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

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By Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
April 11, 2001

The black and blue division
I have bruises all over my legs. It was hard to figure out at first. Then I realized what was happening - I was banging into furniture around the house. It seems the older I get, the clumsier I get.
Turning into a clod at age 43 is a bummer. After spending the last 42 years nailing down the finer points of walking, you'd think I could stroll in the general direction of retirement unharmed.
But that's not the way it works. In my case, I peaked out at some point and then walking became a big problem again.
My wife thinks I'm just absent-minded. But since she rearranges the furniture every three months or so, there's no real way of knowing. At the very least, my learning curve is on the decline. How else can you explain crashing into a coffee table that's in plain view?
All the other equipment works fine. My eyes scan the room and pick up the image of a low-lying wooden object. My brain recognizes the impediment from the last time we hit it, and tells the leg muscles to go around.
But by then it's too late: my shin has lurched into the path of an oncoming coffee table. After the collision, the entire system shuts down and the sirens go off.
When my wife saunters into the room, I demand an explanation. "It's always been there," she says. "It's the one piece of furniture that's never been moved."
That's when I realized I had no chance of making the Olympic basketball team. But that's OK. I'd settle for being able to cross the room without being fouled.
I decided to talk to my doctor. He's an old friend, a college roommate.
"You're exaggerating," he said.
"But look at my legs," I showed him.
"Hey, how'd you get that shiner on your ankle?"
"I banged into the baseboard in the living room."
"Gee whiz, you must really be clumsy," he chuckled.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. It's some kind of accelerated aging process. I've turned into a clod overnight. You might as well prescribe me a wheelchair."
"Settle down," he tried to calm me. "It has nothing to do with aging. You're just on a bad streak."
"Look, I've got more bruises than my 3-year-old and she falls down 15 times a day."
"You need to take a few days off from work. You're too tense."
When he said that, I relaxed. But when I started to get off the examining table, I lost my grip and almost fell. The doctor grinned as he helped me. "You're not getting old," he promised.
That's when I noticed the bruise on his elbow. "What happened?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said, rubbing the spot, and looking around. "I keep banging it on something around the office here. See you later."
That convinced me that I had been right all along. So I stopped at the hardware store on the way home. I figured that the only way I'd make it to retirement was to nail the furniture to the floor.
And I'm going to finish up the job as soon as my thumb stops throbbing.

Phillip Bond Sartain is a Gainesville attorney.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233 Fax: (706) 367-8056

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