The Jackson Herald
January 15, 2003
There is hope for the world
Where are you, John Kinney? Where are you, Larry Sailors? Where are you George Edmondson? Where are you, Hollis Ray?
Where are the rest of you guys? I havent seen you since the wake on December 21, 2002.
OK, so wake is a poor choice of words. It was not a wake. But it was sad.
When a coffee club, a university and a continuing education center that has been serving the public for 40 years closes down, it is not a laughing matter.
That is why Rob Joyce, an Indiana immigrant and transplanted Yankee who found true love and acceptance down South, brought black candles for the final session.
Rob was called upon to make the formal commencement address, and his one-liner was indicative of the somber mood. Yank (thats what we call him) lives and works in North Jackson. He pointed to John Arnold, who lives in retirement in South Jackson. Ill never see that man again, he said as he walked out the door.
And where are you now, Rob Joyce and John Arnold? Where are the rest of you? Where, pray tell, are you telling tall tales now? Where, oh where, are you talking sports, arguing politics, and solving world problems? Where are you drinking too much coffee these days?
A little history: Bruces Fine Foods (the boys call it Byrds) used to be the Humdinger. In the 1950s and early 60s the Humdinger was a walk-up-to-the-window snack shack at the edge of Mr. O.L. Singletarys peach orchard.
(Come to think about it, Humdinger would have been an appropriate name all these years. Look up humdinger.)
I just did. It means a striking or extraordinary person or thing.
Byrd Bruce, the person, began renting the thing in 1963. He purchased it in 1967 and added a room for inside dining.
Over the last 35 years there have been other additions. One of the most notable are the good old boys who joined the club, enrolled in the university and signed up for continuing ed at the striking and extraordinary institution at 605 Athens Street, Jefferson, Ga.
Where are they now? Who knows?
Let me hazard a guess. Many of them are at home this morning, alone with their coffee, looking at pictures of themselves and their friends, and being reflective. That is what I am doing.
We are indebted to Nick Bledsoe, our high tech guru, for the keepsake remembrance. When word got out that Byrd and Ann were selling their restaurant, Nick started snapping pictures with his camera so thin you could almost see through it. He went home, fed the images into his computer, and came up with a collage.
I looked up collage, too. It is an artistic composition. Absolutely, Nick! Thanks.
Collage also means an assembly of diverse fragments. Although some of us are fragmented, please change fragments to persons.
Diverse. Thats the right word all right. The graduates, students, dropouts and no-shows (several were absent for the photo ops) include a Baptist preacher, a liquor store owner, Bible bookstore proprietor, banker, funeral home director, farmer, fisherman, hunter, cotton mill worker, lawyer, painter, electrician, heating and air specialist, construction worker, insurance executive, mail carrier, an industrialist, decorated military veterans, and a few of us who dont know what we are.
But 25 of us are there, together in Nicks collage and together in our thoughts and memories.
Is it true that Yank will never see Little Fat Guy again? Perish the thought!
In the picture, Rob was photographed on a happier day. He is smiling. John Arnolds appears to be dodging a paper wad tossed at him by Henry Asbury. Boys will be boys, you know. And men, too.
We could always count on Henry showing up with a card for a comrade who was sick or who had lost a loved one. Hed pass the card around; wed all sign it, and talk about the man we hoped would be cheered up a bit.
Prayer and faith were not talked about much, but around the oblong table where we held church, you could feel their power. In the collage Dennis Hogan is shown saying grace over his biscuit and gravy. His daily witness did not go unnoticed.
Byrds was a place where we felt safe being ourselves and telling our stories. It was not a place of pretense where we had to be good or even act like it.
And I believe we will see each other again somewhere, someday, somehow.
I hear via the grapevine that a few of the fellows have gravitated up 129 to Hog Mountain Road and there hold forth at a place called Ronnys. Lathan Simonton, a dead ringer for Foster Brooks, the drunk on the old Dean Martin TV roasts, was spotted there. Alan Thomas drops in before heading for the farm. Felix Austin was having coffee and an early breakfast before going to a construction job in Butts County.
Theron Kesler and Billy Griffin are there when Ronny opens at 6 a.m. Jimmy (Hot Dog) Pruitt comes for his egg sandwich and then heads out to take care of somebodys heating problem. Rumor has it that Totsy Wilbanks and Charles Shirley have been seen on the premises. And there was Dennis Hogan saying grace over his biscuit and gravy.
I said last week that traditions and legends dont die quietly. I should have said they dont die, period.
So long as good men like those in Nicks collage and the rest of Byrds faithful find a place to meet for coffee, share true stories, tell tall tales, talk sports, argue politics, love one another, pray over biscuits and gravy, and try to solve world problems there is hope for the world.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
By: Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
January 15, 2003
The circus is coming to town!
Ordinarily, the inauguration of the governor would be the most significant event at the end of a state election cycle. Not this time.
Swearing in Sonny Perdue as Georgias first Republican governor since 1872 may be historic all right - but for dramatic content, it pales compared to the upheavals, intrigues and plain revolutions in progress in the rest of state government.
You need a program to keep up with the political wars breaking out in every corner of the Gold Dome. Old-timers say the state has not seen such a wild political time since the three-governor fiasco of 1947 or the Legislatures election of Lester Maddox as governor in 1967. Old-timers are wrong on both accounts. Next week will set a new standard for three-ring circuses in Georgia government.
Consider the following:
- Ring One: A preliminary legislative bout has all but overshadowed the main event in the governors ring. Two Democrats - Rep. Terry Coleman of Eastman and Rep. Larry Walker of Perry - engaged in a tense and personally vindictive battle to succeed Tom Murphy as House speaker. Gov.-elect Perdue and the GOP leadership twisted arms for Walker. The top Democratic brass, including Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox, pulled out the stops to help Coleman. The official election is Monday. Going into the weekend, Coleman appeared to have more than enough votes to win and become the nemesis of the new governor. No matter who prevails, a pall of bitterness will linger in the House for the foreseeable future.
- Ring Two: In the state Senate, the incoming President Pro Tem Eric Johnson of Savannah is expected to lead his majority-GOP forces in reorganizing the Senate so that Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor will have plenty of time to greet Capitol guests and cut ribbons. The once-persecuted Republicans plan to strip Taylor of most of his authority to appoint committee members in the Senate. But Taylor may fight back with a series of mind-muddling parliamentary maneuvers. That showdown also is expected Monday, though a series of conferences between the antagonists are aimed at muffling the explosion.
- Ring Three: Incoming Gov. Perdue is engaged in wars on at least six fronts - or is it seven? He worked behind the scenes in the legislative fights to help Walker and Johnson. He jumped into a campaign last week to try to stop Democratic Rep. Mike Snow from being re-elected to the House. Snow won; Perdue lost. The setback signaled the possibility of an even more devastating defeat for Perdue in the contest for House speaker. The new governor has asked for the resignations of most members of state Board of Education. He has prohibited state department managers from participating in state budget hearings controlled by Democrats. And hes trying to take over office space in the Capitol now occupied by Democratic officials.
Meanwhile, Democrats are fighting back, contending Perdue is preparing to unveil a series of tax- and fee-increases in his closely held budget. In previous years, the governor rolled out his budget a week before the Legislature opened.
By the way, Georgia, like other states, is on the verge of a fiscal crisis. Perdues decision to play hide-and-seek with his spending plan may not have come at the most opportune time.
Outside the big tent, a half-dozen sideshows are going full blast:
* At least 20 names have been floated as possible candidates for the U.S. Senate now that Zell Miller has said he will not seek re-election in 2004. Millers announced withdrawal from public life all but eclipsed some of the doings in the statehouse. Though Miller will soon be 71, and his retreat is likely, one should consider his past record: He said in 1990 he would run for only one term as governor, then retire. In 1994, he ran for a second term and declared that would be his last public office. In 2000, he was appointed and then elected to the U.S. Senate. The lesson here: Miller is subject to mood changes. So what he does in 2004 is much more important than what he says in 2003.
* Several leading Democrats pleaded with Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard to come out of political retirement and go for the Senate seat. On the Republican side, Congressman Johnny Isakson and former Congressman Bob Barr led the parade of possible candidates.
* Dont forget the flaggers. Demonstrators will be out in force at the Capitol Tuesday demanding a referendum that would probably restore Georgias 1956 flag prominently featuring the Confederate battle emblem. Poor innocent souls. Little do they know or understand the forces arrayed against them. For instance, Gov. Perdue has appointed as his chief operating officer an ex-banker named Jim Lientz who led the business community into pressuring outgoing Gov. Barnes into changing the flag in 2001. And both candidates for House speaker helped Barnes change the flag.
So stand by, folks. Were headed into fun times under the Gold Dome. The political shenanigans on Capitol Square next week should prove more interesting (and perhaps just as heartless and bewildering) as any TV reality show youll ever see.
You can reach Bill Shipp at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com