My Georgia Home
Knox County — This Thanksgiving Day marks my 32nd year here in Georgia. I made my home here in 1980. I use the term “home” loosely because Maine will always be home to me. However, I have lived in Georgia almost half my life now.
A lot has happened in those 32 years. I thought about all the different changes and experiences I have seen since living here in Georgia. There are quite a few to say the least.
I came to the Atlanta, Georgia area originally with a friend seeking work after Grad School. I ended up as an intern at the then fledgling CNN. At that time a 24-hour news channel seemed ludicrous. Ted Turner’s new network was what we call here in the South “the red-headed stepchild” of the TV news genre. However, it ended up being a major force in the TV news business. That’s a whole other story which I will go into later on.
I did land a permanent job at CNN in the graphics department, but I had to leave for health reasons and held six other jobs after that. First I worked at The Southern Banker magazine based in Norcross where I lived at that time. It was only a part-time job as Advertising Production Manager. I found I needed another part-time job to make my expenses each month. The woman who held my job previously suggested I ask for a job as a typesetter at an advertising firm in Norcross which printed ads for bowling alleys. I got that job and used to commute between the two jobs. Scheduling included doing the magazine job early in the morning so I could then go to the typesetting job. One day a month I spent the whole day at the magazine putting the monthly edition to bed.
The typesetting job eventually became a full-time job, so I therefore left the magazine. Good thing, because it folded soon after that. My boss at the ad company moved on to a position as publications manager at the Atlanta Jewish Community Center. She asked me to come with her as typesetter, paste-up helper, sometime writer and overall assistant. I accepted and was with her at the Center for eight years.
I enjoyed that job very much; met many interesting people; and participated in a huge Israeli Expo at that site. Budget cuts soon after that left me without a job. However, I received two weeks pay for every year I’d worked there, eight, so that I had something to live on while I searched for another job.
I held two more jobs after that for print houses as a proofreader until my final job before retirement at Network Communications in Lawrenceville.
Where did I live all those years? At first my friend and I lived in a trailer we bought set up in a park in Lawrenceville. At that time I was working nights at CNN and it was a long road home at night because I-85 wasn’t completed yet. Pleasant Hill Road, which I drove every night, was a back road then. It has changed remarkably since the mall and other businesses have taken over the area. When I drive up that road I note the places that were there when I first came and how businesses have grown up around them, including what was once a country Baptist church.
In the Atlanta area, in fact, there is often an old section of a town and a new section. They come to be known as “old Norcross” “old Lawrenceville” etc. If you go off the main roads in these towns you will come upon these places and many times it’s like stepping back in time into the early 1900s. Usually there is a railroad track running right through the middle of them.
All the places I have lived in Georgia have been in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, except for the one house I rented in Roswell which is in North Fulton County. I have lived in apartments, a duplex, a house, and two trailers which I bought. I’ve had several roommates along the way and have also lived by myself. Since the flood three years ago, Nanci and I live in an apartment in Duluth.
I have owned six vehicles since living in Georgia. The first was an old mustard colored Chevy Luv truck. The clutch went on it finally and I sold it for $500. For about three months my only means of transportation was a moped I’d brought from Connecticut with me. As I lived just down the street from my job at the time and the bank was at the end of the street the other way; and the grocery store was around the corner, I made out all right. I carried a back pack and used the basket on the bike to carry what groceries I needed for a few days at a time.
The folks helped me buy my next car, a Chevy Hatchback. Good car. I drove it into the ground before I bought my Honda Civic, which I also drove into the ground. After that I had another Chevy truck, an S10, which I lost in the flood. My newest car is a Chevy HHR, which I love. Guess you can tell I mostly like Chevies.
In the last 32 years my physical environment has changed dramatically. When I came here, I-285 wasn’t even completed, nor was I-85. Now there is still construction of some kind everywhere you go. It’s said that kids growing up here think something is wrong if they don’t see some kind of orange cones when riding in a car. Another thing that amazed me about the roads is that they are always resurfacing them even if they don’t need it. I can’t remember the last time I hit any kind of depression in the roads I travel here on a daily basis. Of course there is no freeze and thaw to contend with either.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in the sports teams here since 1980. Most significant is the changes in the hockey teams. When I first came here, the Flames were still here. They moved to Calgary. Then the new team, the Thrashers, moved to Winnepeg. We had a minor league team, the Knights, which was very popular. It was the first team to have a female goalie. Nanci and I enjoy our local minor league team, the Gwinnett Gladiators.
We had one championship season with the 1995 Braves who won the World Series that year. Our football team, the Falcons, also participated in Super Bowl XXIII against the Broncos. In the old days when the team wasn’t so popular and they’d black out the game locally, a friend used to drag me up to North Carolina to go camping so she could watch the game on a little TV we brought with us. She was one rabid fan.
My favorite sport of all is Women’s Basketball. Nanci and I were fortunate enough to see the NCAA Women’s Championships down in Atlanta the year Diana Tarasi and Swinn Cash tore up the floor and Pat Summitt, of the Tennessee Vols, the opponent, threw a chair onto the floor in disgust. We sat amongst all those yellow Tennessee jersied fans and steadfastly rooted for UConn. We were both distressed to learn of Pat’s recent diagnosis of early on-set Alzheimers disease. We’lll miss her involvement in the game, as she was so much a part of college women’s basketball for so many years. The basketball venue in Tennessee is actually named for her.
I’ve watched the development of Women’s Basketball from the college ranks to the eventual establishment of professional leagues. The old ABL here in Atlanta, had the Glory as one of the first pro teams. Later on, the Dream was an expansion team of the WNBA. It’s been fun watching all my favorite players’ progression to the pros. Nanci and I have also gotten to see the Dream play downtown.
Of course the mother lode of sports is the Olympics. I was here for the Atlanta version of the Olympics and enjoyed it immensely. I have previously written of my experiences of that wonderful time in Atlanta. What I remember most about the games, however, is the July heat we had to endure. The Atlanta Olympic Committee lied to the IOC when they said the temperatures would be just fine for competing. Not. I am thankful for the misting tents which you could go into for some relief.
While I have been here in Georgia I have been able to enjoy some of what Atlanta and Georgia has to offer in the way of tourism sites. In downtown Atlanta I have visited Underground Atlanta, the World of Coca Cola, whose world headquarters are here; the Martin Luther King Center; and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached. I have attended ball games at Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, and the downtown arena.
I have visited the house used as the setting for Twin Oaks in the movie, “Gone With the Wind” down Augusta way. I have taken friends to my favorite café in Juliet, Georgia, about a three-hour ride south of Atlanta next to Macon, the Whistle Stop Café, made famous in the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes,” one of my favorite movies. The whole town is a tourist attraction for that movie. The local people have gotten a lot of miles out of it. The café is so popular that you have to sign up on the chalkboard hanging outside the door to get in when it opens. Meanwhile, it’s fun to hang out on the big wrap-around porch. And yes, they do have fried green tomatoes which are delicious
Nanci and I have also visited Savannah when she went down to sign up for Jeopardy. I took the Paula Dean Tour and ate at Uncle Bubbas, her brother’s place. The best wild shrimp in the world right out of the Savannah River and if you don’t order barbecued oysters they’ll bring you one to try. Delicious! We both want to go back when we can spend more time.
So there’s my Georgia story so far. I don’t know how much longer I’ll make Georgia my home, but don’t be surprised if some day you see Nanci and I cross the bridge in New Hampshire and open up all the windows to let in all the Maine air as we come to make Maine our home.
Thanks for listening.