Hillside Farms Market

We have friends who have a home in North Carolina with a wonderful view  We love them, we love their view, and we visit whenever we can.

Preferring back roads when we head to North Carolina, we frequently pass Hillside Orchard Farms Country Store between Tiger and Lakemont, Georgia.  Once long ago, we purchased a jar of their preserves at a roadside market in southern Georgia.  It took us a while [pre-GPS and ubiquitous Google] to track the farm down, but we now make it a regular stop.

Hillside Farms opened an operation in Tiger in the 1980s making jams, jellies, pickles, relish, cider and syrup.  Owners Robert and Patsy Mitcham decided to move the retail store to the family farm in 2004.  Their intent was “to provide an educational and entertaining setting for people to learn about the heritage of a farm operation from another time.”

It seems the operation has grown a little each time we go back.  It is now a tourist attraction, especially during harvest season.

They started with the store, an old-fashioned sorghum pan to cook down syrup, a half-mile walking trail and farm tours.  By the time we first visited, they had added a bakery, an old moonshine still, old farm equipment, and a “gem mine” and had built a maze in a corn field.  Now they have animals for children to pet and feed, hay rides, fruits and berries to pick, honey extracting, a stage for entertainment, and a modern ethanol distilling operation.

The “barn loft” above their “mine” is available for parties, meetings and receptions.  When we were there in August, it was used as a thrift store.  There is an interesting thrift store sign on how to pay in my photos below.

Once we arrived early in the morning just in time to buy a cider donut still warm from the oven — heaven!

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Windsor Hotel, Americus, Georgia

The Windsor Hotel, established 1892

Wandering into the Windsor Hotel on a Friday night, I overheard the clerk tell someone only a few “smoking queen rooms” were available on Saturday.  There are no universities in Americus, Georgia, so I asked our waitress in the pub about it.  “Oh we are booked almost full every weekend.  People come from all over to attend [93-year old President] Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class.”

The Windsor is a five-story Victorian building taking up almost an entire block that opened in 1892 with 100 rooms to entice winter visitors from the North.  Among its guests were boxer John L. Sullivan and then New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It had many difficult times and closed in 1974.  Donated to the city, it was renovated and reopened in 1991 but with just 53 period style rooms.  All the rooms still have 12 foot ceilings and ceiling fans but now have modern amenities like air-conditioning and wi-fi.  No two rooms are exactly the same.

Three very-high story lobby

The original golden oak of the lobby was cleaned and restored.  The chandeliers are not original but are from the 1890s.  The mirror on the back wall is pre-Civil War.  The marble of the floor is original but the carpet was made in Thailand from a computer-generated design replicating a 1890s ceiling paper.  The mahogany phone booth is original to the Windsor.

We ate in Floyd’s Pub, named for Floyd Lowery who worked in the Windsor for 40 years as an elevator operator and bellman.

Becaise our room was not ready, we had the opportunity to take another room on the third floor.  We rejected it because the old hallway had some steps and Alie’s RA was bothering her.  Had we known of the legend, we might have taken it.  It is said the ghost of a little girl, daughter of a former housekeeper, runs around the third floor laughing.  It is said you might also run into Floyd Lowery’s ghost, a friendly ghost who, like Floyd, just likes to meet people.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Paul Anderson was able to lift a record 6,270 pounds.

Going north through central Georgia, we stopped to see Toccoa Falls.  The falls were closed to the public that day, but a side-trip took us to see a statue of the amazing weightlifter, Paul Anderson, born in Toccoa on 17 October 1932.

Anderson developed Bright’s disease at age 5 and was given little chance to survive.  Although he continued to have kidney problems, he did survive and went to Furman University in 1950 where he became interested in weight lifting.

Paul Anderson

He returned home and created home-made weights to train: old car axles; 50 gallon drums filled with concrete;  an iron safe filled with weights; huge iron wheels; or a combination of some or all of these.

By age 19 after about a year of training, he was nearly equaling world records.  Other weightlifters began to notice. Then as he progressed, he continually broke his own and others’ records.

He was in an automobile accident and also suffered some training injuries.  He injured his hip and broke several bones.   However, he devised a way to place a cast on a broken wrist and continued training.

Paul Anderson

In 1955, Anderson won the National Championship and was put on the U.S. team which visited the Soviet Union.  While in St. Petersburg, he broke two world records and was proclaimed Chudo Prirody,  translated as a “Wonder of Nature.”  The tour was extended to the Middle East, and he became world famous.

In October 1955 he became world champion breaking two more records in the effort.

He broke three more records in early 1956 and won the Olympic Gold Medal in November.

Weighing 364 pounds himself, on 12 June 1957, he lifted 6,270 pounds off a trestle, proclaimed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the The Greatest Lift: the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being…

After visiting several detention facilities and prisons, Anderson became concerned for young boys placed in these facilities with hardened criminals.

In 1959 he married Glenda Garland who shared his concern.  The couple had a daughter, Paula Dean Anderson, in 1966.

Anderson began to raise funds, and the couple opened a home for young troubled and homeless people in 1961.  He made over 500 public appearances a year to support the facility.  In addition to doing lifting demonstrations, he was known for his booming voice and keen wit.  The Paul Anderson Youth Home continues today on a 50-acre campus.

Anderson’s kidneys failed in the 1980s but the gift of a kidney by his sister extended his life until 15 August 1994.

In 1999, school teacher Cynthia Sanders’ fourth grade class was given the assignment to research the life of their famous resident.  On 26 April 1999, the class gave a presentation to Toccoa City Commission requesting a city park be named in honor of Anderson.  A commission was created in 2000, and the Paul Anderson Memorial Park opened 17 Oct 2008.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Trash cans and a bicycle rack: Lake Placid, Florida

Walking down a street in Elkins, West Virginia recently, I saw a woman pick up a piece of litter and commented  how clean Elkins was. “We have been trying to ‘beautify’ the town” she replied.

It seems many cultures, especially poverty stricken ones, are comfortable tossing trash onto the ground.  In recent years, I was disturbed to see the litter in Cologne and Amsterdam, probably caused by the influx of immigrants to Germany and the Netherlands.  First Americans, who boast of their veneration of Mother Earth, seem not to see the litter on their reservations.

Last week I described the murals in “the most interesting town,” Lake Placid, Florida.  You must understand in a place where people take such extreme pride in the town’s appearance, they wouldn’t want litter — and they wouldn’t want ordinary trash cans.  So without saying more, here are some photos of trash cans, a bench and a bicycle rack: click on the photos to enlarge.

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Lake Placid, Florida

Lake Placid Caladium fields

Every now and then, I am amazed at the difference one person can make.  In the case of Lake Placid, Florida, it was one couple.

This little town of just over two thousand people lies on a ridge that runs up the center of Florida [the ridge is all of one hundred feet above sea level].  It has two nicknames.

One is “The Caladium Capital of the World” because 95 percent of all caladium bulbs in the world come from the area.

The other is the “Town of Murals” because of a program started by one couple, Bob and Harriet Porter in 1992.  At the time, the town had fifteen empty stores, and many building walls were spotted with black mildew and mold.  Just twenty years later, Reader’s Digest declared it “America’s most interesting town.”  That may be disputable, but it is no longer a dying town and is certainly worth seeing.

“Town of Murals – How it All Began” by Kieth Goodson, 2013

There are at least 48 large murals on building walls [they are still adding to the collection].  But unlike murals I have seen in many places on our travels, these are kept fresh.  The Lake Placid Mural Society not only finds sponsors for the murals, it sees that they are maintained and given a protective coating to protect them from the Florida sun.

The small Chamber of Commerce Building houses a “Mural Gallery,” shows a free nine-minute film about the creation of the Mural Society, and sells a mural book and mural CD to help your mural tour.  Indeed, if you have a bus load of people, they will find you a “Mural Professional” to show you the way.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Clown cut-out

P.S.:   It isn’t “the town of clowns,” but there is a clown school, and there are 27 clown cut-out figures scattered about the town.

P.P.S.:  It wouldn’t do to litter the streets of this pretty little town.  Next week’s post will feature their trash cans.

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Hurricane hiatus

We have been busy.  I have not posted my usual travel blog for a couple weeks.  Readers from other countries are probably aware Hurricane Irma made landfall at Marco Island, Florida and passed through the state.  But even U.S. readers may not realize some of our South Florida residents suffered significant flooding from a tropical system the last week of August.  As a result, we are now finishing our third week working with the Red Cross.

We are safe and well, and our home had no damage.

During Irma, we stayed with about thirty people in our local Red Cross headquarters group which moved 30 miles inland to the field house of Ave Maria University. There was one safe place where I could look out recessed hallway doors facing north while the wind blew from the east. Based on previous experience, I would say winds reached about one hundred and thirty miles-an-hour. The university’s bleachers for football fans were reduced to a pile of metal rubble, but the building itself suffered little damage.

The only photos I have are of the recovery effort after the August storm.  As I write this, these same homes are flooded by even higher water.

Next week I will be back with some interesting photos of Lake Placid’s murals.

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The Red Cross in New Orleans

House washed across a road up onto a dike.

On Tuesday, New Orleans commemorated the 12th anniversary of the August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina landfall.  Ironically, Harvey was waiting in the wings. What happened with Katrina provides lessons for those dealing with Harvey.

Many do not realize the Red Cross is funded primarily through donations. Damage from Katrina plus that from subsequent Hurricane Rita was so extensive, it became the greatest challenge in the history of the American Red Cross.  There is no charge for Red Cross shelters or for the food and supplies it distributes.  The organization incurred huge debt which forced it to consolidate operations and reduce staff and shaped the way it still works today.

Three months after Katrina made landfall.

My personal opinion is the people of New Orleans were betrayed by their corrupt local politicians and state officials.  Then in their grief, they lashed out at the federal government and sometimes even at the Red Cross for not providing relief that properly should have been planned in advance at the local and state level.

There were 1464 officially recognized deaths in New Orleans.   Hundreds of thousands were displaced.  Those who returned often found their homes destroyed or intact but with no water, electricity or gas.  Others found roofs damaged, water-soaked moldy walls, damaged furniture and appliances.  In mid-December 2005, the Red Cross was still providing over thirty thousand meals a day to the people of Louisiana.

Algiers kitchen at a Baptist church.

There is often a huge out-pouring of support right after a disaster.  But that support tends to wane as weeks and months pass by.  Knowing that, and because we do not have children, I chose to go to New Orleans just before Christmas. I drove an emergency response vehicle, ERV, with two other volunteers delivering food for three weeks.  It was very rewarding.  It was an eye-opening experience.

The news media immediately focuses on the extent of the disaster and the suffering.  Interspersed are stories of heroes and sacrifice.  Then as time goes by and public interest flags, they being to look for what is going wrong.  They interview what a nurse in New Orleans called BMWs, bitchers, moaners and whiners.

My first impression on arriving was I wasn’t as needed as I thought.  There was no shortage of volunteers; college students were out in force during their holiday break.

Secondly, I did not meet the BMWs on the street.  The people I met were happy to be alive, had put their grief behind them, were working hard to repair their homes and were grateful for the support they were receiving.

Baptist mobile disaster kitchen

Most food stores were still not open.  Volunteers from Baptist churches slept on a church sanctuary floor, got up at two o’clock in the morning, and prepared food in large mobile kitchens owned by the Southern Baptist Convention to be loaded on our ERVs for a seven a.m. departure.

On Christmas day, we had a few toys and cards to give out donated by children from around the country.  Some volunteers bought more on their own.  Until told it was prohibited, volunteers also bought dog food to take on their ERVs for stray dogs.

Ray, Amy, and Roger – the “senior” ERV crew

Perhaps because we were so close to the operation, we were surprised when some people thought we were paid to be there.  The Red Cross operates almost totally on donated money with a few federal grants, and ninety-eight percent of its staff are volunteers.  Phil, the site supervisor, was a bartender from Maryland.  He arrived the day before Katrina hit.   Terry, the kitchen supervisor, was an insurance broker from New Jersey.  Uba, a second generation Croatian, was a twenty-one year old student from Wisconsin.  Margaret was a retired South Carolina school teacher.  Rufus was a mortician from North Carolina.  Young man E’an, a second generation American from Scotland, was from Oregon. Probably Jessie traveled the furthest.  He was a student at the University of Hawaii, but his home was in Bogota, Columbia.  Tito, a Puerto Rican, was a retired transit worker from the Bronx.  Usa, whose mother was from Thailand, was a biology student at Cornell.  David was a California lifeguard.  Mike was a fishing guide from Montana.  Matthew was a Tuscarora Indian from New York.   Roberta was our oldest volunteer at seventy-eight.

Fixed feeding station at a Vietnamese church.

We drove up and down the streets delivering food every day except Sundays when we also were in a church parking lot in the afternoon.   By odd coincidence, I spent two Christmases away from my wife, one thirty-five years earlier in Viet Nam and that one in the parking lot of a New Orleans Vietnamese church.

We met people who lost family members in the storm.  We met people who seemed to have lost everything.  They continued to smile.  Unless distracted, they always said “thank you” and frequently “God bless you for being here.”  Even elderly Vietnamese who spoke almost no English and held up fingers to indicate the number of meals needed said “thank you very much.”  One group of men asked if they could pray.  Of course, we said yes.  We thought they wanted to give thanks for their food, but they wanted to pray for our well-being.

Although it is strictly forbidden by Red Cross rules, how could we reject three small gifts wrapped in red tissue given to us by an African-American woman on Christmas day.  She gave Roger a calendar, Amy a pen and me an eyeglass repair kit I still own.

During our time on the ERV, Roger and I served (with Bill and later Amy) 8505 meals.  At that point, the American Red Cross had a 30.35 million dollar loss to make up.  It got bigger.

Before Harvey made landfall in Texas, Red Cross volunteers were already gathering in Texas and Louisiana.  Harvey did not cause as many deaths as Katrina but damage is more wide-spread and recovery will also take months.  Complete recovery takes years.

I can no longer deploy out of our area.  Southwest Florida, however, has its own flooding [but much smaller].  Our local Red Cross opened shelters, and I spent yesterday again driving up and down streets, but this time helping with “disaster assessment” to assist in later relief decisions.  As I said, it is a rewarding and eye-opening experience.

Please remember your support will be needed not just now but for months to come.  You might even want to consider going to http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.  They are swamped right now but will continue to need help later.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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