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Spring 2022

Athens Chautauqua returns

Athens Chautauqua, the living history program in which costumed performers bring historical figures to life in theatrical monologues, returns in person after a two-year pandemic delay.

Athens Chautauqua, the living history program in which costumed performers bring historical figures to life in theatrical monologues, returns in person after a two-year pandemic delay. The local reboot of the cultural and social movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was originally scheduled for June 2020.

Now programming is full steam ahead with the upcoming performance by renowned historical actress Leslie Goddard, who will portray two of the most influential women of the 20th century.

In a two-day event sponsored by The Athens Chautauqua Society, Goddard will present “Jacqueline Kennedy: A First Lady of Grace and Style,” as a free event at The Classic Center Foundry Pavilion on April 21 at 6:45 p.m. The date is 1964 and the former first lady is struggling to cope with the unwanted attention of tourists and paparazzi.

The next day, on April 22 at 2:30 p.m., the Society hosts a ticketed afternoon tea and dessert fund raiser at Trumps Catering. Goddard recreates Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945, as she considers an offer to join the United Nations in “Eleanor Roosevelt: America’s Extraordinary First Lady.”

To help her develop and authentically portray each character, Goddard, who has a master’s degree in theater and a doctorate in history, conducts extensive research about each of her subjects and writes her own scripts, drawing from primary resource materials like letters, diaries and interviews. Sometimes the volume of material is overwhelming, as with Eleanor, and yet also sparse, as with Jackie.

“Eleanor Roosevelt wrote thousands of letters, stacks of newspaper columns and more than 25 books. So, with her, the challenge was winnowing down an enormous amount of materials,” Goddard says.

“Jackie Kennedy, in contrast, guarded her privacy. She wrote no autobiography and did not keep a diary… I had to seek out materials wherever I could — such as her testimony to the Warren commission and the few interviews she granted to magazine and newspaper reporters.”

Leslie Goddard plays two distinctly different characters in the historical reenactments of Eleanor Roosevlet and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Goddard balances historical accuracy and drama when using direct quotes from her subjects, much like an author would write a nonfiction book.

“I have to be mindful of copyright, so if my subject’s own words are copyrighted, say, in a book she wrote, then I can’t cost-effectively use her own words,” she explains. “Of course [a] historical portrayal is always about a historical figure filtered through the actor. But always I strive to make sure the events, the behaviors and the emotions are, as far as possible, accurate.”

When deciding on a scene to reenact, Goddard considers the age of the characters and a pivotal moment in their lives. For the roles of Jackie and Eleanor, she has chosen scenes when they were near her own age. She also uses minimal makeup and chooses authentic costuming to provide a more convincing characterization.

“The challenge is that you need to find items that are both historically accurate but also fit me and convey something about the character,” she says. “I can often find vintage clothing that works. Jackie Kennedy wouldn’t be Jackie Kennedy without her pillbox hat and white gloves. Eleanor Roosevelt wouldn’t be Eleanor Roosevelt without a fur stole and a hat.

“I do not wear much make-up when performing as Eleanor because it was not typical for her. I aim for natural-looking make-up when performing as Jackie because that was typical for her. I actually tracked down one of Jackie’s favorite lipsticks and wear that … I do wear a wig for Jackie because that curled bouffant look is hard to get with modern tools and my own rather thin hair. But wherever possible, I try to use my own hair because it looks more natural to me. I pin my hair up in Eleanor’s 1940s style.”

One of the most interesting and yet challenging aspects of performing as two women in two days is pivoting her voice and character between the two strikingly different personas.

Jacqueline, characterized by her porcelain skin, soft voice, tailored dresses and stunning black coiffure, was demure, polished and outwardly supportive of her husband. Eleanor was plain, approachable, outspoken and often publicly disagreed with her husband’s politics.

Goddard says she uses her history and theater degrees to get into character through a complex process that has evolved over time.

“Jackie’s voice is … very much an East Coast upper-class vocal style common prior to World War II, with soft R’s. I have listened to a lot of recordings of her to try to get that down. … But it’s also a breathy, soft voice. I discovered early on that this makes it difficult for some audiences to hear and understand me, so I’ve adapted it to be more audible. There’s a limit to accuracy if it interferes with audience comprehension.”

Goddard says that the portrayal of a real-life character is more difficult than a written biography because it allows her “to explore who this person was in terms of her personality, her emotions, what makes her human.”

“One of the things I love about Chautauqua is that when you put characters together, you start to see the things they share,” Goddard says. “Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy were very different people, but they shared many things, not least of which was a desire to ensure their husbands’ legacies and preserve a heroic public image of his administration.”

For more information about these and other upcoming Athens Chautauqua events, visit www.athenschq.org. The April 22 event is an ACS fund raiser; tickets are $50 per person or $300 for a six-person table, payable by credit card, PayPal or check.

Many thanks to Patricia McAlexander for her assistance with this story and interviewing Leslie Goddard. She retired from teaching English in UGA’s Division of Academic Enhancement and is working on her third novel with the Wild Rose Press.

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First midcentury planned subdivision introduced Athens to modern living

Jack Miller came to Athens in 1953 in his late 20s with a dream to build a new life and home for his wife and growing family. They were renting a house in Five Points while Jack settled into his new job teaching dairy science production and reproductive physiology at the University of Georgia. Their new house was already under construction in early 1957 when their landlord died, which forced an accelerated move into their unfinished home in Beechwood Hills. Now 94 years old and the longest and oldest living Beechwood Hills resident on record, Jack reflects upon the house he and his late wife Marianna built in the first ranch-style planned subdivision in Athens.

The Millers’ unassuming red brick house is nestled toward the back of the neighborhood on Harben Place at the top of a slight hill, among a grove of old hardwoods mixed with new undergrowth. They paid a whopping $3,000 for their .67 acre lot, chosen because, according to Jack, it had the best garden spot in Beechwood. The dream of achieving the all-American life was heavily influenced by his hard-working parents in rural North Carolina who built their house about a mile from a new high school during the Great Depression just so Jack could continue his education.

With the influence of that pioneering spirit, Jack and his family became the first residents in the Beechwood Hills planned development — a remarkably new concept of ranch-style housing in a neighborhood separate from other houses.

Jack and his wife Marianna had two daughters, 3- and 4-years old, and were pregnant with their third child when they drew up house plans from a combination of modern designs and broke ground on March 1. Jack’s uncle from North Carolina joined the project shortly thereafter to help with building, electrical and painting, while they worked around the professional subcontractors hired for plumbing, kitchen cabinet and heating system installment. They had just completed the electrical, plumbing and subflooring when their eviction notice arrived from their deceased landlord’s family. Rather than rent another place and move twice, they moved into the unfinished yet livable house 13 days after their third child was born on May 8.

The move was challenging, but the family took the living situation in stride and worked to complete the house. With two small children and a newborn in tow, Marianna helped Jack install sheetrock, paint and finish the heart-of-pine paneling and wood on the kitchen cabinets. She made the formal cornice drapes that still hang in the living room and hung contemporary floral wallpaper throughout the house. Before they installed carpet and hardwood flooring on the main level, they maneuvered about the small gaps in the subflooring in good humor.

“How much fun it was when you wanted something down in the basement, you just put it through the crack here in the floor,” Jack laughs.

Navigation to their house on the hill proved a bit tricky when it rained. Some of the streets at the front of the neighborhood along Riverhill Drive were paved, but Harben Place was still dirt.

“The driveway had to match the street. And they hadn’t built the streets yet,” Jack recalls. “Since the streets were mud roads when it rained, often we parked on Pine Valley Place and walked through the woods to Harben Place. The steps and stoop to the front door had not been built. We entered the house with timbers placed on blocks.”

Unprecedented change

The early to mid-50s following World War II was a time of unprecedented population growth of the Boomer generation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia’s population increased by more than 1,400,000 people (47%) between 1940 and 1970. The economy was strong, and post-war families were looking to settle down and raise families. Many took advantage of the benefits offered by the government, including FHA and VA loans to purchase new homes, primarily brick ranch style house plans promoted through popular magazines like Better Homes and Gardens. According to a 2010 report by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “as many as 200,000 ranch houses may have been built in Georgia between 1940 and 1970. At no other time in Georgia’s history has a single new type of house housed so many people in such a short period of time.”

Athens began to see new outcroppings of ranch-style homes in the mid-’50s, including in Forest Heights, Bel Air Heights, Five Points and Normaltown. But Beechwood Hills was the first fully-planned subdivision of its kind in Athens, for which other subdivisions followed in the late ’60s and early ’70s, including Green Acres, Clarke Dale and University Heights on the east side and Homewood Hills on the west side.

Before Beechwood was built, pine trees had taken over the rolling hills of abandoned cotton fields. The Millers’ lot was covered with mature pine trees, the oldest dating back to about 1910, which had to be cleared to make way for Jack’s garden.

In May 1957, two lone tenant houses sat in the middle of an open field where the Beechwood Shopping Center was later built in 1963. Across the street from the tenant houses, about 300 cars filled the old Alps Drive-in Theater for Friday and Saturday night double features of John Wayne’s “Wake of the Red Witch” and Don Taylor in the Technicolor film “Destination Gobi.” Uppy’s Short Order and Malt Bar Drive-In was luring clientele at the Atlanta Highway corner, and Alps Road Elementary had just been built across from the theater. It was a burgeoning area on the cusp of explosive development, with roads not yet fully paved.

In the time slide above, only a few houses were yet built in 1960 Beechwood Hills (bottom left corner, just above the Middle Oconee River). Compare with the more than 260 homes currently in the subdivision. In 1960, the Alps Drive-in Theater (triangular shape, middle of the photo) was the center of activity, accessible by the graveled Baxter Street.

“Baxter Street was a mud road, and you didn’t go down there when the rain came. There would be a stream of water going across the low spot down there. So you couldn’t drive down that in wet weather,” Jack says.

Baxter Street was finally asphalted after the completion of the Beechwood Shopping Center in 1963, quite literally paving the retail road of progress from the University of Georgia campus to Alps Road and connecting downtown Athens with the new Beechwood Hills community.

By 1963, the Beechwood community began bursting at the seams with the construction of the new Beechwood Hills Shopping Center. The new stores meant residents could shop for groceries, clothing and other goods within walking distance of their homes. The newly paved Baxter street made travel more easy from Beechwood to the University of Georgia campus and downtown Athens.

A new style of living

By all accounts, Jack’s 2600-square-foot home fits the typical mold of ranch style housing introduced through magazines like Better Homes & Gardens’ 1952 publication of “Demonstration Ranch House.” The red brick, one-story construction is a signature model midcentury architecture, a simple style embraced in a post-war culture and healthy economy that promoted a new style of modern living. Red brick ranch houses first appeared in Georgia in the early 40s and then more significantly around 1947.

Built horizontally across the lot with Georgia red clay, the house is low and close to the ground, with the basement built into the land that opens into the backyard. The windows are mostly horizontal, including the three staggered panes that look like sideways fingers on the upper portion of the front door. The wide eaves extend over the large horizontal paned windows to provide shade from summer heat. And an attached carport brings the family car, once housed in a detached garage, into the living space, heeding importance to the automobile as a status symbol.

The interior rooms of Jack’s house are divided by sheetrock walls, except for the kitchen and dining room area covered in heart-of-pine paneling and pine cabinetry. The chrome trimmed turquoise laminate counters bring a pop of contrast to the reddish pine, and the terrazzo flooring sparkles with chips of quartz and glass. The front room is designed for family and visitors alike, a new 50s “living room” concept that departed from the formal parlors of older homes. The bathroom walls are lined with muted pink ceramic tile and the floors with an inlaid gray, pink and white herringbone pattern.

Block after block of red brick homes appeared in the neighborhood. Beechwood Hills eventually expanded to fit around 260 homes over the years. Some houses were built as early as last year, returning to a craftsman style that predates the midcentury modern homes in most of the neighborhood. Many of the red brick houses in the neighborhood have been updated with exterior paint and front porches, completely changing the character of the homes with a 21st century flair.

Moving on

Since Jack lost his wife Marianna in 2012 to Cushing’s disease, he’s led a self-sufficient and independent lifestyle for nine years in the house they built together 64 years ago. That’s a lot of memories accumulated in one house, which he’s rediscovering as he prepares to move down the street into the Wesley Woods senior living community.

The basement where his girls once rollerskated on the cement floor contains relics of family life, including the horse curtains his wife sewed in the bedroom and the pool table in the playroom where the children congregated. He recently unearthed his silver coin collection, which he divided between his four children. Parting with his home is difficult, but he realizes it’s necessary. Because he’s technically still in the neighborhood, Jack gets to keep his title of longest living resident in Beechwood. And his house will be perfect for the next family to start their new life in the house that Jack built.

Many thanks to Meriwether Rhodes, the Beechwood Hills historian, who steered us to Jack Miller’s story.

Sources for historic architectural design: “The Ordinary Iconic Ranch House,” by Richard Cloues, PhD, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Sept. 2011; “The Modern Classic City: Analyzing Commercial Development in Athens, Georgia from 1930 to 1981” by Lauren Patterson, MHP 2019.

>> Related story: UGA’s midcentury buildings signaled a new era

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Boom Magazine was recognized for publishing excellence at the annual North American Mature Publishers Association conference in San Diego on October 4.

In a field of 396 highly competitive nation-wide entries, Boom received six 2021 NAMPA awards out of 8 categories entered, which include:

FIRST PLACE:

  • Best Banner (magazine nameplate design)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: There’s wonderful design and use of the rocket in the banner. The bold white text is clear and prominent, the boxed “MAGAZINE” element and tagline frame the banner, and the full bleed image complements the branding. 
  • Briefs/Shorts Design (upfront FYI section)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “Need to Know” and “Good to Know” are a series of short paragraphs, each introduced with a boldface subhead. Designers use photos and white space wisely to air out the pages. It’s quite easy to scan.

SECOND PLACE:

  • General Excellence (content, writing and design)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: From front to back, Boom Magazine shines with unexpected, original content that still addresses the basic questions of aging. A conversation with a parrot, for example, sheds light on a bond between bird and owner that bloomed during the pandemic. “Reimagining Nursing Homes” is the kind of forward-looking content that takes reporting about older adults to a new level. Design is straightforward, photos add interest and the “FYI” briefs are well-written news bites.
  • Profile (“An Afternoon with Cosmo” by Tracy N. Coley)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: A parrot may seem a surprising candidate for a profile, but the story of Cosmo is charming and absolutely first rate. The African Gray parrot’s owner fits seamlessly into this tale about a relationship that deepened during the pandemic. It is at once both clever and compelling and a thoroughly entertaining read.
    • **EDITOR’S COMMENT: We laughed a bit at the judges’ comments because we thought we’d written a profile on former UGA professor Betty Jean Craige. But clearly, as Betty Jean will tell you, everything is always about Cosmo!**
  • Best Single Ad – Color (“Maintain. Maintain. Maintain.” Athens Air Heating & Cooling)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: This is a very polished ad that looks as if it were designed by a major creative agency. The image and copy are perfect complements to each other, and the use of white space and overall balance of the ad are excellent. There is a great analogy using sweat, personal health and air conditioning.

THIRD PLACE:

  • Personal Essay (“The Meaning of Motown for a White Kid” by Jim Marshall)
    • JUDGES’ COMMENTS: Mr. Marshall recalls the joy that Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson Five and others brought to his life as a youngster growing up in Gary, Indiana, and how the music of Motown continues to bring him happiness today. The essay is whimsical walk down a musical memory lane.

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A wayward Vietnam veteran reunites with family after disappearing for over 50 years.

Tamala Baker had just gotten home from her job as manager of the soup kitchen in Athens on May 14 when she noticed the incoming call from Denise. The last time she’d had contact with her cousin’s half-sister was five years ago when Denise said she and her siblings wanted nothing to do with their biological father Walter Dukes, or with Baker’s family. So Baker knew something must have happened for Denise to call her out of the blue.

“Hey, there’s a detective trying to get in touch with you,” Denise said. “Walter had a stroke.”

In 2001, Baker had begun looking for her uncle, Dukes, a U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran. She finally found a couple of addresses and a phone number through an online search, but her messages left at the number of the Salvation Army in San Francisco were never returned.

Baker’s daughter India with Dukes in 2015.

Finally, after he’d been missing for 45 years, Baker’s daughter tracked Dukes down at his residence on Maynard Street in San Francisco while on a business trip in 2015 and took a photo with him. He looked healthy and generally happy, but he wished to continue his reclusive life, so they’d respectfully left him alone without any subsequent contact. That photo was the last connection to her uncle, and the phone call from Denise was now met with even more uncertainty.

Baker immediately called the San Francisco police detective. He’d tracked down Baker’s children through items kept in his wallet—a laminated miniature copy of his DD257 detailing his general discharge from the Air Force, a Mississippi marriage certificate to his wife Geneva, and numerous wallet-worn black and white photos of his family. The detective had a road map straight to his children in Mississippi, who deferred to their half-sister Denise to let Baker know. But the tell-tale evidence of Dukes’ life for the last 50 years was a personal history dictated to his landlord’s daughter, Sandra, and printed on a folded crisp white paper that he also kept in his wallet.

The letter Dukes dictated to his landlord’s daughter Sandra before he went into the hospital.

Dukes arrived at Travis Air Force Base just outside of San Francisco in 1970 from Okinawa, Japan, where he was stationed at the end of his tour in Vietnam. Out of his eight years and three months of service stateside in Mississippi, he spent 10 months in Vietnam where he was attached to the 376th Strategic Air Command that performed bombing and air refueling missions over Southeast Asia.

At the time, African Americans represented 16.3 percent of all draftees in 1967 and 23 percent of all combat troops in Vietnam (see related story). In 1965, African Americans accounted for nearly 25 percent of all combat deaths.

It’s not clear what he endured or witnessed, but whatever happened to Dukes took its toll. He arrived in San Francisco with a DD257 general discharge in hand, the result of drinking and using drugs before his release. A general discharge meant that Dukes couldn’t receive civil service retirement credit for active duty and a forfeiture of any GI Bill education benefits. It also likely impacted his ability to receive unemployment benefits.

Too ashamed to go home and face his wife and three children, he went straight from the bus depot and got drunk. He wound up on Fillmore Street where he ran out of money and made friends with the homeless who taught him how to live on the streets. Ten years later, he was taken to the Veterans Administration hospital where he was treated for 28 days with a swollen liver and a blood clot in his leg.

The VA hospital was Dukes’ saving grace. He got help from the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center and received job training while living in their shelter. He worked first as a security guard, then as a trailer attendant in the Salvation Army stores, and earned enough money to rent a small enclosed front porch space. He’d been living off his Salvation Army retirement since then, earning extra money fixing small electronics from his bedroom.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Annie Lou talks with her brother Dukes at his Sutter Hospital bedside.

Denise’s heartbreaking call propelled Baker, 53, and her Aunt Annie Lou (aka, Queen B), 80, into action. The detective said they didn’t have much time if they wanted to see Dukes, now 81, before he passed. The medical staff at Sutter Hospital in San Francisco didn’t give them much hope. He wasn’t eating and they couldn’t make sense of anything he was trying to say, except mama. But the pair decided to take the chance and book the next available flight, even if only to make funeral arrangements. Baker’s father Larinza, 77, elected to stay home and let his daughter and sister Annie Lou report back on his brother Dukes.

When they walked into the hospital five days later, Baker and Annie Lou were shocked to see a much different face than the one in the 2015 photo with her daughter. The hospital bed sheets swallowed Dukes’ frail body, his drawn cheeks and dark, sunken eyes unresponsive. But when Dukes heard his sister Annie Lou call, “Little B?” his eyelids parted slightly, his face lit up, and he whispered, “Mama?”

Baker tries to help her Uncle Dukes eat a bite of dinner.
Annie Lou helps Dukes talk to his brother Larinza (right) on FaceTime by phone

“Queen B looks just like my grandma,” Baker explained. “The last time he’d seen his Mama, she was about the same age as Queen B is now. He followed my aunt’s voice every time while she was there.”

The medical staff was mesmerized by Dukes’ sudden attentiveness. Before their arrival, he wasn’t eating. But Dukes let Annie Lou feed and pamper him.

“She brushed his little hair. She just kept loving on him. And he was like a little kid.” Dukes took to the attention as if Annie Lou was his mother. Later that night Baker, FaceTimed with her dad Larinza, an Army veteran of Vietnam.

“My brother, my brother. Oh, my goodness, it’s my brother,” he kept repeating.

Despite his sudden responsiveness, the doctors and nurses prepared Baker and Annie Lou for the inevitable: he was never going home and they should make arrangements for hospice. Then they took an Uber to Dukes’ home a few miles away. The route took them past the Salvation Army where Dukes had worked for 30 years, a couple of blocks from Mark Zuckerburg’s multi-million dollar townhouse, and under the 280 Southern Freeway to 87 Maynard Street. Baker was finally going to see where her uncle had lived for nearly 30 years.

Annie Lou (far left) and Baker (far right) worked with the hospital medical team to care for Dukes after his stroke.

Remembering Where He Came From

Three small bed sheets threaded by a green rope extended across one end of the enclosed porch, fastened together with black binder clips for privacy. Baker peered behind the makeshift curtain, taking a moment to absorb the scene. Her uncle’s makeshift room in the one-story clapboard structure, squeezed in between two large brick houses, told the story of Carlton, Georiga native Dukes’ last 50 years.

Dukes’ living space was no more than 10 x 10 ft., barely enough room for the twin bed and the boxes of electronic equipment packed neatly into a tall bookshelf and all along the back wall. A full-sized dresser with mirror was covered in light bulbs, medicine bottles, an old boom box, personal hygiene items, a water pitcher and a VCR. Calculators, electronic chargers and iPads spilled out of the bottom drawer, packs of crackers and canned meat were stuffed in another drawer. Rolls of paper towels, room deodorizer and a box of trash bags obfuscated two flat screen computer monitors and a printer on a modest stand, sitting next to a worn yellow metal chair with a ragged white vinyl seat cushion. The stained azure blue carpet was covered in dirt stains and tiny bits of trash.

Dukes sits in his room on the enclosed porch at 87 Maynard Street in this undated photo.

This was Dukes’ home, a humble front porch space he rented from a kind Ecuadoran couple, for over 35 years in San Francisco, more than 2,500 miles from Georgia. And now across town, he lay in a hospital bed getting ready to take his last breath.

The scene was a lot to take in. It seemed impossible that Baker’s uncle lived in such a small, primitive space for all those years. But perhaps the most shocking discovery of all is what they found between the mattress and box spring: large sheets of dirty, tattered, flattened cardboard, remnants of his life on the streets more than 30 years ago.

“It was like he never wanted to forget where he came from,” she said.

“I Think It’s Time”

After Baker and Annie Lou cleaned Dukes’ space and arranged for his things to be donated, they situated him in a hospice facility to live out the rest of his days. They didn’t want to leave him, but Baker had to get back to work after being gone for almost a week. They maintained contact with him once they were home.

“My aunt called and talked to him every day. The nurses would put the phone to his ear, and he would make gestures or make sounds,” Baker said.

On June 19, 32 days after Baker found out about her uncle’s stroke and the day before Father’s Day, Dukes died peacefully in his sleep. His remains were sent to Carlton where his family would figure out his final resting place.

Annie Lou and Larinza were finally at peace after finding the brother they’d not seen in over 50 years. The week after Dukes died, Larinza called every single person on his friends and family contact list scribbled on an envelope that he kept by his chair, according to Baker’s sister who lived with him. On Saturday, June 26, after he spoke with everyone on the list, except for one son who didn’t answer his phone, he headed toward the stairs.

Baker’s sister said, “Papa, you going to bed?”

“Yep, I think it’s about time,” he replied.

Upstairs in his room, Larinza folded his pants neatly on the chair, then got into bed, rolled over to face the window, and pulled the covers up around him. And that’s exactly how his granddaughters found him the next morning when they brought his breakfast to his room. He’d passed in the night, like his brother Dukes, with a peaceful smile on his face.

A Repast for Heroes

On July 10, Dukes and Larinza’s family gave them a joint military funeral and a heartwarming repast, a gathering to celebrate the lives of two brothers who’d spent more than half a century apart and finally reunited in death. Around 100 family and friends gathered for the home-going, in which Annie Lou was presented with a military flag for each brother for their service.

The family is arranging with Wreaths Across America to tag two trees with the Duke brothers’ names in the Veterans Remembrance Tree Program. In December, the family will lay wreaths made from the balsam trees at the military cemetery in Milledgeville where Dukes and Larinza’s ashes will be interred.

The Vietnam veteran who endured lifelong repercussions of war will finally receive the welcome and recognition he so deserved 51 years ago. At long last, Walter Dukes has come home to his family.

Story Update!

Thanks to our readers for doing their own investigative work. 87 Maynard Street has undergone some major renovations since this summer and is now for sale. Here are a couple of updated photos from the Zillow sales page taken of the front of the house and where Walter stayed. It’s a bargain price of $668,000 (for San Francisco prices), originally built in 1909.

*This story has also been updated to clarify DD257 general discharge terms.

Related stories: My Vietnam Decision: Join or Be Drafted, My Vietnam Decision: Deferment and Luck, Letters from Vietnam Part 1, Letters from Vietnam Part 2, Letters from Vietnam Follow-Up

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Read about Archibald’s Georgia ties in his recent book, “Shaking the Gates of Hell,” released in March by Knopf.

John Archibald seemed destined to write about injustice. He was only 11 days old on April 16, 1963, in the midst of the civil rights movement, when Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his infamous Letter from a Birmingham Jail — 23 miles from the hospital where Archibald was born —criticizing moderates who chose not to speak up about racial inequality. King had been arrested for marching in protest without a permit. His letter was a response to the plea for silence from eight Birmingham clergy members who wanted King to stop demonstrating.

In his recent book, “Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement,” he exploref how that letter impacted his life and intersected with the beliefs of his family, including those of his father, United Methodist minister Rev. Robert Archibald.

John Archibald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for al.com, which includes The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, and The Press-Register. He has spent his career shining the light on injustice, standing up for the marginalized and oppressed. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Archibald didn’t learn about King’s letter until his first job as a journalist at The Birmingham News in 1986. But it changed his perceptions of what he thought he knew about his Southern-ness and social justice.

“I came to love that letter,” he wrote in his book, “for it was bold and spoke in phrases I could pretend to claim, in the way a white person of privilege might foolishly want to do… But it would take me a long time to find my place in it. And it would not be the way I thought. Because the point of the letter… was, in many ways, the rebuke. For retreat, in the name of peace. For obedience, in the name of the law. For silence, in the voice of God.”

Archibald seized upon that letter to forge his early career in journalism to help those still suffering racial discrimination at the hands of those who hold the most power—ordinary people who say nothing.

He and his three siblings were raised to believe and practice fairness and equality for all people. But when he came across his father’s old sermons after his mother died in 2018, he was shocked to find that Rev. Archibald never preached on the social injustice that surrounded them.

“Right after the Children’s Crusade began in Birmingham and all the kids were arrested, it was children’s Sunday at my dad’s church,” Archibald said. But Rev. Archibald never mentioned anything in his sermon about the injustices of the children right outside their front door.

“And the more I began to question what my dad was not saying in the pulpit [versus] what he said at home, the more I began to find this conspiracy of silence. And looking into the Methodist layman’s union, that rhetoric was used to keep churches segregated,” he explained.

He discovered in researching for the book that ministers were threatened with termination if they vocalized support for their black neighbors and brethren from the pulpit. And he also found parallels with the United Methodist Church’s current struggles with LGBQT disparities.

“In the South, we are so good at not talking about anything—mental illness, sexuality, or things that might be embarrassing,” Archibald said. “When we don’t talk about it, we don’t prepare people to talk about it. When you start talking about things, then suddenly you can develop thoughts about it.”

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When Nell Browne left her hometown of Comer, Georgia in 1972, she had no plans to return. She was the oldest girl of eight children from a loving family of limited means. She led what she described as a sheltered life in a community that was just beginning to navigate the changing laws in a Jim Crow South. She and two of her brothers were in the first group of seven students integrated into Madison County’s Comer Elementary in 1966, a move spearheaded by Principal Jimmy Means, a white man for whom her mother Alberta had worked.

A few years later, she remembered being asked to wait in the colored waiting room at the local doctor’s office, quietly accepting that, despite the laws that were made to protect Black Americans, some things just weren’t going to change as quickly as she had hoped.

In perhaps an impetuous move toward adulthood and independence, the high school senior married a military man with promises of seeing the world, beginning with the Phillipines in Dec. 1972. As she moved from country to country as a military spouse, packing and unpacking their lives with every new assignment, Browne decided that if she was going to follow her husband, then at least she should have a career too.

“I didn’t just want to be somebody’s housewife, and all I knew how to do was cook, clean, wash and iron. That had never been my dream,” she said.

So she enlisted for four years in the Air Force, where she learned telecommunications skills and acquired a sense of identity and accomplishment. At the end of her four-year tour at Fort Walton Beach, Flordia, her commanding officer assigned Browne a shared room with a lower-ranked soldier of color; as a sergeant, she was entitled to her own room, which was available. The CO assigned the shared room because he said it didn’t matter, that her tour of duty was almost over, she said. After reflecting, Browne believed it was because of her skin color. She walked out of the CO’s office and re-enlisted out of spite. Sgt. Nell Browne got her private room and that’s how she made the Air Force a career that spanned three decades, with assignments in Japan and Germany and back to Mississippi and Virginia.

When she was stationed in Biloxi around the late 80s and early 90s, Browne became friends with her neighbor Ms. Nita who taught her how to quilt. Quilting was the last thing Browne wanted to do, especially while caring for two young daughters. But Ms. Nita was persistent, and pushed her into a long love affair with quilting.

In 2020 Browne retired with 30 years of combined military service and as a civilian contractor. In 2020, she returned home to Georgia to care for her mother, then 88, who was undergoing cataract surgery. As with the never-intentions of the military life and quilting, Browne’s plans were to return to Virginia. But her heart—and a house that crossed her path by fate—called her to stay in Georgia. In a matter of just a few weeks, she moved Alberta and her 36-year-old nephew with autism out of public housing, into her new home where they all live together in Comer. Reunited with her family and readjusting to the new South, she’s found home again. She even set up a quilting room in her new house of which Ms. Nita would surely have been proud.


“You want to quilt, but you don’t know it yet.”

Nell Browne hasn’t always loved quilting. In fact, when she began quilting under the tutelage of her neighbor Ms. Nita more than 30 years ago, she downright loathed it. But Ms. Nita was a lady of great persuasion who sensed that Browne would grow to love the craft as much as her. The Comer native had two small girls at the time and quilting was the last thing on her daily agenda. But Ms. Nita insisted she join her every evening in the small quilting house behind her home in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Browne was stationed with the Air Force. She started small, just a few patches with inconsistent stitches, but over time she has become a master quilter. Browne discovered that the art of quilting was more fulfilling than she ever could have imagined.

Since then, she has made around 100 quilts, she guesses, mostly as gifts for family, friends, and even for those who didn’t necessarily know they wanted one of her quilts. And that’s where Browne derives the most joy.

“I have come to love this hobby even though I fought hard against quilting. Ms Nita was right when she said, ‘You want to quilt, but you don’t know it yet.’”

Retirement quilt Browne made for her CO.

A few years ago, Browne was working as a USAF retired government contractor in D.C., when she decided she was going to do something nice for a retiring not-so-well-liked lieutenant colonel. On the day of the commanding officer’s retirement party, Browne hung up her masterpiece, a patchwork of all the places the lieutenant colonel had been stationed throughout her Air Force career, representing the sacrifices of service for her country.

The CO walked into the room, gave a nonchalant acknowledgment of the quilt, not realizing the quilt was for her. Browne spoke up a few moments later and told the CO she needed to show her something.
“I’m retired. There’s nothing you need to show me,” she said.

When Browne pointed out the different USAF stations and the years of service, her CO began to cry. She said, “You made this for me?”

A homecoming quilt: Browne and her family

“Yes,” Browne said. “Everybody deserves to have something that’s memorable when they retire.”

Through tears, the lieutenant colonel said, “I didn’t think you liked me.”

Browne retorted, “I like you as much as you like me.”

Over a decade later, the quilt has remained hanging in the entrance of the CO’s home.

Some wondered why Browne made the quilt for their CO, especially given their tenuous relationship.

Browne’s signature of love: a border of music notes.

“Sometimes you have to do what’s right. And I just felt like that was the right thing to do, regardless of how I felt about her and how she felt about me.”

Most of the quilts Browne makes come from a place of generosity and giving, not for pay. She has received more joy out of giving a quilt created from what she knows about the person rather than the pressure of creating a quilt that someone has envisioned and it turns out not as they wanted.

“When people ask me to make a quilt, it kind of kills my creativity, especially when it’s not what they were expecting. Then it creates chaos. It creates some hard feelings. I prefer giving a quilt from the heart versus from the want of a person. I require flexibility on all quilts so I can give paying customers the best quilt possible.”

To express that joy of giving, each quilt has been finished with her signature outer binding of music notes.

“My reason behind [the music note border] is because it makes my heart sing when I give a quilt to somebody, especially when they like it or appreciate it. And when anybody sees the border, they know it was made by me.”

Nell Browne has made somewhere around 100 quilts since she began her hobby at the persistence of her mentor Ms. Nita over 30 years ago. Now in retirement, she finds joy in creating quilts for people for all occasions.
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Barbara Dixon and her dog Macy (Photo: Barbara Dixon)

The first weekend in March was a joyous celebration for Barbara Dixon. Two weeks after receiving her second COVID vaccination, Barbara got to see her two daughters for the first time in over a year. Dixon, who lives in Colbert, suffers from an autoimmune disease that increases her vulnerability to the virus. Her daughters, niece and sister-in-law, who all work in healthcare with COVID patients and live up to two hours away, kept their distance from Dixon to protect her.

During her year of isolation from her family, friends and church, Dixon struggled with depression, which was compounded by the loss of her husband of 36 years Jack in 2017 and her two dogs all within 10 months of one another. Shortly after her second dog died, Barbara adopted Macy from the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter to have another being in the house. Since the pandemic, Macy’s role as primary companion has been more important than ever to Dixon’s mental health. As a retired nurse accustomed to caring for others, Dixon has kept her focus on daily activities of cooking meals for them both and going to the socially distanced dog park.

“I don’t know what I would have done without my dear Macy,” she said. “I’d not seen my family since Christmas 2019. It’s been just too much. Macy has been my lifeline.”

I’ve been thinking about the great gifts we find in friendships with dogs and I’m reminded of Groucho Marx’s comment: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” My dear friend Max is a rescue dog. He had been chained in an Atlanta backyard for a year and supposedly. I rescued him—but honestly, he rescued me. I’m not sure I would have gotten through the pandemic without him. Max is 12 pounds of sweetness—a white, cuddly, funny and devoted Bichon-type little guy. He is my athletic trainer (he insists that we take a couple of walks each day); he is my recreation director (always up for a game of keep away); he is my protector (warning me of dangerous cats that approach the house); he is my mentor (modeling mindfulness, joy, good humor and openness); but most of all, he’s my comforter (always ready for a cuddle). I couldn’t ask for a better friend or companion in the time of Covid. Here’s to you, dear Max! —­Penny Oldfather“

Dixon’s story is a testament to the importance of animal companionship in times of crisis. Given the last extraordinary year of pandemic isolation, one would assume pet adoptions have increased. Jed Kaylor, program director for the Athens Area Humane Society, said that their shelter has seen about half of their normal adoptions in comparison with previous years. This is on par with the national trend where pet adoptions are down 11% from this time last year, but intake also decreased.

“The big uptick has been in our foster program, which has been about 25 percent,” Kaylor said.

Dr. Sherry Sanderson of UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine is co-conducting a foster cat research study with the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, UGA’s College of Public Health, and Brenau University, on the impact of feline companionship on mental and emotional health in older adults and their interest in and commitment to adopting a shelter cat.

“We are hoping that the study will show a positive effect on the participants from having companionship from a cat. We are evaluating quite a few parameters such as the impact of the cat on loneliness, mental and physical health, degree of comfort participants have from the cat, etc.,” Sanderson said.

So far the study has 23 participants, and they hope to have results to share sometime next year.

The AAHS has provided cats for UGA’s fostering study and partnered with other local organizations to help families with pets during the pandemic. Through the Food Bowl Program, the Humane Society helps fund Will’s Pet Pantry at the Athens Community Council on Aging to provide pet food for older owners in need.

It was love at first sight! Foster mother Sarah first introduced me to Polly in a Savannah park in May 2017. Polly had been one of 96 hoarded dogs and cats discovered and dispersed through the Savannah Coastal Pet Rescue. My husband Jack and I gave her a loving home. Two years later Jack passed away, and six months after that I had knee surgery. A month later the COVID Pandemic shut down America. Polly became my constant companion. She took me on four walks a day. We shared sunshine and raindrops, hot and cold days, breezes and bird songs. She made strangers smile when they saw us, and gave love wherever we went. She helped me to live my life again. Two months ago we moved to Athens. She adjusted to the leash, to the frigid mornings, to the fog, and to our new city life—always there—always my loving companion. (Photo: Annsley Felton) — Billie Sargent

Teresa Woods is grateful to receive food for both her and her 14-year-old cat Babygirl—who Woods says meows “Mama”— through the ACCA Meals on Wheels and Will’s Pet Pantry, as well as veterinary care from UGA’s Community Practice Clinic that the ACCA helped facilitate. Shortly after Woods had hip replacement surgery last year, her brother with whom she was extremely close passed away from cancer. Woods was devastated, but she was thankful, saying, “I’ve got my Babygirl.”

The Cleveland Clinic, a multispecialty academic medical center in Ohio, says that people benefit from animals of all kinds in dealing with a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression and dementia.

“Simply petting an animal can decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol and boost release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate and, possibly, in elevated mood,” said Marwan Sabbagh, director of the clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

And according to a U.S. News & World Report article, pets also help foster human connection for their owners, encourage exercise, establish a routine and provide a sense of security, all which contribute to overall healthy living. Pets just make us feel better.

Greta the cat helped make our Christmas this year. Greta is a Maine Coon rescue cat from the Oconee Humane Society. She has been my “go-to-gal” all during this pandemic. Needless to say, I have slowed down immensely during this time and Greta loves that I have more time to give her more attention. Greta prefers still and quiet to scrambling and jerking trying to get ready for company or going somewhere. We all know that there is no where to go and nothing to do! —Phyllis Chastain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related stories: Pets and the Pandemic: An Afternoon with Cosmo, House Rules

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Most people have grown closer to their pets during the pandemic, but few pets talk to their owners like Cosmo.

If you’ve lived in the Athens area for any length of time, chances are you know or have heard of Dr. Betty Jean Craige and her African Grey parrot Cosmo. It could be said that Betty Jean is well-known because of Cosmo, although some could argue the reverse. But it does seem the two are often spoken of together, as in, “You know, the professor with the talking parrot.”

In this pandemic year that sent us into our protective cocoons, Betty Jean and her feathered friend had to settle into a new routine of prolonged hours together. Many of us fell into a similar interactive routine with our pets, the deviation being that our pets don’t converse in complete English sentences like Cosmo.

As we pull into the driveway for the photo shoot, Betty Jean rolls Cosmo on her perch into the living room.

“We’re gonna have company!” the bird says quietly.

I press the doorbell, and Cosmo announces, “We’ve got company!”

We entered the living room to find Cosmo stretching and twisting her head to see who had, in fact, come to visit her. Her light grey feathers are freshly preened, her red tail feathers glow like fire. The highly intelligent parrot studies us from her perch but utters nary a word while we set up.

I pull down my mask slightly for our introduction. “Hello, Cosmo. I’m Tracy. How are you?” I sing. “I’m Tracy,” I repeat. “Can you say Tracy?” My efforts to converse with Cosmo fall silent, save for a random, beautiful whistle accompanied by a sideways perusal. Thankfully Betty Jean is happy to fill the silence to share what the last year has been like for her and Cosmo.

Betty Jean’s daily schedule has always been full, even after retiring in 2011 from UGA as University Professor of comparative literature and director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts.

“I had been so busy at the university that I assumed I should be equally busy in retirement. So I kept on having lunch with different friends every day and doing stuff, you know being president of OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and that sort of thing,” she recalls.

The two companions also made regular appearances at local schools as a way to talk to children about animal intelligence, cognition and language acquisition.

But when the pandemic hit last year, Betty Jean’s in-person activities abruptly stopped. Now those conversations with friends take place virtually on the computer or phone.

The upside of this year of isolation has saved time from driving, parking and waiting in restaurants, giving Betty Jean more time to write. “Ruminations on a Parrot Named Cosmo,” debuts April 15, as a follow-up to her 2010 book “Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot.”

Writing has become her central focus since retirement, including four books in a mystery series and a crime novel.

“I wake up in the morning thinking about the next part of the book I’m writing,” she says.

Cosmo seems to relish the extra time Betty Jean has been spending at home, even when she is occupied with writing.

“During the pandemic, Cosmo has taken to sitting on the back of my chair while I write,” Betty Jean relates. “I can work for two hours with her not saying a word, and then when it’s time, she’ll say, ‘Time to go to kitchen,’ or ‘Cosmo want to go to bed.’ She knows what she wants.”

“And sometimes she says, ‘Cosmo go to Betty Jean’s bedroom.’ What she really wants it is to get loose, so I put her on top of her cage in my bedroom. Pretty soon, she’s down and then walking around the house, going to the kitchen, opening all the cabinets.”

Betty Jean wants Cosmo to feel that the house is hers. But there are rules, and Cosmo knows when she breaks them. In her latest book, an easy read of 75 humorous essays woven with interesting information about parrots and their mental capabilities and behavior, Betty Jean writes about the mischief that Cosmo gets into when she’s left alone for a period of time. In the chapter “House Rules,” Betty Jean tells of Cosmo imploring, “I love you,” when caught breaking the No-Destroying-the-Baseboards Rule (see page 24). Betty Jean admits that made her laugh, while also pondering the notion that Cosmo employed empathy as a tactic for forgiveness. She is constantly amazed at Cosmo’s ability to reason.

“I never think of Cosmo as less intelligent than I am. I think of her as differently intelligent,” she explains.

For instance, when Betty Jean says, “Betty Jean gonna go in a car,” Cosmo will reply, “Cosmo go back in cage.”

“She feels safe there at night,” says Betty Jean. “If she’s in my bedroom, she’ll come out and tell me, ‘Cosmo want to go to bed.’ Well, she could go to bed all by herself. She wants to be tucked in, her cage closed and locked. So I take her back. When I once told her, ‘Time for Cosmo go back in cage,’ she said, ‘Time for Betty Jean go back in cage.’ We laughed! She laughs just like me. She lives to make me laugh.”

African Grey parrots are naturally intelligent, so Betty Jean’s love of language has unequivocally helped foster Cosmo’s vocabulary, which at one point boasted around 165 words and phrases.

“I taught Spanish in graduate school, so I know how to use a simplified language, and I know the pleasure that comes with being able to use words in another language. Some people ask if I speak Spanish to Cosmo. I don’t, because I want her to be understood by anybody her whole life.”

Having an African Grey parrot, like most domesticated exotic birds, is a lifetime commitment. Cosmo’s life expectancy is about 50 years. Betty Jean has had Cosmo for 19 years, which is a long time to work on language acquisition and conversation and to form a trusting, simpatico companionship. Their relationship is a testament to a long domestic cohabitation and the envy of humans who aren’t as lucky to have such a companion—bird or otherwise.

Betty Jean pauses to prompt Cosmo, resting on her hand, to pose for their photo. “Cosmo wanna kiss?” Their adoration for one another is apparent in their mirrored gazes. Cosmo plays it up for the camera, turning her head this way and that while Sue snaps a series of photos, quite comfortable being the center of attention.

At the end of the interview, Cosmo, now deposited on her perch, has still not offered me a quote. She doesn’t even acknowledge the question of her beauty.

“Cosmo’s a pretty bird!” I say softly. She looks at me up, down and sideways. Lifts a leg, repositions herself, blinks. Silence. I resign myself to the fact that this sweet bird will not talk to me.

A few minutes later, as we head into the hallway and make mention of leaving, a voice from behind us in the living room calls, “Good-bye-ee!” Betty Jean is right. Cosmo does have a sense of humor.

(Photos by Sue Myers Smith)

Related story: Pets and the Pandemic: Our Companions Make Us Feel Better, House Rules

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June Warfield felt as if she and her family had stepped off their cruise ship into a strange new world when they docked in San Diego on March 19. The city, normally brimming with people strolling palm-lined streets, was deserted. The new arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. had shut the doors of restaurants and bars, so their only source of dinner was sandwich take-out from the hotel’s sundry shop.

The next day the airport was sparse, and their flight back to Atlanta was only half full, slightly reassuring for the unmasked passengers who, with every breath, feared inhaling particles of the virus.

Warfield, her husband, daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter had spent two weeks in the ship’s protective bubble. There were only 158 cases of COVID reported in the U.S. when their Disney cruise departed from New Orleans to San Diego by way of the Panama Canal. The ship made two scheduled stops in Cozumel and the Grand Caymans before fear of the virus cancelled their other ports of call. While the crew scrambled to keep passengers entertained with Disney movies and impromptu grandparent brag sessions, Warfield and her husband were fearful of the end of the cruise.

“God only knows what we’re coming back to,” she remembers thinking.

Thankfully, they made it through the hotel and airport, all the way back to Atlanta and their cars that took them safely home to Athens without incident.

But she wasn’t prepared for the next several months of isolation. Like most people, she adapted quickly to Zoom conversations with family and friends, practiced her Duo-Lingo language lessons, and posted photos of past trips on Facebook for friends to guess locations. She was coping like everyone else, but when she broke down in tears at her annual checkup in the fall, it wasn’t because she’d gained a few pounds since March. She and her doctor knew then that things were not well with her.

“This is the first time in years that when someones asks me, ‘Where are you going next?’ that I don’t have an answer—I don’t have any reservations. We had planned as soon as we got back from Disney to take a trip in early 2021 to go to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos.”

Warfield, 72, and her husband Mike, 69, are seasoned travellers, with all seven continents and 21 cruises under their belts. So the lack of travel and trip planning has presented a significant loss of purpose and structure.

“I was going through days crying because I was isolated. And a lot of that is from not having something to plan.”

Warfield is not alone in her desolate feelings from lack of travel. According to TheWanderingRV.com, around 73 million Boomers spend $157 billion a year on travel. Last year, 53% of Boomers planned 1-2 international trips a year. Three out of 10 Boomers took cruises. Before the pandemic hit, 94% of Boomers planned to travel domestically in 2020, and 48% were projected to take both international and domestic trips, a six% increase from 2019.

But COVID-19 has changed traveling plans for millions of Boomers across America who are putting their dreams on hold until the virus recedes and safe travel resumes.

The pandemic has been swift and merciless for Tiffany Hines, CEO of Global Escapes Travel Agency in Athens, whose livelihood depends on the travel industry. Hines got a firsthand perspective of how her clients are feeling when she also had to cancel a major milestone trip.

“My husband and I were supposed to leave on March 14th to go to Italy to celebrate our 21st anniversary and his 50th birthday.”

She sent her team home on March 13, including the three new travel advisors she’d just hired, with instructions to keep in touch and wait it out. Several months later, Hines is navigating a sea of uncertainty like most agencies, trying to make the best decisions day-to-day.

“I’ve got a senior this year. We’re planning her graduation trip to Greece. We hope it happens, you know, but we don’t have really anything carved in stone.”

The pandemic has created an unspeakable strain on the small travel agencies that depend on personal and corporate travel and whose budgets have been slashed. Hines’ overall business is down by 80% from this time last year, which required cutting staff and taking creative approaches to staying afloat by maintaining client relationships and promoting travel through social media and their website.

“We’re trying to create hope and optimism for people,” Hines says of the new webinar series her agency has created for current and future clients. Global Escapes hosts a 15-minute webinar every other Thursday to provide people with something to look forward to. “It’s really just information and inspiration,” she says.

Her webinars have featured speakers from a Montana resort, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Charleston, and even a company that promotes private jet travel.

It’s been particularly devastating to small agencies whose clients fall into the most vulnerable category of contracting COVID-19.

Kari Dyngeland’s agency had been open for business only 21 months and could barely keep up with demand when the nation shut down in March. Adventures by Kari, a boutique travel agency in Wasceca, Minn., just south of the Twin Cities, caters to travelers 50 and older.

“It was amazing, wonderful—until COVID. And then of course [business] went to zero. I had work, but it was cancelling or moving trips or getting refunds,” she says.

Dyngeland quickly shifted gears from booking travel to posting informative messages on her business Facebook page, everything from travel protocol to country openings and closings, to how to plan for future travel. She’s stayed connected with her clients by posting inspiring travel destination photos and reflections on her own travel.

New COVID-19 vaccines rolling off the shelf bring hope for travel once again, and both Hines and Dyngeland urge those wanting to travel to start planning now.

“I’ve had a few trips booked for February, but you know, my clients are very cautious, and I want them to be. So I’m looking out for them.” says Dyngeland.

Hines agrees. “What we’re seeing now is that people are ready. By the end of first quarter into the second quarter of the next year, we should begin to see substantial movement of countries opening back up, cruise ships getting back on the water, things really kind of starting to move again. Capacity is going to be limited next year for a lot of hotels, cruise lines, and airlines. So when you start to see people booking again, you’re going to have a supply-demand issue. I expect prices will be higher in some cases.”

GalapagosThe good news, says Hines, is that suppliers are rewarding those who are proactive.

“There are some special deals for people who can get things booked now. But I think those kinds of deals are going to be much more limited as we get further into the new year. Even if it’s two years from now, [people] just need something to look forward to.”

Boomers like Warfield, who cancelled her June 2020 Eastern Caribbean cruise, realize their sadness for not being able to travel is trivial compared to those who are experiencing real loss from the virus.

“People are dying, losing their jobs, and losing their homes. I sit safely in my home and am financially secure.”

But planning trips is necessary to maintain hope for the future, especially for Boomers who connect with others through travel. It’s also vital for those who own and work for businesses that support travel.

“Planning future trips gives you hope, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and something to look forward to, other than the four walls that you’re in.” says Dyngeland.

Warfield and her husband are looking forward to making reservations for the Galapagos and Machu Picchu after they are vaccinated, with hopes of travel in 2022.

FIND: Global Escapes at www.globalescapes.com and on Facebook @GlobalEscapes. Adventures by Kari on Facebook @AdventuresbyKari.

 

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