February 8, 2009

Wallet and keys

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Life Stories,Media — schroder @ 7:11 pm

Today, the weather was so nice and warm that Jan and I decided to take a long walk around the neighborhood with our dog, Riley. At the last moment, we decided to take in one more block of homes at the end of our street. As we turned the corner, we ran into Clark Gore, whom I’ve know for several years as he worked once for a client of mine in the commercial real estate industry – he’s currently leading the newly merged office of Jones Lang LaSalle.

Clark Gore

Clark Gore

“I was just catching up on some reading today and read about your wallet and keys,” Clark said, referring to the January 1, 2009 edition of the AJC, in which I submitted a New Year’s resolution for the Peach Buzz column. I had to laugh, I’ve had so many people comment on that little one sentence item.

Rich Eldredge of the AJC writes a near-daily column called Peach Buzz that is one of the most read items in the paper. In fact, President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn told Rich it’s the first thing they read every day. Or so Rich says. Each year, he asks for readers to send in their resolutions and then he publishes it on January 1. Most of them are really serious or spiritual, as they should be. I figured he needed a little comic relief.

It wasn’t just my imagination. A couple days after Christmas, I spent a day and a half looking for my wallet and keys. I actually drove to work without my license one day, which I never do. I had looked everywhere … at the office, in my closet, under the sofa, in my mail, coats, pants, briefcase, car … everywhere, two and three times. Even Jan joined in the search for a couple of frustrating hours. Nothing!
 

My wallet and keys, in case you find them.

So I was faced with that age-old dilemma: cancel all my credit cards or hope that nobody else finds my wallet before I do. I kept checking my credit cards online … things appeared dormant.

Finally, after retracing my steps again, I remembered that I had them last in some pants and went through them again … and they weren’t there. Then I looked below in my closet … only shoes. But wait, there was something shiny there. Voila! Seems they had fallen out and right into my shoes, a pair I didn’t look in earlier!

So when I read Rich’s request for resolutions, I emailed him mine: “I resolve to spend less time in 2009 looking for my wallet and keys.” I didn’t tell Jan I submitted it … I only showed her when it published, knowing she had suffered with me. It stood out among the longer,  weightier resolutions.

Since that day I have done better. I try to put them in my mail slot at home when I arrive … a place where my mail piles up, ashamedly. A few days later, I saw my classmate Eric Bleke at our high school reunion planning meeting and he said he read my comments and laughed.

“Do you have that problem,” I asked, searching for kinship.

“Oh no,” he said. “That was one thing my dad drilled into me as a kid … ‘Everything has its place!’ So I always put them in the same place every day.”

My son emailed me earlier today, saying he saw the item when a google search delivered it to his computer. Others have mentioned it to me in the past few weeks.What a life that column has, post-publishing.

Thankfully, Clark said he suffered from the same malady and has spent a lot of time in his life looking for his wallet and keys. I told him I had done a lot better here in 2009, but I have a whole year to mess up again. Here’s to keeping this resolution!

November 19, 2008

Birthday Cards

Filed under: Family,Life Stories — schroder @ 11:17 pm

I usually plan a low-key birthday. Two years ago today, I drifted in my office on my 50th birthday and no one – thankfully – remembered or noticed. I escaped all the black balloons and crepe paper. This year, my staff posted birthdays on the office calendar, so there was no escaping it. So Jan and I scheduled pizza and a cake in the office – deliberately low key. I received all the normal calls from my siblings and mom and kids and closest friends, which is what I really look forward to. 

Tonight, coincidentally, was a busy night for scheduled events. Many nights, nothing is on the calendar. Some nights, we get invites to a number of business or social events. Tonight, we were invited to four or five business events and/or restaurant openings, so we postposed any evening birthday dinner to this weekend, when my kids, Sally and Thomas, (both who have jobs for more than a year – yea!), will be in town. 

But after I parked the car and headed inside tonight, I decided to check the mailbox one last time. There was a handmade card waiting for me. It was a “cover” card of two James Taylor albums with my face transposed on JT’s – continuing the great scam I enjoy of being his lookalike. This card goes in my birthday card hall of fame for creativity. I showed it around all week. 

I have several folks to thank: Jae Stephenson Robbins, who is a friend and neighbor and owns a marketing firm with which we collaborate, called Resource Real Estate. Seems a young staff member there, Jessica Younglove, who interned with us a couple of summers ago, found out from her boyfriend, Reid, who happens to be on our staff, that today was my birthday. Jae later told me that Jessica went to her and teammate Leslie Wright and said, “We should do something.” They let Jessica do the rest, except for Jae, who smuggled it to our mailbox while we were out. 

Okay, marking my birthday is not such a painful thing. Particularly when people have such a good time celebrating it with me. Thanks, all!

November 17, 2008

Mississippi moment, exactly 30 years later

I walked around the Buckhead bar at one of the many trade group networking meetings I attend, this one with SMPS. I walked up to a group of one man and several women I didn’t know, but they were laughing, a good sign. As I shook hands with the man, I could feel my hand being nearly crushed. 

“Where did you learn to shake hands like that?” I asked him.

“From squeezing cow teats in Mississippi,” he said to the delight of the women who knew him.

“Mississippi,” I asked. “Where?”

“I’m sure you’ve never been there or heard of it,” he said. “A small town named Okolona.”

I knew this was going to be good. “I’ve been to Okolona,” I said. “Just south of Tupelo, where Elvis was born.”

“What were you there for?”

“I went there on my first day as a reporter, right out of college. I went to cover a march by the Ku Klux Klan, which was marching against some group … the United League or something. It was a crazy first day as a reporter. I remember Geraldo Rivera of ABC’s 20/20 flew in on a helicopter to film the whole thing.” 

“I was there,” he said. 

“We went first to hang out in the yard of one of the local residents who was organizing the march,” I said. “I remember they had a big barbecue before they went off to start the march and to face the Klan. It was kind of tense.”

“I was there too,” he said.

His name is Melvin Buchanan and that same weekend when I was a wide-eyed 21-year-old reporter for the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Mississippi, Melvin was a wide-eyed 17-year-old just getting started in the civil rights movement. We agreed to have lunch soon.

The morning Melvin was to come to my office, I went to the garage and opened up an old trunk full of junk I have saved – much to the chagrin of my family. It’s not just the trunk. I have many of the newspapers for which I wrote front page stories in boxes piled up to the rafters. One time I was having lunch with Ga. Court of Appeals Judge Jack Ruffin, about whom I had written one of my more interesting profiles as a reporter for the Augusta Chronicle when he was a controversial civil rights attorney there. I had made the same trek to the garage that morning and found a copy of the full-page spread. The judge was very pleased to see it 25 years later.

I was telling my staff at our “huddle” that morning about Melvin coming to join me for lunch that day. I told them how I had met him and how he was there for the Ku Klux Klan march and how he was coming in to our office in a few minutes and that I would introduce him. I noticed Devin, our employee who happens to be African-American, getting nervous. Her eyebrows went up and she looked across the table at her office-mate, Amber. I realized I had left out one important detail: Melvin was black and he was marching against the Klan. Everyone broke out in nervous laughter.

I surprised Melvin when he walked in, pulling out the August 1978 copy of the DDT, with my Klan photograph on the front page and a full-page photo essay just inside. He looked over the photos of all the people in the crowd, naming one after another. I was hoping he would find himself published there, but he wasn’t. I’ll have to return to the garage … I have my roll of negatives from that weekend … somewhere.

Over lunch at Tamarind Seed, Melvin and I talked about the pending election of Barack Obama as president and what a remarkable change that represented since we first crossed paths 30 years earlier. Melvin’s engineering firm recently downsized amidst the economic turmoil and he was left without a job. But he dazzled me with his recall for names of nearly everyone he’s met and his knowledge of the construction and architecture and commercial real estate industry. He talked about the many people with whom he stays in touch and the many he mentors. To the young people who ask him advice about careers, he tells them, “No matter what industry you are in or what job you have, remember one thing: You are always in the people business.” 

Melvin will find a new job soon. People have always told him he should be in the PR business, since he knows and remembers so many names and faces. I told him I’d be happy to help get him started if he ever did want to hang out his own shingle. He would be fabulous at it.

Had I not walked up to Melvin that evening in Buckhead and shook his hand, we’d never have made the connection. Had I not dropped by my new newspaper office that Friday afternoon in August 1978, three days before I was to report to duty on the following Monday, I would never have been invited to go on the weekend trip to Okolona. It all re-confirms my notion that if you talk to anyone long enough, you’ll find a connection you never dreamed you have. 

Turns out that first weekend in Mississippi was a highlight of my time down there. I was so pumped as we drove back through the Delta that hot Sunday morning, back toward the Mississippi River town of Greenville, to what I was then to call home for more than a year. If that was my first weekend, I thought, think what the rest of the time would be like. Well, it was never quite as exciting. I covered police and courts and chased fire engines and car wrecks and followed murder trials and attended Rotary clubs and school board meetings, but they all paled in comparison to that first Saturday on the job.

That day in Okolona was fascinating. Lines of local African-American residents marching down one side of the main street of town, paralleled by a line of Ku Klux Klansmen marching the opposite direction on the other side of the street. TV crews in the midst, Geraldo’s helicopter hovering above, carloads and truckloads of locals shouting to either side.

The DDT photographer, Larry Looper, and I stood by the pay phone near the end of Okolona’s Main Street, while reporter David Saltz called in his story to the Associated Press. Larry and I looked over our rolls of film (back then we had to wait to develop them in the darkroom back at the newsroom). As the afternoon grew into evening and as David finished his dictation, we watched as the entire downtown – which an hour before had been bedlam and high drama – was emptied out of the last car and truck. A lone, white, skinny teenager, perhaps 14 years old, leaned up against the telephone poll across the street and watched the last car pull away. He looked us over and slowly walked toward us. We stood in the still blazing Mississippi sun as he stopped right in front of us.

“Y’all got a reefer?” he asked. 

All that tension from the afternoon drained out of the three of us. We laughed for a long time. 

“No,” Larry said. “We don’t.” The kid wandered away again. 

As the teenager wandered away, Larry said: ”Watching all this shouting and goings-on, I wasn’t too sure about this place. For some reason, I feel a whole lot better about this town.”

November 14, 2008

Back to the Blog

Filed under: Life Stories — Tags: — schroder @ 2:37 pm

DEAR READER: PLEASE NOTE MY BLOG HAS MOVED TO: www.chrisschroder.com. THIS SITE WILL NO LONGER BE VIEWABLE IN A FEW DAYS.

Dear Blog:

I know you are upset with me for suddenly abandoning you six months ago. I do hope you will forgive me. And let me just say: It’s not you, it’s me. It really is.

But now I’ve returned and I hope you will accept me back. No, I didn’t leave you for another. Well not exactly. It’s not like I was writing on another blog. But I guess I was writing around, you know, emails, memos, letters and articles. But it didn’t really mean anything. I didn’t have any feelings for them. It’s you I care about.

It’s not like you were sitting all by yourself with no one messing with you, either. The whole time I was away, people kept walking up to me and telling me they had been visiting you. They told me they really enjoyed their time with you and were having a really good time. I’ll admit I was jealous, but I kept thinking I’d write, but it was just so difficult to return after so long. I thought about you every day, particularly when I had to delete that line at the end of my email signature that read “Check out my new blog!” I mean, I deleted that line on my emails 20 or 30 times a day before I pressed “Send.” You’d think it would have just been easier to post an entry. But I didn’t. What was it? Pride? Sloth? Gluttony? I don’t know.

But then my staff scheduled an intervention last month. They invited me to a seminar on New Media and near the end, they put my last blog entry from May on the screen and they all turned to me and said I need to go back to you. That we were really good together. They noticed I haven’t been myself since I left you and that, try as I might to be totally distracted by watching and reading all I could about Barack Obama and then the Atlanta Falcons – both of which kept winning against all odds – I didn’t seem totally happy. In the end, when the election and the games ended, I got back to thinking about you. After a few drinks I’d start talking about you. Several times I even picked up my laptop and almost … almost began typing again.

And then today, as I was driving my wife Jan to the Atlanta Press Club to hear Ted  Turner speak, she had me all alone in the car. And she told me an extraordinary thing: She said it was okay if I went back to you. She would not be jealous. She knew I wouldn’t return to you unless she gave me permission and today she did. In fact, she told me I couldn’t read the Sunday papers this weekend unless I visited you first.

So here I am. I’m back for good this time. I hope you’ll take me back. I promise to be faithful this time. I’ve learned my lessons.  I’m finished sowing my wild oats. You are the one I really want.  C’mon. Grow old with me. The best is yet to be!

TO VIEW MY CONTINUED BLOG, YOU WILL NEED TO GO TO www.chrisschroder.com

Back to the Blog

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

Dear Blog:

I know you are upset with me for suddenly abandoning you six months ago. I do hope you will forgive me. And let me just say: It’s not you, it’s me. It really is.

But now I’ve returned and I hope you will accept me back. No, I didn’t leave you for another. Well not exactly. It’s not like I was writing on another blog. But I guess I was writing around, you know, emails, memos, letters and articles. But it didn’t really mean anything. I didn’t have any feelings for them. It’s you I care about.

It’s not like you were sitting all by yourself with no one messing with you, either. The whole time I was away, people kept walking up to me and telling me they had been visiting you. They told me they really enjoyed their time with you and were having a really good time. I’ll admit I was jealous, but I kept thinking I’d write, but it was just so difficult to return after so long. I thought about you every day, particularly when I had to delete that line at the end of my email signature that read “Check out my new blog!” I mean, I deleted that line on my emails 20 or 30 times a day before I pressed “Send.” You’d think it would have just been easier to post an entry. But I didn’t. What was it? Pride? Sloth? Gluttony? I don’t know.

But then my staff scheduled an intervention last month. They invited me to a seminar on New Media and near the end, they put my last blog entry from May on the screen and they all turned to me and said I need to go back to you. That we were really good together. They noticed I haven’t been myself since I left you and that, try as I might to be totally distracted by watching and reading all I could about Barack Obama and then the Atlanta Falcons – both of which kept winning against all odds – I didn’t seem totally happy. In the end, when the election and the games ended, I got back to thinking about you. After a few drinks I’d start talking about you. Several times I even picked up my laptop and almost … almost began typing again.

And then today, as I was driving my wife Jan to the Atlanta Press Club to hear Ted  Turner speak, she had me all alone in the car. And she told me an extraordinary thing: She said it was okay if I went back to you. She would not be jealous. She knew I wouldn’t return to you unless she gave me permission and today she did. In fact, she told me I couldn’t read the Sunday papers this weekend unless I visited you first.

So here I am. I’m back for good this time. I hope you’ll take me back. I promise to be faithful this time. I’ve learned my lessons.  I’m finished sowing my wild oats. You are the one I really want.  C’mon. Grow old with me. The best is yet to be!

January 1, 2002

“The Journey” Together

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

My friends tease that I’m related to everyone in Atlanta. What is true is that I am “the baby” of my immediate family of two brothers and two sisters. We are rather spread out: by the time I was born, my oldest sister was nearly college-age. While some of us had traveled together through the years, it occurred to me that we had never all been on the same trip when we boarded the same airplane two years ago to go to a cousin’s wedding in Maine. (In hindsight, we probably should have split up on different flights.) The trip was a success and we agreed to get together each year.

One of the things about my big family is when we get together, we often only have time for small-talk. When we planned this year’s annual weekend together for August, I was interested in finding a tool to break down the normal barriers.

In July, I ventured into and was incredibly surprised by the premiere of a locally produced film. As the 90-minute film rolled along, I realized the experience of watching “The Journey” is similar to my life: It isn’t filmed particularly well, the sound is rough in spots, the plot is unpredictable and isn’t even laid out in a logical sequence. Then I began to listen for the pearls of wisdom hidden amidst its rocky scenes. And there were many.

After I emerged from the theatre, I had one urge: to ensure my family saw this film together. I wasn’t sure why, but I had a hunch that if anything could hot-wire an emotional reaction from my siblings, The Journey might be it. I was right.

After a glass or two of wine, we all sat down to view it. They laughed, they listened and some cried. As we prepared dinner, each one pulled me aside to share a significant emotion the film had triggered. At the table, instead of the normal banter, I asked each person, including in-laws, to share the thoughts they had quietly told me. For my family, this led to the most significant discussion we’ve ever had.

One sister said she realized her grandmother was the only family member she felt had ever really connected with her and she lamented she didn’t have such a relationship yet with her own grandchildren. A brother lamented that he had let issues prevent him from sharing his appreciation with our dad before his death seven years ago. One questioned why her approach to her son was so restrictive and why she didn’t appreciate his novel nature. She realized it was because that was how she was raised. Another feared for a grandchild’s self-esteem as he exposed his sensitive nature to his “macho” world. My mom was suddenly struck by never having told her long-deceased mother thanks for all the unappreciated sacrifices she had made when trying to raise three daughters during very, very tough times.

For me, I learned that, despite my nature to hide in tough times, it is okay to ask others for help when I need it. I also reaffirmed that, in the end, being a good father, manager, lover or friend is more about listening than lecturing. I need to listen more. That night at dinner, when I did listen, I could not believe the stories I heard.

Soon, it was time to clean up the dishes and call it a night. As we wandered off to bed and even when we have reconvened since, my family returned to our normal ways of relating. Yet something is slightly altered. For we have opened up and shared a deep fear or regret with our group and now, having shared that, we will are able to reconnect on a deeper level as the happy and sad scenes are written into our individual journeys.

December 1, 2001

Crossing off the List of Life Things to Do

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

Somewhere along the way, I developed the strange notion that life could become one great scavenger hunt, whereby I would compile – and then complete – a list of goals or “Things to Do.” Having just celebrated a birthday that my older brother Jack, an avid golfer, says qualifies me to be “playing the back nine of life,” I decided it was time to evaluate my efforts so far.

Early in life, I posted the typical sports goals a young man thinks about: attending a World Series game, catching a winning touchdown pass, scoring a birdie on my favorite golf hole, making a hole-in-one, coaching my son’s baseball team to a championship, living to see the Braves win a World Series and the Falcons play in (I always knew it would be asking to much that they win) the Super Bowl. I still haven’t played Augusta National Golf Club, so that remains on the list.

There were a few random achievements that still bring pleasure when I remember them: owning and renovating a 90-year-old house, being elected president of a class here or an organization there, speaking to groups and having them laugh or applaud, running a 10K, seeing a double rainbow. Still on the list: I still haven’t found a four-leaf clover, a shark’s tooth or an arrowhead.

Meeting certain people always ranked high on the list. I’ve met favorite authors, three men who later became U.S. presidents and then – just a month ago I crossed off a 20-year-item on the list. Since I graduated from college, I’ve wanted to meet a singer named Emmylou Harris. The first time I ever listened to one of her albums, I fell in love with her voice – and later her photograph. I’ve learned to instantly detect her angelic sound harmonizing in a duet or blended into a chorus. Earlier this year, I saw her in concert for the first time – at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. But I didn’t get to meet her.

Then a couple of months ago, my friend Charles Driebe invited me to a concert in Seattle in which a band he manages – The Blind Boys of Alabama – would be opening for Emmylou (and another rock star, Dave Matthews). Despite September 11 tragedies, I immediately booked a flight to Seattle and began begging Charles to introduce me to my longtime heartthrob. The concert was on a Sunday, but on Saturday night, Charles suggested I drop by a hotel lobby to meet some people organizing the event.

As we walked to the door of the hotel, I looked through the front door and instantly saw Emmylou sitting by a fireplace. I played it cool while Charles talked with her and other musicians. Then Emmylou stood to leave. Charles stopped her and casually introduced me. I shook her hand and tried to figure out what to say. We ended up talking about the Braves. She said she was headed back to her room, noting this was the first Saturday night in years that she had nothing on her schedule. My heart pounded in my chest. “Should I? Dare I,” I asked myself. “Maybe this is why I was put on this earth – to spend Saturday night in Seattle with Emmylou!” But then she yawned and wandered out the door.

The next night, when Charles was able to sneak me backstage, I rode up an elevator with her. I don’t think she recognized me. But after the show, I was able to take two photographs of her backstage talking with Dave Matthews.

As I flew back from Seattle, I thought about more important goals I have met: being married once and being the extremely proud father of a daughter and a son; serving as publisher and owner of these newspapers for the past seven years; not embarrassing my friends or family too much – so far. And I thought of what is left on my list:
• parachuting from an airplane;
• writing and publishing books of fiction and non-fiction;
• throwing a truly memorable party before I have a funeral;
• proving next time a marriage can be blessed until death do us part;
• b eing a good grandfather and, my number one goal:
• seeing my children happy and outliving me.

With nine holes to play, I think I can make it. I’ll keep you posted.

May 1, 2001

Quite a Spectacle

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

Sometime in the past few months, I lost my prescription sunglasses. The lenses were only two years old, but I had nursed along the scratched and worn-down frames for more than 12 years. They weren’t pretty, but they were functional and much cheaper than new frames. I’ve looked everywhere for the glasses and even accused my fashion-conscious kids and staff members of hiding them until I broke down and bought a new pair designed in the past decade, but no one would admit to it.

As I looked over the rows of new spectacles at the store, I suddenly remembered the last time I lost a set of eyeglasses. At that time, I was married and my wife, Callender, and I were living in Greenville, SC. For more than nine months we had been, as they say, expecting. Our daughter Sally had been “due” on a full moon in early October, but we were still “expecting” her three weeks later. In fact, we were starting to get down-right “demanding.” We had tried everything to encourage her along: long walks, driving continually over old railroad tracks, riding up and down elevators, taking taxis, etc. Finally, we decided to risk an out of town trip. So we got in our old Datsun B210 “Honey Bee” car, which occasionally responded to manual shifting, and took our dog for a trip to Asheville, NC, an hour away.

It was a beautiful afternoon as we threw the tennis ball to our dog alongside the French Broad River somewhere beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then, suddenly, Callender grabbed my arm. “It’s time,” she said. We ran back to the car, but the dog did not want to get in. It was too nice of a day, I suppose. She took off running. I chased after her, tackled her and carried her back to the car. Somewhere in that effort, my old, classic style, genuine gold, intricately-etched rimless spectacles – with lots of scratches and a chip or two in the lenses from years of abuse – had fallen into the thick layer of new leaves on this riverside path.

I tossed the dog in the back seat, assured Callender I’d be right back and began frantically digging around. The dog was barking, Callender was honking the horn and I was frantically digging around sticks and leaves for glasses I needed to be able to drive back down the mountain to the emergency room. I finally gave up, jumped in the front seat, turned on the engine, backed the car up, pushed the clutch in to shift into first. The gear shift wasn’t moving. I tried, Callender tried, I think the dog even tried to shove that gear out of reverse, but no such luck. So we backed down a road, all of us screaming or barking until finally, the old car lurched and the gear shift popped into neutral. As we left the park, I dropped a note at the ranger station about my lost spectacles.

We raced to the hospital an hour away, but the labor pains stopped. A few days later, Sally was born. I called the Asheville park service lost and found for weeks, but never found my glasses. I reluctantly ordered a new pair.

Five years later, after we had moved to Charlotte, NC, Callender was making her weekly rounds at local antique shops when she stopped by the register and looked at a display case. Inside were some sets of old glasses. One was very familiar: gold, etched, chipped, bent. She asked the storeowner where she bought them. “From some dealer who comes through occasionally with odd items,” she said. Callender brought them home and presented them to me.

I put them on and I could see near-perfectly through the chips and scratches. I still have them displayed in bookcase at home. Say, I wonder if I could take them to the optician, fit some dark lenses on them and not have to order …

March 1, 2001

Grade School Reunion

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

I’ve been speaking to civic groups in the past few months, retelling humorous stories from my early school days that first appeared in these columns. One in particular, about the day in fourth grade when my hamster accidentally got lost in the several-layered 1960s-nun-garments of Sister Susan Marie, seems to attract the most attention and laughs. Several times I’ve been accused of making up this story, so I was happy to get verification on a recent Saturday night.

A year ago, a reader passed along to her son in California one of my columns about my grade school years. I had not seen Tom Gonter since 6th grade, but last spring he emailed me that he was moving back to Atlanta and proposed we organize a reunion of our grade school class at Christ the King on Peachtree Road.

While high schools and colleges usually keep good records of alumni, we found that our early years existed mainly in our own minds and in the fragments of paper some of us have kept through the years. Our reunion effort began when five of us met for beers in Buckhead and played a game of sorts, writing out on two napkins the name of anyone who had been in our classes during the 1960s. As the list got longer, it took on the air of a Trivial Pursuit game with everyone giving a rousing cheer when a particularly obscure person was recalled. We then began an email campaign, slowing finding more than three dozen classmates through the Internet.

In early February, we gathered at a condo clubroom across the street from school to excavate long-buried memories of learning from the often sweet but sometimes fierce order of nuns. Nancy Sterne brought her first-grade report card, reminding us how we were judged in our early years on subjects such as “is reverent at prayer” or “ keeps profitably busy.” For years, we had suspected Nancy was a straight-A student, but we found Bs and Cs scattered across her scores for “handwriting.” Mike Egan and I admitted to failing in handwriting in first grade. I recalled how the principal, the most feared of all the fearsome nuns, Sister Mary Timothy – or “Big Tim” as some dared to call her behind her back – suddenly would burst into our first grade class and check our work. Once she looked over my work in handwriting class, tore it up in front of everyone and yelled, “Chop Suey – your handwriting is nothing by Chop Suey!” (I’ve never been able to eat the stuff since.)

Mark Murray drove in from Greensboro and announced to all that, had it not been for the tight reins of the nuns, he would not be the successful husband, father and businessman he is today. The secret, he recalled, was that when he got in trouble with the sisters at school, he would walk home that afternoon to find his mother and father waiting on the doorstep to administer follow-up punishment. Parental responsibility back then was not delegated to schools as it often is these days; it was a 24-hour partnership. In his adult years, Mark has visited several of our sisters, including meeting Sister Loretta Joseph at her school in Philadelphia. He told her students of how she kept him straight at an crucial time.

As we left the reunion, we joked about how some things haven’t changed over the years. Despite our best efforts to keep this reunion top secret, the nuns heard about our plans for this mixer between the boys and the girls. They dispatched a proper chaperone, Sister Eileen, to monitor our fun for the entire five-hour party.

There’s talk of meeting again soon and watching one of our classmates, Libby Whittemore, perform on stage at her Buckhead cabaret. Given we may have a nun secretly watching us, she’ll have to have a G-rated set.
And though many classmates can now testify to the day my hamster ran amuck, before I give my next speech, I will be sure to scan the audience to see if any nuns have been sent to monitor my remarks. I just hope she doesn’t ask to see my handwritten notes!

February 1, 2001

Nothing But the Truth

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

When the notice for jury duty arrived, I thought perhaps I would escape as easily as I did a few years ago when a lawyer dismissed me – no doubt due to my years of being a courtroom reporter on several Southern newspapers.

But this time, I was a prospect for a rape trial and the lawyers seemed to be concerned about other backgrounds. During voir dire, the process of meticulously interviewing each prospective juror, the prosecutor was most impressed with one man named Kevin Millwood. “Are you the same Kevin Millwood who pitched the one-hit game during last month’s playoffs for the Atlanta Braves?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered politely.

Photo: Kevin Millwood of the Atlanta BravesKevin_millwood

The entire courtroom perked up. “Well, sir,” she continued. “I’ll have you know this is the first time in years that my husband has expressed any interest in coming to work with me.” Kevin made the final cut, as did I. So did a man named Perry Mason, who we later elected foreman. We now had a jury of nine men and three women. Before opening arguments, we were dismissed for lunch.

As we walked down the hall, I envisioned a crowd running up to Kevin to get his autograph or to shake his hand. The tension was building as we silently walked past the courtroom doors. Suddenly I could hear footsteps running down the hall behind us, no doubt one of Kevin’s fans.

“Sir, sir!” a man was calling. I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Mr. Schroder,” the man said to me. I turned around, surprised. “Yes,” I said to the young, well-dressed man. “I just wanted to say hello and tell you how much I enjoy your paper. I just graduated from law school and have to observe this trial. When I heard them call your name, I recognized it because I live in Peachtree Hills in Buckhead and have been reading your paper for years. I just want to tell you how glad I am that you all are doing well now. Keep up the good work.”

I beamed all the way to lunch.

Later, in the jury room, we all sat around reading the morning newspaper. Kevin’s name was on the front page as possibly being one of the players to be traded to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr. Finally, someone asked Kevin about the possible trade. Another asked about the Yankees series, and we talked about the Mets. But no one had the guts to ask for an autograph.

Finally, on our third day, a talkative woman, who had always sat next to Kevin and engaged him in conversation, began to talk about Christmas shopping. Kevin said he did most of his in the clubhouse when the Nike catalog guy came through. She said, “You keep mentioning the clubhouse, do you work there?” The room fell silent. Surely, she knew what we had been talking about for days.

“Yes,” he said.

“Is it a golf club? Are you a golfer?” We all laughed nervously.

“No, ma’am. I play on the Atlanta Braves.”

“Are you the pitcher?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh, well, then you have to give me your autograph.”

Suddenly, everyone else started pulling out items they had been quietly storing: a baseball, a Braves cap, a ticket stub to a World Series game he pitched. Someone passed him a copy of our newspaper, which I had brought for the jurors to read. Then everyone started passing copies of our newspaper for him to sign, including me. He signed the front page of every one.

In our business, we always hope people will hang on to our issues. Thanks to Kevin, I know that issue will be kept for a long time.

Photo: Kevin Millwood when he was with the Atlanta Braves

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