Archive for February, 2010

Why Did President Obama Pick Savannah?

February 27, 2010


I don’t know why President Obama picked Savannah for his “Main Street” visit to Georgia Tuesday, but he will certainly be in probably Georgia’s most charming city.  I was there recently and really enjoyed the visit.  It’s a beautiful place, and, as you know, the most historic city in Georgia.  It’s where Georgia started in 1733. 

River Street in downtown Savannah, Georgia

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution story by Bill  Torpy and    Jeremy Redmon,  the White House will only say that ” its residents ‘have been hit hard and know well the challenges that Americans are facing right now’ — a criteria that could fit Anytown, USA.”  

The president will be conducting a town hall type meeting at Savannah Technical College.  The Savannah Morning News reports that only invited guest will be in attendance because the school’s auditorium will only seat 200 people.  After he finishes there, he is scheduled to make some more stops during his four hour visit,  but the White House won’t say where they will be. 

Port of Savannah on the Savannah River. It exports more than it imports.

According to the AJC  story, Robert Eisinger, dean of liberal arts at the Savannah College of Arts and Design,  says, ” Savannah provides racial, ideological and geographical diversity,” he said, and “It’s a president’s job to go out and listen. There’s an export story he can tell here, a manufacturing story and an education story.”  He pointed out the photographic settings, which include “historic architecture, an expansive river view,  and a busy port that all can help bring home whatever message Obama wants to make.”

There are some high profile Republicans in the Savannah area, such as Congressman Jack Kingston who is opposed to the $787 billion stimulus program – though Georgia Republican Governor Perdue’s administration had no problem in accepting Georgia’s share of the money- but,  the president will not be in hostile territory.  He pulled 57 percent of the vote in Chatham County.

It’s Not Your Granddaddy’s YMCA

February 21, 2010
Oh what a difference between the YMCA of today and the one of my youth.  At about age 10,  on doctor’s orders, my mother signed me up  at the 11th St. Y in Columbus.  I didn’t know at the time that it had been built in 1903 with money donated by philanthropist George Foster Peabody and was the only marble YMCA in the United States.   I just remember that it was the dark building that smelled of disinfectant, where I played pool, exercised in my underwear, and swam nude in a small, indoor, white tile swimming pool.

Historic 1903 Central YMCA, 11th St., Columbus, GA

  That building had rooms for rent for young men upstairs.  When I was about 12, I delivered copies of the Columbus Ledger to a few of those rooms.  The Y was on my 2nd Avenue paper route.  The new building that opened this month on Broadway has no rooms for rent.  That practice stopped many years ago. 

YMCA, Broadway, Columbus, GA

  Swimming in the nude stopped years ago when girls were allowed to use the pool.  When I was a member, the Y only served guys.  Now it’s for everyone. The 1953 building on 11th featured a much larger and nicer pool, and over the years added things like treadmills and other sophisticated exercising machines.  But, just look at the new facility.  It has a lot of everything, and the place is open and full of light, and I didn’t smell any disinfectant while I was there. 





Construction is continuing on the outside of the new YMCA. When I asked why it opened before it was finished, I was told that the inside of the new building is finished and the old buildings were so dark and in need of repair that they got out as soon as possible. 

The First Presbyterian Church owns the old buildings, and, according to the church’s pastor Dr. Charles Hasty,  while the church will keep the historic 1903 building, it plans to eventually demolish the 1953 addition.  The 1903 building is still structurally sound, and there are plans to renonvate and use it in some way, but he says it would not be cost effective to try to use the 1953 addition.

The Columbus Connection to the First and Last Moon Shots

February 16, 2010


 Georgia state legislator and retired Columbus lawyer, Milton Jones, a friend of mine, was reminded by my post on my visit to the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Apollo 17 in 1972, that he and his family went down for the Apollo 11 launch.  Here is what he emailed to me.

Apollo 11 liftoff, July 16, 1969, Kennedy Space Center, FL (NASA photo)

Enjoyed your article on the Apollo 17 space shot.

It’s interesting that you went to the last “man to the moon” mission.  Two other couples and Jeanette and I carried our 11 children to Apollo 11 in July of 1969.  That was the mission, of course, which first landed men on the moon.  Jack Brinkley was in Congress then, and he and I were (and still are) close friends.  He got us passes to the VIP viewing area.  It was one of those experiences you will never forget, as I am sure is also true with you.  I could not get over the noise, which really surpassed noise it was so loud, and more of a roaring all encompassing vibration.

Lunar Module Commander Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, is shown working outside the LM (NASA photo)

Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, stepping onto the lunar surface (NASA photo)

Our kids are now adults, but they tell their children about watching man go to the moon.  I hate it that it appears that manned space flight is on the way out.  I believe in too many ways we are going backwards in our country and civilization.  A lot of wonderful progress in a lot of ways, but some retrograde, too, and in other very important ways.

Oh, well, just another example of my old man grousing.


The Endeavour Night Launch Reminds Me of the Night Launch I Saw 38 Years Ago

February 15, 2010

Endeavour crew space-walks to work on the International Space Station (NASA photo)


As I follow the news from NASA about the space shuttle Endeavour mission, which marked the last night launch of the shuttle program,  I remember the only space shot I witnessed at the Kennedy Space Center.  Ledger-Enquirer photographer and friend Lawrence Smith offered me a ride on a friend’s airplane to witness the night launch of Apollo 17.  Armed with my WRBL-TV 16 mm movie camera and my own still camera, I joined Lawrence and his friend and another man to take off from Columbus on the morning of December 6, 1972, . It was an interesting ride because we had to fly around a lot of thunder storms.  It was worth the excitement to see the first night Apollo launch, which also happened to be the last time Americans went to the moon.  

On December 7th, 1972, at 12:33 a.m. , Apollo 17 launches and heads for the moon. (NASA photo)


The pictures that the astronauts sent back on the way and on the moon were spectacular.  

Eugene Cernan walks on the moon (NASA photo)


Up until recently, there were plans for America to go to the moon again.  That idea has been scuttled, I’m told.  Americans were supportive of the moon shots almost 40 years ago, but priorities have changed, and unless there is some catastrophic accident, space shots get little publicity.  Save Space, a Florida website, is trying to get people to write Congress to save the space flight program.  It points out what the space program has given the world. 

“Satellite communications, microwaves, cellular phones, miniaturized computers, pacemakers, kidney dialysis, scratch-resistant lenses, medical and sports technology, adjustable smoke detectors, cordless tools, and water filters are just a few examples of the advances that have occurred through NASA space research. Not to mention the entrepreneurs, jobs, and commercial aspects of many space research spin-offs.” 

Wikipedia says this is probably the most reproduced picture in the world. It is earth as seen from the space craft Apollo 17 five hours after lift-off on December 7, 1972. It's called "The Blue Marble." (NASA photo)

The End of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Has one Plus for Columbus

February 8, 2010

Endeavour lifts off at Kennedy Space Flight Center, last night launch, 2/8/2010 (Photo courtesy: NASA/Jim Grossmann)

The ending of NASA’s space shuttle program this year is going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of people.  However, something good will come of it for our area. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center will be given $17 million worth of shuttle artifacts.

Yes, one of Columbus’ great tourist attractions will be even more attractive.  Everything about the space shuttle in the Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a replica. 

Space capsule replica, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia

 The  space capsule, the space shuttle, the  NASA control room are all replicas.  Even so, it is a very entertaining and educational place to visit.  However, with the announcement that the Omisphere Director Lance Tankersley’s application to NASA for actual shuttle launch artifacts was granted,  the Center will able to offer the real thing for some shuttle launch  hardware.

NASA has agreed to give $17 million worth of artifacts to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.  That doesn’t mean the Center won’t have to pay anything.  It is going to have to ante up the money  to go pick  up the artifacts, which will entail trips to Cape Canaveral, Florida; Houston, Texas; and California where the  artifacts are located.

Some of the  artifacts are so  large that  they will require large semi’s to pick  up. For instance, the leading edge of a shuttle wing is 49-feet long. A piece of engine nozzle weighs 4300 pounds.  Also among the artifacts will be an on-board computer, a launch-pad escape basket, a launch control room biomedical console, a shuttle tire, a tool box and a shuttle window.

Since there is not enough  room in the Space Center to display all of these items,  the facility will have to decide how to do it. It probably will  require new construction.  Fortunately, they have until 2011 to work it out. The  artifacts won’t be available until then.

NASA guests watch Endeavour's launch at the Kennedy Space Center (Photo courtesy; NASA- Paul E. Alers)

After September, there will be no more American shuttle trips into orbits to do things like repairing a Hubble Space telescope or go to the International Space Station.  To get to the space station we’ll have to hitch a ride with the Russians since they will still be sending Soyuz shuttles up.  What if relations between the countries sour?  What will we do then?  Who knows, maybe China or Japan will have shuttles operating by then. 

What does the future hold for America’s space program?  Privatization is the buzz word.  It’s already started as NASA has contracted with private firms for some space hardware.  The next step is for private firms to build the rockets and future shuttles that will ride them.  The whole thing is up in the air (no pun intended) because Congress has dramatically cut funding for the space program, and future cuts could be coming. 

Meanwhile, the end of the shuttle program has economic fallout that affects non-governmental elements. For instance, there will be devastation of communities around the Kennedy Space Station on Cape Canaveral that depend on the tourism that space launches provide.  They are going to lose millions when people stop coming because there will be no more shuttle launches. 

We were going to go back to the moon.  That idea has been scrapped.  It’s incredably expensive, especially now during the current budget crisis. Besides, we’ve already done it.  What would be the benefit? I guess no one has answered those questions to Congress’ satisfaction. 

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Crew: From left are Robert Behnken, Commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, Kathryn Hire, Nicholas Patrick and Stephen Robinson. NASA says, "The primary payload on STS-130 is the International Space Station's Node 3, Tranquility, a pressurized module that will provide room for many of the station's life support systems." (Photo courtesy: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

What the National Debt and Deficit are Costing You

February 8, 2010

 Back when I was working in TV news, being cognizant of the importance that local newscasts should provide local news,  when we decided to use a national story, we would always try to “localize” it.  With that in mind, when I decided that I was beginning to feel so concerned about the national budget mess we are in right now that I wanted to do a blog post on it, I tried to figure out how to “localize” it. 

When we say the national debt is now more than $12 trillion,  that’s the big picture.  Maybe to bring it home to each of us, our share is more than $40 thousand each, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock.

 A large share of that debt is generated by defense spending.  That hits home. The Columbus area economy relies heavily on Fort Benning which pumps millions into the stores,  real estate businesses,  and just about everything else.  The annual payroll at Fort Benning is $1.1 billion.  The monthly payroll is $87 million.  Sure, we have to pay our part of the taxes that go into the Defense Department treasury, but we probably get a lot more back than we pay.  The point is that the defense budget directly impacts on us big time. 

Nationally, the proposed defense budget for Fiscal Year 2011 is $708.2 billion.  The base budget, which does not include overseas “contingency operations,” which I suppose means Afghanistan and Iraq, is $548.9 billion, which is $18 billion more than the 2010 budget.

 According to the National Priorities Project Cost of War  Counters, so far, since 2001,  the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars  have cost America a little more than a trillion dollars.  Bringing  that to the local level, folks in Georgia have paid more than $27.6 billion.  The counters don’t list Columbus, so I’ll have to go to a city of about the same size, Augusta, where the cost of the wars has been more than $512 million

Can we afford that?  That opens up a huge can of worms, but just on the fiscal basis,  let’s just ask, can we pay for itNot with our own money.  Incredibly, we lowered taxes when we went to war 8 years ago.  You spend more than you take in, you have to borrow, which leads us to our next post on the fiscal crisis we face. Stay tuned

The Springer Company Kept “Inherit the Wind” Fresh

February 6, 2010

Having seen the movie three or four times over the years, I decided I wouldn’t see the Springer Production of “Inherit the Wind.”  After attending the evolution versus creationism debate at Springer, I changed my mind.  Then, on learning that Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Dusty Nix was playing the judge, I was looking forward to seeing what the Springer could do with the famous play. 

I was impressed.  When going to see an amateur production, I’m ready to make allowances and not expect a lot. No allowances were needed. The production was good, full of life.  As far as Dusty playing the judge is concerned, he nailed it.

The prologue in the program announces that the play is not history. It’s drama. That was true.  The play is nowhere near an accurate portrayal of the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925.  However, it is obviously “based” on that trial.

Scopes knew he would go on trial because he had been approached by the ACLU to be the defendant to test the Tennessee law that banned the teaching in public schools that man was a product of evolution.  At the end of the trial, Clarence Darrow asked the judge to direct the jury to find Scopes guilty.  He was interested in the appeal, which he partially won.  The Tennessee Supreme Court remanded the trial on a technicality.  Scopes didn’t have to pay the $100 fine and the retrial was never held, and the law remained on the books until 1967 when it was repealed.   And the battle between the evolutionists and creationists continues; however, evolution is probably taught in most high school science classes.  The scientific community overwhelmingly supports the theory of evolution.

Formula TV News Reporting

February 4, 2010

Borden Back, a former broadcast journalist with whom I worked at both WRBL and WTVM (she works freelance for print media now),  sent an email about a satirical TV news package on formula news packaging that is funny, but, also, all too true. You can see it by clicking this link.

The Three Arts League’s Run at Jordan

February 3, 2010

When I mentioned the Three Arts League in the post about renovating the Jordan High auditorium, it triggered thoughts about the League and what it meant to Columbus.  It was founded in 1927 and ended in 1975, according to Joe Mahan’s history Columbus: Georgia’s Fall Line “Trading Town.   

Arthur Rubenstein, "one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century," according to an article in Wikipedia. Photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1937.


The League did indeed bring some really big names to the Jordan stage for a number of years.  The best source I could find about that was  Mrs. Francis Virgina Norman,  better known as Virginia Norman, daughter of the late Mrs. A. Illges, better known as Virginia Illges.  She was president of the League from 1949 to 1967, according to Dr. Mahan.  He wrote, “For many years the scheduling, local arrangements, and general excellence of these performances were managed by Mrs. A. Illeges.”  

I asked Mrs. Norman if she could remember when the League first started using Jordan’s auditorium, and the names of some of the big acts.  This is what she sent me via email: 

“Dick, I’m not certain when the Three Arts concerts first were held at Jordan.  Apparently years and years ago they were at the Springer for a time, then at Columbus High, but, for as long as I can remember going to them, and that’s a long time, they were at Jordan auditorium until 1964, when the old Royal Theatre was renovated and reopened as the Three Arts Theatre. ” The League had to have started using Jordan before 1949 because I remember getting to see a few of the shows in that auditorium, and I graduated in 1948.   I was among the Jordan students  who served as ushers for the League shows and concerts.    

Mrs. Norman also said, “Jordan had excellent acoustics and the sound was wonderful, except now and then when someone forgot to turn off the bells that signaled the beginning and ending of classes –  an unexpected addition to the music!
“These are some of the major artists who performed at Jordan auditorium.   
“Symphonies (some more than once) – the Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Atlanta
“Operas – Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Rigoletto. Romeo and Juliet, La Traviata
“Ballets – Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre, Ballet Espagnole, Chicago Opera Ballet
“Pianists – Arthur Rubinstein, Jose Iturbi, Jorge Bolet, Gina Bachauer, Byron Janis, Leonard Pennario, Vronsky and Babin
“Violinists – Yehudi Menhuin, Zino Francescatti, Erica Morini, Tossy Spivakovsky
“Cellist Gregor Piatagorsky
“Classical guitarist Andres Segovia
“Singers – Rise Stevens, Lauritz Melchior, Lily Pons, Jerome Hines, Blanche Thebom, Leanard Warren, Jussi Bjoerling, James Melton, Robert Shaw Chorale
“Actors – Claude Rains, Katherine Cornell, Brian Aherne” 

That is truly an impressive list.  These were some of the top artists in the world, and they performed on the Jordan stage.  Not only were those international stars on the Jordan stage, as well as the famous Bob Barr Jordan bands, but, thanks to Mrs. Illeges, the 20th century version of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra was organized, with Bob Barr as its conductor, and also played on the Jordan stage until the Three Arts Theater opened. And a few years ago when a Columbus Symphony Orchestra outdoor performance in Lake Bottom was rained out, it was moved to the Jordan auditorium, its old home.   As I said in the previous post, the Jordan auditorium has historical value.