Home Blog

From boomtown to bakery, Todd and its Mercantile endure

0
Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

Helen Barnes-Rielly needed something to do besides tend cows in Todd, North Carolina.

Her husband Jack, a Todd native, had convinced her a decade ago to move to the unincorporated town on the banks of the New River between Boone and West Jefferson in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there wasn’t much of a plan on what she could do when she got there.

Jack had an office on the second floor of the Todd Mercantile, a 19th Century wooden structure with a front porch, bakery and art gallery, among other amenities a sprawling community of about 2,100 might need.

Sometimes, things just work out.

‘Grasses of the margins’

0
Photo courtesy of asergeev.com

Let’s start with an exercise.

Hold out your thumb and observe how large it is.

It’s likely no taller than two nickels stacked on top of each other with the thickness of a couple of pencils. The variation of size might vary from person to person, but the general sentiment remains the same.

Hold up your thumb in the room you’re in. How much space does it take up now? 

Step outside to your patio or your yard, and repeat the exercise. The ratio has gotten increasingly smaller.

Keep that perspective in your mind because that thumb — that imminently crucial yet disproportionately small portion of your body — is roughly the same size as a cultivar of grass. This might not mean a lot at first, but hold that image for a bit and you start to understand how much influence these tiny tangles of blades and roots possess.

Augusta’s parallel economy

0
Photo of The Executive Club courtesy of its website

It’s all about knowing your angles.

If you’re going to fit 35 cars onto a little less than an acre of property in a way that offers them the ability to actually get in and out in one piece, you really have to map out where each vehicle can go. You can park trucks in the back since there is more room to turn around, but you can fit smaller cars up front and possibly squeeze in one or two extra customers.

For nearly 70 years, my grandmother has lived in a modest, but lovely brick ranch home on Magnolia Drive. The street is so named because if you extend Magnolia Lane, a particularly famous tree-lined stretch of painted green pavement, across Washington Road the two roads would almost perfectly fit together. 

Living in such close proximity to arguably the most famous golf course in the world hosting arguably the most famous golf tournament in the world has its perks, and I, along with other family members, took advantage of them. From my elementary school days in the 1980s on, we’d gather at her house, wave our arms in a windmill fashion and funnel in 30-plus cars each day.

The memory is better

0
Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

Parishioners were already deep into their church service on this cold, damp fall morning in Lake Keowee Village. The nearby parking lot was filled with German badges and luxury utility vehicles, which one may expect in a gated, country club community disguised as a Pleasantville town.

Paul Weir turned his 1964 International Harvester Travelall down the road that leads to the chapel, a road lined with tightly-packed craftsman homes.

Plenty of cars and pickups can drive down the road in anonymity. In Weir’s Travelall, we may as well have been passing by the chapel blasting Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” through a bullhorn. The 345-cubic-inch V8 announces its presence with authority through straight pipes wherever Weir goes.

George Lombard: The Dawg who got away

0
Photo by Marc Lancaster

George Lombard earned a World Series ring last week, reaching the pinnacle of his chosen sport as first base coach of the Dodgers. 

Watching the 45-year-old Atlanta native throughout the postseason, as he gathered various protective gear from hitters who had reached first and whispered instructions through his mask into their ears, sparked thoughts of what might have been if Lombard had taken the path so many expected. 

Bulldog fans of a certain age know the story already, but for those who don’t: the Dodgers’ first base coach and former journeyman MLB outfielder was supposed to be the running back who resurrected Georgia football. 

In the fall of 1993, George Lombard was one of the country’s top recruits, a Parade All-American who was the unquestioned star of a Lovett School team that had gone 11-3 the previous year. Entering Lovett’s season opener against Woodward Academy, coach Bill Railey shared with the Atlanta Constitution his rather straightforward game plan: “Keep running George at them until he breaks one.”

Betting on belief: The story of Georgia Tech’s wild win over No. 1 Virginia in 1990

0
Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This is a guest feature article from Bill Chastain, a veteran sportswriter who worked for the Tampa Bay Tribune for several years covering everything from Major League Baseball to golf, before working for MLB.com to cover the Tampa Bay Rays. A freelance writer living in Atlanta, he also is the author of several books, including Peachtree Corvette Club and The Streak.

Georgia Tech’s football team flew to Charlottesville on November 2, 1990. They went straight to Scott Stadium for a light workout that Friday. A date with No. 1 Virginia awaited the following day.

Alice Ross watched while her husband, Tech coach Bobby Ross, took his team through its paces. Bill Millsaps spotted Alice and approached. The sports columnist and editor of the Richmond Times-Gazzette told her. “Virginia is going to whip up on ya’ll pretty good.”

“He was serious,” Bobby Ross said. “So she said, ‘No they’re not. You want to bet?’ He went along. They bet a box of Mounds candy bars.”

Finding meaning on Palmour Street

0

This is a guest essay from Matt Boedy, a professor of English at the University of North Georgia who teaches in its First Year Composition program, as well as upper-level courses in writing and publication. He is the author of Murder Creek, chronicling the story of the last man to die in Georgia’s electric chair, and Speaking of Evil, an examination of the question of why God would allow for the existence of evil through a rhetorical prism.

The old black and white film, scratchy now with age, begins with a little boy – a Black boy, maybe six or seven – running down a dirt road.

What sounds like a soft flute creates a happy soundtrack as the boy scrambles onto a front porch to meet his mother. Then the camera pans to the porch swing, where his father sits next to another child. Our running boy bounces into his father’s arms.

The voiceover narrates: “Can parents help their children grow up? Let’s see how one couple is trying.”

The viewer is introduced to a family living at 511 Palmour Street in Gainesville, Georgia, circa 1949. The three numbers are posted just above the mail box next to the front screen door as seen in the introduction or “trailer” to the film.

This family – given a fictional surname – are real people acting out a beneficial public mental health message.

COVID-19 Road Trip, Part III: Revelations and Return

0
Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

I didn’t meet an unpleasant person in Colorado. Nor did I meet anyone who wasn’t wearing a mask.

Florissant wasn’t much of a town, but everyone wore their mask at the market next to its one stoplight. The same scene occurred in Divide. Up the road, Idaho Springs had moved its entire downtown outside. At the Kum & Go at the end of the street, not only did the clerks enforce wearing masks, but they made sure to keep my friends and I from getting too close to the pizza counter.

At the end of the long weekend, I dropped off my buddies at the Denver airport and headed east. My friends are sure that everything surrounding COVID-19 is overblown. They were quick to bring up the latest CDC data about how few people are dying due to COVID alone. They weren’t happy about having to wear masks everywhere, but they did it just the same.

They believe personable responsibility should dictate our response to this global pandemic. I agree.

I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to the communities we are in, and public health is part of that contribution. If me wearing a mask and staying away from people can make a me-sized dent in dealing with the pandemic, that’s all I can really control.

A reflection of place: The story of WNEG, part three

0
Photo of WNEG studios courtesy of John Hart

This is Part Three of our look back at the history of NewsChannel 32, a television station that provided in-depth coverage of local news and sports for Northeast Georgia. In Part One, we took a look at the formation of the station and the work of its news department, and you can read it here. In Part Two, we explored the reputation and reach of its sports department, and you can read it here.

If you can name it, Michael Castengera has probably done it.

He’s been a reporter and an editor. 

He’s worked in print journalism and broadcast journalism.

He’s run a local radio station and served as a consultant to some of the biggest media companies in the country.

It was a breadth of professional experience that made him the natural fit to lead a new hybrid journalism project at the University of Georgia that mixed education and newsgathering as WNEG — long a fixture for Northeast Georgia — migrated its operations south.

“When they acquired the station, because I had been a general manager, they decided that I would be the logical one to take over when we do it,” Castengera said with a laugh. “Well, like an idiot, I agreed.”

The promise of the station under the control of the University of Georgia made sense in the abstract, pairing one of the nation’s premier journalism programs with a professional, commercial television station to help create a learning laboratory. It represented a significant shift from the original intent of WNEG, which functioned largely as a community asset that focused on the stories of the small communities throughout the region.

COVID Vacation, Vol. 2: Donuts everywhere

0
Photo of Grand Elk Golf Club in Tabernash, Colorado

Earlier this year, Joe VanHoose decided to take a cross-country road trip to see how the rest of the country was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part Two, he visits Oklahoma, sees the end of the world in North Texas and takes up hiking in Colorado. Check out Part One here.

Friday, August 21, Edmond, Oklahoma

After a full 24 hours into my road trip, I was starting to see how many states seemed to have a handle on COVID-19. On Friday morning, I drove out of Arkansas, stopping at the Donut Palace south of Batesville on the way. I was greeted with a large, plexiglass shield that separated me and the shop worker, who used tongs to carefully grab the donuts I was pointing to.

These were the best donuts on a trip full of them. I’d never tasted a glaze that was so thick and rich. Now six weeks removed, I still think about those donuts and wish that Arkansas was a bit closer.

Not that there was time to linger. I was due to meet up with my old boss and good friend Dave outside of Oklahoma City for the weekend.

Dave and his two sons had been quarantining in style, getting a lot of use out of the swimming pool in the backyard and the music studio complete with all the instruments that I kind of know how to play.

Popular Posts