Early Times 6 – Grandmother

You never know everything about any one, even in your own family. Some people don’t make a big deal about what they have done.
My grandmother, Mary Gentry Pepper, was one such person.
During the early 1930s, when my mother, brothers and sister lived with her and Aunt Georgia, in East Lake outside Atlanta, she seemed very old to we kids, even though she was only 60.
Grandmother ran the household. She planned and prepared the meals, did the shopping with mother and Georgia, supervised the cleaning of the home, the maintenance of about eight acres of garden. Supervised the maid she had and any handymen or hoboes who happened to be working there. She canned the produce and chickens from the garden and stored the results in our substantial pantry. She did the baking and made candy from fruits, as well as tons of cookies.
I can’t ever remember being aware of the amount of work she did, it as just something that happened.
But that wasn’t all.
She had a Singer Sewing Machine powered by a foot treadle, and at night when chores were done, she would sit at it in the living room alcove and sew while we did our homework, then listened to the small radio. We would also have some craft work to do, such as weaving potholders from stocking loops she had brought from the cotton mills.
Grandmother made stuffed toys, everything from Raggdey Anns and Andys to whales and bears, balls and a plethora of other items. She sold some in hotels and restaurants in Atlanta. But she saved the largest amount of the toys in a spare room which would be stacked to the ceiling with toys.
At Christmastime, the toys would be loaded into Georgia’s Plymouth and taken to the children’s wards at Grady Hospital where they were given to any child in the hospital. All the toys were given away. I can remember riding through the cold night to help unload the toys and then wait outside because I wasn’t allowed in the hospital.
Grandmother paid for the toys by the sales in the souvenir shops.
The prodigious amount of work she did probably wouldn’t be tolerated by modern women. After all there were few of the modern labor saving devices we have now. She was a remarkable women.
But as the radio commentator Paul Harvey always said: “You need to know the rest of the story.”
Mary Gentry Pepper was born Dec. 17, 1876, into the wealthy and socially prominent family of Col. William T. and Nina Mann Gentry. She was one of six children. Her father was president of Southern Bell Telephone Company and, with Asa Candler, a founder of the Coca Cola Company. He had been an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell. As boy during the Civil War, he lost his left arm at the elbow in a threshing machine accident. This did not stop him from working as a lineman and in Bell’s laboratory.
Grandmother went to some good schools and somehow got a job on the Atlanta Constitution in the society section, the place women were allowed in the male dominated newspaper business of the time. My mother would follow here into the business writing high school sports news.
The South of those days was not far removed from the devastation of the war. Northerners were not viewed with enthusiasm, so it was a shock when the 27 year-old daughter of Southern society became engaged to Lt. Kelton Lyon Pepper of Illinois. Atlantans adapted to the idea.
The wedding took place at the family mansion on April 22, 1903. Blue uniforms mixed with men, some of whom had worn gray.
Col. Gentry paid for the couple’s honeymoon in Miami but his view of things might be gauged by the fact, according to family legend, their rail tickets was made out to “Miss Gentry and one.”
The marriage would take grandmother around the United States, to Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, China and Panama.
World War I found grandfather sent to Europe and Grandmother returned to Atlanta with their three daughters.
Troop trains rumbled through the train station at all hours of the day and night. Grandmother learned that the men on the late night trains were tired and hungry but there was nothing for them.
She gathered a lot of Army wives and set out to meet each train with sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee. It was no small undertaking but it worked. Soon there was a statewide replication of the program in an effort to help morale. Very soon, the American Red Cross adopted the program leaving grandmother in charge. It was the start of the famed Red Cross Canteens.
In all the time I lived with her, I never learned a thing of this. Only after she died in researching for her obituary did it come out. Most people including the Red Cross had forgotten her.
And, as Paul Harvey would say: “You know the rest of the story.”


The Future – Not Looking Nice

That’s the minimum number of Floridians who would be displaced by rising seas levels if Global Warming is not slowed or halted.
The people driven from homes and businesses will be ruined as the value of their holdings is made worthless by rising seas.
Trillions of dollars worth of real estate under water, the real not the financial kind.
Almost every city on the coast under water. The major port cities, Tampa, Jacksonville, Cape Canaveral, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Pensacola – gone!
The Everglades Agricultural Area, winter vegetable basket for much of the nation, obliterated.
All this and more will happen by the end of the century.
That is just part of the realities facing Floridians and the rest of the world if work does not begin to reverse the damage we have done to the earth.
Yet many of our leaders – Gov. Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio among them – are pleading ignorance by saying: “I’m not a scientist.”
Of course they know they wont be around when the final disaster strikes. It wont happen on their watch. But it will happen because they didn’t start steering things in the right direction on their watch. No massive program will be able to ameliorate the damage if they let it happen by doing nothing now.
Even if they are not going to combat Global Warming at state and local level, they could at least start planning what we do for the millions of people displaced and pauperized by the disaster of our making.
Where do the refugees go? How will they live? Where will the funds come from? How will we handle the loss of world and local trade?
The people are being lulled into a never-never land where everything goes along as usual until tragedy hits them.
The carefully couched reports say what is going to happen but they aren’t blunt enough. The fate of our children and their offspring are at stake.
One of Scott’s ads shows him disdaining the news media, but concentrating on his grandson. It is warm and fuzzy but not backed up by what he is doing for the child’s future world.
Come on, people, everything you have is on the line especially in South Florida.
I’m no scientist but I can see what has happened through the ages on earth. I can see what is happening now and I don’t need a man in a lab coat to tell me our way of life is threatened.
Let’s demand action not words and restore the balance of nature.
Increase the use of solar and wind powers, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, cut down on carbon emissions. Reduce dependency on pesticides and fertilizers.
And start now.

The Early Times 5

Aunt Georgia, she didn’t like being called “Aunt,” had a toy Boston Bull Terrier named “Peggy.” She was a pretty dog, deep chocolate brown almost black fur with snow white markings on her face and chest. She was small and lively.
Peggy took her position as pet and guard dog seriously, letting us know whenever any one approached the house.
Her favorite post was in the front window where she could see the sidewalk and street about 15 feet away. In the winter time, she slept on the furnace register where the warm air came in.
About a mile away, the Bergdoll family had a farm where they raised Great Danes. Each afternoon, trainers would walk the huge dogs for miles, some coming passed our house on East Lake Drive.Usually they just raced past because the dogs liked to run.
The scion the Danes was a big dog named Rajah. The handlers walked him solo, not with other dogs, and Rajah didn’t run, he paraded down the street.
One day, he discovered Peggy watching him. He stopped, came into the yard and stood on his hind legs with his front paws on the outside sill of the window. The two dogs touched noses through the screen and spent some time staring at each other. Then his handler coaxed into the leaving.
After that, every afternoon Rajah would come to visit. Grandmother said she thought they were in love.
Peggy also was a big part of our lives. In Spring and Summer, we played chase and catch the ball with her. In winter, when it got cold in Atlanta she figured in another recreation.
Georgia was a book lover first class and on cold nights after we had done homework, chores and had dinner, she would read to us. It was not a passive process, we had to act out what she was reading.
One night it was a story about lion hunting in Africa. The house became Africa, couches were mountains, chairs were hills and tables were caves. Peggy didn’t know it but she was cast in the role of the lion. She slept blissfully on the register was we kids, armed with broomstick rifles, crept and crawled over hills into caves in Africa. Georgia would direct us where to go.
Finally, we were grouped in front of a “mountain” behind which Peggy slept unawares.
At Georgia’s signal, we three boys went over the couch, shouting “Bang! Bang!” Peggy was startled and fled into the pantry and hid under a shelf of home canned peaches.
The hunt was over and we were sent off to bed. I don’t know when Peggy came out of the pantry.

Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is when we honor our serving military personnel. But how do we do that?

Parades? That makes the honorees work.

Speeches? They hear enough of them.

Parties? You can’t invite them all.

It is harder than that!!

You have to work at home to defend the democratic republic we have, not just trust in automatic government.

Stop voting for servants of a would be oligarchy. Vote for people who will look for the common good, take a long range views of their mission and provide for the general welfare of all, both this generation and that come after it. People who will protect our environment so that future generations will have pure water, air and food. Build up our education system not dumb it down.

Cherish and defend the rights and privileges that make us the most desired place to live on this planet.

Thank a vet or active duty person for their service is nice, but it is only a cop out if you don’t keep what we defended

The Early Times

Sitting at home in a nearly empty house with my car in the shop for several days. And, being retired, there is not much to do but remember.

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, during the Great Depression. When my father left my mother before my sister was born, we moved out to East Lake to live with my Grandmother and Aunt. Continue reading

The Early Times 2

Everyone probably has an stereotype image of a Hobo. During the Great Depression there were a lot of them Mostly, the were ordinary people facing hard times. There were no social networks to help them and they traveled a lot looking for a better life. Usually they were not welcome in communities because they competed for low level jobs with the locals. Continue reading