Posts Tagged ‘Downtown Columbus’

CSU Impact on Downtown Columbus

May 5, 2014


 Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra (I took this with my iPhone camera.)

Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra (I took this with my iPhone camera.)

I know.  The Uptown Columbus folks want us to  call it that,  but I  lived at 1109 1/2 Fifth Avenue in downtown Columbus from 1940 (I was nine years old) to 1947, so the area is still downtown Columbus to me. When I am speaking of the downtown promotional consortium, I’ll call it Uptown Columbus.  Geographically it  remains, to me and a lot of veteran Columbusites,  downtown Columbus.

Anyway, as I sipped my delicious caramel smoothie at Iron Bank Coffee yesterday,  I reflected on how the area has come alive again, and, to me, it is a more beautiful and vibrant area than it has ever been.  For that, we can thank Columbus State University and Columbus philanthropists who kicked in millions to help pay for  moving the College of the Arts from the main campus to downtown Columbus.   

In a thank-you letter I got for a small contribution to the Patrons of Music in support of the Schwob School of Music,  Dean Richard Baxter  told me that the College of the Arts, which has more than 800 majors, “contributes more than $10.7 million to the Uptown Columbus economy each year.   Our 300 majors living on theRiverPark Campus foster a vibrant community of gifted, creative talent positively impacting the quality of life in Columbus for all of us.”



You Meet Some Really Interesting Folks at the River Center

April 29, 2014

Sometimes I am tempted to stop blogging on a basically weekly basis,  but then someone will let me know that they read my musings, and that inspires me to keep on keeping on.

It happened Sunday evening in the Bill Heard Theater at the  River Center.  Shortly after a friend and I took our seats in the audience, my friend started a conversation with a lady in the row in front of us.  Turns out the lady’s teenage daughter plays French Horn  with the  Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, which was about to play its part of a concert titled ASYO & CSU Philharmonic “Atlanta Day.”

When I heard that, I commented that my son and daughter-in-law played French Horn in their  high schools’ concert bands.  When another lady sitting with her husband also in the row in front of us heard that, she volunteered that their son plays the French Horn in the Columbus State University Philharmonic, which would be playing the second half of the “Atlanta Day” concert. They had come down from Scranton, PA to hear their son play in a number of concerts this weekend.

As she was saying that, her gaze focused on me, and she asked, “Are you a writer … a reporter?”

“Well, yes.”

She must have recognized me from my picture on this blog. “I thought so,” she exclaimed, and explained that she and her husband read posts on this blog about the Schwob School of Music.  They were impressed and decided Schwob might be the school that would be right for their son. She said that it turned out that it is, and they are glad he is here.

That’s definitely a compliment, because she should know a good school of music when she sees one; she is a middle and high school band director herself.

We’re glad he’s here, too, because that means he passed auditions, and to do that he simply has to be a truly talented musician.  Schwob, with its internationally respected teachers, generous scholarships, and impressive facilities, attracts really fine college musicians from all over the world.

As far as the Sunday concert is concerned, both orchestras brought the house down with their inspired performances.  The Atlanta Symphony  Youth Orchestra bussed its one hundred members to Columbus  for some master class lessons,  a look at the River Center, and to play in the Sunday concert.  Schwob School of Music leaders added that it was also a good opportunity to do some  recruiting.  Those Atlanta kids were truly impressive when they played Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 and Alexander Borodin’s charming Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. 

That experience made me reflect on how CSU’s College of the Arts has transformed downtown Columbus into a charming,  vibrant, happening place again. More on that coming up. Stay tuned.    









Neal Wickham’s New Dream

October 10, 2013
Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon  by the  Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids.

Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon by the Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks?  WIckham thinks it's a good idea.

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks? WIckham thinks it’s a good idea.

First, the dream.  Enter Neal Wickham, retired outdoor supplies retailer, environmentalist, and naturalist.  John Turner, the driving force behind developing the whitewater project on the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City  credited Wickham with the idea of  breaching the cotton mill dams.  Wickham didn’t deny it. He told me he first made the suggestion back in the 1970s when then Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Billy Winn wrote an editorial saying Columbus needed an “it” to promote the area.  Wickham said he wrote to Winn that breaching the mill dams would provide that “it. ”  Turns out he was right.

Turner said the whitewater project is succeeding in getting Columbus the kind of attention it needs to attract people from all over the country.  He said now when he tells people he’s from Columbus, Georgia, they say, “Oh, that city with the crazy river running through the downtown area.”  

Well, guess what? Neal Wickham has come up with another dream that could cause a lot of talk all over America.  He told me today that a zip line attached to the Eagle and Phenix Mill smokestacks crossing the  Chattahoochee River would be a huge attraction.  He is probably right.  Wonder if they are stable enough for elevators to take people to the top to hook onto  the the zip-line.  I’m pretty sure it would be easy to get an expert on such things to find out.  Just imagine what it would be like to zip over the Chattahoochee rapids from Columbus to Phenix City.  As someone at today’s Rotary event said, Wickham would be probably the first to do the zipping.  At 83, he was the oldest Rotarian to ride the rapids in a raft today.

Most of the Stores May be Gone, but the Christmas Parade Still Draws Big Crowds in Downtown Columbus

December 10, 2012

It’s Monday, the day I  promised to  try to post something new, and I  haven’t posted anything yet. So, here goes.


I suppose I could say something about Christmas parades since Columbus,  Georgia had one Saturday.  I’ve been in a lot of them over the years, and I’ve watched a few.  I started being in them when I was in the Bob Barr Jordan High  School band back in the forties. Then, as a news anchor at different times for WRBL and WTVM, I rode in convertibles with female co-anchors, and we tossed candy into the crowds, and waved a lot, not necessarily because we wanted to, but because the stations wanted us to. Sometimes some wise guys would pick up the candy and throw it back at us. Guess I can’t blame them. They didn’t ask for  candy to be tossed to them. Eventually, we stopped tossing the candy and just waved.

It is really interesting the way thousands of folks converge on downtown Columbus and Phenix City for the parades just like they did when people did their Christmas shopping downtown.  Most of the retail stores closed or  moved to shopping centers.  One of the prominent ones that didn’t is Chancellors. Perhaps it benefited from the parade. I hope so. I like Chancellors  and still shop there. They may be considered a little pricey, but you  get good stuff, and they make sure it fits. My late mother use to buy all of my father’s suits, shoes, and top coats there, saying you pay a little more, but it looks good and it lasts and lasts.   Wonder if wives still buy most of their husband’s wearing apparel. They must, because I still see a lot of women in men’s clothing departments.


As for the parade itself, it was really long and had huge gaps between sections and lacked a main ingredient for parades, a lot of  big high school bands. If it had not been for Central  High of Phenix City, there would not have been a big high school band in  the parade.  I ran into Ledger-Enquirer editor and reporter Chuck Williams at the end of the parade, and he told me that the Muscogee County high school bands were absent because the parade fell on the day the bands audition for the state honors band.  He said he knew that because his daughter is in the Columbus High School Blue Devil Band.  And later the paper explained one of those gaps by reporting that a young girl walking by a float fell under the float and an ambulance had to be called to take her to the emergency room.

All in all, though, I would say the parade was a big success. Folks appeared to  be having a good time and were in good spirits.  People obviously still do love a parade.

As the old saying goes, sorry this is so long, but I didn’t  have time to write a short post today.

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.