Trolley Stop # 10 - City Market
Today's trolley stop takes us to the heart of the shopping district in Savannah. There are several city blocks packed with small stores. Whatever type of food or consumer item you are after, you are pretty sure to find it here, and each shop has a unique look of its own. In fact, of all the places I saw there were only two or three "chain" stores here - almost everything is a sole-proprietorship type establishment.
This is where you will find Paula Deen's restaurant and store. She is a much loved local who recently suffered a great deal of bad publicity for admitting in a sabotage-type interview to having used a commonly used racial term years back. In fact she lost a very lucrative contract with a national cable TV network that carried her cooking show. She told the truth, she took her lumps with dignity, and has been rewarded with a new contract worth about double what the old contract was worth. There is still a lot of sniping about her from certain quarters in the media, but she is going on about her life and her business. Kudos to Paula Deen.
There are far too many shops to even make a dent in this article, but just about any food style, art style, clothing style, home decorating style - you are going to find it.
Close by are three of the "squares" - those parks that are interwoven into the fabric of Savannah. Franklin Square features the first piece of African-American owned property in the United States. It is the First African Baptist Church, whose roots go back to 1773.
One Andrew Bryan and his wife, free blacks, purchased land and built the first African church in 1794. 2,600 members split off from the church in 1832, purchased this plot of land and built this church. Many of the laborers to build the church were slaves who worked on plantations during the day and built this by the light of the moon and bonfires at night.
Also in Franklin Square is the most life-like cast bronze that I have ever seen. It is a tribute to all of the Haitian troops that came to fight beside the rebels against England in the Revolutionary War.
Next is Ellis Square, the only square that is not heavily wooded. Large fountains adorn the center of the square.
Here you will find the statue of Johnny Mercer, a prolific songwriter, lyricist and singer whose works included Moon River, Jeepers Creepers, That Old Black Magic and Days of Wine and Roses.
The third square is Johnson Square, devoted to Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene. He is the one who said "When the people fear the government you have tyranny. When the government fears the people you have freedom." I wonder which side of that equation we are on today.
He is buried underneath this monument with his four year old son. The monument was built to resemble a sword.
Alongside this park is the "Mother Church of Georgia." This was the site of the first church, built in 1733. The founder, Oglethorpe, tolerated all religions but would not subscribe to a particular one himself. He wrote that the religion of the Yamacraw Tribe, who occupied this land when they arrived, in many ways had higher social standards than the European religions.
So the first church the settlers built was an Episcopal church, but on Oglethorpe's insistence there was a separation of church and state in Georgia long before the Declaration of Independence.
In this park I found an aspiring photographer. One day I will do a piece just on photographers - I have been collecting pictures of them in action here and there.
19 year old Michael Houston was serenading passers-by with the violin. He really is quite good on this instrument.
But the most interesting conversation was with Omer Thompson, one of the tour guide / trolley drivers that works with Old Savannah Tours.
Omer moved here 8 years ago with the idea in mind that he was going to be a tour guide, and he has been with Old Savannah since.
What separates Omer from many tour guides is that he researches his history. There is a standing joke around town that for the most part tour guides do not let facts get in the way of a story. Omer got his love of history from his father, and is one of those people who you know is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing.
I was able to talk with him for better than an hour and pick his brain about the history of this town. I found many of the stories I have written have been incomplete - there is much more history than is commonly known that is readily available to those willing to go up to the Historical Society and dig it up.
For instance, Kehoe, the Irish immigrant iron-worker who I wrote about two days ago served as a soldier in the Confederate Army at Gettysburg at the age of 14. He survived the battle, and ultimately had to walk back home to Savannah. When he returned, he started work pushing a broom in a factory and worked his way up to one of the wealthiest men in town. And Juliette - the founder of the girl scouts. He tells the story of when Sherman was in town he visited his relatives here, who happened to be her parents. Her father was off to war for the Confederate Army. Juliette, age 5, walked down her steps to find a bunch of Union officers in her living room. She noticed one had no arm, and asked him what happened to his arm He replied that it had been shot off in a battle Juliette replied that it was probably her dad that had shot him - her dad had shot a lot of Yankees.
There are many other amazing stories - if you want to hear a lot of in depth history when you ride Old Savannah Tours see if you can get on Omer's trolley. He really is an encyclopedia.
But, says Omer, he has a very selective memory. Ask him to bring home a dozen eggs and he will forget.
Today's parting shot is a book I spied lying in the bottom of a window display. That title - "Handbook for the Recently Deceased?" I was intrigued enough that I did not ask to see it - for now I think I will just ponder what it might be about.
Happy Friday Everybody!!
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