Saturday, October 29, 2016

Second Grade Project

Second Grade at Parochial has a fun school project due next week. The kids have to go to six historical sites around Hometown and gather six facts about the site. They have to create a postcard about the site, put a stamp on the postcard and write the facts on the back of the postcard.

I mean, really!?!?! This is SO up my alley.

Birdie's buddy, buddy's mom, and the two of us set out on an adventure today to pick my brain for worthless knowledge that I have about Hometown.

We started at Engine Co. No. 7, by way of Central Ave. Central Ave used to have an electric trolley running up and down the middle of the street. Parking in the back, we started walking around.

Now, I don't taut my illegal activities on the world wide web. But.... the door was open. Ok, it wasn't all the way open, but it was open.

Fact: I went on a field trip to Engine Co. No. 7 when I was in first grade. When we left the field trip, the fire fighters told us "to come back anytime-- the door is always open."

FYI: The door was, in fact, still open. So, in we went into the abandoned, forgotten, and disheveled fire house.

Yep, breaking and entering-- that's how we show our second grade daughters how to get it done.

The girls asked if we could go upstairs. Other Mother said, "NO!" as I said, "SURE! Just let me go ahead of you ladies."

Safety first. That's my motto.

Both the mothers drew the line when they asked if they could slide down the brass pole.

"Ladies, steer clear of all brass poles."


After Engine Co. No. 7, which was the first fire station built to house motorized trucks, we headed over to the Academy, with a quick stop at the Bon-Air. The Bon-Air was not on our schedule, but Other Motherhood not been on the property and I said, "Turn in!"

We parked the car and headed inside to see the ballroom. Fun fact, this ballroom was used for Eisenhower's press corps when he came to town-- which he did frequently.

Now might be a good time to mention that the Bon Air is not fit to host Presidents anymore. It isn't fit to host Queen Elizabeth in the penthouse as she was once stayed here. It's not fit for much of anything besides meth and murders.

And, our second graders from their private school were working on a class project with their mothers.

We clearly didn't fit in.

Again, I made the girls stay behind me and Other Mother brought up the rear. In case a stray bullet or soft spot in the floor led us to our demise.

Fun fact: The original Bon Air was built in 1899 and was destroyed by a massive fire in 1921. The Vanderbilt family had four hotels across the eastern seaboard and one of them was the "new" Bon Air-Vanderbilt that was christened in 1923.

This building that was heralded as fireproof and will be standing here 1,000 years from now (no lie-- read it in the newspaper) is now Section 8 housing.

Sure is lovely for Section 8. And yes, these four ladies went up the steps and walked through the halls to get to the ballroom. The girls said things like, "EWWW-- Gross! There's trash!" and we had to remind them that people lived here. This was their home. Our focus was on the history of the building.

Get in, get out. MOVE ON.

We only saw one retired Woman of the Evening, painted up and ready to go. While I was curious to see the original lobby of the hotel, my instincts for safety got the better end of me and we headed back to the car.

The second graders were lagging behind and were quite annoyed with the mothers when we were vehement with their lack of expediency.

Imagine that...


After the Bon Air, we headed over to the Academy of Richmond County. Chartered in 1783, the Academy is one of the five oldest high schools in America. There were bumper stickers on doors when I was there that said, "And on the eighth day, God created the Academy."

Fun fact: Susan Still, NASA astronaut, is an alumni of the Academy.

Fun fact: The current location of Richmond Academy is actually the third location for the school. The first being on the river bank on the edge of Old Towne and the second being next to the Old Medical College.

Fun fact: Brother and I are sixth generation graduates of the Academy.

Fun fact: The majority of the original desks are still used in the classrooms today, almost 100 years later. The shooting range in the basement, however, is a different story.

Fun fact: George Washington gave the commencement speech in 1791.

While we were there, I remembered that there was a garden on the backside of the gymnasium. I asked Other Mother to drive around the corner and we got out.The girls read the inscription engraved on a stone book about a girl named Nina Deveraux.

Nina and I went to school together and she died in a tragic car accident the day after graduation. Family and friends put in the garden with benches, trees, and flowers in her memory. When we got back in the car, the girls started singing a song from when I was in high school that I didn't know that they knew, "I'm like a Bird," By Nelly Fortado.

I really don't like this song; no good reason- I just don't like it. I say that because it isn't in my iTunes and I don't know where the kids would have heard it. I do know that Nina was on the state championships basketball team in high school and at a pep rally when I was in school, they played that song. She loved the song. It always reminds me of her.

Odd, right?


After Richmond, we headed over to the Ezekiel Harris house where the girls wheels absolutely fell off. If it shouldn't be touched, it was touched. If it should be climbed on, it was climbed on. If it was breakable, it was provoked. And our tour guide just didn't get it.

Less words, more moving. Less scoffing at the 7 year olds, more moving. Answer a question, don't regale us with non-points of interest from the 1960s.

Other Mother was kinda awesome at this point. We were quick to learn that the tour guide was pokey in her presentation. At the end of the first room, the tour guide said, "Are there any questions?" .... a pause. Another pause. An impregnated pause that has had time to give birth.

No? No questions? Ok, well..... [insert fact here]

After the next room, when she said, "Are there any questions?" Other Mother, looked around clapped her hands together and said, "Nope? Nope. Let's go." and walked into the next room.

We decided it was lunchtime after that.


A fabulous lunch at Nacho Mama's, a quick trip to see James Brown and the Green Space, we headed over to the Old Medical College.

Fun Fact: While the green space was not established until 2003, it was part of the original plans for downtown Hometown.


The Old Medical College sits next door to the second location of Richmond Academy. It is/was the old museum before Scott Loehr raised about a bajillion dollars to build the current museum back in 1990-something.

Perhaps now might be a another place to mention that I am a rule follower.

I love rules and structure-- I thrive in them.

But, sometimes, those velvet ropes are meant to be moved. That door was meant to be opened. Sometimes.

The old Richmond Academy building was open for some event and we went in.

Fun Fact: we definitely taught our children today that if you are doing something you shouldn't be doing, don't try and look sneaky; look like you're supposed to be doing it.

Why just settle downstairs when we could go behind the velvet rope and go upstairs to the old classrooms?

Surely that is what we needed to do.

Fun Fact: The yearbook of the Academy has been, and still is, called "The Rainbow".... why is it called that?!

Upstairs, remnants of the museum remained. There were walls painted green with a "Tribute to the Masters" painted in large letters. And there were buckets.... lots and lots of buckets. There was a pretty good reason why the velvet rope should have been a heavy door with a big lock. People should not be allowed up those stairs.

Lucky for us, we weren't just people.

I am a sixth generation graduate of the Academy of Richmond County.

I am somebody.... {she says piously, knowing that it is all only in her mind}

Not so Fun Fact: J.W. Farmer was 39 years old when he died. He had just left Richmond Academy to be the principal at the Houghton School down the street. He died from double pneumonia brought on by the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

It was freaking awesome to walk those hallowed rooms, going up and down sets of random stairs and seeing plaques dedicated to those long forgotten from almost 100 years ago.

This was the building where my people sat and learned. I couldn't help but pause for a moment and look at the walls and wonder where they sat, what they learned in both life and scholastics, and what kind of experiences those 16 year old boys had.

Before we walked down the stairs, I looked at the girls, our partners in crime, and said, "Listen- the thing about doing something that you aren't supposed to do, you need to look like you were meant to be doing it. Keep quiet. We are going to walk down those steps and walk out the door like there someone sent us up here to pick up something. Got it?"

Yes. I reiterated with them about how to be sneaky: don't look sneaky.


Down the steps and out the door we went, through the parade yard and over to our final destination: The old Medical College.

Fun Fact: Husband and Wife had their wedding reception there.

Fortunate for the building, all the doors were locked. Unfortunate for the seven year olds: they wanted to break in again.

Good job, moms.

Fun Fact: All of the Iron Lungs from across the country are stored in the basement of the building should another Polio epidemic happen.

I regaled Other Mother with what I knew about this place-- that the remains from over 400 bodies were found in a mass grave in the basement and that Dr. Cunningham loaned his personal bookshelves to the school for the library until the school could afford to buy their own. There was a slave that used to rob graves for cadavers so that the students could learn. He is buried in the same graveyard he used to rob.

That same slave learned to read and write, unheard of at the time; taught by both professors and students.

Fun Fact: My great-grandmother ran a tea room and boarding house on University Drive for the medical students. They would bring home real skeletons to study. When she was giving birth to my grandfather, it was her 37th pregnancy. (exaggeration... actually her 10th or 11th, but is it really a stretch from 10 to 37 pregnancies?) Dr. Jennings was her doctor and the labor went on into the wee hours of the morning. She told him to invite the medical students in to witness the birth of the 13 pound baby that was my grandfather.

On the way home, I mentioned the "Old Governor's Mansion" was nearby and we made a quick stop to walk around it. While there, Birdie saw a plaque that said, "Legend has it that this Gingko tree was planted to commemorate the visit of our First President, George Washington."

Ya know when that was right? When he made that commencement speech we told the girls about earlier that day.


Good day.

1 comment:

Wanting What I Have said...

I am catching up...and found this read FASCINATING!!! Take me next time, please!!!