Going to Town

My Grandmama always called going to Savannah "Going to Town".

My Grandmama always called going to Savannah “Going to Town”.

When I was growing up, the roads coming off of the bridge toward Bluffton were two lanes.  Now they're six...

When I was growing up, the roads coming off of the bridge toward Bluffton were two lanes. Now they’re six…

When I was a teenager and this area was all trees, I was told by Hilton Head's first Black planner on that Bluffton would be lined with businesses within the next fifteen years...

When I was a teenager and this area was all trees, I was told by Hilton Head’s first Black planner on that Bluffton would be lined with businesses within the next fifteen years…

If you will allow me to put on my planner's hat for a moment, I would like to point out that businesses in this area have strict height, façade, and sign requirements.

If you will allow me to put on my planner’s hat for a moment, I would like to point out that businesses in this area have strict height, façade, and sign requirements.

Signs have to be a particular height and blend in with the unimposing façade.

Signs have to be a particular height and blend in with the unimposing façade.

During this stretch, the road to Savannah is untouched from when I was young. Dense trees line either side of the road.

During this stretch, the road to Savannah is untouched from when I was young. Dense trees line either side of the road.

As a former transportation planner, I still don't understand the reason for the sudden roundabout in the middle of Highway 46, but here it is...

As a former transportation planner, I still don’t understand the reason for the sudden roundabout in the middle of Highway 46, but here it is…

Although Georgia is the "Peach State," you can't go anywhere in South Carolina without running into a roadside peach stand...

Although Georgia is the “Peach State,” you can’t go anywhere in South Carolina without running into a roadside peach stand…

The Talmage Bridge looms in the distance. It's visible for a moment before hiding once again behind the landscape. It's the bridge's way of letting the motorist know that it's still there and in order to arrive at your destination of Savannah, GA, it must be crossed....  My design teacher at UNO taught me that road planners do this hide-and-seek with a prominent feature on purpose. It makes it interesting.

The Talmage Bridge looms in the distance. It’s visible for a moment before hiding once again behind the landscape. It’s the bridge’s way of letting the motorist know that it’s still there and in order to arrive at your destination of Savannah, GA, it must be crossed…. My design teacher at UNO taught me that road planners do this hide-and-seek with a prominent feature on purpose. It makes it interesting.

Talmage Bridge

The Talmage Bride used to be a smaller green drawbridge that ships used to hit because they couldn’t clear the structure. Now, it’s steeper, higher, and not for the faint of heart…

The Victory Drive Palm Trees in Savannah, GA is a three-mile long memorial for the servicemen who fought in World War I.

The Victory Drive Palm Trees in Savannah, GA are a three-mile long memorial for the servicemen who fought in World War I.

Fort Pulaski is a historical landmark that one might find on the way to Tybee Island.

Fort Pulaski is a historical landmark that one might find on the way to Tybee Island.

So this is the beach on Tybee Island.  Dad said that when he went to college at Savannah State College (University now), Black people were not allowed to go to the Beach here.  He said that it was fine with him because he knew where the best beach was and that was home on Hilton Head Island.  Soon the Black people in Savannah discovered that they were welcome on Hilton Head and went to the beach on the island by the busloads.  Well today, we are somewhat  welcome although I still prefer the beach of home.  No matter which beach I go to though, I feel like I'm standing on the edge of the earth as I look out at the horizon.

So this is the beach on Tybee Island. Dad said that when he went to college at Savannah State College (University now), Black people were not allowed to go to the Beach here. He said that it was fine with him because he knew where the best beach was and that was home on Hilton Head Island. Soon the Black people in Savannah discovered that they were welcome on Hilton Head and went to the beach on the island by the busloads. Well today, we are somewhat welcome although I still prefer the beach of home. No matter which beach I go to though, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of the earth as I look out at the horizon.

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Traveling to the Palmetto State

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Yesterday we set off for a much needed time with family, beach, sun and most importantly, a reconnection with history. My son wanted to know how long it took to get from Knoxville to Hilton Head. Although we had to go over that huge mountain, it still doesn’t take as long as if we had … Continue reading

…In Closing

Today was the closing ceremony for the 2013 American Planning Association in Chicago, Ill. I am going to spend this last planning blog discussing the last three conferences:

Denver – Denver was my second trip out west. For some strange reason, jet lag didn’t conquer me as much as it did in Seattle. Kevin and I took the Ski Train to Winter Park. After speaking with an older planner, who had made skiing his hobby, we thought that we would put aside our own reservations and give it a try. However, the Winter Park Trip was a comedy of errors. For one thing, the altitude in Knoxville has nothing on the Mile High City, and we actually became too ill to follow through on that ambition. I’m pretty sure that our limbs and backsides heaved a huge sigh of relief. We were content to watch skiers fly down the fluffy white snow from the huge floor to ceiling windows in the lodge. When we felt a little better, we found ourselves wondering around that shopping center that was in that Tyler Perry Movie, Why Did I Get Married. The second issue is that I tore my contact lens and was forced into wearing my glasses. I was not to happy having to attend the remainder of the conference looking like Mr. Magoo’s Sister.

Denver was like Chicago in that it had extreme weather. When we arrived in the city it was freezing cold and snow had recently fallen. Then practically the next day, we’re walking past a snow drift in 80 degree weather. Towards the end of the conference week, the weather had settled into mild temperatures. What I liked about Denver was its transportation system and its proximity to homes and businesses. Kevin and I found that we could travel practically everywhere using Denver Transit, which is its light-rail system.

‘Ms. M’ attended the Denver Conference accompanied by ‘Mr. D,’ who was also a planner. At this point we thought about creating a, “Finding a Planner Spouse” seminar and setting up a panel discussion. The four of us had a good time at dinner where I had learned of their upcoming nuptials. We also visited the African-American museum, where we found that Black people played a prominent role in the settlement of the West. *Singing Buffalo Soldiers*. If you ever visit Denver, I recommend dropping by the museum. Denver was indeed an enjoyable city to visit.

2007- Philadelphia – Kevin and I were pretty much on our own for this conference as most of our planner friends were unable to attend this conference. On the bright side, we were able to meet ‘Ms. D’ there. ‘Ms D’ and I became friends during a summer course in Historic Preservation. UNO hosted students from all over that summer. ‘Ms. D’ was from New York. It was a very eventful summer but I’ll save that for another blog post although I have talked about our Mississippi River Road trip in this post. To my delight, ‘Ms. D’ returned to New Orleans to obtain a Master’s Degree in Historic preservation from Tulane. From there she had gotten a job in Philadelphia (during the New York APA Conference actually) and had been in the city ever since. Anyway, I hadn’t seen ‘Ms. D’ since our wedding, so I was excited to see her during this conference. By Philadelphia, I was no longer practicing planning – see this post – so I waited for Kevin to attend his sessions and then the free time belonged to the two of us. Of course we visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but the highlight our sightseeing can be found in this previous blog.

So Philadelphia was the last conference Kevin and I attended. I do have one more conference to blog about, however.

2005 San Francisco – This was the conference to which I had most looked forward. Kevin and I had talked about going to San Francisco for years. From Kevin, I had heard it was a beautiful city to visit and I had never been to California. We did not make it to the San Francisco American Planning Association Conference, by the way. The conference had been held starting on March 19th. Our son was born nine days later…

Will Kevin and I ever attend an American Planning Association Conference again? That remains to be seen. But you may see us donning a name tag again or you just may see us wandering around a city where the conference is being held pointing out the neighborhoods and “ah-kitechture”. Maybe.

1998 – Boston Beginnings

It all began with Boston. I was nervous about even going to this conference for the American Planning Association because with it being my first year in school, I wasn’t going to know anyone except for my girls. I met ‘Ms M’ at some crazy cult party in a pool hall off campus. We stepped out of there together before we were forced into drinking the Kool Aid…’Ms A’ came up to me at a meeting and let me know that she made it a point to speak to all the new Black students that she saw. She point-blank asked me my name and where I was from. It works for her because ‘Ms. A’ has some serious connections (She even went to school with one of my in-laws). Anyway, that’s was all she wrote as far as she and I were concerned. We’ve been friends ever since. The girls had attended before, so for them the APA conference was a matter of them reconnecting with old friends. I wasn’t outgoing at all, so I fully expected to be quivering in a corner somewhere waiting for the whole thing to be over. The first day, things went as expected as I awkwardly made my way into my first Planning and the Black Community Meeting. I say “awkwardly” because I was late. Really late. As a result of my lateness, I was doing the “Deacon Walk” – you know the walk where you bow down, stick that one finger in the air and tip toe to your destination as if invisible – to the only seat left in the small room. And it was in the front. I wanted to die right then. And then I saw him. The man on the dias. The man who was speaking. The man who I would someday marry…

I didn’t even think I would see Kevin again. I don’t even know why I thought that because between the job that I took earning extra money by holding up signs to signal people who bus to ride to the mobile workshop, hanging out in the lounge section of the hotel meeting more Alabama A and M folks than I could shake a stick at (Tell me, do you A and M folks still attend these conferences en masse?), and somehow landing a position as a student delegate for my region, I met a lot of folks that I still talk to today. I think I officially met Kevin the day after my first sighting and he and I went on a walking tour of Boston together. Ok slow your roll because we were not alone. Several others accompanied us on that particular tour, including my girls. I am not going to pretend that people have the patience to read all of the details of this conference so I will simply suggest that if you ever visit Boston, keep note of the following: The Hard Rock has great music. Don’t walk on cobblestones if you have recently been in a car accident. Stay away from inebriated people who may or may not be able to give you an internship unless you have a night and shining armor waiting in the wings to rescue you. Sure, swing by Harvard University Campus and take in the “ah-ki-tecture” (Yes, I can definitely pronounce it like that now since we’re talking about Boston!). Do visit Beacon Hill as it was the home to prominent Black figures in history. Single ladies, there was a particularly yummy park ranger that some of our group members thought deserved a second look. There may be a picture of him circulating somewhere…

I plan to return to Boston at some point. ‘Ms A’ just emailed the conference schedule and that conference will come around again in 2021. I would pretty much like to attend, but I’m hoping to get back to Boston before then, like when we go to Providence to visit my mother’s family. I want to do my walking tour again and would like to add the Old North Church to that list. What other places should I visit? So Boston started it all and since Boston, I have been hooked on conferences. Little did I know that once I ceased being a student, I would have to find creative ways to attend and now that I no longer practice, I have to follow the events via Twitter. Good thing that’s an option now, but it’s not the same thing as being there and connecting with old friends. Until next time. Check out what I have to say about Seattle.

Palmetto Christmas

When I was growing up, Christmas was always celebrated in Hilton Head, or what my father called “The Old Country”.  Santa Clause would always visit in New Jersey a day or two before the 25th and then again in Hilton Head. We would leave before dawn and make that 16-hour car trip, passing all of my favorite landmarks, accompanied by The Temptations, The Whispers, and Donny Hathaway.  Everytime I listen to those songs now, I remember our journey to the “Old Country” and it gets me in the Christmas spirit. Christmas was always spent at my grandparents house with my aunts, uncles, and my cousins.  All of my cousins.  I have a lot of cousins.  My grandfather would always ask me, “Was Santa Clause good to you?” and I would answer a shy “yes” and then I would tell him what I had gotten.  Prayers would be said over our Christmas feast of turkey, ham, chicken, okra, mac and cheese, red rice (yes!!), salads, rolls, and desserts by either my father or one of my uncles.  My grandmother would sing a song in her deep, heartfelt soprano voice.  Sometimes we would join in, but most times I just wanted to hear her.  One of my cousins was lucky enough to catch her on video that last Christmas she was with us.  I’m hoping that he’ll share that with us one day because I would love to hear her voice again.  I remember the anticipation we children would feel as we waited for our names for our names to be called by our aunt, who played Santa Clause and she would hand us our gifts.  Those were special memories to me of times gone by. 

As Christmas gets more commercialized and people beat each other down for a Black Friday sale, I grab the joy where I can but it takes me longer to get into the mood I used to feel during the holidays.   I’ll listen out for the Temptations and the Emotions.  I’ll sing along with Donny Hathaway, if I’m lucky to catch, “This Christmas” on the radio. “A Christmas Carol,” is my favorite movie this time of year.  Soon, we’ll be traveling to the “Old Country” with our own children. My father would have gotten and decorated a big tree and mom will cook a huge dinner.  It will be funny on Christmas morning when we hear the floorboards creak beneath the feet of my son and neice as they cautiously make their way to the tree to see if “Santa’s been good to them”. The big family dinner will be at the home of one of my aunts and uncles, and my aunt has passed down her role of Santa Clause.  It’s nice but as I get older, I have to look for the spirit of Christmas in the eyes of my children and I’m so thankful that I can still find it there.  I hope that my sons have good memories to share just as I did. 

Palmetto Landmarks

When I was a young girl, preparing to take our trip from Northern New Jersey to Hilton Head, I remember loading up the yellow two-door Buick Skylark, with suitcases, snacks, a thermos with coffee (these trips mostly started before dawn), and most importantly, toys. My mother always knew how to break up the monotony of the car trip by pointing to interesting landmarks. Along the New Jersey Turnpike, in the smokey distance we could see the unmistakable sentinel-like shapes of the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building.
empire-state-building-from-new-jersey-turnpike
As we passed through our Nation’s Capital, we spied the Washington monument, Lincoln Memorial, and all that good Greco-Roman “ah-kitecture”. Sometimes we would visit our cousin and her family in their coveted, authentic rowhouse, who lived a stone’s throw from the Howard University Campus. Then in Virginia, I noticed some landmarks on my own. The I-95 runs smack against the Main Street Station.
Richmond_Main_Street_Station_from_I-95_in_Virginia

Then there is the Marlboro Man Statute Thingy…
Marlboro Statue

I don’t remember any landmarks until South Carolina border and we weary travelers were greeted with the “Big Sombrero”.
border_sign

During our visits to Hilton Head, there was one of the landmarks that I insisted on visiting. The lighthouse. I had a thing for lighthouses. Well for one thing, I was surrounded by them. There was the one in my fishbowl, there was the little red one in the story that my parents read to me, and they pointed that same little red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge every time we went into the city.
450px-Little_Red_Lighthouse,_Jeffrey's_Hook,_Manhattan,_New_York_-_20081004

On Hilton Head, I enjoyed the lighthouse at Harbor Town even before it became a well-known island symbol.
800px-Harbour_Town_July_2007

Landmarks on the island that are not so obvious are my family’s roadside fruit and vegetable stand and the site first Black free settlement called Mitchellville, not mention The Cherry Hill School, which was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

My husband and I have taken our older son to the famed Harbor Town Lighthouse. We will probably visit it again, along with our younger son. Also on our sightseeing trip will be the historical places that just as a part of the island as the beaches and the restaurants. Hopefully, they’ll find it all interesting as well.

(Note: These photographs were taken from the Internet for informational purposes only. Its use is not for the purpose of profit.)