baptist Cemetery in Danielsville. This is where Dad’s parents, grandparents, and other relatives are buried. I remember going here a few times as a kid when Mom and Dad would bring flowers and clean up the area a little bit. I also found the graves of Uncle (Give me some sugar) Eugued and Aunt Mabel Nash. Huff is a another family name and there were Huffs buried there, including my great-grandmother Annie Tallulah Huff Graham.

 

There’s a great story about one relative named Peter Hoff/Huff. Way back in the day, Peter Huff was a bootlegger who went by the name of Pint Peter since he supplied the pints for discreet drinkers in the area. When the government came in to put in a post office, they asked the people what to name the area. They said Pint Peter, but a misunderstanding resulted in it becoming Point Peter. Using gps, we were able to find the location, but the area is now referred to as the Glade. However, we did find a road sign, which led down a dirt road to a quarry.

 

We headed back to Athens for lunch at The Varsity.

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After lunch we located three old family houses in Athens. The first was on Sylvia Circle where we lived when I was about two. Again, it was a photo that led us to the correct house. The next was Grandma’s place on Vine Circle. It looked very much like I remembered it.  The last was a house where my great-grandmother Lucy lived in the 1940s. I found the address on a letter that was in a box of letters Mom had saved. I also have a picture of Lucy sitting on the steps of that very house which was built in the 1920s. I wanted so badly to go up and knock on the door, but I settled for taking a picture from the car window.

 

That night we once again walked to Mellow Mushroom for supper. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

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Artist at work in Mellow Mushroom

Day one of Bell camp was full of family history and a walk down memory lane for me.

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Scooter and playground break

 

 

 

Bell Camp: Pre-Day One

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At Memorial Park – Athens, Georgia

After our family reunion we were privileged to have our grandchildren for a whole week! We had a wonderful time with them. We stayed in Athens at the Hyatt for a few days which was a great location seeing a bit of Athens. We walked to the Mellow Mushroom for supper, then walked around some more afterwards, fulfilling my desire to reconnect with a bygone Athens and give the kids a little family history along the way.

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Mellow Mushroom – Athens, Georgia

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Absorbing wisdom from Athena

When I was a kid my Great Aunt Marie worked at the A & A Bakery in Athens. When we visited in the summers we would often pick her up from work in the afternoon when we arrived,. My Grandma lived in a small apartment on Vine Circle with just one bedroom. So, my older brother and I would often spend the night with Aunt Marie. We’d have great breakfasts, look through old photos albums and watch her grainy black and white TV. That’s where we saw the Great Wallenda cross the Tallulah Gorge.  I also remember  the nights of sleeping in the creaky twin bed in the same room with Aunt Marie.

Aunt Marie was known for her belching, which we mimicked in love, but even more for being the kindest person I’ve ever known. She loved life and never had an disparaging word for anyone. I’m so glad I have Marie for my middle name and strife to live up to her example.

I wanted to find the location of the bakery and was so excited when I did. It’s now a bar, which is sad, but I went inside and tried to imagine how it used to look.

 

We also saw the Georgia Theatre where Mom worked when she and Dad were dating. It was devastated by a fire in 2009 and rebuilt. The story of my Great Uncle Eugued coming by to see her there is a classic. He’d say, “Give me some sugar,” and embarrass her to death. Whenever I think of Uncle Eugued (we pronounced it like U-kerd) I think of Willie Nelson. I have no pictures of him except for my faint memories. He played the banjo and chewed tobacco and  Mom always told me how intelligent he was. He’d read The New York Times and other newspapers, but try to hide them from people, as if he didn’t want them to know that side of him. Quite the opposite from most people I think.

 

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Georgia Theatre – Athens, Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

Family Reunion

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On June 22 we had a Bryan/Bailey reunion. It was the first one ever for these two groups, but it turned out to be all Bryans – the Baileys were all interconnected to the Bryans as we had no Baileys in attendance outside my grandmother’s line. This was also the first reunion in 10 years and the first one ever for my grandchildren and daughter-in-law. It was a wonderful time of connecting and reconnecting.

Aunt Betty, at 92, was the oldest one there. She is still very much “with-it”. She gets around remarkably well, has no hearing loss and little memory loss. I visited her this past March and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We talked about a lot of family history as I was full of questions. We also, along with my cousin Melanie, worked together to finish a puzzle she had started of the state of Georgia.

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Aunt Betty, 92, with her nephew Johnny

My cousin, Susan, had the most descendants present at the reunion: her two sons and three of her four  grandchildren. Her son, Randall, who is a pastor, asked the blessing before we dug into what was a vast amount of food. Cousin Linda’s Pecan Chess Bars were to die for!

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I met cousins Kathi and Kim for the first time. They flew down from Illinois. There just wasn’t enough time to spend getting to know them better, but it was wonderful to hug them instead of just messaging via facebook.

 

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Kathi, Kim, me

Cousin Johnny, his wife Mary Lou, and granddaughter Sarah came the farthest – all the way from San Antonio, Texas!

I realize this post may not interest anyone outside the family. I just wanted to share a little. If you have Family Reunion experiences, please share in the comments.