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A Walk in the Park(s)


The historical past of parks right here in the south is thrilling and infrequently a little bit of a shock. I notice instances have modified, and the parks I liked as a toddler are generally the facilities of controversy, however this text just isn’t about that. Life wasn’t all the time simple, however I’m selecting the recollections that remind me of gentler instances.

I keep in mind in the early Fifties, visiting Grant Park in Atlanta, Georgia, and Forsyth Park in Savannah. It was a deal with to go to those lovely parks, particularly on Sunday afternoons when heaps of individuals had been nonetheless dressed in their Sunday best, with some girls carrying hats and gloves in that sweltering warmth.

Forsyth Park, Savannah

More and extra, I respect the manner issues had been after I was younger. Thank goodness, my childhood preceded social media, telephones with video capabilities, and cable TV with zillions of channels (most of which, I’m positive, are procuring channels).

I performed exterior as typically as potential, generally till bedtime. I liked being outside and completely loved what nature offered, apart from snakes. Try to not choose me. I respect the “good” that some snakes do. I’ve chased them from my yard, studied them in college, and even held a relatively massive one, ONCE (that’s a narrative for an additional day). But I simply can’t heat as much as these cold-natured creatures!

When considered one of my grandsons was very younger, he thought I used to be the oldest human alive, particularly after I shared how various things had been after I was a small youngster. He as soon as requested me if “water” had been invented after I was just a little woman. The reply was, and nonetheless is, “yes.” And sure, we additionally had tv, however only some channels had been accessible after I lived in Atlanta and Savannah. So, hopscotch, jacks, skipping rope, and hide-n-seek had been nice pastimes at dwelling. But, visiting an area park was all the time an additional particular deal with.

As advised by devoted deep-south locals, Forsyth Park in Savannah has all the time been steeped in thriller and historical past. In 1840 or thereabout, William Brown Hodgson donated the authentic ten acres of land, and in the 1851 enlargement, the park was named for the Governor of Georgia at the moment, John Forsyth. The lovely iconic fountain that represents Savannah to me and so many others was manufactured by the iron foundry, Janes, Beebe & Company in Bronx County, New York, and put in in 1858. The design was impressed by the fountains at Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Cemeteries are options on the Savannah ghost excursions

If you are taking a “ghost” tour of Savannah, it’s possible you’ll be apprised of the so-called incontrovertible fact that many spirits nonetheless hang-out the lovely outdated homes that border the park-like metropolis squares in the historic district. The tour guides will try to frighten you with ghost tales related to the folks buried in mass graves throughout the 1920 yellow fever epidemic. And it’s true; there are mass graves of the victims of that epidemic buried in Colonial Park cemetery. But when the ghost tour information says some ghosts have been seen round the fountain as a result of there’s a mass grave beneath, I don’t know if it’s true or not. I lived lower than a metropolis block from Forsyth Park after I was younger and by no means noticed one ghost!  But as we took night strolls on these bumpy brick sidewalks dimly lit by the outdated fuel lights, I positive did search for them.

Grant Park, Atlanta

Grant Park in Atlanta was named for Lemuel P. Grant, known as the “Father of Atlanta.” He was a civil engineer and an agent with the Georgia railroads. As a matter of truth, he performed a vital function in bringing railroads to Atlanta. It just isn’t clear if he gifted or if he traded the land now often called Grant Park and the Oakland Cemetery between 1853 and 1883. I’m advised the first zoo in Atlanta was opened a couple of years later, in 1889.

In the early 1950’s I keep in mind my dad taking me to experience in a row boat on the small lake in Grant Park. We walked round the lake to see the bears in cave-like enclosures. No matter how excessive the temperature rose, it appeared to be 10 levels cooler in entrance of these bear caves. At some level, the lovely lake was drained, and a zoo took a part of its place.

The well-known Willie B

In the Nineteen Sixties, my Dad and I loved visiting Willie B, Atlanta’s well-known gorilla. In 1961, a child western lowland gorilla was added to the zoo. He was named for Atlanta’s Mayor William B. Hartsfield, however everybody known as him Willie B. My dad liked all of the animals, however they didn’t all the time really feel the similar. He was shocked when a lama spat on him. But the most embarrassing reminiscence was when the zookeepers needed to escort my dad exterior the constructing the place the large gorilla lived. Willie B had change into so agitated that he repeatedly climbed up excessive, jumped on his tire swing and threw himself in opposition to the bars adjoining to the place Dad was standing. Maybe it was a gesture of friendship, as dad thought, however I don’t assume so.

A feline exhibit was constructed up on a hill. The lions’ new habitat was open and really totally different from the outdated cages that imprisoned them earlier. It seemed prefer to me they may simply soar the chasm that separated them from their admirers. I don’t assume the massive cats ever escaped the Atlanta Zoo, besides in my nightmares.

The Atlanta Zoo’s new reptile home known as the Scaly, Slimy Spectacular

Exhibits devoted to reptiles, together with my not-so-favorite, snakes, had been added to the zoo. I’ve to confess there was a priority every time I entered the reptile home or snake home. More typically than not, the workers appeared to be in search of an escapee. They didn’t admit it verbally, however after they had been crawling round on the flooring, wanting in all instructions and hovering over an empty glass enclosure, they didn’t need to. I don’t keep in mind lingering in that a part of the zoo very lengthy.

Times have positively modified. I’ve traded summer time picnics in the park with fried rooster, potato salad and candy tea for easy tomato sandwiches in my air-conditioned kitchen; and swing units that propelled me nearly to the moon for a sluggish glider in the shade. But, after I shut my eyes, I’m younger once more with great recollections of instances spent in the lovely parks in Atlanta and Savannah.

Southern Trivia-

Frederick Olmstead was thought of the preeminent designer of parks in the US. His works in the South embrace the Biltmore Estate, Cherokee Park in Louisville, KY, Dilworth, NC (Charlotte suburb) and the Druid Hills Historic District in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Silverbacks soccer staff was named in Willie B’s honor

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