Friday, October 21, 2011

A Little History Lesson For Me

I received an email from my cousin Adrienne today.  In it, she provided a link to a very cool website, Penny Postcards, which I'm sharing with you here.  If you have any interest in history and what places looked like back in "the olden days," you'll probably enjoy browsing this site.

As I was looking up places where I have lived, I learned that the Madison County Nursing Home, which was torn down in 2009, was once a poor farm.  When I saw the penny postcard of it, I couldn't place it because there's nothing else around it.  So I "Googled" it to exercise my mind and learn something.

Turns out, just before it breathed its last, it was pretty much right in the middle of town -- just a couple of blocks south of downtown Edwardsville.  Giving credit where credit is due, the 2009 photo of the poor farm above was posted on another blog by The Militant Moderate.

I also enjoyed seeing the postcard of the train depot in Sparta.  Most people who have seen this building probably didn't commit it to memory. Others who happen to recall seeing it before may be under the mistaken impression that it's somewhere down in Mississippi, since that was the setting of "In the Heat of the Night," the movie where this unassuming little depot played a starring role.

But Sparta, Illinois, not Sparta, Mississippi, is where this building still stands today. These days, it's an art museum.  I'm glad the good folks of Sparta decided to restore it rather than tear it down.

I like when old things are made new again.  After all, one of these days that will happen to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Blessing of Time

My parents and I just returned yesterday from a vacation back east where we visited old friends in North Carolina and Virginia.  In an earlier post, I mentioned stopping in Cairo, Illinois at Shemwell's, the old restaurant that I remembered as a kid.  As you can see, it's a happenin' place.

We started out last Saturday from their home in Missouri and spent the night in Knoxville, Tennessee.  On Sunday morning, we drove through the beautiful Smoky Mountains before arriving in Mooresville, North Carolina that afternoon at the home of my father’s Navy buddy, Donn.

At 82, Donn is a little more than a year older than Dad.  On a typical morning, he walks three miles before returning home for breakfast.  Time changes things, though, and Dad, Mom and their friends cannot travel as easily as they once did.

On Monday, the girls did a little browsing at one of Mooresville’s antique stores while the Navy boys stayed at home and reminisced.  I saw a lot of “pretties” and bargains, but I resisted the temptation to bring anything home.

Tuesday brought the younger set to Donn and Mollie’s home. Her daughter had business to attend to in Charlotte with her husband, so Mollie offered to have her youngest grandson, Jacob, spend a few hours with us until she returned.  I enjoyed spoiling him a little bit, and he decided I was his pal.

Tuesday evening, we celebrated our reunion at a local steakhouse where the waiter was kind enough to take a snapshot of our little group, and I took a quick snapshot of two sailors.

On Wednesday morning, we had a light breakfast before heading northeast toward Stafford, Virginia to see a few more friends.

It had been years since my last visit to Aquia Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River.  Our friend Barbara lives about a mile from the confluence of the two waterways. The shores of Maryland provide the horizon on the northeast side of the Potomac.  She had a wonderful dinner ready for us when we arrived, and her three daughters, Joyce, Cathy and Connie were there to greet us.

Once again I was reminded of how time changes things.  Barbara, who is nearing her 80th birthday, is a widow now.  Her husband, Wilson, was a gem of a guy and worked with my father in the Army’s Aviation Systems Command in St. Louis in the early to mid 60’s.

Wilson was eventually transferred to Washington D.C.  I have good memories of being with their three daughters and swimming in the creek off their dock when we traveled east to visit. The pylons remain, but I understand the dock has been gone for several years now.

On Thursday, Dad, Mom, Barbara, Connie and I headed southeast toward Chesapeake Bay.  It would have been too much of a drive to see the bay, but we had lunch at a restaurant called Leadbelly’s at Fairpoint Marina near Reedville.

Though it was a long round trip to have lunch, the food was good, and we had an excellent day.

I was glad for the reunion with Barbara and her daughters, but I especially enjoyed seeing Connie, who is closest to my age.  I was invited to spend the first of the two nights at her home.  She’s a lovely person who lost her husband to cancer 18 months ago.  It had been too long since we had seen each other (we were both in high school), so we promised to be better about keeping in touch.

Friday morning seemed to come too quickly. It was time to go home. We headed south to Fredericksburg, turned westward and enjoyed the beautiful farms in Louisa County, and then it was on toward Charlottesville.  There is so much to see in this area, but it was going to be a long drive to Winchester, Kentucky where we would stop for the night, so we didn’t stop to take pictures of the scenery.  Next time.

As we neared Charleston, we came to the White Sulphur Springs exit where I spied the lodging services sign for The Greenbriar.  I had seen pictures of it a few years back and had learned a little bit about its history, so I asked the folks if they would mind taking a little side trip into town for a quick look. They were happy for the break, and none of us were disappointed.

The Greenbriar is an amazing resort in a beautiful setting, tucked in the mountains of West Virginia. I was blown away by it’s size. One of these days I’m going back to stay for a night.

We had a truly wonderful vacation, yet there was a bittersweet chord that I knew would be present before we ever left Missouri.  As Dad left each of his friends’ homes, my heart ached for him.  Tears welled in his eyes when we said our goodbyes.  He tried very hard not to let his emotions show, but he cried as we drove away and said the words that I knew he had been thinking.  All I could do was hold his hand.

While time does in fact change things, our traveling trio had a healthy conversation about the many blessings we share as a family.  Good memories are somewhere close to the top of the list, and there was yet another blessing to add when I saw my parents happy to be home again.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee

Hello from Knoxville, blog friends!  I'm behind on blogging but really haven't had much to report lately.  Go to work...come home...Go to work...come home.  But life is getting more exciting by the minute.  My folks and I landed safely here in Knoxville last night after leaving East Central, Missouri for a vacation to see some old friends in North Carolina and Virginia.  Traveling with two octogenarians demands a slower pace, but with one shuffling foot in front of the other, we've been had a safe and enjoyable trip. We've done a lot of chatting and oohing and ahhing at the beauty of Tennessee's mountains. Sorry -- No pics, but we haven't made any stops in any of the mountainous parts.

I did take a picture yesterday of a restaurant where my grandparents used to stop 50+ years ago on their fishing treks to Kentucky Lake.  I'll post that photo later when I've taken more this coming week.  The restaurant is in Cairo, IL, which used to be a nice town and a good oasis for travelers at the southern tip of the state.  These days it's quite run down (and can even be dangerous at the wrong time of the night).  The beautiful architectural designs in some of the old brick buildings downtown are the remaining evidence of a once vibrant town. So sad. I always think if I had a million dollars (actually it would take more these days), I would make a big old building like one of those pretty again. Anyway, the name of the restaurant is Shemwells, and they have a legendary barbequed pork that is unequaled for miles around. I asked our waitress if they have many out-of-towners who make a special stop there because they remembered how good it was back in "the olden days."  She said that it happens all the time. They still use the original sauce, and now they also bottle it.  Of course, me being the shopper that I am, I had to buy some to take home, and got a business card so I can mail order for more when I'm ready.

We had eaten a late breakfast, so we got our sandwiches for the road. We drove for a while longer, then stopped at a "C" store for fountain drinks.  Somewhere around Clarksville, TN, we stopped to eat our sandwiches. Nothing to report from there except that it was about noon and we were in our fourth state for the day. The sandwiches were DElish!

Though we didn't stop there, as we drove through Nashville (we don't need no steenking by-pass), we all agreed that it has a beautiful skyline before turning eastward toward Knoxville.  This morning while I have coffee and blog down in the lobby of our hotel, Ma and Pa are upstairs in our room getting ready to come down for breakfast.  It smells good, and I anticipate another good meal before we hit the road to North Carolina.  Oh!  Here they are!  I'll be in touch again soon!