Archive for November, 2008

A Drive Through Hell Friday Night Really Brought Home the Need for New Transportation Leadership in Georgia

November 29, 2008

  The trip up to Cumming Thanksgiving morning was, fortunately, uneventful. Heavy traffic, but no delays, even through the construction obstacle course the state continues to operate endlessly, but I cannot say the same thing for coming back Friday night. That was like a ride through hell. 

  Instead of continually adding lanes at billions of dollars expense, which is stupid, because all that does is encourage more cars to fill up the lanes, it would be nice if the highway department would concentrate on safety features on the ones we have. You know, things like repainting lane lines, and dotting them with reflectors so you can see them at night. Lines one can see at night when it’s raining would be very helpful. There were times when I couldn’t see the lines because they were so dull and dim, and the glare from the lights reflecting on a wet highway surface added to the problem.  We are talking six lanes of crazy Atlanta drivers on a rainy, slippery surface,  at night, and not being able to see the lane lines! Insanity!

  The construction obstacle course along the stretch that spans the Newnan and Grantville exits, really became a challenge Friday night. Two small lanes, walled in on each side by concrete barriers and idiots who slow down for nothing and come screaming by in their monster SUV’s and pickup trucks, make it a nightmare. Rain, glare from headlights, barriers that eliminate emergency lanes, and those idiots I just mentioned and you have to wonder why there aren’t more wrecks than there are. I was afraid I was going to sideswife one of those concrete barriers at any moment, and guess what, I did. As a monster truck came whizzing by, I moved over a little too far and learned there is a buffer that gives a little when you hit it so you don’t hit the actual concrete. Scared the hell out of me, though.  

  The best stretch of road was on I-185. The surface was smooth, and dark asphalt didn’t reflect headlights, the white lines were bright and contained adequate reflectors. It was the only decent Interstate section betweeen Columbus and Atlanta.  

  Somebody in Atlanta is crazy. Well, I’m sure it’s not just one person, but whoever is running the highway show seems to be stuck in the past. Just keep adding lanes and highways is their solution. Hey, that’s the way we’ve always done it. Detroit and the contractors who build the roads love it, but, as we have seen, Detroit lives in the past. Look how long it has taken them to start building cars that get high gas mileage and cut down down on air pollution. Hey, selling the monster SUVs and trucks worked a couple of years ago so why change until … it’s too late? Ever heard staying ahead of the curve, Detroit?

  Point is, highway pols,  stop adding lanes and make the ones you have safe, and start putting down rails. It’s the future. It’s going to have to be done.  Switch those billions from concrete to rails. Actually, they should be cheaper to lay than all of those millions of tons of concrete you’re pouring into road beds.  Look to places that have faced this problem a long, long time ago. Places like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where commuters ride to work and home everyday on trains. A rapid rail line between Columbus and Atlanta would have people living in Columbus Commuting to Atlanta just as people who live in Connecticut commute to New York City.

  Barring a catastrophe like a plague, population is going to continue its rapid rate of increase. You can’t just keep adding cars and highways.  Yes, it will require people to change their habits. But, it can be done. It has to be done.  It’s going to be done.  Change is inevitable. In order to made it positive, get ahead of the curve, transportation honchos in Atlanta. Better yet, put some forward looking people in those positions of power. NOW!

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008

  It all started at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 when the Pilgrims and friendly Indians sat down together for the first Thanksgiving banquet – right? Not according to Wikipedia. Actually, the first Thanksgiving gathering was held at what is now St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. Maybe the reason that the Plymouth Plantation Thanksgiving is generally credited with being the first is because St. Augustine in 1565 was under Spanish rule, while Plymouth Colony belonged to the British in 1621.


The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

 Well that was then and this is now, as the saying goes. And now it’s the day when families gather to have turkey and dressing and just…well…be together. It’s simple enough but it has an incredible attraction to it. Airport, train, and bus terminals, and highway fill up as people travel short and great distances to be with their families. I read where 60-million are doing it this year. I’m one of those 60-million because I am visiting with my son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons in Cumming, Georgia, which is about 120 miles north of Columbus. I’m thankful they don’t live a thousand miles away, but if they did and they invited me, I’d be on a plane just like millions of others. I’m no more immune to the compulsion than anyone else.

  I am thankful for a number of things, but I won’t get corny and tick them off…well, only one, the one that concerns you. I’m thankful that you visit this site and promise to try hard to make it worth your while. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


November 26, 2008

  Among the seven books that different friends and family gave me for my birthday – they have rightly guessed that I like a good book, or either they are getting even with me for giving them books for their birthdays – is David McCullough’s Brave Companions: Portraits in History.  This book brings home the fact that there are a lot of important, interesting people that I don’t know about, and I have read a lot of history and taken a number of history courses.


Baron Alexander von Humboldt, German naturalist, painted by Joseph Stieler, 1843 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

  Ever heard of Baron Alexander von Humboldt, the great German naturalist, scientist and explorer? Who? Well, I hadn’t either until I read the opening chapter in McCullough’s book. I guess we really don’t have to feel bad about it because McCullough says, “It is doubtful that one educated American in ten could say exactly who Humbolt was or what he did.” I’ll bet it’s not more than one in one hundred. However, it’s probably close to ten out of ten who have heard of the great American explorers Lewis and Clark. That’s because Lewis and Clark’s travels were in the United States, but Humboldt’s were in Spanish America. However, Humbolt’s travels were of far greater scientific consequence, and were just as dramatically adventurous.

  That adventure started in 1799 when he and a French medical doctor turned botanist, Amie Bonpland, set out to explore Spain’s American colonies, where they would make maps, astronomical observations, and collect specimins for scientific study. When they returned to Europe their stories were a sensation and Humbolt became celebrated the world over, inspiring people like Simon Bolivar, John James Audubon, and Charles Darwin, who, during the voyage of the Beagle, carried three book to inspire him,  The Bible,  Milton, and Humbolt. President Thomas Jefferson invited him to the White House where he stayed for several weeks so that that they could talk about Humbolt’s travels and discoveries. Jefferson said, “I consider him the most important scientist whom I have met.”  So this was quite a guy, one who made a lasting contribution to science and understanding nature and the environment. But, I’d never heard of him until now. 

  Now, I continue my advernture of discovery about important people in Brave Companions as I move on to Chapter Two, where I will learn about the American Adventure of Louis Agassiz.  Who? Well, I’ll tell you after I learn.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt, self-portait, 1814  Since the camera hadn't been invented, it was handy for an explorer to be able to sketch. He could.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt, self-portrait, 1814 (Courtesy: Wikipedia) Since the camera hadn't been invented yet, being able to sketch was essential for an explorer.

Memories That Lead to Memories, Specifically Indy’s, the Varsity, and the Goo-Goo

November 26, 2008

  Richard Hyatt’s mention of Indy’s Restaurant’s imminent closing, brought back memories of the two Varsity Restaurants on Macon Road.  Richard wrote in his alter-ego state, “Mirabeau plans to get by Indy’s Restaurant for one final steak sandwich. The longtime establishment on Whitesville Road is closing soon.” 

 If my memory serves me well, the owners of Indy’s first owned the Varsity Restaurants.  No, not the world-famous one near Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The first one in Columbus was where Captain’s Dee’s is now located next to the I-185 ramp. That one was in the old Goo- Goo Restaurant tradition. (See how one memory leads to another.) Much of my youth was spent at the Goo- Goo, the late Albert Snipes’ restaurant on Linwood Boulevard, particularly in the drive-in section.  My parents took me there before I was old enough to drive there myself. Loved to get a hot dog and chocolate milk. Stop moaning. The Varsity also had a drive-in.  Just as high school kids gathered at the Goo Goo, they gathered at the Varsity. I don’t know why, but there very little trouble at the Goo Goo in the 1940’s and 1950’s,  but the Varsity, I was told, had more than its share of hell-raising teenagers. The owners closed the first one and moved a couple of blocks west. Seems that one developed the same problem, and the drive-in section was finally abandoned.

  However, the restaurant didn’t close until the move to Whitesville Road as Indy’s.  I ate  at the Varsity a lot, but not nearly as much as my parents and brother. They ate there at least once a week. My brother’s favorite dish in the world was the Varsity’s open hamburger steak sandwich, which was topped with a rich brown gravy.  I liked it, too, but not as avidly as Elbert. It was food in the grand old tradition of Southern Cooking. 

  Now, with Indy’s on the way out, where will we be able to get that good old Southern Cooking?  Well, have you ever heard of the Royal Cafe? But, that’s another story for another day.

Chair of U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Comes to Columbus

November 25, 2008

  It’s only a few days before voters go to the polls to decide an election that is being watched by the nation, and the parade of political celebrities continues in the state when Congressman Bennie Thompson,  chair of the Homeland Security Committee in the U.S. House comes to Columbus to campaign for Jim Martin, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat held by Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Rep. Thompson will be joined by 2nd District U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop for an appearance at Democratic Campaign Headquarters on Macon Road at 5:15 p.m. , Tuesday, November 25.

Rep. Dennis Thompson, (Dem) Mississippi, Chair, U.S. Homeland Security Committee (Official photo)

Rep. Dennis Thompson, (Dem) Mississippi, Chair, U.S. Homeland Security Committee (Official photo)

  Former Vice President Al Gore came to Atlanta Sunday to campaign for Martin. According to the Atlanta Hournal-Constitution he said of Chambliss, “It’s time for him to go. The Bush-Cheney-Chambliss philosophy has been tried and has not only found out to be wanting, it has been found out to be a catastrophe.” Before Gore, Former President Bill Clinton came to Atlanta to add his support for Martin.

  Sen. John McCain has also been in Georgia campaigning for Chambliss, and President-elect Obama made a radio commercial that is being played on Atlanta stations asking for Georgians to return to the polls Tuesday to support Martin.

Mitt Romney website)

Mitt Romney, Former Governor of Mass. (Courtesy: Mitt Romney website)

  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was in Atlanta Friday campaigning for Sen. Chambliss, urging Georgians to keep the two-party system alive in Washington by sending Chambliss back again. If Chambliss loses in Georgia and Sen. Norm Coleman loses in Minnesota, where votes are still being recounted, Democrats will have a 60-vote filibuster proof Senate.  That’s why the stakes are so high next Tuesday when Georgians decide the runoff election between Martin and Chambliss.

“Mr. Music,” George Corradino, Says MCSD Music Program Needs a Supervisor

November 24, 2008


Ben Mallard)

Dr. George Corradino playing with Columbus Community Orchestra (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)

 Dr. George Corradino, as only he could, used the occasion of being featured soloist of the Columbus Community Orchestra, to issue a call to action in support of school music in the Muscogee County School District. He had just finished playing “Georgia On My Mind,” with the orchestra, and he added an unaccompanied solo of Italian music his mother loved, both crowd pleasers that got him a big hand, when he launched into an appeal for everyone there to lobby the school board to hire a supervisor of music. That’s the job from which he retired. The system hasn’t had one for years, now, and he thinks it shows.

  “We are about to get a new superintendent of schools so now is a good time to push for an emphasis on school music and hiring a supervisor of music, ” he told the crowd.

  Afterwards, as we were walking out to ours cars, I said, “George, I guess the reason we don’t have a supervisor of music is because of the money.”

  “It’s not the money, Dick. They would save money by having a supervisor.”

  “Then what is it?”

   “I don’t know, but it’s not the money.  By having a central office for the school music program they could save money in ordering supplies, for one thing. And how about hiring music teachers? Principals are hiring them now for each school.  Music is not their speciality. They don’t have the qualifications for hiring band directors and other music teachers.”

  Over all, he thinks the music program in the schools has gone down. It appears to me that he is right. For instance, over all, the high school bands are nowhere nearly as impressive as they were for many years, years when the superintendent and school board ardently supported the program.  That support started when Dr. William Henry Shaw became superintendent after World War II and it increased over the years. But, where is it now?  

  The strange thing is that Columbus is a music city. The Schowb School of Music at Columbus State University is one of the best in the country. The school’s Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble are both outstanding.  The Columbus Symphony is a fine orchestra. And we have community groups such as the Bob Barr Community Band, the Cavaliers big band, and the Columbus Community Orchestra, providing not only music for all of us to enjoy, but giving an outlet to adult amateur musicians. But, what has happened to the Muscogee County School District’s music program?  

  George was getting really hot about it because he, like me, knows how far reaching a good music program can be. He knows that music students usually make good overall students and learn self-discipline which helps them all through life.  Have you ever noticed how many physcians are musicians? The first violinist of the Community Band is Dr. Ken Goldman, a Columbus surgeon. Dr. Mary Schley, a retired pediatrician, plays viola. My late cousin, Dr. Billy Dodd of Macon,  loved to play the piano, and had his own dance and jazz bands.

Joey Cumming)

Dr. Ken Goldman, surgeon, first violinist of the Columbus Community Orchestra (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)

  Yes, music is very important in life.  Let’s hope the new superintendent and the school board realize that and act accordingly.  If they don’t, beleive me, George will be after them because he has the energy to do it. Though my age, 78, he still goes full steam, giving his time to lead the Cavaliers Big Band, the Bob Barr Community Band and play for all sorts of occasions.

Joey Cumming)

Columbus Community Orchestra, william E. Fry, Conductor, James B Mallard III, Assistant Conductor (Courtesy: Joey Cumming)

$138 Million Renovation of Former Infantry Hall Starts this Weekend

November 21, 2008

  While all eyes this weekend are trained on the SOA Watch protest, which brings thousands into the Columbus-Phenix City area, there is something starting on Fort Benning that will have a much larger and longer impact on the United States Army and our area. The very beginning of the four-year, $138 million renovation of the former Infantry Hall gets underway this weekend. Building 4, which is what most people call it, is no longer Infantry Hall. It is the Maneuver Center of Excellence building.

Infantry Hall, Building Four, Fort Benning, Georgia, soon to be Maneuver Center for Excellence

Infantry Hall, Building Four, Fort Benning, Georgia, is now Maneuver Center of Excellence (Courtesy, Jim Cathorne, Camera 1)

  Interestingly enough, Fort Benning’s new commander, Major General Michael D. Barbero, to whom the baton was passed by retiring Major General Walter Wojdakowski, will soon be commanding the post from the original, historical  Infantry Center building. Fort Benning’s Public Affairs Officer Bob Purtiman tells me that General Barbero will be operating out of the old headquarters for about two years. Ironically, in light of this weekend’s annual SOA protest, WHINSEC, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, will be moving out of the historic building that was once occupied by legendary American heros, including Generals George C. Marshall and Dwight David Eisenhower, to another nearby building.  

Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdjakowski, Maj. General Michael Barbero, and Gen. William S. Wallace at Fort Benning change of command ceremony (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

  General Barbero will be overseeing one of the biggest changes in the Army ever. The infantry and armour schools will be combined into one organization.  This is the result of moving the Armour Center and School from Fort Knox, Kentucky to Fort Benning as a part of the latest BRAC ( Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission) action.    

  All of this, to the Columbus business community, is a godsend, especially in light of the current economic freefall. About $2 billion will be spent in converting the post to the Maneuver Center for Excellence. Somehow, that doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Infantry Center.” I guess we’ll get use to it.

  We’ll have more thoughts and memories about Fort Benning in the context of this sea change in identity for the post in furture posts on this blog. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your Fort Benning stories over the years. Please feel free to click the “comments” button and give us your take on this really big story.

Goodbye “Home of the Infantry,” Hello “Maneuver Center of Excellence”

November 20, 2008


Jim Cathorne, Camera 1)

Fort Benning Change of Command Ceremony (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

 Fort Benning’s big change of command ceremony Tuesday brought back a lot of thoughts about Fort Benning. My connection with the post goes back to the 1930’s so I do have somewhat of a historic perspective about it.  The fact that it’s no longer to be called the “home of the infantry,” but is becoming the Maneuver Center of Excellence is really a big deal.  I’ll explain my feelings about it tomorrow.  Why tomorrow instead of today? Sometimes personal considerations trump blogging, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Stay tuned.

How I Will Remember Frank Bullard

November 18, 2008

  When someone passes away, we always think about our experience with them. It brings home that each of us is a different person to different people. My son, stepsons, and grandchildren certainly view me differently than, say, a person who watched me every night on TV. The opinions of my children and grandchildren – I have a son, four stepsons, and five grandchildren – of course, trump anyone else’s. Fortunately, I know that our love and respect is mutual.

  People who worked for me when I was a news director at WRBL-TV, no doubt, have a different opinion. Depending on their experience with me, they liked and respected me, or didn’t. Fortunately, some have come back to Columbus after they made good in other, larger markets to thank me for giving them their first break in TV, and for what they learned from me. That sort of balances the ones who thought I was a perfectionist martinet and other things that I won’t mention in polite company.  

  This brings me to the death of Frank Bullard, former executive with Bill Heard Chevrolet.  My experience with Frank was all good. I got to know him through Crime Stoppers.  He was an ardent supporter, being on the board of directors. I wrote, produced and narrated the feature from the time it started on WTVM in 1986 until I retired in 2000. He was one of those guys who just made you feel good every time you were around him. His twinkling-eyes and warm smile had the effect of putting you in a good mood no matter how rotten the day had been before you saw him.  When I retired, knowing that my late wife Melba and I liked ballroom dancing, he had the board of directors give us tickets to the New Year’s Eve Ball at Callaway Gardens – which aint’ cheap – and a room at the Inn so I could have a couple of glasses of wine at the dance and not worry about driving home. That was the kind of creative, thoughtful person he was, in my experience.

  The last time I saw him was a few months ago at a Columbus Jazz Society jam session. I knew that he was terminally ill, but it wasn’t because of the way he acted. The warm smile and the twinkling eyes were there when we said hello. That’s the way I’ll remember Frank.

E Pluribus Unum, One Columbus, the Constitution, and You

November 17, 2008

   One Columbus, the organization of Columbus leaders dedicated to bringing people of all races and creeds together in our area, thinks all of us need to understand the United States Constitution. Rabbi Max Roth, a One Columbus leader, says that the U.S. Constitution is the document that unites the whole country. That’s why One Columbus and Columbus State University are sponsoring  E Pluribus Unum. That’s the title of a series of lectures and discussions about the Constitution. E pluribus unum means “one out of many.” It’s on the Great Seal of the United States and some state coins.

Great Seal of the United States

Great Seal of the United States

  I’ve been to a couple of these programs and they are interesting. I would suggest, though, that you read the Constitution before going. I read it a few years ago and it has some things in it that I didn’t know about. It’s sort of like reading the Bible cover to cover yourself. In both cases you are getting the information unfiltered through someone else’s interpretation. However, both documents are open to interpretation and both are interpreted a lot. I won’t get into the Bible, but I will say that the only interpretation of the Constitution that matters is the one done by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (See Roe vs. Wade, or Brown vs. the Board of Education for a couple of reasons why) 

Dr. Tom Dolan, CSU Department of Political Science

  Last week, Dr.  Tom Dolan, CSU Political Science Department professor,  conducted a lecture and discussion on the history of the Constitution. It was quite interesting, but very few folks were there. It got very little publicity. But, those who were there learned that the Constitution was created by wealthy property owners for wealthy property owners, and that it doesn’t claim that all men are equal, among other things.  It changed, of course, as it was amended over the years. I won’t go into all of that, but I will say that Dr. Dolin brought out some things about the Constitution that would probably surprise you.  

  Anyway, E pluribus unam’s next session is Tuesday night at 7:00 at Columbus State University’s Commerce and Technology building, room 237. Dr. Troy Vidal of the CSU Political Science Department will talk about Federalism. (See John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln vs. Jefferson Davis)  If you haven’t read the Constitution and want to, you can pick up a free copy at the lecture. Rabbi Roth happily hands them out at the door.

Rabbi Max Roth, Shearith Israel Synagogue, One Columbus

Rabbi Max Roth, Shearith Israel Synagogue, One Columbus


“Federalism” – Tuesday night, November 18, 2008, at 7:00 at Columbus State University’s Commerce and Technology building, room 237.