For the Days I Spent with MLK Jr., Scarlett O'Hara, and Atlanta, Georgia on My Mind……Marietta, Georgia
The only other town in Georgia that I ever heard before of was Macon. I have no idea why but I like the way it sounds, very Southern.
Marietta is about a half an hours drive outside of Atlanta. While I did not know what awaited me there, I was blissfully enjoying the gorgeous drive we were taking.
Once again I was starving so the first thing on the agenda was finding a place to eat. That was a harder task than any of us realized it would be.
My first reaction to this town was that it was identical to Stars Hallow, a fictional town in Connecticut, as any Gilmore Girls fan would know. In the center of town there is Glover Park, which is located in Marietta’s Historic Square, although I do not remember seeing any signs saying such.
It was Halloween weekend (not surprisingly on a another day we also happened upon one of the coolest Halloween parades ever closer to our base in Atlanta) so there were a ton of kids dressed in costumes trick or treating in all of the shops. There was a fair in the Square and it appeared the entire community was out to celebrate. Coming from a borough in New York City I am not use to this small town feel but I find it adorable. It was truly like a movie set or as if we had stepped back in a time machine. Everyone was so friendly and not in that annoying way that we Yankees find irritating.
We were trying to take in the whole scene while simultaneously checking out the many restaurants trying to decide where to eat. It was during this walk around town that we initially passed the Earl Smith Strand Theater.
Located in a pivotal spot near Marietta Square, the legendary Earl Smith Strand Theater opened in 1935 and was noted as a location to see major motion films. It remained opened until 1976. Much like the Kings Theater right here in Brooklyn (http://bit.ly/2jl7hbl) it fell into disrepair while abandoned. After a campaign to raise funds an expansive renovation took place during the 2000s. Today the Strand Theater is once again for Marietta residents to enjoy.
Ok here is what I find extra, super cool about this particular theater. It is a six degrees of separation kind of moment.
Joanne Woodward is a famed actress originally from Georgia played Dr. Cornelia Wilbur in “Sybil”, one of my all time favorite movies. She was married to another famous actor, Paul Newman who later on in life would become famous for another reason, his salad dressing.
It is not a coincidence then, that Woodward was from Marietta and had attended high school there. Thus when the Strand Theater was undergoing renovations Newman’s Own was there to extend a helping financial hand. This company owned by this Hollywood power couple had formed the corporation that made numerous food related items and established a foundation to support many charitable causes. A pet project particularly close to the couple’s hearts was restoring and supporting local theaters, as they were the foundations for their future careers.
Talk about a full circle moment for me as I walked passed The Strand.
After walking around the Square more than once I was ready to eat just about anywhere. We settled on Hemingway’s Bar & Grill. The weather was marvelous so we elected to sit outside in the nearby alleyway that was filled with tables and chairs. It would have been a shame to go indoors if needn’t be.
The menu was plentiful but I went with cheese and chicken quesadillas, a mainstay on my list of favorite meals. Lunch was plentiful and quite pleasurable. I definitely ate way too fast but the tastiness mixed with the fun yet relaxing atmosphere in the town made me want to swallow up as much of this cheery feeling as I could. After relaxing we decided we had much to see and it was time to get a move on it.
Next up was another rendezvous with Ms. O’Hara and her associates at the Gone with the Wind Museum.
This exhibition has been in existence since 2003, the product of Dr. Christopher Sullivan’s life long collecting as a man of wealth who also happened to be a fan. He has passed on his impressive amount of wide-ranging Gone with the Wind mementos to establish this museum for all fellow fans to enjoy.
When you step inside the first thing I noticed was that the movie was playing. I wanted to sit down and watch it in its entirety. I haven’t seen it in quit a while. Right now it is in my DVD player awaiting my full attention.
After passing that by I didn’t know where to look first. There were so many intriguing items of various kinds. There were several books and movie posters in foreign languages, there was a model of Tara, a table featuring the faces of the four main characters, items from the movie’s opening day, and countless souvenirs that were available for purchase when the movie and film became popular. But by far the best of the best has to be the dress wore by Vivien Leigh herself!!! The dress was the original Bengaline honeymoon gown from the film. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it up close and personal. For me that was the highlight of the collection and exhibit both. If I were the owner I wouldn’t have been so generous and kept that for myself. Although there is a ton of great stuff to see here it only accounts for about seventy-five percent of Dr. Sullivan’s collection. The rest resides within his home in Akron, Ohio. For more information you can check out the fourth link below to read a great interview with the man himself from 2009.
In addition to the places I have now visited that are Gone with the Wind related there is a place online where support and interest is just as important. The project is called “Saving Tara”. It has taken custody of the facade of Tara from the studio that was housed her as a popular tourist attraction. Now in Georgia this group seeks to preserve and restore this magnificent stage set for future generations of film fans. They can use all of our support and as a fellow fan I want them to succeed in this endeavor.
“Visit the oldest surviving house in downtown Marietta and get a glimpse of life for an average family living in antebellum Georgia. This modest house is more typical of its time and place than the grand plantations and columned mansions popularized by Gone With the Wind.”
My final stop on my day in Marietta was the historic William Root House Museum. By this time it was late in the day and the Atlanta sun was burning a hole through me. The Root House is off the beaten track a ways so it was a longer walk than I was in the mood for at that moment but I forged ahead because my companions were interested and I figured I would be too once I got there.
When I got there I was sweating and stepping inside did not seem to make me any cooler. This home dates back to 1845 so of course there was no AC. We were the only tourists there and the guide seemed to have less experience with the house than I did but I did manage to learn a thing or two. The owners were Hannah and William Root. Mr. Root was a druggist and former resident of Philadelphia. The location I was visiting was not the home’s original location. That would have been the corner that is currently a church. The house managed to survive the Civil War hosting the Roots until 1886. After which the lot was divided up and a library was built on the land. During the 1940s apartments became the housing model of choice instead of the prior single-family residence. The 1980s took the house from disrepair through renovations and reorganization as one of the oldest buildings in Marietta. Subsequently the house was moved to this location and opened as a museum.
While being out of the sun was nice my heat sensitivity was still making it hard to concentrate. Said heat and uncomfortability also made me avoid climbing up to the second floor but rather to step outside and sit in the garden to catch my breath and a breeze.
Even though I only toured the first floor I did get a lot from my visit. What stuck with me the most is what I learned about the funeral traditions of the late 1840s. After the wake was over each mourner would receive a token of thanks, sort of like a favor we receive at parties today, to mark the occasion. I have never ever heard that before and is a piece of a information that I will not likely forget.
Once we were all ready to leave the only thing on my mind was a cold drink. On the walk back to the Square and thus our car I saw a sight so beautiful I thought it was a hallucination. Luckily it was not. There was a Starbucks and I could not get inside fast enough. From there my day was a blissful memory.
Marietta, Georgia for me will always be the Stars Hallow of the South. A picturistic small town that maintains a duel role as the protective keeper of history while modern day life goes on. But anywhere you can cross a train track and hit up a Starbucks is a town I can easily become infatuated with and clearly I did.
I still have no idea what is in Macon, Georgia but it is certainly on my mind, just for another time.
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