Posts Tagged ‘Columbus GA’

Extraordinary Exhibits at Columbus Museum

March 4, 2014

(Still working on the biggie; meanwhile, a quickie on Columbus Museum.)

Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia
Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia


Checking out what’s new  at the Columbus Museum proved a good use of time Sunday.

Not only did I find the Midtown Columbus exhibit especially interesting because the first nine years of my life were spent in East Wynnton, but I was dazzled by the blown glass exhibit on the third floor.

The Midtown exhibit shows post cards of Victorian homes and places like Weracoba Park, popularly known as Lake Bottom, when there was actually a lake with a bath house, bridges, and row boats there. It was drained in 1925. There are also artifacts like furniture and china that date back to the Civil War.  Trust me, it’s worth a visit, especially if you grew up in Columbus.

Whatever you do, though, make sure you go up to the third floor.  You won’t believe what glass blowers can do.  Go when you have plenty of time.  It’s not something you want to do hurriedly.

Georgia-Auburn Columbus Memories

November 15, 2013

 It it has been played in Columbus more times than anywhere else, 38 games, according to Wikipedia.  It was played in Columbus from 1920 to 1958, with the only break being when it was played in Athens in 1929. Memorial Stadium (now A.J. McClung Memorial  Stadium), I am told, was larger than the stadiums at Georgia and Auburn in 1920. 

Not only was the game the largest sports event in Cweolumbus, it was also arguably the biggest social even of the year. Parties were held all over town. Men wore business suits and women their Sunday best when going to the game.

When I was a boy, no one I knew went to parties or the game because we were in the depths of the Great Depression.  My dad would drive the family by the stadium so we could see the well-dressed crowds going into the game, then we would listen to it on the radio. And everyone could watch the Georgia and Auburn bands in the game day parade on Broadway.  The Georgia Band would arrive by train at  the  Central of  Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue, a block away from where we lived in the 1940s. My buddies and I would watch the band detrain, form up and start its march to Broadway  We would follow the band to Broadway where it would join the Auburn band for the Broadway parade. Georgia and Auburn fans would decorate their cars in school colors and signs.

During the last year of World War II and right after the war, since the war had brought an end to the Great Depression, family finances picked up and we started going to the games.  The one that I remember most vividly was when Charlie Trippi played.  It was either the 1945 or 1946 game.  Trippi, who was an All-American and in the running for the Heisman Trophy (Doc Blanchard of Army won it) put on dazzling show.

It was a warm, sunny November Saturday afternoon.  We were sitting in the end zone seats , but that didn’t matter because I WAS THERE, actually seeing a Georgia-Auburn game.  And while I was rooting for Georgia, I enjoyed the Auburn band when it played The Tiger Rag  as much as the Bulldog band when it played Glory Glory to old Georgia.  I just loved it when the Auburn band tuba section stood and in unison turned from one side to the other when it did the roar part of the song.

And the end zone didn’t turn out so bad after all.  You got to see Trippi doing his dazzling reverses and running backwards before he would turn and run what it appeared to be right through most of the Auburn team in the end-zone area. That turned out to be better than the ultra-expensive 50-yard line seats. Georgia won. I  know that because Georgia won both the 1945 and 1946 games.

The Georgia-Auburn game is billed as “The Deep South’s Oldest Football Rivalry.”  Virginia-North Carolina claim to be “The South’s Oldest Football Rivalry” even though it played its first game in 1892, the same year that Georgia and Auburn played their first game.  Virgnia-North Carolina claim the most games since they played two in 1892.  There is the distinct possibility that Georgia and Auburn can play twice in one year for the SEC Championship so that will make it a tie for “oldest rivalry,” I suppose.

14th Street Bridge to Open by September

June 17, 2013

imageAs I peered through the chain link fence that kept me off the 14th Street Bridge,  I was really impressed with the transformation of what was never – at least to me – a handsome structure into something that could actually be called beautiful.  It served its purpose for a long time as a bridge for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, since 1921, but, to me,  its appearance was strictly functional.  And… well… ugly. Now, as a pedestrian bridge designed to be in harmony with the rest of the River Walk, it’s easy on the eyes.

Columbus City Planner Rick Jones says it will open in its new incarnation at either the end of August or in early September.  It was supposed to be open by now, but structural problems with the approach, which include building the tunnel underneath to connect the River Walk on the Georgia side, caused the delay.

Jones said the city also plans to put in a couple of restrooms in the tunnel area.

The Plaza leading into the approach is scheduled to be completed in 2014.  He says that construction won’t prevent the opening of the bridge this year.

Do We Really Need a Charter Review Commission?

October 20, 2012

While discussing this year’s General Election ballot, which includes amendments to the Columbus, Georgia Charter recommended by the Charter Review Commission, my friend Ed Wilson, a former broadcast journalist, talk show host, and assistant to two Columbus, Georgia mayors, told me the commission isn’t needed and hurts more than it helps.  I thought what he said was so interesting that I asked him to put it in writing so I could pass it along to you.  He gives three main reasons for his position. 

By Ed Wilson 

 1.) The commission–like most committees–tends to justify its existence by proposing amendments, regardless of whether they are needed or not.  The original charter has built-in methods for amending the charter.  There are three, and all three have been used successfully to enact charter amendments without involvement of a Charter Review Commission

2.) Columbus citizens tend to delay consideration of proposed amendments until the next Charter Review Commission, which could be as long as 9 years in the future. Existence of the commission thus retards consideration of amendment proposals that may have merit.  I have heard such conversations in which a group develops a consensus on a charter issue and instead of trying to broaden the consensus, group members express the wish that their idea should be forwarded to the next Charter Review Commission.  Thus the incentive to develop charter-related issues among the citizenry is dampened and sidetracked.  Columbus Council is among the groups I have seen do this.  

3.) The decennial commission by its existence slows the operation of democracy in Columbus by providing an easy shift of charter issues from the whole body politic to a committee that has yet to be formed.  Any substantive charter amendment should be based on serious concerns that have a broad consensus of support in the community.  Granted, the proposals of the commission are aired in public hearings and subjected to a vote of the citizens, but I contend that  proposals generated by the commission still don’t get the thorough consideration that those that arise from felt needs in the community.

The Columbus Charter is modeled in some broad respects on the US Constitution, which is certainly not reviewed by a committee every ten years, and how thankful we should be for that!  Instead, the Charter and the Constitution should be reviewed on a continuing basis, and only when proposed changes develop genuine, broad-based support should they be amended.


CSU Scientists Go Around the World to Capture Transit of Venus

May 28, 2012

 News release from Columbus State University

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Partnering with NASA, researchers from Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center are traveling to Mongolia and Australia this week to get the best possible images of Venus passing between the Earth and the sun, a celestial event that won’t occur again for another 105 years.

 Space science center staff will be teaching and watching the skies at a middle school near Alice Springs in Australia, working from a tent city in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, and also stationed in Utah and at home in Columbus to photograph, video and webcast Venus as it moves across the face of the sun in an event that astronomers call a transit. The 2012 Transit of Venus will last nearly seven hours from June 5-6, providing extraordinary viewing opportunities for observers around the world, said Shawn Cruzen, executive director of the center and a Columbus State University astronomy professor.

 “For astronomy fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Cruzen said. “Unfortunately audiences in the continental United States will only be able to see a portion of the transit as the sun sets in the west. An additional limitation in viewing the sun is the danger posed to the naked eye. Special equipment and techniques are required to create a safe observing environment.”

 In an effort to make this event more accessible to the public, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center has partnered with NASA and the International Space School Education Trust to provide a multi-continent webcast of the 2012 Transit of Venus. The space science center is believed to be the only university-affiliated institution partnering with NASA to provide images from remote locations for its webcast. 

Audiences throughout the world will have an opportunity to experience the event safely via the Internet and NASA TV. Using private funds, Coca-Cola Space Science Center teams are traveling to Mongolia and to a school in the Australian outback near Alice Springs to be in optimal observation sites to acquire images and video of the entire transit. 

The team going to Australia left Sunday and are not only going to record the transit, but  will be part of an extensive outreach effort, teaching and lecturing about the transitand other related astronomy topics to hundreds of local schoolchildren. They are also scheduled to be interviewed by a national television station. 

The team going to Mongolia leaves June 2. They will spend about 18 hours in the air before arriving in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and trekking to their camp. The expedition is being led by a team that includes a former space shuttle commander and a former astronaut trainer and will also include extensive leadership training, team-building and communication exercises. 

Both teams are soliciting questions about the event from students around the world and posting answers, videos and updates on a blog at

 In addition to the teams traveling to the other side of the globe to record the transit, one team will remain in Georgia to provide local images and video of the event. A Columbus State University student, Katherine Lodder, will provide yet another set of U.S. images from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Other Columbus State University students involved in the effort will be behind the scenes working on the computers to coordinate images and the webcast. 

Experts caution that the only safe ways to view the Transit of Venus will be through a solar-filtered telescope, a rear-projection screen, welding glasses (No. 14 or above) or a live webcast such as that being staged by NASA and CSU’s center. In Georgia, on Tuesday, June 5, the transit will be viewable starting at about 6 p.m., continuing until sunset. CSU staffers stationed in Mongolia and Australia will be able to view and record the entire seven-hour event, continuing into Wednesday, June 6.

“Literally, we want geographically disparate sites so we don’t get clouded out,” Cruzen said.

They will send images back to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at 701 Front Ave. in downtown Columbus, which will be open for visitors to see pictures and videos of the transit from 5:30-11 p.m. June 5.

 Historians have traced interest in the Transit of Venus to ancient civilizations, but scientists began focusing on the planet’s movements starting in the 18th Century as a means of determining the size of the Earth’s solar system.

“Today, we know the size of the solar system,” Cruzen said. “But now, it can inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The three continental teams capturing the transit will be equipped with hydrogen alpha, calcium K-line, and solar white light filters that will allow for spectacular imaging of this event. These filters are provided by the center’s Mead Observatory, where they are used regularly to obtain images and animations of solar phenomena such as sunspots, flares, plages, faculae, prominences, and filaments. Typically, students from Columbus State study these solar phenomena to better understand the sun’s cycle of activity and its interaction with the Earth. However, during the Transit of Venus, these solar features will become, for one final period in our lives, the stunning backdrop against whichVenus’ planetary disk will cross the sun’s 865,000-mile face.

View the webcast by visiting or by linking through the NASA partners page at NASA’s Sun Earth Day website,


NCR Brings More Jobs Home to America as it Moves into a Second Plant in Columbus

March 28, 2012

My iPhone shot of Rick Marquardt, NCR VP of Global Operations, spewkaing to members of the Rotary Club of Columbus

What stood out was seeing a powerful corporate executive become emotional when he told of how plant employees came up smiling to shake his hand, some even crying, as they thanked him for providing them jobs.  “That’s what it’s all about,” said Rick Marquardt, Vice President of Global Operations for NCR, who spoke to Columbus Rotarians today, the day he came back to town to announce the opening of a second plant in Columbus. NCR has leased the new building that Cessna was going to use but decided against it when the economy went sour.

Columbus is NCR’s only manufacturing facility in the United States. Since opening in Columbus, the plant has manufactured 25,000 ATM machines and also makes other business machines here. The corporation’s decision to bring some manufacturing jobs back to America got national attention, but he cautioned that we shouldn’t expect a lot of firms to do that. That’s sad. Still, we can be thankful that some are doing it and one as large and as successful as NCR  picked Columbus to do it. Marquardt said Columbus was chosen because of the enthusiastic and broad support it got by Columbus business leaders when deciding on which city to start making things in the U.S.A. again.

Everything Old is New Again on the Chattahoochee

March 26, 2012

“There goes history,” some of the folks said to me as we passed on our strolls down the Phenix City Riverwalk Sunday.  I replied, “It’s change,” and, frankly, I appreciate the creative thinking that gives new life to the old Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City. Not only will kyaking and rafting bring a lot of tourist money to the area, it will enhance the Riverwalking experience. Still, I was encouraged to know that there are people who understand the importance of history.

In this particular instance, though, you could say history is also being preserved by  returning the river to the state in which it existed probably for thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution came along and society decided to harness nature to manufacture things.

The results of breaching the Eagle-Phenix Dam via dynamite on the Chattahoochee River at Columbus, GA

Historians tell us that Native Americans lived where Columbus and Phenix City are now located for about ten thousand years before European settlers came along and took their land away from them. During that time there were rapids here because Columbus and Phenix City are located on the Fall Line, the drop in elevation that goes back to when to our area was an ocean beach.

This brings up an interesting issue for historic preservation purists who maintain that no old structures should be destroyed.  While being a history buff who buys any new history written by David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin no matter the subject, I’m not one of those purists. I think we should maintain examples of artifacts, but I have no problem in putting some areas to new uses. It seems to me that removing enough of the Eagle-Phenix and City Mill dams to return the whitewater to the river, but leaving remnants of them that symbolize the historical structures is an acceptable solution. Just think, we get something new, retain part of something fairly old, and restore something that is one heck of a lot older.

Civil War Naval Museum Fights for its Fiscal Life

May 28, 2011

"Water Witch" Civil War Ship Replica, National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus, GA

As I moved among the crowd at the National Civil War Naval Museum rally to “save the museum,” I had to reflect on what I learned in a political science class about budgets. They are more than just numbers on a page; they are political documents because they reflect priorities.

That means that the Port Columbus National Civil War  Naval Museum is way down on Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s priority list.  A flier being circulated at a rally to “save the museum” says that the proposed city budget cuts funding to the museum by almost 70%, while many other city departments are being asked to cut only 2%.  The flier indicates the museum may have to close if the budget proposal passes unchanged. That 70 percent cut whittles down the city’s funding of the museum’ from $300,000 to about $78,000.

The museum flier says the facility generates $2, 800,000 in spending by folks who come to Columbus to visit the museum.  State Senator Josh McKoon told me he thought that a $2,800,000 return on a $300,000 investment sounded like a no-brainer to him.  He joined as a member today and encouraged  the public to support the museum, but acknowledged that the state had to cut its $70,000 grant because of the state budget shortfall.

Of course, the state nor the city has to cut funding to the museum. Governor Deal chose to do that, and the city may also choose to slash the museum’s budget.  Those choices simply mean that they value other things more.

When I pointed out to the museum’s Executive Director Bruce Smith that the Columbus Museum is under the Muscogee County School Board, he said, that it is and it gets a million dollars from the school board.  I suggested that maybe the Civil War Naval Museum should also be under the school board, and he replied, ” Teachers would never stand for that,” pointing out that they are facing furloughs.

This discussion also brings up the question of whether tax dollars should be spent on museums.  But then, if you ask that, you would also have ask if tax dollars should fund public education.  Museums are also educational, and as one volunteer told me, there is no stronger or more effective way to teach folks about the history of naval warfare during the Civil War. That’s probably true. It is an impressive facility and I would  hate to see it go.

Has the Time Come to End the Columbus Property Tax Freeze?

January 12, 2011


Attorney, lobbyist, and former Columbus state legislator Pete Robinson ran the end-the-property-tax- freeze  flag up the political flagpole again. Now, we’ll get to see how many Columbus citizens salute it this time.  Twice before freeze-enders got shot down in referendums, and the freeze was upheld in a state supreme court ruling.

Times are different now, Robinson told Columbus Rotarians today. A lot of people who work and use Columbus public services don’t own property in Columbus any more.  Columbus basically depends on property taxes to pay for government services, and since counties that don’t have tax freezes, such as Harris in Georgia, and Russell is Alabama, are more attractive to people who buy new homes, the tax digest in Columbus simply isn’t going to be enough to finance the Columbus-Muscogee County government.

In order to tax those people who live in other counties, but work in Columbus and use Columbus infrastructure, there has to be a change. One is is to depend more on sales taxes – he called it “consumption” taxes – and another is to institute a Columbus income tax. And ending the freeze will also encoruage more people to buy homes in Columbus.

Sales taxes, the most regressive because lower-income people pay a higher percentage of their income than upper-income people, are already high enough in my book.  I’d lean more toward an income tax. Also, I have never thought the property tax freeze was a good idea.  When a new homeowner moves in and has to pay $2,000 in property taxes and his  or her neighbor, who has been living for 20 years in the house next door that is of the same value, pays $100, you know something is wrong.

I asked Robinson if he really thought there was a chance in hell the tax freeze would end. “It has to!” he said emphatically.

I’m sure our new mayor Teresa Tomlinson will be very interested in seeing how Columbus citizens react to Robinson’s position.

Another Democrat Wins an Important Columbus City-wide Election

December 1, 2010


Her political foes tried to paint Teresa Tomlinson as a Democrat. Well, she is. She is a member of the Muscogee County Democratic Party.  But, she was in a non-partisan election so she didn’t emphasize party.   Since she didn’t just win, but won in a landslide, she obviously knew what she was doing.

To win that big she had to have gotten a lot of Republican votes.  Fortunately, people don’t always vote because of party affiliation. Her husband Trip said that while he and Teresa have supported some Democrats, they have also supported Republicans, depending on who was running for a particular office. And, I do admit that I have, over time, done the same thing.

According to the Ledger-Enquirer story about her win, she told well wishers at her election headquarters last night to look around. She wanted them to notice the diversity of the people there, and she said that is the way Columbus is now, and that a new day in politics has been born.   Let’s hope it gets a good upbringing. I’m sure she’ll work to make that a reality, but, as she will soon learn, she’s just the mayor. Council and the City Manager will have a lot to do with raising that baby, also.