Traipsin’ down south

Lynne Cunningham
Provides a view from the community.

Easter Sunday in Florida

St. Augustine lighthouse

St. Augustine lighthouse

St. Augustine was my destination for Easter because a friend living there for the winter months invited me to visit. I drove to Baton Rouge to meet Liz, her sister, and we struck out for Florida, a 12-hour motor trek. In “wistful” thinking we calculated the time span to be 8 hours (we didn’t factor in time zone change). Thank goodness we weren’t returning a week later than we did to run into all the violent weather pushing our way in May. My friend’s rented abode was on the beach on Anastasia Island south of St. Augustine right on Hwy A1A the iconic highway skirting the east coast of the peninsular of the Sunshine State. Looking out the sliding glass door you could see a little patch of green St. Augustine grass, then a row of sand dune humps sprigged with flimsy seagrass, to generous beach with wave after wave of water wobbling onto the sand. I think it would be hard to work from your computer desk everyday like my friend did looking out at all that natural beauty.

Lynne Cunninham poses in St. Augustine

Lynne Cunninham poses in St. Augustine

We toured Flagler College a unique and beautiful Neo-Byzantine time cluster of buildings designed and used as a hotel originally, now the center of learning. A student guide who pointed out all the details and history told my friends and me afterwards he was considering applying for post-graduate work at Ole Miss. The Center for the study of Southern Culture was his main interest because he is planning a career in museum and archives management as a curator. He thought Ole Miss represented the best opportunity for study and training since it stood in the midst of the area where 3 distinct cultures arose; the Native Americans- Choctaw Indian mounds and hunting grounds, the plantation South of pre-Civil War when cotton was King, and the post-Civil War of sharecroppers, hard scrabble tenants and a few Delta planters who still prospered from the rich Delta soil. I told the student if he hadn’t heard, Ole Miss had won an award for having one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S. Then I said “But you are definitely spoiled by all this exotic flora of Florida; the palmettos, hibiscus, palm trees, etc. of a subtropical zone.” He seemed anxious to see our cotton fields and hardwood forests. One day it rained and we descended on the Outlet Malls. There were 3 of them. Some we stopped in were Gucci, Bose, Talbots, Coach, Chico and more. Seafood was abundant and we dined on oysters, red snapper and sea urchins, delicious. They also served lamb and fresh asparagus for Easter Sunday lunch. My friends are Episcopalian and we attended morning service at Unity Episcopal Church downtown across from the Plaza’s green park. It has a beautiful Tiffany window. When Ponce de Leon landed on the shores of Anastasia Island he saw mourning glories creeping over the dunes in proliferation and named his find, “Pascua de Florida”, Feast of Flowers. But the Fountain of Youth is a myth. Take it from me. We climbed up the gangplank of a life-sized replica of Magellan’s ship which went around the world. It was moored in the harbor near the Bridge of the Lions connecting St. Augustine and Anastasia Island. It was smaller than you would ever imagine. Not surprisingly, this city is a wedding destination spot as well as honeymoon haven. How romantic, all the beautiful flowers and plants with lots of good fishing spots and beaches to lounge on. St. Augustine remains as the oldest existing continuously inhabited city of U.S., 1565. Where were you when the terrible storm came? Those of us not struck by the devastation were pretty much in the dark until the power came back and we begin to hear of all the damage. I drove to town after I heard that Tupelo had been hit not knowing a tornado would be headed toward Louisville. By the time I reached the Post Office the siren went off and the sky grew dark as night. Darlene told me I had to stay with them, the postal workers until we saw how this worked out. She said I could stay on ground level in the narrow vault sitting on a stool or go below to the basement with other postal workers, one of their little girls and a dog. I chose the vault cause I could see out of a window across the room from the vault door. After about an hour we still didn’t know of the definite damage but postal workers were getting reports on their cell phones, a bad hit out east toward the hospital, heavy damage on McCullough Road and Jordan Circle was the first sketchy report. Finally it was decided I could leave since I live North of town if I went straight home. Several friends from Jackson called me and wanted to know if the storm reached my house toward Ackerman. They were surprised I’d left home to go toward the tornado of which I didn’t know. The next day friends from North Carolina called and said the Jackson friends told them I had been forced to take cover at the Post Office and spend the night in the vault with only bread and water for sustenance.
Our dear friend Juanita Hight left our sphere for a better one. She had reached a venerable age beyond 100 years. What a rich legacy she left us as an avid promoter of our community, a pretty much self-made newspaperwoman, and hardworking faithful member of her church. Until she died she encouraged matriculation for the young set at her alma mater Mississippi State College for Women, now MUW. She being a member of the Stitchery Guild suggested that an annual retreat be staged in Louisville at the Lake and it is a regular happening now, everyone loving it.
My best friend Cin Robertson’s mother, Corinne Robertson Willis died just days after her 102nd birthday in May. She was a cheerful energetic being right up to the end. No one expects to outlive their children and Corinne mourned the death of two daughters, Cin and Carol who was married to John Pete Meyers. I made a trip to the Memorial Cemetery just days before Corinne died to see the stump of the big tree on the west side. There was Corinne’s marker beside her husband Neville’s all in order for the coming day. Her dear nice Blanche Francis White became her chauffeur, medicine manager and confident, par excellant. When her granddaughters let her know they felt she shouldn’t drive anywhere at 96 (in Clinton, Ms) she bristled and threatened to go buy another car if they refused to give her the keys to the one she owned. When she told me about the situation I opined, “But Corinne it is the other driver they are most concerned about. You know these young folks try to text and drive and put on make-up when they shouldn’t.”