|Banks County Opinions...||
April 11, 2001
By Angela Gary
The Banks County News
April 11, 2001
Margaret Mitchell visited Braselton
Margaret Mitchell is one of the most famous authors of all time. Most everybody knows that she wrote "Gone With the Wind." Many people also likely know her life was cut short when she was hit by a car when walking across Peachtree Street in Atlanta.
But how many people know about Margaret Mitchell, the reporter who conducted hundreds of interviews for Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine? How many know that she traveled to Braselton in 1924 to attend the 102nd birthday party of Virginia Elizabeth Veal? Mitchell's article, "Grandma Veal Speaks Her Mind on Her 102nd Birthday" is filled with colorful comments from the birthday celebration in the west Jackson County town.
Grandma Veal is quoted on "bobbed hair, short skirts, fast cars, trousers for women" and other topics of the time.
Mitchell describes the elderly grandmother as follows "Mrs. Veal, who has reached the age of 102 years with all the faculties unimpaired save for a slight deafness, presents a remarkable picture of a strong mind dominating a worn-out, century-old body. Her memory for exact dates would shame a history professor; her strength of will and clearness of mind, despite her 102 years, are those of a middle-aged woman."
This article is one 64 reprinted in "Margaret Mitchell, Reporter" which was recently released by Hill Street Press in Athens. The personality profiles, such as the one on Grandma Veal, are among the best in the book. She interviewed a wide range of people, from film star Rudolph Valentino to a convict who made artificial flowers behind bars to support his family. She also talked to numerous debutantes and fraternity boys for some of her articles, "No Dumbbells Wanted, Say Atlanta Debs," "College Girls Tell How Men Should Propose" and "Tech Boys Tell Why Girls Are Rushed."
The articles, printed from 1922 through 1926, are obviously from a time very different than we live in today. The topics and her manner of writing are certainly amusing compared to the kinds of stories covered in the Atlanta papers today.
The background information included in the book shows that Mitchell did whatever it took to get the story. For an article on the carving at Stone Mountain, Mitchell climbed into a swing that was used by those carving the figures on the stone and swung across the side of a very high building which had been selected as an imitation Stone Mountain. She wrote, "The realization of how high above the world I was hit me with a jolt. There was a sickening sensation in the pit of the stomach. I jumped. The seat of the swing slipped from under me, and for a terrible instant, I hung there, spinning, with only the strap under my arms between me and the hard, hard street two hundred feet below." I don't believe I would have been quite so brave.
Mitchell was a woman ahead of her time in many ways. She was one of the first female columnists in the South. Her editor said of her, "One thing I liked about her was that she was always ready to take on any storyshe never looked down on any story. And she wrote like a man." Her work as a reporter was cut short due to a series of accidents that injured her ankle. This is what led to her research and writing of "Gone With the Wind."
The book is a must-read for anyone interested in Southern history and Margaret Mitchell. The articles, reportedly selected by Mitchell as her favorites, give a rare glimpse into life in the South during this time period. It also gives much insight to a great Southern writer, who was a successful reporter long before writing the book that made her famous.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.
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