Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

IT HAPPENED IN ELEVEN


Not all news stories make the headlines of long-lasting importance. On the other hand, some seemingly inconsequential stories do have an impact on the way will live, a century later. Others had no long term significance, but at the time, they were interesting, curious, or downright fascinating. These are some of those stories which made the news in the year Nineteen and eleven.

The tabulations of the 1910 Census were in. Dublin grew at an unbelievable rate of 94 percent in the first decade of the 20th Century, leading to the horn-tooting moniker, "Dublin - the only city in Georgia that's doublin' all the time." That rate paled in comparison to the 240 percent population increase in the 1890s. Over those two decades, the county seat grew from 863 people to 5,795, for a 572 percent increase. Dublin ended the decade as the 19th largest city in the state. Laurens County, with its 35,501 enumerated residents, was tabulated as the 7th largest county in the state, just a few hundred inhabitants behind Muscogee County.

The year 1911 was one of the most productive, if not the most productive, in the history of Laurens County agriculture. Local farmers produced more than 60,000 bales of cotton, each weighing 500 pounds, for a total of thirty million pounds - a figure which was more than any other county in Georgia that year and more than the yearly crop of Missouri. That record stood for nearly eight decades when machine harvested mega farms in South Georgia topped the mark.

Laurens County corn farmers were also right proud. Messers D.R. Thomas and J.T. Mercer planted twelve acres of prize winning corn. J.E. Smith, Jr. and the Chamber of Commerce pledged to pay a bounty of $1000 to anyone who could match the yield of the men, who produced 1,050 bushels on 9.5 acres in 1910. The reward was never claimed, leading to a local booster's claim that this Laurens County patch was the best in the United States. One indicator of the superlative agricultural productively of the county came when a local hardware company ordered twelve car loads of a popular plow. Eight years before the same firm only purchased on twelve plows. G.W. Kent came to Laurens County in 1896 without a single cent. A decade and a half later, the successful farmer operated a diverse 158-acre, three-mule farm and made a profit of $3,000 without incurring any debt.

Laurens County had the largest corn club in the state with 241 boys and 292 girls enrolled. R.P. Vaughn was right proud of his pig. He even charged folks ten cents a head to come by his house at 302 Jefferson Street to see his highly prized and overly heralded, one-headed pig, which possessed two bodies and eight feet.

The Mingledorffs of Dublin were known locally and across the countryside for their marathon bicycle trips. Frank, George, Claude, and Lambuth Mingledorf took their first ride over to Guyton, Georgia and back. They liked cycling so much that Frank and Claude rode their bicycles to Wilmore, Kentucky where they attended school. In the late spring of 1911, George, Claude and Lambuth set out in a northerly direction and pedaled all the way to Canada and back.

The year was also a prime year in banking circles. The Commercial Bank of Dublin, with a capital stock of $25,000 was chartered by J.M. Page, E.D. White, R.R. Johnson, C.O. Sikes, J.O. Barnes and A.P. Hilton. The Farmers State Bank of Dexter was headed by F.M. Daniel, Jerome Kennedy, John D. Walker, Dr. L.W. Wiggins, H.L. King, W.P. McClelland, Ernest Clarke, C.T. Beacham, Sr., P.A. Ashley, B.F. Wood, and F.L. Hobbs. The Montrose Banking Company, with $25,000 in assets, was founded by C.R. Williams, W.S. Burns, J.H. Rowland, E.J. Garbutt, W.M. Allen, H.E. Butler, Joel A. Smith, Sam Bashinski, W.G. Thompson, H.C. Black, Mrs. O.J. Pierce, E.L. Wade, C.C. Wade and W.R. Cook. A fourth bank, the Bank of Lovett, was incorporated by B.T. Kight, L.J. Manning, Dr. C.H. Manning, C.H. Moorman, A.J. Carter, J.D. Matthews, D.A. Moorman, W.T. Bridges, Mrs. P.M. Johnson, Della Manning, E.J. Smith, R.T. bray, C.W. Mills, J.J. Wyhnn, I.T. Jackson, M.F. Hightower, G.L. Garnto, J.D. Garnto, J.W. Stewart, E.K. Sumner, John B. Haines, A.W. Newson, B.W. Morgan, W.D. Sumner, Wright Sumner, Mrs. E.A. Hall, and C.R. Williams. The fifth and final bank organized in 1911 was the Bank of Rentz, which was founded by T.J. Taylor, H.D. Barron, John D. Walker, J.T. Mercer, J.F. Graham, P.C. Coleman, W.E. Bedingfield, W.A. Bedingfield, and B.O. Rogers.

The first leg of what would become Highway 80 was graded from Turkey Creek to the Wilkinson County line. The eight-mile stretch was part of a 54 mile road said to be one of the finest roads in the state.

Dudley folks had a lot of excitement in the first year of the second decade of the 20th Century. A firebug torched the home of Rev. S.W. Gray and the Dudley Supply Company within two weeks. Dudley lost the dormitory of the Dudley School and the Baptist Church two years before. Excitement of a different kind came on August 10, when gubernatorial candidate Pope Brown spoke to an assembled multitude of three thousand persons who came for car races, music, and barbeque.

Ice cream lovers loved the news the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Work's announced that it was making forty gallons per hour. Aldine Hawkins promised delivery of the company's "Hokey Pokey" ice cream in sanitary churns all over the county in ample time for dinner. Hawkins promised his ice cream would last for days before melting.

Only the second and third brick homes ever built in Dublin were constructed in 1911. J.S. Almond built a two-story brick house between his and J.A. Peacock's on Monroe Street. The house still stands and is a part of the Townsend Brothers Funeral home complex. A.B. Eubanks built Bellevue Avenue's first brick home (1305). The two-story, ten-room house was erected at a cost of $6,000.00 and is the last house on the northern side of Bellevue Avenue as you leave the downtown area.
In what appears to be the first game of basketball ever played, or at least reported to be played, by a Laurens County team, Dublin High's boys traveled to Macon to face the second team of Mercer University. Frank Grier, Currell Daniel, Leon Bush, Edgar Hodges, Sam Daniel and Lee Smith lost 34-3 and returned the following week to see their first win on the outdoor court in Stubbs Park. When players and spectators needed a refreshing drink, all they had to do was to go over to the new artesian well, dug by Thad Bostick. Bostick's pride and joy provided cool, clear water at the rate of 50 gallons per minute. That output didn't count the half-million gallons per day used by city water customers.

For the first decade and a half of electrical service, the City of Dublin acted as the only provider of electrical wiring. That practiced stopped in 1911 when private electricians took over the job of lighting our homes and businesses.

Of the year's most lasting impact was the formation of the Laurens County Baptist Association in November, which is more active in serving the needs of its members and the needy than it ever has been before.

As I complete my fifteenth year of writing "Pieces of Our Past," I want to thank each and every one of you who have enjoyed my writing. My zeal for writing comes from the stories of the outstanding people who call Laurens County and East Central Georgia their home and the hope they will inspire others. And, always remember that our most important history is in our future.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THEN AN ANGEL APPEARED ......


by: Lorene Flanders


Note: Today's Pieces of Our Past is written by Lorene Flanders, formerly of Laurens County. Lorene, a daughter of Fred and Martha Flanders, is Professor and Dean of Libraries at the University of West Georgia. Also a historian and a former librarian at GCSU, Lorene has served as Bibliographer for the Georgia Historical Society since 1999, co authoring the bibliography of Georgia history published annually in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.  (Photo at left by Scott B. Thompson, Sr.)




***************

In the cemetery at Carters' Chapel in eastern Laurens County, a marble angel standing before a flower-wreathed cross marks the small grave of Edith Flanders, born June 6, 1910. Edith died December 20, 1911, from burns suffered when her clothing caught fire as she knelt to pick up her doll. Edith was the first child of Mamie Carter Flanders, 1880-1946, whose father and uncles built Carters' Chapel, and John Flanders, 1875-1944, a native of Wrightsville.

Mamie Marie Carter and John Wesley Flanders were married June 22, 1904, a few years after Mamie graduated from LaGrange Female College. John trained for two years under his father, Dr. James Washington Flanders, in preparation for attending medical school, before taking up farming and construction for a livelihood. John built a house next door to his parents when he and Mamie married, but the couple sold it and purchased a farm in Dooly County, Georgia, about four miles southwest of Vienna on the Drayton Road. In addition to farming, John built houses, including a new home and tenant houses on the Dooly County farm. He also helped build a gin and cottonseed oil mill for Howell and Eggleston, a project that reflected southwest Georgia's strong pre-boll weevil economy.

By 1910, when they welcomed their first child, the couple was well established, growing cotton, and raising hogs, cows, and chickens. Dapp (Mary) and Charlie Gilbert and their son Gideon lived on the farm, as did a number of tenant families. Dapp did house work for Mamie, while Charlie worked for John on the farm. Mamie's garden, just outside the kitchen, was enclosed in a neat picket fence.





Mamie and John named their daughter Edith for Mamie's paternal grandmother, Edith Calhoun Carter, 1812-1897, who died when Mamie was seventeen. The name appears in Mamie's family as far back as the thirteenth century. A photograph taken when baby Edith was a few months old shows the family in front of their new house with Edith's nurse. A driver holds the reins to a horse hitched to a fine buggy.



John Wesley Flanders

Edith's brother Fred, who was born in 1914 nearly three years after her death, wrote of his parents' recollections of their daughter. "She turned out to be a rather small blonde little girl who was never sick and walked and talked very soon. She soon learned to feed my dad grains of rice on her finger. She would follow dad to the oak tree where he milked his Jersey cow twice a day. She had a blue and white enameled cup she wanted filled fresh from cow to cup. She would drink as much as she wanted and put her cup behind her back on her finger and go humming back to the house. She thrived and must have been my parents' little darling from what they spoke about her." Edith sometimes called her mother "Coot," a nickname Mamie acquired when she fell off a log into a cooter (duck) hole on Pennahatchee Creek, which ran close to the farm.

On a cold Tuesday morning in December, 1911, John was at work on the farm and Mamie was preparing to cook dinner over a big fire in the fireplace. She put on a coat, got a pan, and ran out in the cold wind to the sweet potato banks. As she started back to the house, she heard Edith scream and the child ran to Mamie with her clothes on fire. Mamie grabbed her daughter, rolled in the dirt to extinguish the fire, and took Edith inside. Desperate to summon help, Mamie ran back outside and began ringing the farm bell, becoming aware that her hands were badly burned as she frantically pulled the rope.

John and the farm hands came running. Alerted by the bell, nearby tenant families also came to the house. The women did what they could for Mamie and Edith, while others summoned more neighbors. John harnessed up his mule Stogen, and the white buggy horse, and raced to Vienna to get a doctor. According to an account by Fred Flanders written in 1988, Dr. Fred Williams and his registered nurse sped to the farm in the doctor's car, followed by Dr. Fred Mobley. Eventually, the doctors took John aside and told him how seriously both Edith and Mamie were burned. During the afternoon and evening, the doctors came and went, while their nurses ministered to Mamie and Edith. Despite heroic medical efforts, Edith passed away about 6:00 a.m. the following morning.

John returned to Vienna to make funeral arrangements. He placed calls to his and Mamie's parents and sent telegrams to family members who did not have phones. That afternoon, John and Mamie, accompanied by a nurse, took Edith's remains by train from Vienna to Macon, where they transferred to the Macon, Dublin, & Savannah Railroad for the journey to Dublin. Fred Flanders wrote that Mamie "was very grieved, and in much pain." The Vienna News reported that the couple's grief at the loss of their only child was "beyond human expression."



Mamie Carter Flanders


Mamie's father George Carter and her sister Joanna met the train in Dublin. John's cousin, Laurens County sheriff J.J. Flanders, took charge of the entourage as it made its way to the Carter farm some twelve miles east of Dublin. Joanna Carter, who had served as the family's chauffeur since 1908, when her father purchased his first car, was too upset to drive. Sheriff Flanders stayed to assist with funeral preparations. Edith was buried at Carters' Chapel on Thursday, December 21, with relatives, and many of John and Mamie's friends, including the Davis and Morgan families from Dooly County, in attendance.

Due to the severe burns to her hands, Mamie was unable to feed or dress herself for some time. Her mother Ocala Odom Carter, Joanna, and John's mother Sarah Hightower Flanders took turns staying with the couple when Mamie returned home some months later.


Jordan and Hart Campbell,
Children of Lorene Flanders
at the grave of
Edith Flanders
Carter's Chapel Church
Laurens County, Georgia.


In October, 1914, Mamie gave birth to her second and last child. She and John named the baby George Frederick for his grandfather George Carter, and Dr. Fred Mobley, who delivered him, and who had cared for Mamie and Edith after the tragic fire. Fred Flanders wrote of his mother's lifelong grief, "She never really got over losing her little daughter, as I could 'read' the signs so well."

          Lorene Flanders, niece of Edith Flanders

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DON'T KILL ME, I'M JUST THE MUSIC TEACHER

DON'T KILL ME!



I'M JUST THE MUSIC TEACHER!

Charles Vet didn't know at the time why he was being thrashed and pommeled. When he found out, the music maestro hired two of the best out of town lawyers he could find and afford. He took his attackers to Federal court and won.

In the winter of 1906, Dublin's Board of Education hired Charles Vet as the school system's music teacher. The French-speaking teacher taught piano and music lessons on the side to supplement his woefully meager salary.

On the night of May 29, 1906, Professor Vet went to bed in his modest apartment contemplating the next day's musical lessons. Vet maintained that B.A. Hooks entered his room and through a clever ruse induced him to come outside because he was wanted by the Board of Education. All of a sudden, a quintette of malefactors flogged, beat and battered him with wooden clubs and brass knuckles as retribution for his alleged wholly inappropriate and highly offensive remarks directed at a young unmarried female teacher in the school. Hooks maintained that Vet drew a gun on him and his friends as they were leaving the scene. He claimed that they acted solely in self defense. Vet, on the other hand, claimed that he did try to draw his gun, but that his attackers ripped it out of his coat and stabbed him in the throat.

Vet was so drubbed that he could not get out of his bed for a week. Being an helpless outsider, the pummeled professor had no luck in having his attackers arrested on felony criminal charges. With no other place to go, Professor Vet moved to Florida. His only practical remedy was to file a civil suit in a court of jurisdiction outside the limits of Laurens County.

Professor Vet, seeking at least $10,000.00 in damages, hired Du Pont Guerry and Peter W. Meldrim to file a case of trespass and assault in Federal court in Macon. He named as defendants, B. A. Hooks, T. W. Hooks, Blount Freeman, Daniel Driggars, and Andrew A. Cowart. Guerry, a frequent gubernatorial candidate and a long time U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, left his previous position as President of Wesleyan College in 1909 to return to private practice. Meldrim, known to have been both a literal and figurative fighter in the courtroom, would later become Judge of Chatham County Superior Court.

A trial was held on May 20, 1911 in the Federal Court Building in Macon. The illustrious Emory Speer served as the presiding judge. The defendants hired Alexander and Charles Ackerman, both of Dublin to defend them. Alexander Akerman was the Assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District. A year later, Akerman would become the U.S. Attorney. After moving to Florida, Alexander Akerman was named to the Federal bench by President Calvin Coolidge. His brother Charles was a practicing attorney in Dublin.

After a series of procedural maneuvers, the first day's testimony shocked those spectators who were hoping for a sensational scandal. Defendant B.A. Hooks took the stand first and professed that it was Vet, who drew a gun on him and the other defendants.

Professor Vet, speaking in broken English, took the stand and reiterated essentially the same story of the unprovoked attack on him. Courtroom curiosity seekers, the lawyers and even Judge Speer had to lean in toward Vet to understand his barely discernible testimony.

Vet testified that he had some difficulty with Miss Dew, the school's elocution teacher. According to the music teacher, Miss Dew wanted to use the piano in an upcoming school exhibition. He testified that he told the young teacher that she was "unladylike" as he took the piano into his own classroom. The Akermans introduced police reports tending to indicate that Vet had committed prior instances of insulting comments toward women.

To prove their claim that Vet's body had been seriously injured, Guerry and Meldrim introduced his broken, crushed hat along with his tattered, bloody coat, spattered with Vet's own blood. His lawyers pointed to a scar on his throat and claimed that the brutal attack was the proximate cause of their client's deafness.

Professor W.R. Lanier, a most credible and well-respected witness, testified that he heard Hooks say, "If I could get two or three helpers, I will give Vet a thrashing."

Miss Dew, described by a Macon Telegraph reporter as "young and attractive," took the stand next. A hush fell over the room as all present intensely listened. Judge Speer ruled that her testimony was irrelevant and excused the teacher from the courtroom.

One by one the other defendants took the stand. Blount Freeman, T.W. Hooks and Daniel Driggars denied that they had any part in the alleged attack. A.A. Cowart did not make an appearance, a move claimed by some to be calculated to avoid a judgment as he was insolvent. The trio placed the blame on Hooks and Cowart, who had previously plead guilty in the Dublin City Court. J.L. Robinson was sworn in and testified that Freeman, T.W. Hooks, and Driggars had no part in the fracas. Dr. J.M. Page, testifying on behalf of the defendants, stated that Vet's wounds were not as serious as he had declared.

In their closing arguments, Vet's attorneys reviewed the evidence and asserted that they had established a prima facie case against the defendants. Dublin Judge John S. Adams, one of the city's most well respected attorneys, argued that Vet had been lying about his $100.00 a month income as he had earned more than $60.00 a week. Alex Akerman pointed out the fact that Vet's straw hat was not bent on its right side, the side in which Vet stated he could not hear out of. Akerman proceeded with a grand theory that the actions of the defendants were nothing more than Southern chivalry in protecting the virtues of the young and innocent female teacher.

Meldrim, a consummate courtroom performer, rose to his feet, threw down his notes, and yelled, "Southern chivalry, bah!" He questioned whether or not chivalry was luring a simple stranger from a foreign land into the dark and beating him dangerously. Judge Speer agreed and charged the jury that all evidence of chivalry was irrelevant. Speer accented his point by stating generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the epitome of Southern chivalry, would not have shown that kind of behavior.

The jury deliberated for an hour before returning a verdict against B.A. Hooks and A.A. Cowart in the amount of $1,000.00 each and $300.00 from T.W. Hooks, Blount Freeman, and Daniel Driggars, collectively. B.A. Hooks appealed to Judge Speer for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict of the jury. Judge Speer denied the motion and Hooks filed an appeal to the District Court of Appeals. The following November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

It was one of those cases when no one went home happy. Vet, partially deaf and only slightly compensated after paying his two high-priced attorneys, and Hooks and his accomplices, greatly lighter in their wallets, couldn't understand what they did was wrong. Vet, at least could take some consolation in the fact that he was still playing the piano with two good hands and listening with one good ear.




Tuesday, December 06, 2011

EYEWTINESS TO INFAMY




Pancakes were all that Marjorie Wilson could think about as she drifted in and out of her Sunday morning dreams. It was just another normal sunny day, or so Marjorie thought. When she could practically smell pancakes, Marjorie rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, got out bed, put on her robe and headed downstairs to the kitchen. Pleasant thoughts turned into nightmares. Did it not seem real? Was it a all a bad dream?

The date was December 7, 1941. The place was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The clock in the Wilson house was about to strike eight. Marjorie Hobbs Wilson, daughter of Walter A. Hobbs and Mary Arnold Hobbs, awoke from dreaming about pancakes to witness a nightmare, the momentous bombing of Pearl Harbor, which turned the world on its head. It was a cataclysmic day. It was a day which still lives in infamy seven decades later.

Marjorie's husband, Sergeant Major Bob Wilson, was stationed in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor. Relations between the United States and Japan had begun to deteriorate. Many expected a war, but not that soon, and not in this way.

Bob Wilson was the first to awake that morning. The Wilsons heard no alarms, no air raid warnings. Bob, running up the steps of the couple's two story house, said, "Honey, you are missing a good mock war." Sgt. Major Wilson looked out the window again and realized that it was no drill. The roar of planes near the naval base wasn't unusual. In fact, the Wilsons and other servicemen and their families had grown accustomed to planes engaging in maneuvers.

Marjorie looked out the window. "The Jap planes were flying so low over our house that the wheels were almost rolling on the roofs. I knew it was the real thing when I saw a bomb make a direct hit," she recalled.

Bob Wilson, a veteran of the first World War, ran to his closet and began to put on his Marine uniform. Marjorie turned on the radio. Frantic broadcasters were constantly announcing that Japanese planes were attacking the Island of Oahu and for all men to report for duty at once. Bob got to his unit as soon as he could.

Marjorie Wilson first ran to the home of her girlfriend, Margaret De Sadler. Then Marjorie and Margaret went over to Harriett Hemmingway's house. As they ran down the streets, Mrs. Wilson recalled running along a quiet street, but seeing real bombs exploding nearby.

"Several girls had gathered there and we were there when the worst part was going on," Marjorie wrote in a letter to her parents later in the day. Mrs. Wilson recalled, "There were about seven kids there and all scared stiff. Harriett was almost out of her head. She has two little boys, one three and one five." I haven't been scared so far. I don't guess I've got enough sense to be."

More of the wives and their children gathered in the house. While the attack was on, the ladies kept their children calm by lying on the floor with them and drawing pictures. "I never knew anything about drawing before, but after that session, I think I am a pretty fair artist," Wilson chuckled. When one piece of shrapnel came inside the house, the children were herded into an interior room. Marjorie reached down and picked up the metallic souvenir.

Margaret accompanied Marjorie back to the Wilson house, where they put some clothes in a suitcase just in case they needed to evacuate to the hills. Bob Wilson returned to his house to make sure Marjorie had a radio to hear special announcements as all regular radio programming was suspended.

During the carefully premeditated surprise attack, Mrs. Wilson observed, "Some of the youngsters in the service ran out on the field shaking their fists at the Japanese planes even when they saw a bomb falling their way." She observed one Marine cook firing away with his anti-aircraft gun. The man suddenly remembered that he had a chocolate cake in the oven and ran to make sure it wasn't burning. "It was a silly thing to think of at a time like that - but those boys did enjoy the cake when the fireworks were over," she fondly recalled.

On that Sunday night, practically every light in Pearl Harbor was turned off. Marjorie and Margaret pulled down a mattress from the upstairs and tried to get some sleep on the downstairs floor. Marjorie took out a pen and wrote a letter back to her parents promising to let them know how she was doing as often as she could. " As soon as I can, I'll send you a wire, but I don't know now when that will be possible," she also wrote.

"We spent a pretty quiet night. Of course, Margaret and I both slept with one eye and one ear open," Marjorie recalled. The ladies had some comfort in the fact that a sentry was stationed right in front of her house.

At one o'clock in the morning, Alfred Sturgis rang the door bell and invited the ladies to come stay with him. Sturgis, who had worked all day at the Navy yard, couldn't drive his car during the blackout periods. Sturgis took Marjorie's letter and made sure it made it back to Dublin, just in time for Christmas.

After the initial shock, things at Pearl Harbor seemed to return to normal, or at least as normal as it could be under the circumstances. Marjorie remembered the blackouts every night. She recalled seeing Japanese merchants being rounded up and hauled in front of late night tribunals. She regretted that she and the other wives rarely saw their husbands. The ladies had gas, lights and water for the next day, but military officials cut off the water after reports that insurgents had poisoned the water supply.

Marjorie Hobbs returned to Atlanta three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She didn't want to come home and leave her husband behind. "I got my orders so here I am - and I am going to try to find some kind of war work to do as soon as I can," she told Celestine Sibley of the Atlanta Constitution.

Marjorie eventually returned to Dublin. She was a member of the John Laurens DAR, the Shamrock Garden Club and was the first president of the Dublin Service League. Bob Wilson made it home safely too. After retiring as a Warrant Officer from the Marine Corps, Bob owned and operated the Western Auto Store in town. He died in 1980. Marjorie Hobbs Wilson died on July 20, 2002 and is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin.

It was seventy years ago tomorrow when Marjorie Wilson woke up from a dream and witnessed that infamous day, the day the world changed forever.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THOMAS JEFFERSON JAMES

CAPTAIN T.J. JAMES


The Founder of Adrian


In the last twenty-five years of his life, Thomas Jefferson James was known as a builder of railroads. At the turn of the 20th Century, Captain James, as he was dubbed by all those who admired him, built a small metropolis in the wiregrass fields of East-Central Georgia. James died in Atlanta one hundred years ago on November 28, 1911. This is his story.

Thomas Jefferson James was in the northeast Central Georgia county of Jones on June 20, 1846. His mother, the former Miss Druscilla Lyles, died just before Thomas' fourth birthday. His father, Benjamin Jones, while visiting his elder sons in the Confederate Army fell victim to a fatal case of pneumonia and died on September 11, 1861.

Thomas was sixteen, strong, and eager to join his brothers, Abel and William. He traveled to Caroline County, Virginia, where on the 2nd day of June 1863, Private Thomas James subscribed his name before J.N. Beall on the enlistment roll of Company B, 12th Georgia Regiment, known as the Jones Volunteers. A single month later, Thomas James would witness the greatest carnage in the history of North American warfare. Serving in the brigade of George P. Doles, of Milledgeville, James's regiment attacked from the north into the town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Luckily, the regiment was not heavily engaged and casualties during the three-day epic battle were relatively light.

Things wouldn't be so easy at Spotsylvania Court House on the 10th of May 1864. The 12th regiment was overrun by Union forces at the Mule Shoe salient. Nearly all of Company B's soldiers still in action were captured, including James and his brothers Abel and William. They were taken prisoners and imprisoned at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland. The James boys were then transferred to the den of death, Elmira, New York, where Confederate prisoners died at a rate equal to or greater than their Union counterparts in Andersonville, Georgia.

By the end of October the number of prisoners crammed into an inefficacious facility designed for three thousand men had swollen to more than ten thousand prisoners. Decades after his imprisonment, T.J. James told of the horrors of his internment at Elmira. T.J. James recovered from a severe bout of measles. William succumbed to Typhoid pneumonia on October 1, 1864. To pass their time, the James brothers learned how to make gutta percha rings made from silver or pearl with thirteen stars representing the Confederate states. They sold them to the Yankees for a few dollars each. Abel and Thomas along with another prisoner used spoons and case knives to dig a tunnel under the house sixteen feet under the outer wall. Their escape was foiled, probably by a camp snitch.

Some five weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Thomas James told his captors that he would sign an oath of allegiance to the United States, because all he wanted was to go home. Finally, a month later in the middle of June and after eleven months in prison, Abel and James began their long trek home.

When Thomas James returned home, he found his homeland decimated, barren, and burned. He returned to farming, going to school when he could. By the age of twenty-five, Thomas James's future began to be apparent. In 1868, James went to work as a common laborer on the Macon and Augusta Railway. He saved his scant salary until the "Panic of '73" tolled railroad construction in the state. James went to work for the contracting firm of J.T. and W.D. Grant on the Chattachoochee River. The firm purchased the 4,060- acre, $100,000-dollar, Old Town Plantation just below Louisville, Georgia in Jefferson County. James bought out the Grants in 1884 with other partners, including U.S. Senator and Civil War Governor of Georgia, Joseph E. Brown.

After the economy rebounded, Thomas James bought out his partners and began the practice of leasing convicts from the State of Georgia. Within fourteen months, James' gang of convicts, reportedly numbering as many as three thousand men, built more than 225 miles of railroads across the state. Capt. James, as he was known then, joined a large saw milling operation under the name of the Southern Lumber Company. When the company faltered, James purchased the assets and transformed the ailing company into a profitable operation.

Capt. T.J. James built his own railroad, the Wadley and Mt. Vernon, which ran from its terminus in Jefferson County, southwesterly through Kite, Adrian and Rockledge. The railroad never made it to Mt. Vernon, but did run another line into Emanuel County and operated at the Wadley Southern Railroad.

James expanded his operations to include timber and farming. He was one of the largest planters in the state and certainly the largest in East Central Georgia. His operated gristmills, sawmills, and cane syrup plants on his farm and timberlands which encompassed 38,000 acres.

Thomas James moved his headquarters to the western corner of Emanuel County in a small community named Adrian. James personally made improvements to the infrastructure of the fledgling town, furnishing the town with water from his well east of town on the Ohoopee River and his electric light plant. He owned James Mercantile Company and the Farmers Bank of Adrian.

Captain James was always looking for ways to improve his railroads. In the early spring of 1899, he traveled to Atlanta to put in a bid for the trains of an insolvent traveling circus company. There he met George V. Gress, who was solely there to acquire the circus animals. James and Gress discussed their wants, entered a joint bid of $4,485.00, and walked off with their respective prizes. James took his train cars back to Adrian. Gress offered the animals to the city of Atlanta. The city council accepted. Gress, a lumber dealer, built a building and cages, which became the Atlanta Zoo.

On June 30, 1881, Mr. James was united in marriage to Miss Alice Cheatham, of Jefferson county and a direct descendant of Gov. David Emmanuel, America's first Jewish born governor. They had six children, Thomas Jefferson, Jr., Alice N., Arthur Emanuel, Frank C., Albert H. and Annie M. James.

James told biographer A.B. Caldwell, that he found relaxation in horseback riding and musical evenings spent at home. James credited his success to his parents and the "habits of industry and frugality" that they taught him, along with private study and contact with business men. To the young he commended, "truthfulness, honesty, careful calculations and thoughtful execution, regular and temperate habits."

James held few political offices, but he did serve on the town council of Adrian. He was so loved and so admired that during the "new county" movement of the early 20th Century, residents of the area nearly succeeded in garnering a new county, James County, with its seat in Adrian, Georgia.

It was in 1909 at the height of his business career when Capt. James' health began to fail. He moved to Atlanta in hopes of better medical care. He died in an Atlanta hospital just before 2:oo o'clock, p.m. on November 28, 1911.

Capt. Thomas J. James left his footprints across East Central Georgia. Along the 680 miles of railroads his crews built grew the small towns which are the roots of our area's long and rich heritage, all of which ended one hundred ago.

ESTHER GORDY EDWARDS

ESTHER GORDY EDWARDS


The Mother of Motown


She has been called the "Mother of Motown." You may know of her brother, Barry Gordy, Jr., the founder of the Motown sound - the sounds of the Sixties and Seventies that we all danced to and sung, sometimes like no one else was watching or listening. Esther Gordy Edwards, a native of Washington County, Georgia, was the behind-the-scenes driving force behind one of the most successful record companies in history and a mother and mentor to several iconic American musical legends. She died this past summer at the age of ninety-one. This is her story.

Esther Gordy Edwards was born on the 25th day of April in the year 1920. Her parents Berry Gordy, Sr. and Bertha Fuller Gordy lived in Oconee, Georgia in southwestern Washington County. Esther, the couple's second child and eldest daughter, left home with her family when she about two years old. Their destination, Detroit, Michigan, was a place where good paying jobs could be found as the southern cotton crop was baking in the dry fields or being devoured by the pesky boll weevil.

Esther attended Detroit's prestigious Cass Technical High School, which boasts scores of successful graduates including Diana Ross, Lily Tomlin, and Della Reese. Esther continued her education at Wayne State and Howard University. Along with two of her brothers, Esther Gordy founded the Gordy Printing Company in 1947.

In 1951 at the age of thirty-one, Miss Gordy married George Edwards. Edwards served as a Michigan state representative.

The Gordy siblings designed a way to make things easier for the family when one sibling needed help. They formed a cooperative of sorts. Each sibling would periodically deposit a small sum into a family savings account. All siblings were required to approve loans to the others.

Berry Gordy, Jr. had a dream. He wanted to start a record company. He asked his brothers and sisters for the $800.00 he needed to buy a house and open a studio. Esther initially said no to the request. She finally agreed.

"I knew right then, if I ever made money, she would be the one I'd get to watch it for me," Gordy later wrote. So, the enterprising entrepreneur asked Esther to help him with the company, which he named, Motown.

As the company's comptroller, it was Esther's job to manage the business affairs of the burgeoning company. It wasn't long before her role in the company expanded. Mrs. Edwards developed close personal relationships with many of the singers. Her personal skills and business savvy were critical to the successes of many of Motown's most successful and popular recording artists.

Esther Gordy Edwards did more than watch his money. When the artists went out on the road or had difficulty in dealing with their new found and meteoric fame, Esther was there by their sides to lend an ear and give wise and trusted advice. She mothered and mentored singers and musicians and hired people who helped polish and develop their talents

Edwards took a personal role as a advisor of the Marvellettes, whose first song, Please Mr. Postman, rocketed to the top of the Hot 100 and R&B charts. Perhaps her most famous pupil and ward was a young teenager, Stevland Judkins, who over the last four decades became an American musical legend under his stage name, Stevie Wonder. Wonder, in a statement issued after her death, said, "She believed in me - when I was 14 years old and many other people didn't or could only see what they could at the time, she championed me being in Motown. I shared with her many of my songs first before anyone else."

Esther Edwards' business activities extended beyond the music business. She served on the board of directors of the Detroit Bank of the Commonwealth and was the first woman chosen to serve on the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

Esther remained in the forefront of the management of Motown as the company's corporate secretary, director of international operations, vice-president and chief executive officer until 1972, when she was replaced by singing legend, Smokey Robinson. When her brother and the business moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, Esther Edwards remained in Detroit. Eventually she turned the original studio building into Hitsville, USA, a museum to honor the lasting contribution of the studio, its founder, and its artists to American musical history.

Esther Edwards, a persistent conservator of Motown memorabilia, began preserving pieces of the company's rich heritage. "She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it," Berry Gordy said. He sung her praises by turning the "trash" they left behind when the company moved west into a lasting reminder of the company's rich musical heritage.

Esther Gordy Edwards passed away on August 24, 2011 in the presence of her family. In speaking of her life, her brother Berry said, "Whatever she did, it was with the highest standards, professionalism, and an attention to detail that was legendary. He praised his sister for not being concerned with being popular, but being dedicated to making everyone in the Gordy family and Motown better.

So now you know a little bit about the story which proves the old adage "that behind every successful man is a wise woman. That old saying has never been more true than the story of Esther Gordy Edwards, the little girl from Washington County, who grew up to be a mentor in the history of American music.

Friday, November 18, 2011

FOLLOW THE FELLOW WHO FOLLOWS A DREAM
A Eulogy for Karl Slover, 1918-2011




Three days ago, the big heart in this big man gave out. The Wizard of Oz once told the Tin Man, "Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable." Our hearts are breaking now. Karl touched the lives of everyone he ever met. When you met him, you walked away feeling better about your life and the world itself. He touched the lives of you his adopted family, his friends, and all those who met him at the Sheridan, at the malls around Tampa, and from coast to coast.

When the Tin Man insisted on getting a heart from the Wizard of Oz, the great wizard cautioned him by saying "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.

The Wizard was talking about our friend Karl. Some of us had the honor and the privilege of accompanying Karl to Hollywood four short years ago to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Everywhere Karl and the other six Munchkin actors would go, crowds followed them as if they were the greatest of our celebrities.

Lights gleamed, cameras were shoved in their faces, crowds cheered, children smiled. Adults smiled too, remembering the days when they first saw Karl and the other little people in Munchkinland.

I'll never forget sitting in Grauman's Chinese Theater where the movie first premiered in 1939. We were actually sitting with the Munchkins watching the movie for the last time it was shown in its original film format in the theater where it all began.

I'll never forget watching that little man eat like he had not eaten in days. Once I ate with him and he told me that the dessert I was served wasn't any good. So he told the lady at the Sheridan to bring me some chocolate pie like he had. By the way, he ate my other dessert when he finished his piece of chocolate pie.

I'll never forget him telling the same stories, never missing a word or a fact. And, if I was lucky, getting him to add something new to an old story.

I'll never forget the smiles in the faces of the crowd as I drove him through downtown Dublin when he served as the Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Parade.

I'll never forget that smile, that giggle, and that song.


Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Follow the rainbow over the stream, follow the fella who follows a dream,

You're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz If ever a Wiz there was.

If ever oh ever a Wiz there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,

Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.

You're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by E.Y. Harburg

Karl had a long journey down the Yellow Brick Road of life. And, just like Dorothy, the Tin Man, The Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion, he had a hard start. Like Dorothy, it was the friends along his way who helped and led him to all of us here in the Emerald City.

In the last decade of his life and especially in the last five or six years, Karl was treated as Prince of the Emerald City. The story of his death has been published in nearly a thousand newspapers and web sites around the world.

Not too bad for a once 30 inch tall adult man, who was basically sold away by his father. But, Karl was never bitter about that. He loved his family as he loved all of us.

Three days ago, Karl was introduced to the real Wizard, our Lord God.

Way up high in the blue skies, he heard his mother's lullabies. He saw that his dreams of seeing his real family and his Oz family once again really did come true. Somewhere, over the rainbow, Karl found that blue birds do fly and trees really do talk. His troubles melted into lemon drops as he wiped his sleepy eyes, blew his trumpet, and saw that he was home.

Ed Grisamore, of the Macon Telegraph, described Karl this way, "The lines on his face are bunched together like rings on a dwarf maple. The tiny, squeaky voice is unmistakable. He was delightful, polite and witty, with a face forever locked in a smile."

We will all miss Karl. Even at 93, we expected him to always be there with that smile. But as we send Karl down the last leg of the great Yellow Brick Road, let us remember his own words: "I've got a good life. A wonderful life. I have no complaints." Just try to get along the best you can. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy where you live. Most of all remember what Judy Garland said, 'There's no place like home." And, now Karl is home, home!


Scott B. Thompson, Sr. November 15, 2011
Rentz Cemetery
Rentz, Georgia

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

KARL SLOVER








2008 St. Patrick's Parade - L to R - Karl Slover,
Scotty Thompson, Scott B. Thompson, Sr. ,
Photos by Dr. Grady Campbell

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Karl Slover, Dublin St. Patrick's Festival Parade, 2006 @ Scott B. Thompson, Sr.





KARL SLOVER,
MORE THAN A MUNCHKIN

Have you ever met someone that you liked to be around the first time you ever met them? If you are lucky, sit down beside him and just listen. Listen to his stories. Listen to his contagious laugh as the tales flow. He tells and retells the same stories verbatim, but everyonce in a while, he’ll add a new twist or accent his point with an obscure phrase and his infectious giggle. And, once you get up to leave, you’ll find that you have just met one of the warmest, funniest and kindest people you’ve ever met. I felt that way the first time I met Karl Slover and every time I sit down with this little man with a big heart, big ears and an even bigger grin.

Karl was born Karl Kosiczky on September 21, 1918 in Prakendorf in that portion of Hungary which later became a part of the Czech Republic and later Germany. Karl’s six-foot six-inch tall father expected that his only son out of his five children would follow in his footsteps as a local gendarme. No one knows exactly how large Karl was when he was born, but for the first few years of his life, Karl appeared to be a normal child. But then, Karl stopped growing.
Desperate to make his two-foot tall eight-year- old son grow, Karl’s father came with all sorts of "bright ideas and brainstorms" as Karl calls them. "He got a big wooden barrel and filled it with coconut leaves and boiled them, and then put me in it. I was as red as a lobster when they took me out," Karl recalled. His mother had to coat him all over with an ointment to keep his skin from blistering. Eight doctors were called in to help. "They put me on stretchers," Karl said, "but one of the doctors thought they were doing it all wrong," he said when his bones began to pop.


"They would put me in a sand pile. I would wear a pair of long underwear. We had a maid. My mother would tell the maid, who came in around 2:00 p.m. one day, to get me out around 4:00 while she went to the grocery store. The maid went inside and it began to rain. I cried out for the maid, but she didn’t hear me. I called to our dog, a Doberman Pinscher. She came over and picked me up and drug me over to the dog’s house. Our dog loved us. My mother got home and asked where I was. The maid shrieked, ‘I forgot about Karl. He’s still out in the yard.’ My mother looked at the sand pile, and I wasn’t there where I was supposed to be. My mother called to me. I told her, ‘I’m here in the dog’s house.’ My mother and my father bawled out the maid."
One day Karl and his sister were returning from a walk when they stopped by the mailbox. They handed a letter to their mother who read it to Karl. The letter said that an agent was going to be sent over to the Slover house to see if Karl would be interested in joining Singer’s Midget Show, the largest midget show in the world. Karl remembers leaving the railroad station with his father as if it was yesterday.
"Dad and I went to the train station. He told Mr. Singer that he was glad to get rid of me and that I would do him no good in following in his footsteps," Karl recalled. Though his mother reluctantly relented, Karl kept thinking to himself "maybe it is for the best." Karl missed his family, but being around people of his own size made up for it. "I was with little people more my size. It was like a new family," said Karl. The midget show owners tried to find clothes for Karl. They looked all over for underwear. Finally they found a man in a department store who gave me some underwear to try on. "They went back and told me that the underwear had been given to the world’s smallest midget. The man was so excited that he gave me and some of the other midgets all the underwear we could wear for free," Karl chuckled.
John Ringling, one of the world’s most famous circus owners, sought out Karl for his circus. After all, Karl was billed as the "World’s Smallest Midget," and Ringling had to have him in his big top shows. Karl remained with Mr. Singer and played in Billy Rose’s "Jumbo Show" in the Hippodrome Theater in New York. He appeared in "They Gave Him a Gun" with Spencer Tracy, his favorite co-star. His first speaking role came as "Sammy the barber" with an all midget cast in "Terror of Tiny Town." In another single line movie appearance, Karl uttered the classic line "Out, please!" in Blockheads, one of Laurel and Hardy’s most popular films.



Karl as "The Barber" in Terror Of Tiny Town



Karl as a singing bass player in barroom scene in Terror Of Tiny Town.







Karl in "Blockheads"

Karl’s most famous role came as one of Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. Karl played five roles; the first trumpeter, a sleepy head, a soldier, one of those who escorted Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road, and even a female villager to balance out the mostly male midget cast. Karl is most often asked why he thinks the Wizard of Oz remains so popular nearly seventy years after its original airing. His standard answer goes something like this, "Children love it. It’s a family movie. There’s no filthy language in it." Ironically, Karl’s parents never saw the movie, nor did any of his sisters.







Karl as the First Trumpeter (far left) in the Wizard of Oz.





Karl as a Sleepy Head (far right) in the Wizard of Oz.



Singer’s Midget Show continued to stage performances until the early days of World War II. Many of the Munchkins left Singer because he had robbed them of most of their pay. They made less than the dog Toto. The troup disbanded, and Karl was left to face the world alone. He went to work for B.A. Slover and Ada Slover in Tampa, Florida in their amusement show. Karl finally received his American citizenship and elected to adopt the new surname of Slover for the family who tried to adopt him but couldn’t under the prevailing state law.
During the war, Karl received a letter from his sister, who was confined to a concentration camp in Germany. He told her to try and contact their father to get her out and then go to the American Zone where she would be safe. Ironically, the abandonment of Karl by his father may have not only saved his sister’s life, but may have saved Karl himself from the maniacal and diabolical Nazis who wanted to experiment on non pure Arians.
It would be thirty seven years before Karl would return to his native home. He found his mother living in the American sector of Berlin. He expected to find that his mother would be gray, but he was surprised to find that she still had blonde hair. Karl discovered that she had little memories of him and his childhood, a result of the horrors she endured during the war.
After the war, Karl continued to work with the Slovers as a barker, ride operator, and ticket taker. He also kept the books. When his days in the carnival were over, Karl’s main occupation was a poodle trainer. "I first started training Daschunds and all small breeds of dogs and even some police dogs as guard dogs. Then, I mostly trained poodles. I didn’t believe in hitting dogs. Once you hit them they won’t obey you. I tried to give them a snack when they did what I told them. I also trained horses for a time. I used to train dogs and perform them at nursing homes, schools, birthday parties and even churches. But you can’t get any more jobs like that, so I gave it up," Karl recalled.
Karl never learned how to drive though he did try driving a go-cart. It scared "the heck" of out him and he gave up driving forever.
For ten years, Karl would pack up his memorabilia once a month and go an antique mall near his home in Hyde Park and set up a table covered with an emerald green cloth. For a small fee of ten to fifteen dollars, he sold autographed pictures of himself from the Wizard of Oz and other films. Slover made his last appearance in July 2004.
For nearly twenty years now, Karl has traveled all over the country for Oz festivals and autograph signing sessions. Donna Stewart Hardway, a regular sized child who portrayed one of the Munchkins, described Karl as "a baby doll." "When people find out that he was in the movie they go nuts. Children especially warm up to him," she continued Karl’s closest friend among the surviving Munchkins is Clarence Swensen, who played a soldier in the movie. "He’s a good and nice guy," Karl quipped.
After his movie career ended, Karl began to grow. He always wanted to grow to a normal height, but after being dependent on others to do the most mundane of daily tasks, his extra height allowed him to do things on his own. He never regrets being a midget. "I got to be in the Wizard of Oz and got to meet some movie stars and a lot of nice people," Karl said.
These days Karl likes to watch television, especially game shows. When the weather is warm, Karl loves to work in his garden. He loves sweets, especially chocolate, and more especially chocolate ice cream. I recently watched Karl eat the "largest hamburger he ever saw" before topping off his meal at an LA eatery with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.
Karl Slover is more than just a Munchkin. He is one of the kindest, sweetest, gentlest and funniest people you will ever meet. After nearly ninety years of traveling all over the country, Karl firmly believes "there is no place like home," and he is right here, living in the Emerald City to prove it.


"The lines on his face are bunched together like rings on a dwarf maple. The tiny, squeaky voice in unmistakable. He was delightful, polite and witty, with a face forever locked in a smile."
Ed Grisamore, The Macon Telegraph, December 4, 2005





"I’ve got a good life. A wonderful life. I have no complaints."
Karl Slover





Advice to people in their eighties.
"Just try to get along the best you can. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy where you live. Most of all remember what Judy Garland said, ‘There’s no place like home.’"
Karl Slover








______________________________________________________________




RETURN TO OZ


For nearly seventy years, Karl Slover has been following the Yellow Brick Road to the land of Oz. Though he and his fellow midget actors were on screen for less than ten minutes in the epic film "The Wizard of Oz," the Munchkins have become icons of American cinematic history. Finally, and most fittingly, seven of the nine surviving members of the Munchkin cast returned to Hollywood, California, where their legend began in 1939. During the week of Thanksgiving, on a boulevard lined with golden stars, Karl Slover, Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pelligrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Clarence Swensen and Jerry Maren accepted a well deserved and long overdue star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on behalf of the 124 actors, who welcomed Dorothy Gale over the rainbow.
Many people thought that the Munchkins were already honored with their own stars. Chicago restauranteur Ted Bulthaup led the effort to have the Munchkins awarded their own star. His dream was aided by such Hollywood icons as Steven Speilberg, George Lucas, Ted Turner and dozens more. Actually they are the only group of characters to be so honored for their memorable, albeit brief, appearance on the big screen.
Karl Slover, a resident of the Sheridan Place in Dublin, received the news this past summer. The 89-year- old Slover frequently travels throughout the country to Oz festivals and autograph sessions. Upon the receipt of the news, Sheridan director Gina Ensley Drown and her staff began the preparations for the trip to Hollywood during the week of Thanksgiving. A dozen Dubliners traveled to Hollywood to accompany Karl. Ten travelers stayed up all night following a Dublin football game to catch an early morning flight. The celebration began on Sunday night with a delicious meal hosted by Mayor Phil Best and his wife Cile at the L.A. Prime, some three hundred feet above downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Best presented an honorary award to Karl, who was accompanied by his niece Gay Griffit.
Scotty Thompson, Karl Slover and Scott Thompson
at L.A. Prime. (Photo by Cristol Cannon)

Karl Slover and Gina Ensley Drown

Dublin Mayor Phil Best toasts Karl.

Laura Ensley, Karl Slover and Ashley Ensley.




align="justify">The festivities began in earnest on November 19 at Graumann’s Chinese Theater. The Hollywood Preservation Society sponsored a showing of "The Wizard of Oz." It would be the last time that this legendary film, specially enhanced just for this showing, would ever be shown in its technicolor format on the big screen. The entrance to the theater, one of the country’s most historic movie houses, was lined with yellow brick road carpet, a battalion of cameramen, and a few hundred adoring fans and passers by. My son Scotty and I, along with Pam Green of WDIG-TV got our crowded guard rail spots two hours early. The official media stood in relative comfort across the aisle in their reserved places. While the rented spotlights beamed into the unusually foggy L.A. sky, the honored guests began to arrive.


Karl Slover and Jerry Maren mobbed by
photographers in front of Graumann's Theater.

As the Munchkins began to walk down the yellow carpet, a hoard of media, more voracious than the wicked witch’s monkeys, swarmed over Karl and the other midget actors. They don’t mind being called midgets, because that’s what they are. After the honorees had their pictures taken with the sponsors and in clips for the national networks, the ceremony opened with a humorous introduction by Gary Owens, of "Laugh In" and "The Gong Show" fame. Stan Taffel, a comedian and Hollywood historian interviewed the Munchkins. When it came Karl’s turn, he began to sing "We’re off to see the Wizard," a charming tune which drew a loud round of applause and quite a few tears.



Karl relaxes prior to screening of Wizard of Oz.
The feature of the night was the showing of the Wizard of Oz in the same theater it premiered in August 1939. The picture was so clear you really could see the freckles on Dorothy’s face. If you have never seen the movie on a big screen, you missed a wonderful treat. And though most of the audience had seen the movie before - some dozens of times - there was reciting of the lines, applause, laughter, and cheers throughout the showing. Some in the Dublin delegation drew the attention of several photographers and a documentary cinematographer as we were all dressed in emerald city green attire, each of us wearing specially designed "Karl Slover Fan Club" buttons. Also present that night were actresses Tippi Hedren, of Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds," Margaret O’Brien of "Meet Me in St. Louis" and a childhood friend of Judy Garland, and Anne Rutherford, who played a sister of Scarlett O’Hara in "Gone With the Wind." The granddaughter of Frank Morgan, who portrayed the Wizard and several other Emerald City residents, was in attendance along with the great grandson of L. Frank Baum, the writer and creator of the story. There were also several actors who portrayed Munchkins present, but because they were children and not midgets, they were inexplicably - to me anyway - not included in the festivities.

Margaret Pelligrini, Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini,
Mrs. Jerry Maren, Jerry Maren and Karl Slover.
Back row: Stan Taffel and Gary Owens.


The highlight of the week came on Tuesday morning with the star presentation ceremony. Hosted by Johnny Grant, the "Mayor of Hollywood," and Joe Luft, son of Judy Garland, and a squad of politicos, the ceremony began right on time. Covering the entrance to the theater was a tall arch of balloons simulating a rainbow. The Munchkins arrived from their hotel rooms in a carriage, pulled by a horse of a different color. This particular steed was a pale purple one. The crowd swelled. The Hollywood High School band played.

Munchkins Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Karl walks toward the unveiling ceremony.

Cameras went high into the air to catch a glimpse of the little people as they approached the podium. We had been at our station near the star site for two hours, long before any of the crowd arrived.
The Munchkins walked down a wider and much longer yellow carpet strip to the site of their star, located at the far eastern end of the theater. In front of a battery of television and still photographers and barely within our view, the star was finally unveiled. After thousands of photographs and hours of film were taken, Karl and his comrades were given another carriage ride back to the Roosevelt Hotel.
Following the presentation ceremony, a luncheon was held in honor of the Munchkins in the Blossom Room of the hotel. In the very room where the first Academy Awards were held in 1929, the tables were decorated with green table cloths and illuminated underneath to give the room a virescent glow, reminiscent of the chamber of the Wizard of Oz. Behind the dais was a striking rendition of the Emerald City. The tables were decorated with baskets filled with red poppies and a stuffed toy version of Toto.



Carriage ride to Roosevelt Hotel

The luncheon passed all too quickly before the actors were once again whisked off to face the media for one final time and much to the chagrin of autograph seekers who had politely waited until they finished eating.
Karl’s final night in Hollywood was spent with his niece and the folks from Dublin in a quiet restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Following a long day and puny luncheon food, Karl enjoyed the largest hamburger he ever saw. Still hungry, Karl downed a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.



Karl enjoying a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Karl enjoyed the visit and appreciated the honor that he and his fellow Munchkins had finally received. Though he was honored to be there, he found nothing very exciting in Hollywood like he did seventy years ago. Feeling smothered by the media sticking microphones in his face and blinding his eyes with spot lights, the little man with the big smile was glad to be back in the "Emerald City" of Dublin. "Heck yeah, I am glad to be home," Karl said, "after all, there’s no place like home."



Karl with Emma, Vicki, Kathy, and Mandi Hutto.

All other photos @ Scott B. Thompson, Sr.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

CHANDLER MAURICE BEASLEY, SR.


Always Faithful


Chandler was eating lunch in a small café when the world was turned upside down. One day after his eighteenth birthday, Beasley had no too much to worry about. He had a job at Snow's Laundry in Milledgeville. The country was at peace or so it appeared. Beasley and most everyone else knew that the world was at war, but at home, the war seemed so far away.

By the fall of 1939, a war with Germany was on the minds of everyone. When the National Guard mobilized a year later, Beasley entertained the very real thought of joining up after his graduation from high school.

As the U.S. Marine Corps was heavily engaged in the Battle of Guadalcanal, Chandler Maurice Beasley decided to join the Marines. He and a buddy were shipped off across the country to San Diego. After seven weeks of grueling training, Beasley was off for even more training. On the first anniversary of the war, Beasley was traveling aboard a train bound for Chicago and guard duty at the Navy Pier. For ten months, he trained in the Aviation Maintenance School before reporting for duty with the 3rd Marine Air Wing.

"We finally boarded a ship and arrived in the Caroline Islands group in the Pacific in mid October 1944," Beasley recalled. His unit's mission was to convert Ulithi Atoll, a jungle about the size of two city blocks, into an airstrip. Once the construction was complete, the installation would become one of the most advanced in the Pacific, primarily to be used to launch F6F Hell Cat fighter to protect the fleet anchorage from night attacks.

"We worked twenty-four hours around the clock and life was not all that exciting," Beasley recalled. "I think the biggest excitement the Japanese came up with were five suicidal mini submarines and they tried to send them into the fleet anchorage there at the end," Beasley concluded.

Beasley vividly remembered that in February of 1945, his unit was split into two groups. One was the assault group. "We boarded ship at that time headed for Okinawa. We did not know we were going to Okinawa. But that's where we wound up. We left the aircraft and the rest of the squadron back in the Carolines and we went down to the Philippines and lay around there for a while before taking off for Okinawa. We had no idea where we were going," he recollected.

"I woke up one morning and went out on the deck and every ship in the world was there! This was just before D-Day in April. We were in a convoy the day before; it was really not that large. During the night everything rendezvoused there at Okinawa. Somebody got the word out! I had never seen so many ships in all my life." the Marine exclaimed.

Then there was the never to be forgotten day when Chandler was sorting through his much over due shipment of mail, hoping to find out something about his father's poor condition. "When I came out, all hell broke loose. We were hit by a surprise kamikaze attack. I'm telling you that was quite an experience! The ship on the left side of us took a bomb. The ship on the immediate right side of us had a kamikaze plane crash into it. So we were right in the middle of it and it was no fun," Beasley remembered.

On Holy Easter Sunday, the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps launched the largest naval invasion in the Pacific theater of the war. In the beginning, Japanese resistance was not as strong as was feared. Soon, those fears were realized. "We were hit pretty heavy most every night. We suffered the most casualties at night," Beasley said.

Things began to settle down by the end of May although suicide bomber attacks continued to rattle the troops on the ground and the ships off the shore. Then there was the night when thirteen stripped down "Betty Bombers" approached the airstrip at Yontan. "One plane made it and I'm telling you, they created more hell around that strip. We had people from the unit that were down there that night right in the middle of it," he recalled.

"They were evidently well informed and they knew where the ammo dumps and fuel dumps were and started blowing them up. You just didn't dare stick your head above the ground. It was that rough," the former Tech Sergeant Beasley said.

As things began to settle down into a normal routine, the war was suddenly over. "Thank God for the Atom bomb. I say that because we were packing up getting ready to invade Japan. Only God knows what that would have been," Beasley stated.

Beasley bided his time racking up enough to points to go home. After a few weeks of delay, he was headed home, home for Christmas aboard the USS Altamaha. Chandler Beasley didn't quite make it home for Christmas. But he did get the gift he wished for. On Boxing Day, Beasley was discharged from the Marine Corps.

Beasley's service to his country was not over, not at all. After a three-year respite, he rejoined the Marine Reserves for a two-year hitch. "I wanted to keep my hand in it. The only reason I had chosen the Marine Reserves, I couldn't get into any active Reserve unit."

In 1954, a National Guard unit in Dublin was reestablished. Beasley joined the unit and served for thirty-three years before retiring as a Command Sergeant Major. "All in all, it was a great ride. It was a riot, but it was something you wouldn't want to go through twice," Beasley fondly remembered.

As was the case with many of the members of the "Greatest Generation," Chandler Beasley returned home to serve his community with distinction and pride, nearly forty years of military service and thirty-two years as a rural mail carrier in Dexter, Georgia. Beasley is still active in his new home, living with other veterans at the VA Hospital. In fact, he now supplies many of his new buddies with greens from his garden on the grounds.

Beasley and his wife, Bettye Scott Beasley, were the proud parents of four sons, Scott, Chandler, Jr., Danny and Willie.

And today, nearly seventy years after World War II began, CSM Chandler M. Beasley is still ready to serve his country if called upon. That is because Chandler Beasley loves America and because Chandler Beasley is still a Marine. Semper Fi!









Thursday, November 10, 2011

JOHNNY PAYNE, WALKING POINT IN VIETNAM


Many of you know John L. "Johnny" Payne. He has been a fixture in the religious,

military, civic, scouting, business, and athletic activities of Laurens County for most of his life. Those years he wasn't living here and contributing to our community, he was nearly half way around the world, serving our country in the jungles of Vietnam. What you may not have known is that his job was one of the most dangerous an infantry soldier could be assigned. He was the one walking in front of a jungle patrol, the one likely to make contact with the enemy first, he was walking point."

When Sergeant Johnny Payne was walking the point, he saw green, and more green. His eyes scanned the thick jungle paths of central Vietnam for venomous vipers, slithering serpents, essentially invisible booby traps, and the elusive Viet Cong, all the while enduring horrendous heat and monotonous monsoons, not to mention the loathsome leaches.



A once famous psychic, Jeanne Dixon, predicted that Payne's unit would be wiped out in Vietnam. That very same unit had been wiped out, some ninety four years earlier. That outfit, Bravo Co., 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, fifth platoon was previously commanded by General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. "We did have some contact that day, but there were no deaths, not even any injuries," Payne remembered.


"I was very fortunate to have been born in Dexter and Laurens County, hunting and fishing," Payne asserted. " I could have had all the college degrees in the world and I could have been very skilled at reading maps, but that skill set of knowing your senses and the senses in your body came in good, " in commenting on how he was able to cope with the stress being the lead man in a jungle patrol.

As a platoon of less than thirty men moved out along trails or simply through dense trail-less jungles, one man was responsible for walking point. In Johnny Payne's platoon, the average life expectancy was from seven to ten days. The point man was usually the first person to make contact with an enemy sniper, a deadly mine or a booby trap.

Payne considering himself blessed, professed, "I wouldn't follow a trail, but we as a platoon would work off the old French trails which had a lot of movement on them." He always tried to walk through the dense jungles, stopping every once in a while to untangle himself from a "wait a minute" vine, which entangled in his uniform, his gear or his exposed skin.

"I really wanted to walk point because I felt comfortable doing it," Payne, two to three years out of high school, recalled. Walking point didn't make him proud, but he was more comfortable in the fact that some of his comrades came from New Jersey, the Bronx, Colorado and other places. Some had never fired a weapon. "I had an advantage. I walked point on my own for about five months. I pretty much volunteered," Payne added.

Crossing streams was especially difficult. At the point where the patrol was crossing, they were the most vulnerable to enemy fire. "When we got to a stream, we would never have more than one or two men in the stream when we were crossing it and then we would fan out right and left," Sgt. Payne believed as the reason his unit's casualties were kept to a minimum.
 
Payne soon realized that the hardest thing his unit could do would be called in to aid another unit in an existing firefight. He learned to instantly recognize and differentiate the reports of an AK-47 and an M-16. "As you got closer to the firefight, with the helicopters overhead, with the artillery support from an artillery base in the jungle or off the coast, you had to put all that into your perspective. Your senses and your ability to listen is just amazing," Payne asserted.

"Life in the jungle was a struggle, you didn't know if you would live to see the next day," Payne said. His unit would go out on patrols lasting from fifteen to twenty days, sometimes twenty-five days without a break. The unit was re-supplied every four or five days with food and if they were lucky, with treasured letters from home.

Every soldier had to adapt to the lack of sleep and the lack of food. Walking guard duty at night was expected of almost every member of the patrol. "We worked as a team, never in the same place every night," Payne said. "Once we hit the ground, your rank didn't matter. When the unit got to a camp site, everyone took part in setting up trip flares and Claymore mines along the perimeter, as well as guarding the forward and rear areas," he added.

Being in the jungle itself presented natural problems. "It rained every day at 4:00 p.m.  During the monsoon season, it rained twenty-four hours a day, all week long," Payne recalled.  He saw all sorts of animals that he never saw in the swamps of Rocky Creek back home in Dexter. There were cobras and bamboo vipers, too. He saw one of those little green bamboo vipers lying on his stomach one morning after waking up from a night's sleep.
Decent food was a treat. Payne remembered the Chinook helicopters dropping "Gaines Burgers," military lingo for some type of mystery meat molded into a burger. "I weighed 160 pounds, but while I was in Vietnam my stomach shrunk. When I got home, I am afraid that I disappointed my mama. She cooked a big bowl of chili. I was only able to eat half of it. I think she died believing that she had burned it or something," Payne recalled.

Payne got an unexpected break during one patrol. Carrying the rank of private first class early in his career, Payne began his first tour of duty in Vietnam on September 1, 1970. One day, he was ordered out of the jungle to appear before a review board. Appearing in his jungle fatigues and with no bath in at least ten days, Corporal Payne (far right)  was examined and sent back to the jungle that afternoon. "The next thing I knew, I was a sergeant," he recalled.

Losing friends is always hard. Johnny lost his assistant gunner while he was carrying a machine gun. Still today, some four decades later, Johnny gets a lump in his throat as he serves as a master of ceremonies to honor veterans who gave their lives to their country. Payne said, "I get emotional. I know that somewhere out there is a gold star mother who has lost her son."

Johnny Payne returned to the United States a year after he first arrived in Vietnam. He was proud to serve in the infantry. His return to the United States was all too typical of the way veterans from Vietnam were treated. Payne and his fellow soldiers didn't come up to the tarmac after their plane landed.

"There were people standing there. I really had no understanding of what they were going to be saying or doing. They were yelling at us, throwing rocks, spitting at us. It was awful to see that happening," he recollected. Payne was puzzled. "These people didn't know. They were yelling baby killers, which is what they had seen on TV," he added.


Payne and his hero, his wife, Sue Ann


Some people were supportive, but it took a while for Johnny Payne to once again be proud of serving his country. Today when he sees a Vietnam veteran with a cap on, he tells them that he was proud to serve with them. "Time has a way of healing thoughts. A lot of people thanked me, although some went to their graves with no thanks, except from their families," he added.

Payne says that our citizens should communicate with returning veterans. He says that all veterans are the same regardless of which war or actions they served in. "They don't want to be treated as heroes, but they do want to be treated as normal people. Don't look the other way, he requested. "The hardest of hearts needs love. It will either come in or come out," he asserted.


Payne and the Moving Wall, Kathleen, Georgia

Payne says the cost of freedom is high. "It has been paid by so many people and it is an expensive one," he continued. "We had great needs for prayers, letters, care packages, and most of all, love and acceptance when we came home," he added. The mental anguish resulting from a war that was never won was compounded by the way in which Payne and his fellow veterans were received. "We quietly slipped back into society as quickly as possible. Only members of our immediate families seemed to share in the secrets of our own personal wars that would now begin. Our hearts had been broken and many of our dreams had been shattered," Payne proclaimed as he gave credit to the churches and God himself.

When Johnny Payne looks back on his service in Vietnam, he is honored to have been a part of it. In fact, our country recognized his heroism with the awarding of a Bronze Star for valor, although he does not consider himself by any means a hero.
Johnny Payne was one of the lucky ones. He beat the odds. And, all of us in Laurens County who have benefitted from his deeds of public charity and acts of volunteer service are lucky that he survived.


When walking the point, Sgt. John L. Payne knew that God was there and that he could turn to Him for guidance. "There is no doubt in my mind, that God helped me not to get shot with as many firefights as I was in," he believes. In one of those firefights, Payne's helmet fell off and rolled away from him. Two hours later, he was able to retrieve it. Payne picked up his steel pot with its 19 holes, each put there by a pecking sniper believing there was a living skull underneath it. "It was divine intervention. God was looking after me for some reason," he said.



Welcome home Johnny Payne! Thank you for your service to our country.









Walking Point (abridged)
by
Jim Northrup




His rifle was in perfect order,

he wasn't - fear, fear of not feeling fear,

the heat, mud, and mosquitoes

all addled his brain housing group

as he walked and thought along.



Thou shalt not kill,

that stuff didn't work here,

God must have stayed back

in the real world.



Is any of this real?

Is this a green nightmare

I'm going to wake up from?



He sang to himself as

his senses gathered evidence

of continued existence



His eyes saw, his ears heard,

his heart felt a numb nothing,

his mind analyzed it all

as he studied the trail



He amused himself as he walked along

the old story about bullets, Ha.

Don't sweat the one that's got your

name on it, worry about the one addressed:



To Whom It May Concern.

Movement!, something is moving up there!

Drop to the mud, rifle pointing at the unknown,

Looks like two of them, hunting him.



They have rifles but he saw them first.

Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack, Squeeze.

The shooting is over in five seconds,

the shakes are over in a half hour,

the memories are over, never.