January 1, 2001

Lucky Seven

Filed under: Atlanta,Media — schroder @ 12:00 pm

This month marks our seventh year of publishing our community newspaper. Given that we have made only minor mistakes in those years, I would have to call this enterprise a lucky one – so far.

Of course, there have been some close ones.

In one of my first columns back in 1995, I was clumsily trying to thank a former girlfriend with whom I had just broken up for all the help she had provided me in starting up the newspaper. Unfortunately, my thanks were expressed a little too eloquently and – in combination with heavy use of the past tense – many of my readers thought she had died. I had to correct that in the next edition, which was a painfully long month later.

We’ve always taken pride in “family-safe” newspaper. Because we deliver to so many homes, we feel we have to be careful not to include information that might be offensive to children. One story about businesses on Lindbergh referred to the “golf club” at the end of the street. Our crackerjack editors proofed every story several times before we went to press. I looked over that issue right before it went out the door and thought for a moment about the golf club. I wasn’t aware of a golf club on Lindbergh, but before I could do anything about it, my phone rang and I forgot about the reference. It was only after a few readers called asking about it that our team discussed the story and we realized the writer meant to say Gold Club. “Oh well,” we said. “Just another effort on our part to protect our readers from sex, politics and crime.”

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about dating that my ever-vigilant editor vetoed. “If this ran, you’d never date again!” she said. Another time, she corrected a reference to my ex-wife that forgot to mention the “ex” part. Thanks to Jan for protecting my single status.

None of these were as serious as the time I worked at The Greenville News in South Carolina and we published a full-page ad for a grocery store that had a sale on “Chicken Things” rather than thighs. As one of the press room guys said later, “I’ve eaten many part of a chicken, but I have never and will never eat that part!”

One time in Charlotte, the The Observer newsroom ran a story about a city councilman named James Brown. Late at night, one of the younger editors went to grab a photo of the Caucasian gentleman, but instead grabbed and published a photo of the King of Soul with his resplendent huge grin and big hair looking out from a serious story about local sewer repairs.

But the worst mistake I witnessed was in Augusta at The Chronicle, when we ran the obituary of Nelson S. Jackson, but a late-night copy editor ran the photo of Nelson T. Jackson instead. Nelson T., it turned out, was very alive and well, and also a member of our then-editor’s Rotary Club. The editor quietly took his usual seat at that week’s Rotary Club and endured many embarrassing remarks. But he was most annoyed when Nelson T. walked into the Rotary late and the entire club stood and raised their hands and greeted him with shouts of “Lazarus, Lazarus!”

When I first joined the Greenville, Mississippi newspaper and was looking forward to my first by-line in that afternoon’s edition, a fire suddenly broke out in the press room and the paper didn’t get published for two days. The publisher looked suspiciously at me, the newest and most questionable hire. Years later at the Fulton County Daily Report, my first day on the job led to several computer crashes that pushed us way past deadline by several hours. My college-age designer sidled up to me in a particularly tense moment and tried to reassure me.

“It could be worse, Chris,” he said. “Oh yeah, how?” I asked.

“We could be naked and on fire!”

I wasn’t reassured, but I did laugh. After nearly 25 years in the business and seven years “on our own,” here at Schroder Publishing, I am happy to report that we can still laugh. Even in these serious times.

December 1, 2000

Election Returns

Filed under: Atlanta,Family — schroder @ 12:00 pm

I’ve always enjoyed staying up late to watch election results on television. This year was no different. About 3:30 in the morning my telephone rang. It was my friend Charles, who enjoys the process as much as I do. He and I talked for nearly an hour before we agreed the presidential race was not going to be decided anytime soon.

The next morning I spoke to a civic group. After I recounted three nonpolitical humorous stories from my youth, my audience spent 40 minutes quizzing me about the media and the election. Everyone had an opinion and each took time to express it.

The next day, I traveled to Charlotte. I began the day on a MARTA bus. Despite a sign saying, “Please do not talk to the driver,” several passengers in the front of the bus carried on a lively discussion with the driver about the latest developments in “The Election Too Close to Call.”

When I boarded a MARTA train that afternoon, I walked into a car full of conversation. Passengers of different ethnic and socio-economic background were engaged in serious and humorous discussions about the voters in Florida. On any other day, these same people would have sat silently in their seats, exchanging no words between each other until one exited.

At the airport, great crowds of travelers were huddled in semicircles in front of televisions. People hurrying from other flights would stop and ask about the recount and several strangers would turn to give concise updates. Other passengers, who would normally have sat in silence waiting to board the flight, were engaged in conversation about intricacies of ballot re-counting and the merits of electronic voting.

The short flight to Charlotte seemed all the more brief when a young schoolteacher took the seat next to me and talked about her first-grade students spending the week debating the Electoral College and Constitution.
When I arrived in Charlotte, Sally, who turned 18 just days before the election, talked excitedly for an hour about her first voting experience and about which votes should be recounted.

Elections have traditionally divided us along party lines so it takes statesmanlike qualities for the winners to unite our country afterwards. Suddenly in this age of instant gratification, when we have grown used to watching returns on Web sites and 24-hour news channels, we have been transported back to the 19th century in America, when the country would not find out the winner for weeks after the vote was collected.

In so doing, the deadlock has forced Americans to return to other forgotten traditions. Instead of proceeding in silence next to our fellow citizens, we are now sparked into engaging them in lively debate.

On the Saturday after the election, while Florida election officials were holding ballots above their heads to determine if the computer punch-outs that we now know are called “chads” were partially or fully voted, Sally and I were selecting a new puppy for our household. We quickly voted for a cute male of apparent mixed chow and retriever lineage.

When it came time to name him, I suggested “Chad” in honor of the new word of the day that would no doubt dominate discussion in the next few weeks. She had her own ideas and, as of press time, there is no final decision. But one thing for sure, we will be engaged in lots of discussion on this and other matters of national importance in the weeks to come. And I for one think it is a good thing.

November 1, 2000

Tagging Along

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

A few years ago, after my children and I completed an inspiring tour of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C., we were returning to our prime parking spot right outside the building when my daughter noticed that my license tag was gone. I was mad. Here we were learning about our sophisticated law enforcement while at that very moment, a major crime went unnoticed.

My son, having been duly impressed by the G-Men on the tour, suggested I report it to the FBI. The security desk radioed upstairs and soon we were leading three or four federal agents down the steps of the J. Edgar Hoover building toward our car.

“This section of the street is considered federal property,” one G-Man was telling us. “If they stole it from here, then you’ll have the full authority of the FBI behind you.”

My anger at being a victim suddenly turned to delight as I envisioned some poor unsuspecting dude surrounded by a dozen G-Men yelling: “FBI – Freeze! Give us that Georgia tag back.”

When we walked up to my car, one of the men started shaking his head.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “But you are parked 20 feet outside our jurisdiction. We’ll have to call in the D.C. Police on this one. If you had just parked a few spaces down, we could have helped you.”

Nearly 45 minutes later a cop pulled up, took a few notes before his radio cackled with reports of an armed robbery at a nearby Wendy’s.”

He scribbled something on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to me. “I’ve got to run. Here’s your incident report number. I’ll write up your incident in a few days and you can request a copy.”

Back in Atlanta, I went to the county tag office, but they refused me a new one, demanding to see my police report. Calls to the D.C. police found my incident number had not been turned in yet.

As I stared into my computer screen at work, I searched for a solution. I then did what any good designer would do: I designed my own exact replacement, replete with year and month, the county name and even positioned the state peach behind my number. Then in a burst of honesty, instead of merely typing the state name at the top, I wrote: “Tag Stolen from Georgia.” My coworkers were impressed. So, it seemed, were the police.

Soon, I was being pulled over all over town. Policemen would walk up to my window, scratch their heads and inevitably begin with, “Sir, where in the world did you get that tag?”

“I designed it myself, on my computer,” I would say.

I would then tell my story about taking my kids to visit the FBI and how the G-Men had to call the D.C. policeman, who was called to an armed robbery … yada, yada.

Some would cut me off with a roll of their eyes and wave me on while others expressed great admiration for my handiwork. One asked about my computer software, and how I scanned the peach. Once I was pulled over twice on the same night on Piedmont Road.

Realizing I was spending more and more time on the side of the road meeting Atlanta’s finest, I located one clerk in the D.C. police department who took sympathy on my sudden popularity. She promised to harass the original cop until he got his paperwork in. When that proved fruitless, she typed the report herself and faxed it to me.

Within hours, I was fastening on a new – albeit more boring – state tag on my car. I haven’t seen any blue lights in my mirror since. Next time I go to D.C., I’ll know to park directly in front of the FBI.

September 1, 2000

The Boys from Atlanta

Filed under: Atlanta,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

My friends and I usually caravan to the New Orleans Jazz Festival every spring, but one year, my friend Tommy Calk and I were unable to clear a long weekend. T.C., a pediatrician, studied this emergency and quickly prescribed a solution: “We need to make a surgical strike.”

As part of the tradition, our friend Charles Driebe was in charge of accommodations. Each year, he would meet and woo a New Orleans woman, maintain a relationship with her at least long enough for T.C. and me to come crash in her apartment, and then find another for the next year after she inevitably grew tired of us and threw the three of us out in the street. This particular year, Charles had secured excellent accommodations: His girlfriend’s apartment was within walking distance of the festival.

Another important ritual involved the first night in town. We would have a dozen oysters, soft-shell crabs and beer at the Acme Oyster House, followed by a performance by the famous local musical family, the Neville Brothers.

This Friday night found T.C. and me dashing by taxi from the airport to Acme and then dropping off our bags at Charles’ base camp. We were unable to hail a taxi to the concert at the coliseum uptown, so we stopped a bus, asked the driver how to get there and he waved us on board. A few blocks later, he flashed his lights at a bus at an intersection and told us to run catch it. We were then deposited at the auditorium front door.

But tragedy struck: We found the ticket booth closed and doors to the auditorium locked. We could hear a warm-up band playing, so we banged on doors until an employee appeared.

“We need a ticket to the concert, but the booth is closed,” we pleaded.

“We’re all sold out,” she said dryly, closing the door.

“But, but, you don’t understand. We drove all the way from Atlanta just to see the Neville Brothers.”

She looked skeptically at us, said “Wait a minute,” and closed the door.

T.C. and I stood there wondering if our luck had run out. Minutes raced by. We were about to bang on the door again when it suddenly flew open and a very authoritative man looked at us and yelled, “Are you the boys from Atlanta who drove down to see the Nevilles?”

“Yes,” we said nervously.

Then he smiled, gave us an envelope and said, “Here. Two of the best seats in the house – on me.”

T.C. and I tried to contain our glee. We raced inside, grabbed a beer and ran to our seats near the stage. Just as we sat down, the lights lowered and the Nevilles were announced. It was as if they were waiting for the boys from Atlanta to take our seats.

After the show, we walked outside to the taxi stand, but we had to get in a line of people perhaps 50 yards long – all waiting for taxis, which were nowhere in sight.

Suddenly, a man walked up to the line and yelled, “Anybody need a ride into town?” T.C. and I took a nano-second to run up and volunteer.

As we enjoyed our quiet ride home, through the streets of New Orleans, we giggled as we recounted our luck. The driver asked if we had tickets to see the sold-out Allman Brothers show at the same auditorium the next night. “No,” we said and then discussed our prospects of banging on the doors and saying, “We drove all the way from Atlanta just to see the Allman Brothers!”

July 1, 2000

A Blast of a Summer

Filed under: Atlanta — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Thirty years ago this summer, thousands of American soldiers were fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Across this country, students protesting the continued war in Vietnam had closed down dozens of universities. In Atlanta’s Piedmont Park and Midtown, hundreds of hippies were roaming around pushing drugs, counterculture posters and alternative lifestyles.

As a contrast, my life was rather simple. I had just graduated from eighth grade and was sporting a plaster cast on my broken left arm. I was looking forward to a summer of sleeping late and watching television.
My brother Michael, who had recently returned from protests at his college, suggested I volunteer in the congressional political campaign of a man who two years before had been standing on a Memphis balcony next to Martin Luther King Jr. when he was killed by an assassin’s bullet. His name was Andrew Young.

Andrew_young

So one morning, I walked four blocks down Peachtree just past Peachtree Creek to the newly opened “Northside” branch office. I sauntered in to the storefront space and was amazed by the level of activity inside. Phones were ringing, radios were blaring, people of various ages, color, religions and geographic background were running around shouting directions to each other, stuffing envelopes, answering phones and generally ignoring me – a preppy little teenager with a cast.

I wandered to the back of the room where one guy was juggling several phone calls. “I’d like to volunteer to help,” I said. He looked me up and down and pointed to a group to his right. “Can you stuff envelopes?” he asked. “Sure,” I said. “Well they could use your help.”

The next two months, I did a little bit of everything: stuffing envelopes, answering phones, buying coffee, making copies, attending poolside political parties and even going door-to-door in countless suburban apartment complexes, canvassing curious residents about their political leanings, voting habits and interest in supporting the controversial concept of an African-American minister representing us in Washington.

I dug up old photographs in filing cabinets and adorned the bare office walls with posters, exhibits and a collection of “Think Young” bumper stickers. I even organized a few friends on a midnight jaunt to plaster my neighborhood speed limit and stop signs with bumper stickers. The next day people were calling in to complain about the illegal use of campaign materials.

One morning, I awoke to a radio news report that our office had been bombed the night before. I was stunned. I hurried down to see the open gap in the building where the hair salon next door had been. Our campaign office windows were blasted out and the walls were cracked and much of the roof had fallen inside. The fire department had pretty much drowned everything else.

I helped put up a sandwich board on the street with a sign that said, “We’re Still in Business.” The sign appeared in the newspaper the next day. Then I grabbed a broom and began sweeping the sidewalk.

Suddenly, Andrew Young walked up and two television stations began filming his reaction. Several cameras were trained on me as I swept. I felt like a media star. I found reasons to edge in behind Andy as he was filmed, talking about the “lunatic fringe” that might have been responsible for the senseless bombing.

Months later, I was surprised to find out the bomb had been arranged in an insurance scam by the salon next door. And I was greatly saddened by the loss of my candidate in the general election.
I never made any money that summer, but I had a maturing peek into the fascinating world of politics and the media at a time of great change in our city.

Photo: Congressman Andrew Young in 1970s

June 1, 2000

The Doctor Was In

Filed under: Atlanta,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Starting a newspaper can be an exciting enterprise. It’s even possible for the whole process to go to your head. Fortunately for me, since I spent my youth here, I get lots of chances to maintain my humility.

A couple of years ago, my mother was hosting a Fourth of July barbecue for some old family acquaintances. She asked me to stop by, say hello to her friends and maybe help out in the kitchen. When I walked out on her deck, a number of folks asked about the paper. Some were going on and on about how they love the stories about restaurants or who their favorite columnist was, etc. I, of course, was taking it all in, enjoying all of the praise and being of very little help in the kitchen.

Then one nice old gent I did not recognize chimed in. “I remember you from when you were a little boy,” he began. “We lived next to each other in the Palais Apartments.”

The Palais Apartments used to be perched on the hill on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta between WSB-TV and The Temple, overlooking the intersection of Spring Street. With the current craze in moving back to Midtown, these old Tudor architecture, two-story residences would be a gem – had they survived. Alas, they were torn down more than 10 years ago and the vacant hill was just recently graced with yet another glass office building.

The former neighbor was continuing his story, with others beginning to listen in.

“I’ll never forget the time I was reading the paper one Sunday afternoon, sitting in our living room next to an open window. Right below the window were some bushes and, apparently, you and a little girl were hiding in there. You were about three years old and I think she was four or five. Anyway, she was telling you to pull down your pants and then she would pull down hers. You were not going along with her.”

As he’s telling this story, I’m wondering where in the world this was going. I had no recollection of this early visit to “the doctor’s office” and here I was quickly becoming the focus of this late afternoon picnic. I was also wondering, why was he sitting there listening to all of this and not doing anything about it, but I was too shocked to say anything.

“So you must have pulled down your pants, because then she said she was going to pull hers down for you to see. Then next thing I heard was you protesting that you didn’t see anything and for her to pull her pants down again. Then I heard you say, ‘Hey, tThat’s not fair, you don’t have anything to show.’”

Everyone on the deck was having a nice laugh at my expense. I vaguely remember making mud pancakes with this older chick, but I didn’t recall this early medical research. I was beginning to turn several shades of red – all for an incident for which I have no recall. My mother, upon hearing the story, remembered the girl as being the granddaughter of a nearby neighbor.

“I thought it was inappropriate for them to let that child to play with you. She was much too aggressive for you!” my mom concluded.

I’ve always tried to keep my dating life private and now my very first interaction with the opposite sex was the subject of late-afternoon gossip. Soon others came out to the porch and wanted to know what was so funny. I figured that was the perfect time for me to go help out in the kitchen.

May 4, 2000

Going Back to Greenville, Mississippi

Filed under: Atlanta,Media — schroder @ 8:12 pm

I got a late start one recent Saturday morning and was quietly enjoying my second cup of coffee. It was 10:15 when I turned to the obituary page. There it was: a news announcing the death two days earlier of Betty Carter.

I drew a deep breath and read the familiar recounting of her years of fighting Huey Long in Louisiana and then moving with her more famous husband, Hodding Carter, to Greenville, Miss., to start a newspaper and battle, among others, the Ku Klux Klan.

Chris_in_greenville

Suddenly, I was transported back 22 years to the time I first walked into the newsroom of this famous little newspaper, Delta Democrat-Times of which she was then publisher. It was there this queen of a woman of such elegance and old New Orleans charm had edited or co-wrote her husband’s editorials on racial tolerance, for which they won a Pulitzer. It was under her tutelage that I hammered out my first editorial.

I remembered how she and her husband came to Greenville at the invitation of poet and planter William Alexander Percy, around whom an unusual renaissance of writers gathered in an isolated river town of 50,000. It was William’s nephew, novelist Walker Percy, whom I met standing in line at the Atlanta funeral of the woman through whom we were slightly related. I thought about how I had been back to visit all my other stops on my Southern tour of newspapers, but had never been “back to Greenville,” a phrase recently hammered into my psyche by a Lucinda Williams CD that played in my car for weeks.

I went online and tried to find the funeral arrangements, but had no luck. I called the newsroom at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and reached a woman in circulation, no doubt mired in a Mardi Gras glaze, whom I begged to read me yesterday’s paper. “The funeral,” she read, “will be Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Greenville, Mississippi.”

I called Delta Air Lines: a flight was leaving in 50 minutes. I made it, sweating, five minutes before departure. I rented a car in Memphis and raced down Highway 61, arriving at the church with 10 minutes to spare. I took a breath, looked around and recognized faces I had not seen in 21 years: the features editor, a photographer, a fellow reporter, several Percy “cousins,” Betty’s sons, Hodding Jr. and Philip. At the cemetery, I had a few minutes to chat with a few. Others got away before I could reminisce.

I drove around the courthouse and police station and jail, where all the characters had once seemed larger than life because it was after all, Mississippi, and it was my first job. I visited the newspaper, which hadn’t changed. Sallie, the managing editor, was there and still on the news desk.

I drove past the old carriage house where I first lived as a single man right out of college. A little more than a year later, I drove out in a U-Haul truck with a dog, a cat and a wife. The carriage house was still shadowed by the same bamboo, oak and magnolia trees that had cooled the hot summer days of our first few weeks of marriage in 1979. As I again drove out east on Highway 82, I was struck by how I now live single again in Atlanta, where everything is about hectic change and rapid growth. I felt comforted to go back to Greenville, where hardly anything or anyone had changed and yet these erudite gentle folks who once were so much a part of my life still move through life at their own rhythm at a pace we in Atlanta can only remember.
Photo of Chris Schroder, staking out Greenville, Mississippi, police station.

April 1, 2000

A City Boy in Full

Filed under: Atlanta,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

The call came through one Wednesday afternoon. If I was interested, the man was saying, I could jump on a private plane Saturday afternoon and join other media types flying to Albany, Ga., to stay in a storied old plantation and go “hunt’n.”

Gillionville3

“Did you ever read ‘A Man in Full’ by Tom Wolfe?” he asked.

“Well, sure,” I told him. “In fact, I read it while traveling in Cuba.”

“I hear there’s some real fine fish’n down there.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. I had spent a week in Cuba and never once thought about a fish, except for those that showed up broiled on a plate next to some black beans and rice.

“Well,” he continued, “this is gonna be ‘A Man in Full’ weekend – horses, wagons, dogs, the whole thing. Got yourself a gun?”

Well, I did inherit my dad’s shotgun, the very shotgun he had taken on hunting trips when I was a child. I had waited for him to take me with him, but those exotic occasions seemed reserved for his college buddies. I had read all of Faulkner’s hunting stories, preparing myself for the moment I would have to look down the sights of a two-barrel at a wild animal and I wondered if I could really ever pull the trigger. I’d never had the opportunity to find out, especially since I’d once been married to a life-long vegetarian who wasn’t sure she’d stay married to me if I did.

Gillionville

Once at Gillionville, one of the most famous of the now-famous quail plantations, we were led out to a field, given a gun and began blasting away at some clay pigeons shot from an automatic skeet launcher.
The gun felt good under my arm. I loved the sound when I pulled the trigger and the gun exploded, followed by the obliteration of the plastic projectile. Then, there followed that primordial sound that magically transforms a city boy into a real man: the guttural sounds of other hunters congratulating me on my good aim. I breathed deeply and stood tall. I confidently cracked open the gun and ejected those shells and inhaled that intoxicating combination of metal, oil and gunpowder.

That night, after a grand dinner, all us manly men retired to the fireplace and drank glasses of port and smoked cigars. Then, it began. The stories. Hunt’n stories from Montana, fish’n stories from Alaska – each one grander than the last. “Ohmygod,” I thought. “I forgot to pack any stories.”

Gillionville2

I drank heavily from the port, trying to summon some suitable tale. When I was a child I found some crawdads in our creek, one block west of Peachtree. My brothers and I once unsuccessfully shot a pellet gun at squirrels in tall pine trees because they threw pine cones at us while we threw the football.

I began to shift uncomfortably in my chair, fearing my city-boy nature would be unmasked. I could feel the sweat popping out on my forehead. Finally, the plantation manager said he had to get up early to wake the dogs, so he’d better mosey off for some shuteye. Others followed and I was saved.

The next morning we rose early, had a huge hunt-country breakfast and I rode a horse for three hours, carefully absorbing each and every detail of my successful hunt so next time I could lean back by the fire, take a pull on my cigar and tell the story of the time I went to Gillionville …

February 1, 2000

The Southern Club

Filed under: Atlanta — schroder @ 12:00 pm

I would be a terrible restaurant critic despite the fact that one of my favorite activities is eating. I’m pretty good at it, too, but the problem is that I have yet to meet a piece of food that I didn’t like. Even when I had to eat chitlins, I just smothered them in ketchup and grinned my way through a plate. Probably the only time
I’d ever give a restaurant a bad review would be if I walked away hungry.

With that criteria, one restaurant that never got a bad review from the sophisticated palates of my hungry friends back when we were in college was called The Southern Club. This was in the days when Atlanta still had boarding houses. Located on 11th Street in Midtown, The Southern Club was probably one of our city’s last official boarding houses. Boarders could rent a room for a night or forever and enjoy the other amenities of the place, including perhaps a library, a living room and, of course, a dining room. Kind of like today’s bed-and-breakfasts, except that boarding houses served a whole lot more than breakfast. It just so happened that at this boarding house, the dining room was open to the public and for those in the know, it was a great secret indeed.

During the summers back then, my friends Charles Driebe and Mike Egan and I formed a company called the Buckhead Bricklayers (with our famous motto “We Lay for Less”). On days when we visited the club, we would warn our clients that we had some supplies to pick up during lunch and we might be gone for two or three hours.

We’d walk into the Club, pay $2.00, pick up a glass of sweet iced tea, grab a plate and help ourselves to an all-we-could-possibly-eat buffet. On Monday through Thursday, meats included wonderfully cooked fried chicken or pork chops or ham. But Fridays were special because for $2.50 we could eat all the roast beef we wanted. Vegetables were all our southern favorites: mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, collard greens, green beans, lima beans, pole beans – about every kind of bean.

Before, during and especially after every meal we helped ourselves to the club’s signature item: hot, flaky, homemade biscuits. I had experienced good biscuits before, but never quite like the ones they served at the Club. They were huge and steaming hot. And while I had experienced the joy of slathering butter across a hot biscuit before, it was at the Club that I was introduced to one of God’s gifts to biscuits: honey. The Club placed big jars of honey on every table. We’d pour it on top of the melting butter and lower the top of the biscuit so the honey would have dripped out except for the fact that we knew to eat them before the honey hit the table. We would eat these biscuits all during the meal, but after our plates had been cleared away, we’d focus solely on the biscuits and butter and honey.

After a long morning of laying brick and an hour at the Club, we would then drive to a park, lie in the midday sun, make occasional grunting sounds as we snoozed away another hour, dreaming about our next trip to our favorite little five-star restaurant that exists today only in our memories.

September 4, 1999

Glenda the Mailwoman

Filed under: Atlanta,Life Stories,Media — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Last month I prepared for my annual two-week vacation with my kids. As always, I wrote a note to my friend Glenda and left it in my mailbox. Glenda is my postal delivery person. The day I left, I opened my mailbox and pulled out a nice note from Glenda. She confirmed the dates she would re-deliver the mail and told me to have a great vacation, and punctuated it with her trademark signature and happy face.

These days I love the post office, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I first met the previous owners of my house seven years ago, they walked me around the yard explaining all the quirky things about the place. One of the more endearing aspects was their relationship with their mailman. There was no mailbox at the house, so most days, he would walk up the 39 steps of the driveway and leave the mail on top of an old milk jug, carefully placing a sea shell on top of it so it wouldn’t blow away. If it looked like rain, he would continue up the remaining 13 steps and slip the mail inside the screen porch.

I moved in the house on a Monday and happily walked up my driveway and stopped at the milk jug: no mail. I continued up to the screen porch and discovered a letter from my postman hanging from my door knob. It said he was invoking a post office regulation requiring the installation of a street-side mailbox.

Figuring I had a grace period, I came home the next day expecting to see a pile of mail. There was none. I called the post office, but they offered no help. After 10 days of no mail, I gave in and erected a mailbox. There was still no mail. I was furious. I had to sign a form to release all the mail.

To get back at my postman, I often parked directly in front of my mailbox so he would have to get out of his truck to drop the mail in. Pay backs are hell.

A couple of years later, I started this company. I keep close tabs on the delivery of our newspapers. I’ve monitored when my papers arrive at the local post office and then called a network of neighbors to track the wave of delivery. I’ve driven around the neighborhood, flagged down a postman and asked why he hadn’t delivered my papers yet when his associates had done so days earlier.

Then the post office assigned Glenda to my route. I detected the difference immediately. She delivered my paper early and wrote a note alerting me that she was delivering my papers to her route that day and including a schedule of when her associates would finish delivering theirs. Some days, I might only get one magazine or an advertising flier in my mailbox. But Glenda will spruce it up, writing “No bills today!” on my label. She always includes a happy face.

Sometimes when our printing schedule results in a late delivery to the post office, I would take boxes of doughnuts to the local distribution facility for the postal workers’ 9 a.m. break. (No, it wasn’t a bribe – there is a postal regulation against that.) I would include a letter thanking the nice delivery people for their outstanding work. Glenda will write a thank-you note the next day.

I always wave when I see Glenda making the rounds in the neighborhood. She has a wonderful smile and a happy thought to share. She says she enjoys reading our newspaper. I hope she reads this page. Thanks, Glenda (and all your fellow postal professionals), for all you do.

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