Dec. 20, 1996-Jan. 1, 1997: New Orleans
July 29: Old Waverly
Jan. 31: Nashville
Aug. 1-11: Gulf Shores
Feb. 8: Old Waverly, West Point, MS
Aug. 22-26: Sacramento
Feb. 19-21: Chicago & Detroit
Sept. 18: Old Waverly
March 21-30: Gulf Shores
Sept. 28: Old Waverly
May 16-20: Charlottesville, G’ville, Asheville
Oct. 10: Old Waverly
May 31: Old Waverly
Oct. 25-26: Magnolia, McComb & Natchez, MS
June 8: Old Waverly
Nov. 7: Old Waverly
June 11-26: Republic of Ireland
Nov. 25-30: Gulf Shores
July 9: Old Waverly
Dec. 26: Old Waverly
July 17: Old Waverly
I ducked out of my office at Guardsmark, Inc. in Memphis a little early so I could drive to Gulf Shores, AL with Betty and our son, Casey, for perhaps our last family Christmas vacation there for 10 days this year. This was the longest Christmas vacation I’ve ever taken, a much-needed break from the pressure at Guardsmark, a national security services firm. Guardsmark had graciously hired me as Vice President of Communications and Government Relations after I had been pushed into early retirement at my previous employer, Schering-Plough HealthCare Products. I had been an admirer and friend of Guardsmark’s founder and CEO, Ira Lipman, for many years.
Casey had gotten good news from the University of Virginia, notification that his grade point amounted to a 3.6 out of a possible 4.0 for the semester. It was his highest academic marks at the distinguished institution, where Casey is majoring in the tough curriculum of Civil Engineering.
Betty and I drove about 450 miles to the south and east of Memphis to Gulf Shores, across the bay from Mobile about 11 p.m. We were exhausted by the tiring drive. But at least the monotony of the drive had been broken up on this evening by seeing some great Christmas light decorations at roadside homes and farmhouses in South Mississippi.
On Saturday, We purchased a scraggly cedar tree for the Christmas decorations we brought from home. Casey and I also played golf at the State Park Golf Course. I shot one of my best rounds of the year there, an 86 that included 7 pars, hitting 10 fairways in regulation and hitting 9 greens in regulation. I took only 39 putts on the 18 holes. Casey was off his game. The uncharacteristic was understandable given the stress of his travel from Virginia followed by a long drive to Gulf Shores from Memphis. He shot a 97. The weather was great, with temperatures rising into the upper 60s to low 70s all week.
The next day, Betty, Casey and I went on a four-mile beach walk at Fort Morgan, about 20 miles down the coastline. We inspected the stern of a sailboat that a storm had evidently washed up on the beach about a quarter mile from the edge of the day’s waterline. A delight of this beach walk around the eastern edge of the bay’s junction with the Gulf of Mexico is an ever-changing sight of debris from the sea that washes up – everything from pieces of wrecked boats to carcasses of dead fish and birds.
On Monday, Betty and I went on a 14-mile bike ride, followed by a shortened round of golf with Casey at the State Park course. I scored a 42 on the front 9 holes before a heavy rain ended the golf round for the day. Casey and I waited for at least 30 minutes for the rain to lift since I was shooting so well. But the rain just got worse and worse so we abandoned the round.
Per our annual custom when in Gulf Shores at this time of year, the three of us attended the delightful Christmas Eve service at the local First Presbyterian Church. It is always good to see how such a determined preacher can make a shortened service quite meaningful with a careful selection of hymns and remarks.
On Christmas morning, we opened presents in our condo. Later, Betty and I cycled 12 miles. We also walked a mile along the beach in front of our condo. On Thursday, December 26, the three of us drove to New Orleans, where we stayed at our usual hotel that offers a special price break the last week of the year, the Sheraton on Canal Street. We had a great lunch at Commander’s Palace, but unfortunately a spice in the lamb sausage made Betty ill that evening.
After lunch, we took some photos at famous writer Anne Rice’s big house at 1st Avenue and Chestnut not far from Commander’s Palace, an award-winning restaurant where we were told she is a regular patron. After eating well, we returned to our hotel, where I napped while Betty and Casey walked to the nearby French Market in the French Quarter along the Mississippi River.
That evening, we took a driving tour of the Celebration Lights display in City Park, where the traffic crawled due to people drove slow and stopped to see displays of fireworks. We cut short our visit since Betty was feeling nauseated from the after-effects of spicy sausage at lunch.
The next day, we drove for more than an hour towards Baton Rouge and visited Houmas House, a magnificent, antebellum home at Burnside, LA. It was the center of a 12,000-acre sugar plantation a century ago where 500 slaves once labored. The elegant house has been magnificently and exquisitely restored to its former grandeur. It is located about 200 yards from the Mississippi River once plied by classic steamboats. Today, one must look out upstairs windows to even see the river because of a high levee that protects the property during annual floods.
After an informative tour that seems to draw tourists and Civil War buffs from throughout the U.S., we repaired to the nearby Cabin Restaurant. The restored place is in what was once slave quarters. We picked at what was an incredible quantity of fat grams served as sausage and fried delicacies on our plates in dishes cooked in old-fashioned Cajun methods.
Then we headed back to Gulf Shores, about a 4 ½ hour drive to the east. Once back at the beach, my old friend Curtis Downs joined Casey and me for a mulish round of golf at the upscale Kiva Dunes Course. It is about midway between Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan. Rated as one of the top courses in Alabama, it was designed by the same professional who designed our Old Waverly course at West Point. But due to the narrow fairways near the beach and expansive areas of sand in the rough, Kiva is a tough course. But it is a beautiful place to play golf.
We paid $55 for our rounds, which we played in fog so heavy that we lost sights of our drives in the murk. I shot a 96. Curtis shot a 95 and Casey a 94.
The three of us tried to play again the next day at the Woodlands Course close to Gulf Shores, on Sunday, December 29. I was really hot on this day, shooting a 41 on the first nine holes. Casey was at 55 and Curtis was at 44 for the turn after 9 holes. Regrettably, heavy rain ended the round early. Even before the rain hit the course, the wet turf stubbornly limited the roll of our drives (and helped avoid balls bouncing into the rough) due to soggy ground and heavy fog.
That evening, Betty, Casey and I ate at The Spot. Curtis had decided to drive home because of predicted bad weather on the next day. However, the forecasters missed the boat and Betty and I were able to ride our bikes 14 miles to the State Park and also walk 4 miles on the beach to the Young’s By The Sea restaurant.
Casey and I played another round of golf at the State Park course on New Years Eve. I only managed a 94. Casey, with six consecutive pars, shot an 86. We went to Jake’s Steak House for the first time that evening, where the food was good. We got up early and drove back to Memphis on New Year’s Day.
I drove to Nashville in a rented Taurus sedan to represent Guardsmark at a meeting of the city’s Sports Commission and the holders/guarantors of stadium seats at the upcoming season to be played by he transplanting Houston Oilers football team of the NFL. I had been asked to not reveal my new, part-time arrangement with Guardsmark, which I had left as the fulltime Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs. Despite my continuing respect for the Company and its founder-president, Ira Lipman, I had resigned my executive position for health reasons after six months on the job and ever-escalating blood pressure in the “red zone.”
My role had been slight in Guardsmark’s pledge of $100,000 in guarantees for purchasing a sky box to be used by company executives and guests. But for this meeting, my job was to look out for the company’s interests since some Tennessee bank guarantors were getting nervous about their commitments. It turned out that about 15,000 PSL’s (permanent seating license fees paid for guaranteed season seats) had not been sold.
Assuring me and others of the city’s support and belief that the deal will be successful were Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesden (who went on to successfully campaign for Governor of Tennessee) and team relocation chairman Dick Lodge, a longtime Republican in state circles.
After the meeting, I drove home that evening and later reported to Ira on the ground covered at the meeting.(Guardsmark kept its guarantee in place and went on to put its sky box to good use when the Oilers successfully completed their move to Nashville and renamed the team the “Titans”.)
I drove to Old Waverly with my fellow member and longtime golf buddy Curtis Downs in his Lexus. It was a beautiful but cool winter day. Notwithstanding the good weather, I shot a lousy 99 on the sparsely used course on this day.
I flew from Memphis to Chicago with Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and a delegation of criminal justice officials (including District Attorney Bill Gibbons, Police Director Walter Winfrey, Public Defender AC Wharton, Sheriff A.C. Gilless, and Judges Ann Pugh and Carolyn Blackett). We were there on a fact-finding mission on behalf of Memphis and Shelby County government and would meet with the Chicago Crime Commission, an influential organization that claims credit for the arrest of gangster Al Capone on tax charges.
Some of Chicago’s leading citizens had formed the Crime Commission decades ago when local government became paralyzed with corruption and infiltration by criminals and their pals and the city became a “wide open” place of refuge for criminals.
I was serving as Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs for Guardsmark, Inc., a national security services firm founded by my boss, Ira Lipman. He had been among those pushing for the advent of a Memphis Crime Commission loosely modeled on similar organizations in other cities including Chicago and San Diego.
Our delegation stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel and enjoyed a splendid dinner hosted by Guardsmark.
We spent most of the next day meeting with members and staff of the Chicago Crime Commission. I happened to visit with the private agency’s head of public relations, a woman who seemed to get a little nervous when she learned that I was former head of public relations for the company that now owns Dr. Scholls (Schering-Plough HealthCare Products) and knew members of the Scholl family. It seems that the Scholl Foundation has long been one of the major supporters of the Chicago Crime Commission. I wrote off the tension the woman exhibited as just another “hiccup” on the road to a Small World and speculated that she was afraid my interest in helping establish the Memphis Crime Commission could somehow divert money away from Chicago.
Late that afternoon, I was surprised when notified by Guardsmark’s home office in Memphis that I would be “diverted” from the Chicago visit to help put out a fire in Detroit. I quickly learned that Guardsmark was taking a beating in the Detroit news media for transferring two black security employees away from an upscale, gated community on a Tournament Players Association golf course. Guardsmark had the security contract for the development.
The lateness of my purchase of a one-way airplane ticket from Chicago to Detroit resulted in my being “profiled” by the airline’s security system. I was delayed and thoroughly searched and my luggage was closely inspected at the Chicago airport gate. The security system evidently thought I was a possible terrorist since I didn’t buy a return ticket. I had the feeling the airport security officer who did his duty felt sheepish since I was not only “clean,” but an executive of an important security firm traveling on business.
I got into Detroit about 11 p.m. and was met by Guardsmark’s Doug Kleg and a branch manager of that office. I spent the night at a Best Western located near the branch office.
I spent the next day in the Guardsmark office in Detroit, talking to company managers and formulating a press statement for use in case of further inquiries by the press into the employee transfers. I determined that the African American race of the employees was driving the flap even though the company strictly observes equal opportunity and employs large numbers of African Americans and pays them equally.
After dealing with a countless number of flaps in public relations during my years at Schering-Plough and before that as an editor and reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, I concluded that Guardsmark’s best strategy for now was to “cool it” and let the minor uproar die down rather than mount an aggressive counterattack. I was glad my peers and boss at Guardsdmark bought into that strategy. In one of those sweet things in life, I was proved to be right in this instance and flew home to Memphis.
I drove with Betty to Gulf Shores in our Taurus station wagon for her annual Spring Break from Northside High School, where she teaches Culinary Arts. I had purchased a battery-driven CB Radio for the trip to provide a bit of comfort and security if needed in case of car trouble. I continue to serve Guardsmark, Inc. in a consulting capacity and have learned a lot about the importance of fast communications.
We enjoyed a relaxing week, with mostly sunny days and temperatures warmer than usual at this time of year. The highs frequently rose into the upper 70s. We carried our 10-speed bikes on the back of the station wagon and went cycling or for long walks on the beach on most days during our stay. I played golf three times at the State Park course, shooting a 91 twice and a 90. With that kind of consistently, I am forced to conclude those are the scores my game deserves.
Our longtime friends Marty and Marge Pendleton, who formerly lived in Memphis but now have a retirement home near Biloxi, MS, drove over for a half-day visit. We enjoyed their company and treated them to lunch at our favorite restaurant, The Spot.
During our stay, Betty and I did a lot of cleaning in our condo. We purchased a new color TV and also a videotape player.
To Virginia To Celebrate Casey’s UVA Graduation
Betty and I drove from our home in Memphis to Charlottesville, VA, so we could attend the graduation ceremony for Casey at the University of Virginia (UVA). After four years of hard work and mostly excellent grades, he was getting his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and we were quite proud of him.
We decided to rent a comfortable car for the trip rather than pile on nearly 1,800 more miles in our Ford Taurus station wagon. We got a new Ford Crown Victoria from the Fleetmark operation of our dealer, Lewis Ford, for a good rate of $35 a day.
We pulled out of Memphis shortly after 3 p.m. on a Friday, when Betty got home from Northside High School, where she has been teaching Culinary Arts for many years. We drove most of the breadth of Tennessee and spent the night in an inexpensive Quality Inn ($31.50 for the night at the AARP rate). Dinner was chicken sandwiches, salad and French fries from Wendy’s.
We drove most of the next day to Waynesboro, Va., where we stayed at another Quality Inn (at $63 a night) since our efforts to secure a room in Charlottesville, home of UVA 25 miles away, were not successful even though we started trying back in July, 1996. It seems that UVA puts on a big show at graduation time and the ceremony is not to be missed by parents who have been shoveling many thousands of dollars there over the years.
The three of us enjoyed a fancy, set-price dinner ($50 each) at Charlottesville’s Ivy Inn, where we also enjoyed a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne to toast Casey’s success. We met his roommates at an apartment they rented at 1719 Jefferson Park, Apt. 5 – Mike Biggs and Brandon Stoltz as well as their parents and siblings who also traveled for the graduation. The apartment was a rather shabby (maybe the proper term is “college chic”), three-bedroom unit that was located upstairs. It had a nice front porch and was only a short walk from campus.
His roommates impressed us being fine young men. Casey plans to continue to room with Brandon in Bethesda, MD, where both will have post-graduation jobs awaiting them in a few months. We learned that Casey had committed to a last-minute, three week-trip to Europe with a UVA classmate of Indian extraction and his friend. Betty and I tried to dissuade him from taking sidetrips to Morocco and Turkey due to security concerns in the Arab world during the current international tensions.
Betty and I got up early to have the free breakfast served at the Quality Inn. We then drove to the young men’s apartment in Charlottesville. We exchanged pleasantries with other parents who also gathered there then walked a few blocks to UVA’s “The Lawn.” The Lawn is a beautiful expanse of grass where the university holds graduation and other important events. It offers a scenic view of Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda, a distinctive hallmark of the campus. It was a nice, sunny day and the ceremony was altogether impressive.
Parents of the graduates were seated perhaps 100-to-150 yards from the stage area in front of Cabell Hall. Thankfully, folding chairs had been set up under some very large, oak trees so there was shade.
Speakers said there were nearly 2,700 graduates being honored this day and that there were 26,000 people in attendance. We later learned that a distant balcony near the Rotunda had collapsed from the weight of so many people, killing 1 and injuring 18 guests of a university vice president who lived in the house. The tragic accident happened just before 10 a.m., when several dozen members of the Medical and Nursing School faculties were forming up nearby for the grand walk down The Lawn. So at least expert medical attention was nearby and quick.
University officials didn’t allow the tragedy to mar the ceremony. It went off without a hitch and the tradition of more than two centuries was continued with much pomp and dignity. Degrees were conferred en mass, by college.
A later ceremony, which started about 1 p.m., at each of the university’s colleges gave the graduates an individual walk across a stage. As expected, Betty and I were close to bursting with pride and we took a lot of photographs during the ceremonies and at various spots around campus where Casey lived and worked during his four years at UVA. We were very, very proud of him. We were also a little tired from all the walking around to and from the various gatherings of the day with a high temperature that probably hit 80 degrees.
With Casey still wearing the traditional black robe of a graduate, we returned to his apartment for drinks, snacks and sandwiches prepared by the boys and their parents. We visited for a while, took more photos and then repaired to dinner at South Street, an excellent restaurant in Charlottesville where Casey had obtained reservations. We had a nice conversation with Casey about his upcoming graduation trip to Europe and his upcoming new job as a project engineer for Clark Construction headquarters in Bethesda.
After dinner, Betty and I dropped Casey off at his apartment then returned to our motel. We felt a great sense of accomplishment at helping him get well educated and a good start in life as an adult. But we also felt a parental, empty space now that “our chick” had flown the nest for good.
After the obligatory free breakfast at the motel, we started our long drive home the next morning down Interstate highways in Virginia and North Carolina. Here and there were glorious plantings of wildflowers, Iris, daisies and lush, red poppies in the median strip between the two roadways. We drove to Greenville, S.C., where I met with Charles Lucas. He is the head of Southern Historical Press, a publisher and distributor I was working with on behalf of my 640-page book, “Nolan-Miller Family History.”
Betty and I then drove from Greenville to Asheville, N.C., where we spent the night with Mary Louise Nolan in her lovely home on a hillside. She is the widow of my late father, Lewis Earle Nolan, M.D, Sadly, a main topic of our conversations with the very nice lady was the tough time she was having dealing with the recent deaths of her daughter, my friend Susannah Srb, Susanna’s husband who was Mary Louise’s son-in-law who was murdered, and Mary Louise’s sister, Coletta. Plus, Mary Louise was estranged from her son, Phillip. And worse, a presumed friend of many years, a Dutch woman named Trudel, had stolen $10,000 in cash, the present of a diamond engagement ring given Mary Louise by my father and other items. The thefts were made while Trudel was allegedly “caring” for Colette. What a downer for everybody.
Maybe it was from being immersed in all the grief Mary Louise was carrying, I became quite ill that night. We left Asheville the next morning and drove all day to Memphis. This was a trip of extreme peaks and valleys – from the great news about Casey’s graduation and start in adult life to the truly awful news about the tribulations facing Mary Louise.
I drove to Old Waverly for a round of golf. But I neglected
to record my score so it must have been indifferent, at best.
To Old Waverly
I drove to Old Waverly for a round of golf. But I neglected to record my score, so it must have been indifferent, at best.
Ireland Revisited, Part 11
On the Famine Trail in Search of Ancestral Roots
Return To Nolan Travels Home Page (Updated April 21, 2008)
Part 11: Strokestown Famine Museum
Leaving Ballinasloe in the central part of the Republic of Ireland, we made a detour to visit a Famine Museum at Strokestown, near Roscommon. Strokestown was the site of a celebrated murder of an oppressive English landlord in the 19th Century. His forebear, Nicholas Mahon, had been granted lands in the latter half of the 16th Century for his support of the British Colonial Campaign. His grandson, Thomas Mahon, a Member of Parliament, built Strokestown Park and great house - and the town that carried the name - in the 1740s.
In 1847, Major Denis Mahon, landlord of the 17,000-acre estate, was assassinated following his attempt to clear 8,000 persons from his lands through eviction and assisted emigration to Canada. The policy of the British government made the landowners responsible for providing for the destitute in their own areas, making it cheaper for them to send the hungry on assisted emigration rather than pay for their upkeep in the workhouse. Mahon sent 1,000 to Canada on three ships; almost half of them died on the voyages due to a combination of their weakened state and the unsanitary conditions on the ships.
It's a terrible story whose horrors echo down the generations. Unfortunately, the story isn't particularly well told in the Famine Museum, which has only been open for two or three years. The museum doesn't seem to get much traffic other than the occasional tour bus of Americans. But even though little visited and
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
in need of more exhibits, the recent founding of the museum is a noble start at telling the story of one of history's most neglected tragedies. A museum brochure said it "represents the first national attempt at confronting and discussing the history of the Great Irish Famine."
The term "conspiracy of silence" was used by an earnest young man who works at the museum. It seems an apt way to describe the inattention given to the Famine story by most Irish and the erasure from national memory of all but a few shreds of myth and fact about that defining moment of the country's long history.
A museum brochure states, "The famine completely wiped out the poorest social class, the landless laborer. The language declined, emigration became a way of life, and people strove to completely erase from their minds all memories of the most catastrophic event in Ireland's past."
The museum is housed in the spacious stable of the former manor home. While informative to a point and adequately staged, the Museum displays disappointingly few, remaining artifacts or actual records from the Great Famine. One of the few on display is a pitchfork-sized crowbar used to pull down the stone cottages of evicted tenants; it survived only because it was stolen and buried in a peat bog for a generation. Another is the recipe for a watery soup served in the workhouses that was found - tragically too late - to be inadequate to sustain human life.
One exhibit told why the potato was so important to Irish tenant farmers, and the country as a whole. Basically, it was all that a great many people had to eat.
The potato thrived in the rocky soil and produced more pounds of food per acre than any other crop, leading to a huge dependency on the potato as the primary source of sustenance for everyday people. Dairy products and other grain crops were grown for export to England. The average adult would eat an amazing 14 pounds of potatoes a day, and usually nothing else. Eaten in that volume, the potato is the perfect food since it contains all the necessary vitamins, minerals and calories. A family would supplement their basic potato diet with anything they could catch in the way of wildlife, or even insects. Without the potato, many families would starve. And starve they did. Out of a population of 8 million, 1.5 million people died of malnutrition. Several million more emigrated.
We were told that most of the people who somehow survived the Famine and stayed in Ireland - actually the majority of the population - might have been ashamed at what they were forced to do in order to live, such as those who worked for the bailiffs who actually pulled down the cottages. Others might have felt guilty because they lived while so many around them died. As a result, the museum employee opined, the survivors by and large didn't discuss the Famine with their children or their grandchildren. And the English rulers certainly didn't have any reason to leave behind records that would have condemned their cruelty. So the collective memory of the Famine has been mostly lost even though it survives in the occasional pocket of bitterness that lives on and on.
The locations of the trenches holding the graves of hundreds of thousands of Famine victims are by and large unmarked. Individual grave markers are nonexistent. After all if the family couldn't buy food, how could they possibly buy a stone? So the victims were put out of memory and forgotten.
What the museum employee said about repressed memory made sense to me when I later reflected on the similarity to what I've read about POW's (Prisoners of War) never talking about their prison camp experiences. Part of that taciturness, I've read, is due to grief and part due to personal guilt over what the survivors had to do to live. Most of the first casualties of the Bataan Death March during World War II were the bravest of American soldiers, who resisted their captors' bestial conduct. Just now, in the late 1990s, the inhuman conduct of some Japanese and German soldiers during the 1940s is surfacing. The mind-boggling travesties include the Japanese army forcing Korean women into slave prostitution, the same Japanese torturing Nanking children en masse and the Germans looting Jews' savings in collusion with Swiss banks.
Interestingly, one of the most informative publications available at the museum was published by the European Community, with assistance from the Irish government. It marked the 150th Anniversary of the Great Famine, which started in 1845 and lasted until 1850. Called "Ireland's Famine: Commemoration and Awareness," the 63-page booklet is a recitation of the past and a call to Ireland for future support of hunger relief efforts in Third World countries. It includes a schedule of commemorative events, among them the issuance of three Famine postage stamps, a school essay contest, two post-graduate college scholarships, and a series of lectures and performances. (Pretty lame stuff compared to the half-time show of a single Super Bowl). Following are selected excerpts from the booklet:
The Great Famine was the first national disaster to attract large-scale international aid. Whilst the British government provided almost 10 million Pounds towards various relief programmes (over half of which was provided as a loan), private donations amounted to almost 2 million pounds (worth about $150 million in U.S. dollars today). . .
A unique feature of private donations was that they were made by people from all walks of life and they cut across religious, national, economic and cultural divisions. The geographic range of the donations was also remarkable, contributions coming from all parts of the world, ranging from Caracas to Cape Town to Melbourne to Madras. Whilst a few donations were made in the wake of the first appearance of blight in 1845, the vast majority of contributions were raised following the second, far more extensive, failure of the potato crop in 1846. Most of the donations to Ireland dried up at the end of 1847, partly in response to the government's declaration that the Famine was over. . .
The second and more devastating appearance of the potato blight marked the real commencement of the Great Famine. In the winter of 1846-47, evictions, emigration, disease and mortality rose substantially and 1.5 million people were dependent on scarce government relief. Newspapers throughout the world began to carry stories of suffering in Ireland. These descriptions touched the hearts of an international community which contributed spontaneously and generously to help the destitute in Ireland. However, not all donations were made in a spirit of altruism. The work of proselytizers (those who gave relief in return for religious conversion), although they enjoyed modest success, left a legacy of bitterness toward some charity. . .
(The Society of Friends raised over 200,000 Pounds; Queen Victoria, the "Famine Queen," gave only 2,000 Pounds, a pittance compared to her income; The Sultan of Turkey, whose private physician was Irish, lowered his pledge of 10,000 Pounds to 1,000 Pounds to avoid offending the Queen; Pope Pius IX gave 300 Roman dollars; a U.S. Senate bill to give $500,000 died in committee; British residents in Mexico donated 652 Pounds; Wesleyan Methodists collected 5,000 Pounds; Hindus in India sent 5,000 Pounds; a slave church in Richmond, Va., took up a small collection; the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma raised $170.)
"The main trouble with focusing (commemoration efforts) on 1995 was revealed by some signs of a new kind of "famine fatigue" by year's end. In November, one Irish journalist claimed that "it's hard not to feel that, really, it's all been said by now", and another in December that "the arguments have been thrashed to death". Even among Irish-Americans there was talk of being "famined-out." The sentiment is understandable, but doubly unfortunate. First, the true sesquicentennial of the Famine still lies ahead. It is unfortunate, but a fact of life, that historical events lasting several years risk being straitjacketed and distorted in standard commemorative schedules. Second, the journalists are wrong. Despite all the activity and the publicity, much about the Great Famine remains hidden, waiting to be discovered and studied. . ."
I found it unsettling that it wasn't until 152 years had passed that the British Government offered a direct apology for its failure of policy that had contributed so heavily to so much death and suffering in the land it had ruled.
Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to make amends in early June 1997, when he issued a statement saying "Those who governed in London at the time failed their people through standing by while a crop failure turned into a massive human tragedy. That 1 million people should have died in what was then part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today."
The apology was reported on the front page of the Irish Times and was made available around the world by the Associated Press. The AP story, which said the British government had refused to send large-scale food aid because it would cost too much and hurt agricultural prices, reported that Irish Prime Minister John Bruton called Blair's apology "a very good statement. While it confronts the past honestly, it does so in a way that heals for the future." Bertie Ahern, who later succeeded Bruton as Prime Minister, said Blair's gesture "would contribute to the reconciliation of the British and Irish peoples, and build confidence in what I hope will be a new era in Anglo-Irish relations."
I read the newspaper account of Bruton's comment with much interest, partly because they were made on the eve of our trip and partly because I had gotten to know him when he visited Memphis in the mid-1980s. My employer, Schering-Plough, had recently opened an important manufacturing facility near Cork, Republic of Ireland, and Bruton came to Memphis as our guest.
Bruton was then the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. I was put in charge of rolling out the red carpet for him, which included a ride around Memphis in a limo rented from a mortuary (I served as tour guide) and a VIP lunch at The Peabody, complete with national flags and the mayor. I still remember Bruton reaching right over the special bottle of Irish whisky we had obtained and going straight for the Jack Daniels. On the drive to the airport for his return flight, we stopped at a liquor store so Bruton could buy several bottles of Tennessee Sipping Whisky to take back home. He had told me about Ballinasloe, where he had some financial interests related to thoroughbred horses.
And now, 12 years later, Bruton had become Prime Minister and I had just visited Ballinasloe for the third time. I did not try to contact with him because I knew he would be much too busy to see a luncheon companion from long ago.
Strokestown is a joyless place. We left under an oppressing blanket of sadness.
To Old Waverly for Golf with John Addison
I drove to Old Waverly in my Ford Taurus station wagon with my longtime associate at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, John Addison. He had been vice president in charge of Quality Control and regulatory matters. His office was only a few steps from mine on the sixth floor of the Headquarters Administration and Research Building and we spent a good bit of time together.
We had nice weather for our day at Old Waverly and John’s excellent company made it a great day for me. However, our scores were lousy and mercifully unrecorded.
I drove to Old Waverly in the Taurus station wagon with Don Holmes, a great golfer and colleague of Betty at Northside High School, his pal Rocky Jefferson and my former associate at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Human Resources Director Steve Gilbert.
Don, with whom I had played golf several times for fun and also in foursomes I loaded up for various tournaments on behalf of my company, was spectacular this day. He shot a 32 on the first 9 holes, possibly a record for the course. His score for the full 18 was a sub-par 70. Rocky shot an 84. I shot a 96 after experiencing trouble slicing my drives.
The weather was hot but bearable and we had a good day of golf. Playing with Don, who could have been a professional tour player if his “sponsor” when a young man hadn’t died early, reminds me of just how good some of the really rare players with unusual physical ability and mental concentration can be.
I drove by myself to Old Waverly in my Taurus station wagon, where I met my fellow member and longtime golf partner Curtis Downs. It was blazing hot (as in high temperatures, not degree of skill) on the course. I shot a 91 despite taking several triple bogeys. I was fortunate to have had pars on Holes Nos. 16, 17 and 19.
Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores on a new, recently opened route made possible by the four-lane improvements on U.S. 98 from Hattiesburg, MS southeast to the back door of Mobile, AL. The new route, which cut diagonally across the southern part of Mississippi rather than requiring the end-around drive from Hattiesburg to Gulfport, then across to Mobile in Interstate 10, shaved 20-to-30 minutes off the drive from Memphis. The drive used to take 8 hours and sometimes a little longer. Now it takes 7 ½ hours and sometimes a little less now that it is 41 miles shorter.
Once at Gulf Shores, we were glad to see that the press reports we’d seen had exaggerated the extent of damage from Hurricane Danny. Our upstairs condo to the rear at the Gulf Village complex on West Beach Blvd. was untouched. However, some of the flashing around the oceanfront units had been peeled and some of the other buildings sustained some roof damage.
We did see a few trees down, but the most noticeable after-effect of the storm was the presence of a dark brown caste to the color of the Gulf of Mexico water. The hurricane was reported to have dropped 30 inches of rain in the area on one day and had winds measured at 75 mph. All floodwater from upstream rivers and streams dumped a lot of topsoil into the water and made the gulf unappealing for a swim.
I played golf with vacationers Curtis Downs and his adult son, Brad, at the State Park course. I shot an 88 and Curtis a 92, an unusual occurrence because he is the better golfer of the two of us and typically scores several strokes below me. We also played twice at the nearby Woodlands Course, where I shot a 91 the first time and 97 the second time. I was lucky to make back-to-back birdies on the generally short course. Curtis had a splendid 77 on one of our rounds.
Betty and I visited Curtis at the condo he usually rents when in the area, a ground-floor unit at a complex called LaMere, which offers a beautiful view of the beach. The place is pricey by our standards, with the in-season rent going for $700 a week.
Betty and I ate in our condo for most of our meals during our stay. But we did have some fine meals at The Spot and the Outrigger. We brought our bikes with us on this trip and cycled for about 11 miles on each of three rides.
Our longtime friends who have retired to a waterfront home in Biloxi, MS, Marty and Marge Pendleton, drove over to Gulf Shores for a visit. On Saturday, I shot a 92 at the State Park golf course and enjoyed a delightful late afternoon sunning session on the beach in front of our condo with Betty. The temperature was in the mid-80s, making for a pleasant time on the sand.
I flew to Sacramento following the way-too-early death of Anna Nolan, my sister and law and beloved wife of my youngest brother, William Ray “Bill” Nolan, on August 20. She died at the age of 41 of liver failure following the diagnosis three months earlier of ovarian cancer. It was a very sad and very difficult time for all of us.
Delta Airlines didn’t make the trip any easier on me when they cancelled the direct flight to Sacramento from Atlanta. I was holding a 1st class reservation made with Frequent Flyer miles and had gotten up at home in Memphis at 3:30 a.m. to make the local flight connection. Delta ended up re-routing me and several dozen others stuck in Atlanta on through a flight to Salt Lake City. A gate agent offered me and others two free, roundtrip tickets if we would fly later rather than on the overbooked flight from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.
I demurred because of the pending funeral and arrived a couple of hours later than my originally scheduled time in Sacramento. At least the weather was delightful. I had seen some great desert, mountain and Midwest farmland scenery through the airplane windows on the uneventful flight to California.
Things got better fast. My rental of an Avis Pontiac in Sacramento went well, as did my check-in to the Clarion Hotel in downtown Sacramento, where I secured an AARP rate of $55. My dinner at the hotel was excellent.
The next day, my brother Pat met me at the hotel for lunch after I visited East Lawn Cemetery. The cemetery is two blocks from our mother’s former house at 1517 41st Street where we grew up. Our mother, Garnett Elizabeth Nolan, is buried in East Lawn, as are some others we knew long ago. Interred there in a mausoleum is my lifelong friend and fraternity brother, Peter Lenhart Siller, who was killed in Vietnam. The newest burial of interest to us will be that our sister-in-law, Anna.
After lunch, Pat and I drove to Bill’s home not far from the Clarion hotel, where Pat and I we were pleased to find out both Bill and daughter Kate were surprisingly well composed after the loss of Anna. I was tempted to think that Anna’s death might have been a blessing because – from what I was told – she suffered greatly in her last few days of life. Bill had nursed her in their home with Hospice help.
The four of us – Pat, Bill, Anna and me - had a nice visit then repaired to the old Spaghetti Warehouse where we had a lousy dinner. The food might have been OK, but the emotional weight on us all was heavy. The next day, we got together for pizza made at an Iranian restaurant near Bill’s home. My payoff was an upset stomach.
Afterwards, I took Kate to the Downtown Metro Mall, where I purchased some clothes she wanted at Macy’s and at Gap Kids. That night, I treated my old childhood friend Bob Reid – my business partner in our college days of coaching and teaching swimming at Sutter Lawn Tennis Club – to dinner at the Clarion Hotel. We talked about the hard times he continues to endure since abruptly resigning his post as the California Commissioner of The Arts. I feel sorry for his situation, but am somewhat glad that he recognizes that was he did was a stupid, public display of ego. Bob and I enjoyed our company with one another (and a lot of drinks) before he excused himself to walk 12 blocks to his apartment. (Later, Bob secured a good job as a senior staffer for an important member of the California Legislature).
On Sunday, I drove the rental Pontiac around some of my old haunts in Sacramento, where I attended David Lubin Elementary School, Kit Carson Junior High School and Sacramento Senior High School. A lot of good memories – as well as some that were not so good – rushed back as I re-visited places and neighborhoods where I used to hang out.
Late in the day, I went with Bill and his 9-year-old daughter, Kate, to Del Ora Country Club to hit some tennis balls. Kate was plainly unhappy with the pre-funeral excursion and didn’t hesitate to let me know her feelings.
That night, I had a nice dinner and visit with my brother Pat at the hotel. He’s a really good guy but I thought that he doesn’t seem to radiate the self-confidence that a man of his worth deserves. The next day, I attended the 10 a.m. funeral of Anna at East Lawn, a memorial I had suggested to Bill. About 40-to-50 of her friends attended. It was a very dignified service and Bill delivered an eloquent eulogy which left my eyes wet. It was a closed casket service, with Anna’s remains in a beautiful, pecan wood casket that I had helped Bill pay for.
Poor little Kate whimpered at times but was quite brave given the circumstances. My heart went out to her and continued to do so for years after. I broke up at the end of the service, as did fellow pallbearer Pat and others. The tear gates opened when one of Anna’s friends spoke so warmly and lovingly of her.
Also pallbearers were Bill’s friends Robin and Johnny Whitlock and neighbor Chris. We carried the casket from the East Lawn Chapel to a hearse parked outside then followed it with a slow walk of 200-to-300 yards to the cemetery’s East Terrance grave (Row 39, No. 53). The grave is about 40 yards from the grave where our mom, Garnett Elizabeth Nolan, is buried. The actual placement of Anna’s casket and remains into the grave and the covering of it with soil was a private ceremony attended by Bill, Kate, me, Pat and Pat’s longtime girlfriend, Pat Sanders.
I stayed at the gravesite until the grass sod was replaced over the freshly turned soil. I had never before served as a pallbearer and found it morbidly interesting to see the equipment the grave diggers used. They had dug the hole with a backhoe. It was made double-deep to accommodate a double vault. That cost extra but was purchased by Bill as part of the $15,000 funeral to provide for his future resting place with his beloved wife.
It was an expensive funeral, but worth it in my view. I had “loaned” Bill $3,800 to help Bill pay for East Lawn’s services even though I had no expectations that he would be able to repay it (which he did some time later). All along, my thoughts were focused on poor little Kate and how Bill would be able to raise her berefit of a mother’s care, love and nurturing skills that pass down the generations from mothers to daughters.
We talked about the challenge of raising Kate a lot. Unspoken was the searing memory we three brothers have of the tough time faced by our own mother raising us after she divorced our father in the 1950s. She became a heavy drinker and an angry alcoholic whose bitterness made our home life often toxic.
Bill, Kate, Pat and I had an excellent dinner that night at the hotel. We all seem relieved that the funeral was over and seemingly had gone so well.
On Tuesday, Pat and his girlfriend saw me off at the airport, where I caught the noon direct flight from Sacramento to Atlanta. My first-class ticket made for a pleasant ride with wine and excellent food provided free of additional charge. The connecting flight from Atlanta to Memphis also went well and Betty met me at the airport at 9:15 p.m. My sadness at Anna’s premature death remained for a long time, but at least I felt I had discharged my responsibilities to my family as the oldest brother as well as I could.
I drove to Old Waverly with my good friend Curtis Downs on a beautiful, warm day with temperatures climbing into the mid-80s.
I shot a so-so round of 93, with several double and triple bogeys. Curtis had either an 81 or an 82, good golf for him. I was fortunate to make a par on Hole No. 18 and a birdie on No. 17 for a strong close to an otherwise indifferent round.
I drove to Old Waverly with fellow member Curtis Downs. We had a beautiful day for our golf. But both of our games were poor. I shot a 96 and he shot an 89. I had three triple-bogeys on the front nine.
I drove to Old Waverly to meet my pal and fellow member Curtis Downs, who had with him as a guest a client banker from Grenada, MS, by name of Jimmy. It turned out that Jimmy was a very good golfer, with a handicap of somewhere between 3 and 5.
I had lunch in the clubhouse with my longtime friend, Professor Clyde Williams of the English Department at Mississippi State University. Clyde is the administrator of the Lewis Nolan Book Fund I had endowed to allow Clyde to select one or more deserving students to a special grants buy books of their choice every semester.
Clyde and I discussed our mutual disenchantment with the new dean of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, where the book fund is housed. He is Skip Saal, who was recruited from the upper Midwest and doesn’t seem to have a clue about the culture and operations/expectations of southern Universities.
After lunch, I played Jekyll-Hyde golf with Curtis and his guest Jimmy. On the front 9 holes, I played like Dr. Jekyll, scoring a 41 that included a birdie on Hole No. 9. I totally collapsed on the back 9, shooting nothing better than double and triple bogeys for a score of 55. That made the total score for the round a miserable 96.
I drove in the Ford Taurus station wagon with Betty to Magnolia, McComb and Natchez, MS for the ordination of my Sunday school classmate at Evergreen Presbyterian Church Steve Mealor. Steve, who has attended the class with his father Ted Mealor (a history professor at the University of Memphis) for several years, got his degree in divinity from Princeton University and was offered a “call” to become the minister of a small Presbyterian church in the picturesque town of Magnolia in southwest Mississippi.
We stayed at the Comfort Inn in nearby McComb at the AARP rate of $44 a night, which included a cold breakfast. While in the vicinity, we took an interesting, 45-minute carriage ride in the historic district of nearby Natchez. While there, we had an OK dinner of blackened catfish and fried seafood at the Natchez Landing restaurant, located in a scenic area known locally for generations as “Under the Hill.” The place was on steep, levee bank of the Mississippi River and offered a fabulous view of the broad river and its barge traffic.
It was mostly a rainy weekend. We visited the Magnolia Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1821. It has only 17 pews, which each offering seating for 6 persons. On the roof is a copper steeple. The windows around the church are of hand-made glass panes. It’s a very charming place. The “mother church” is at McComb and is nice inside, with the roominess and décor one expects from the Presbyterian church in the South. The interior is mostly of dark wood and accommodates a large, friendly congregation.
We were pleased that Steve Mealor was predictably on display at both churches and did a masterful job of preaching. Former Evergreen Pastor Dick Baldwin spoke and officiated at the ordination ceremonies at the Magnolia Church. More than 100 church members and friends from Memphis and elsewhere were present, at least twice as many as the small building normally accommodates.
Steve’s parents, Ted and Jenny Mealor, his grandmother from Atlanta and his younger brother, Bill (a junior at our son Casey’s high school alma mater, Memphis University School), were among those present. Also there was Charlie Cannon, a former Mississippian and our fellow member of the Men’s Bible Class at Evergreen. We joined the family and a few friends (including Evergreen’s former Director of Christian Education Karen Thurman and her family) for a fun lunch at McComb’s regionally famous Dinner Bell Restaurant. It is known for its country cooking and huge Lazy Susan Tables. We helped ourselves to heaping plates of really good food, then left
for the drive back home.
Not far from McComb, I got ticketed for allegedly doing 80 mph in a 70 zone. I thought then and now it was a crooked ticket since I had an out-of-state license plate. My car’s speed controller had been set as usual at 75. This was the second time this had happened to me in Mississippi, where the traffic cops have a well-deserved reputation for uneven and unfair enforcement. Adding further unpleasantness to my memory of an otherwise good trip, my car’s windshield got chipped by a flying rock from the pavement during the drive home.
I drove to Old Waverly with good golfer and my fellow member Curtis Downs in his Lexus on a cool and cloudy winter day. I was awful on this day, one of my worst days in a long time. I actually lost 10 golf balls into the rough with various miss hits. I shot a 49 on the front nine holes and an pitiful 52 on the back nine. Curtis’ putting was unusually weak and he shot either an 88 or an 89.
I had no excuse for my poor play. I was feeling well rested and have been regularly playing at Galloway municipal course near my Memphis home just about every week.
However, the good company provided by Curtis and the beautiful environment at Old Waverly made the 150-mile trip (each way) worthwhile.
Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores to spend Thanksgiving on the Gulf of Mexico beach there for the first time in four years. The hiatus was due to our son Casey coming home to Memphis for the holiday break from the University of Virginia every year.
We had super weather for three days of our stay, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. Casey and I played golf on Wednesday. I shot an 84, including back-to-back birdies on Holes No. 13 and 14. I drove No. 4, a par 4, for the first time since I’d been playing the State Park course for several years. I made it to the green on my tee shot by taking a big swing and going over a stand of pine trees, with the help of the favorable wind giving my ball some extra distance and lift. For the round, I had three double bogeys and missed two 4-foot putts, meaning I had yet another “might-have-been” round.
I missed a 16-foot putt for an eagle, but I was hitting the ball well overall on this day. I also hit it pretty well again on Friday, when I shot a 90 even though my putts just wouldn’t drop.
I greatly enjoyed the good golf play. I also enjoyed a delightful beach walk with Betty at Fort Morgan, a Civil War fort about 20 miles down the beach that once guarded the east side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. We saw three families of porpoises swimming close to the beach. The gulf water was the clearest I’d ever seen in the usually murky bay.
We had a good dinner and also a good lunch at The Spot during this trip. Betty shopped at the big discount mall at Foley, AL. One evening I cooked Red Snapper Almondine for dinner. It was OK but not as good as the Flounder Almondine I sometimes cook due to the relative coarseness of the snapper.
It rained all day Saturday, so we relaxed, read books and drove around to see the local sights for a while.
We drove home on Sunday, taking the new route up U.S. 98 from the back side of Mobile to Hattiesburg, MS. We shaved about 30 minutes off the normal time to get to Hattiesburg. Even after making three stops for gas and food, we made it home to Memphis in 7 ½ hours. That compares to the 7 hours and 53 minutes it took on our last drive home going via Gulfport, MS and U.S. 45 rather than on U.S. 98.
I drove to Old Waverly with our son, Casey, on a chilly, winter day right after Christmas. He was home for the holiday.
Wearing sweaters made playing in the occasional sunshine on the course pleasant for the front 9 holes even if our golf play was indifferent. Due to the holiday, the club was only thinly staffed and the clubhouse restaurant was out of hamburger meat. So after a hot dog at the turn, we rode in a golf cart during our second nine holes. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees and it was chilly.
I shot a 100 for one of my poorest rounds of the year. Casey managed a 91, with a birdie on Hole No. 17. Even if our golf wasn’t great, it was a good day together.
Account of Year-ender in Gulf Shores in ’98 Account
Dec. 31, 1997 – To Gulf Shores, AL
See my account of 1998 Getaway Trips (posted at http://www.lewisnolan.com/Getaways-1998.htm) for information about our five days in Gulf Shores, AL and Biloxi, MS that started when we drove from Memphis to Gulf Shores on Dec. 31, 1997.