Walt Disney, Southerner
It's always an honor anytime someone decides to publish your work on their website. I found myself in that situation again this week when Field Trips with Sue published an article on fireworks at Walt Disney World.
ABG Curator Sam Burnham, Southerner-at-large writing about Disney. It's not as strange as you might think. Just consider my thoughts from last summer. I truly enjoy going to Walt Disney World and even find it inspiring to my craft as it was along the Boardwalk last summer.
Besides all that, allow me to make a few other points about Disney.
Walt's parents, Elias and Flora were married in Kismet, FL. Kismet was a small town near Lake Akron, about 40 miles north of what is now Walt Disney World. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the Southern-ness of Florida, Kismet was more southern than where you live. The area known as Downtown Disney is currently undergoing a massive renovation that will re-theme the place as Disney Springs, a small turn-of-the-century central Florida town in the spirit of Kismet and about a billion other little hamlets that once dotted the entire peninsula of Florida.
Walt may have been born in Chicago but his path was shaped by small communities, which is evident in the presence of a sort of physical paraphrase of Marceline, MO as the opening stanza of every Magic Kingdom that bears his name.
Disneyland began in California and was quickly surrounded by a modern urban mess. Like a farmer standing at the mailbox and finding himself in a cookie-cutter cul-de-sac made of vinyl siding and minivans, Walt knew he needed room. It was time for his magnum opus. And that is when Walt Disney did what might be the most Southern thing in the entire history of the South. He went back to the area where his family started their story, got in a helicopter and searched for more land than he thought he'd ever be able to use. Then he started about 100 different real estate companies to begin buying up all that land secretly, parcel by parcel to keep from paying inflated Disney prices for it all. And then he made plans to build his greatest work smack in the middle of it. Walt knew that the only thing better than good neighbors, is no neighbors. And so Walt Disney World was born.
Sure, there's 478.000 Wal Marts and every sort of outlet selling every disposable plastic Chinese-made Florida souvenir that anyone can dream up. But you can't see any of that from Walt's porch. He made sure of that before he died. His dream is safe and secure, sealed off from the real world by moss draped bald cypress tress and gator infested waters.
And what Southerner doesn't dream of that?
This week I'm serving as the guest poster on the Instagram account for Classic Georgia (www.classicgeorgia.com). That's fitting as I think Classic Georgia and ABG will make for a great pairing. They're sort of like sisters, celebrating the tried, tested, and true Georgia and everything that makes this state great and beautiful - the true soul and identity of Georgia.
One thing you can still find in Georgia is the old country store. Wood floors, a dirt parking lot, live bait for sale, glass bottles of Coca-Cola sold from a top-opening refrigerated box with a bottle opener mounted on the front.
Fosters Mill Store is that kind of place. It's refreshing to sit at the lunch counter and enjoy a fried bologna sandwich and polite conversation with the friendly owners. Sipping Coke from a bottle and passing amicable banter back and forth across the counter is an experience that you can't duplicate at some fast food chain. And this isn't the experience you can expect across the street in a cinder block building that offers gasoline and beer. Grab a biscuit for breakfast, maybe some minnows on your way to Brushy or Weiss. Be friendly, don't hurry, this is the South, as it was intended to be.
When Ray Charles sang about the moonlight trough the pines, he wasn't just whistling Dixie. Georgia is blessed with trees and not just pines. They give us shade, recreation, and income. They hold our tree stands, fuel the fires of our BBQ, provide us with timber for lumber and paper, bestow upon us the world's finest pecans, peaches, apples, and serve as a beautiful canvas for the paintbrush of God.
Agriculture is our number one industry. It has been since 1733. Before that, it wasn't just industry, it was survival. Georgia farms produce cotton, peanuts, peaches, pecans, beef, poultry, and I'll stop there, knowing that I've left someone out. In every corner of this state, hardy men and women coax the red clay of Georgia into providing us with food and materials for finished good. These are the people on the real dirt roads, the ones on the real tractors.
And Georgia has its history. Native American mound builders, European settlers, wars, politicians, revolutionaries. The Trail of Tears, The March to the Sea, The Appalachian Trail.
These are just a few of the things that make up classic Georgia, at least in my mind. So get in your rocking chair for some porch sitting, have an ice cold Coke, read a Flannery O'Connor story under a live oak, and if you think the peaches are good, thank a farmer.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire