Mammaw’s One-room Schoolhouse

1 Room School House (1)

Mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse in China Grove, Alabama.

To commemorate the start of another schoolyear,  I share a photo of my mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse class.

To the naked-eye it may be difficult to find my grandmother. Eula Bae Barfoot is standing in the middle of the back row. Like everyone else in the photo, she wasn’t saying “cheese.”

Mammaw was born on February 26, 1896 to Leander and Corinthia Argin (Anderson) Barfoot.  The photo was taken while she was living in Pine Level, Alabama (in unincorporated Montgomery County) where she grew up. However, the school was in China Grove, Alabama–just 8 miles from Pine Level.

One of the unique aspects of the one-room schoolhouse was the wide range of ages in the class. How did mammaw simultaneous teach the little guy on the far left of the front row and those much older teenagers lining the back?

The exterior of the schoolhouse behind them looks a lot like many historic sites we can visit today throughout the south. Perhaps the photo was taken in the spring or fall as they appear to be dressed warmly. Even the shoeless and barelegged boy on the front row has on a coat. At least three of boys are wearing ties and two of the girls are adorned with hair bows.

The photo was taken in the 1910s as mammaw did not teach after marrying James Otto Townsend, (“Nandy” to me and my cousins), at the age of 24, on November 16, 1920. Most likely, mammaw was in her early 20s at the time of the photo.

As I was talking about the photo with my mom (Bonnie Bae Townsend Bruce) she said, “I guess that is why I liked to play ‘school.’” She continued, “Mother was always a teacher, a-teaching me or someone. She also taught Sunday School.” Today, one of her great, great granddaughters is a teacher in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

An interesting fact I discovered while learning about this photo is that Pine Level has one very notable former resident. Rosa Louise McCauley (Rosa Parks) was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. However, when her parents separated, she moved with her mom to Pine Level where she grew up with her maternal grandparents and mother. She attended “rural schools” until the age of eleven. This would have put Rosa Louise in Pine Level for several years up until 1924. Mammaw and Rosa Louise were residents of the same community at the same time. I wonder if their paths ever crossed.

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0144839-R3-E060

Mammaw at my brother’s 2nd Birthday in 1965, shortly before her stroke which would take her life after a lengthy two-year, bed-ridden debilitation. From left to right: Mom, Mammaw, my sister, my liddle brudder, me & Aunt Colleen.

Mammaw and Nandy had four children. James Otto Townsend Jr., Harold Hugh Townsend, Gwyneth Colleen Townsend and my mom. Mammaw went to be with the Master Teacher on September 7, 1969.

If you know more about this photo or mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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But That’s Not the End of this Story

Last year Julie and I had the opportunity to fulfill a 30-year unspoken dream. We were visiting our son in New York City and he booked a stay for us in the Grand Hyatt. Employed at another Hyatt property on Wall Street, Seth arranged for us to speGrand Hyatt NYCnd the night in this gorgeous hotel—not knowing that this was an unspoken dream come true for me. But that is not the end to this story. Continue reading

Not Ashamed to Share to How I Will Vote

gavote

I have never used social media to broadcast how I would vote. Yet, this year’s General Election Ballot has an unusual magnetism, compelling me to enlist others in voting for the only right choice.

It is not what you think. The presidential election has overwhelmingly garnered our attention. However, in the State of Georgia there will be one final item at the end of the ballot on which you must act. Even if you don’t want to go to the polls to cast a vote for a presidential candidate, this one issue will provide the motivation to once again earn your “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker.

If you continue through your ballot past the presidential candidates to the end, this is what you will read:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited.”

The answer—the bipartisan answer—is YES.

Why YES?

Children who have been trafficked often suffer from debilitating suicidal thoughts, broken relationship, physical abuse, malnutrition and severe shame and psychological damage. The cost of recovery for just one child can be as much as $80,000 a year.  Voting YES Continue reading

The Grateful Dad

GSU BrochureLittle did I know how a lunch at Dreamland BBQ would set off a series of moments that would significantly alter the life of our son. It simply started as two friends enjoying some pulled pork and ended with….well, it hasn’t ended.

Jim Barber, of M3 Companies, was the tenant representative for our insurance firm. He had brokered a great deal for our lease, and thereafter I often called on him to assist with reviewing charges from the landlord and other tenant surprises that made their way to my desk. Jim and I developed a friendship that extended beyond business. Our friendship led to occasional lunch meetings at Dreamland where we shared business, faith, family and college football; It didn’t matter he favored “War Eagle” and I, “Roll Tide.”

On this particular day as we were sharing updates on our family, I casually mentioned how my son appeared to be losing his zeal for school. As a sophomore at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, Seth had recently conveyed he was having a difficult time staying motivated in his pursuit of a major in Hospitality. He wasn’t getting much direction, wasn’t sure what classes he needed to take and was feeling lost. I “happened” to share Seth’s frustration with Jim. Who surprised me by saying, “I’ll mention it to Diana.” Diana was Jim’s wife and, unbeknown to me, “happened” to be a full-time Senior Lecturer at the School of Hospitality Administration at GSU. College—life!–would never be the same for Seth.

The Tipping Point

I remember the excitement in Seth’s voice as he phoned to tell me about his conversation with Dr. Barber. Suddenly he had a renewed interest in school and was excited about Hospitality. Dr. Barber explained which courses he needed and how to get the best out of his time at GSU. Continue reading

Jack Bruce, Cream Bassist, Dead at 71

Jack Bruce CreamIt happened yesterday. Again. It’s a regular occurrence when I meet someone for the first time and we exchange names. Typically, it is someone a few years older than me; though occasionally someone much younger will make a similar comment. It goes something like this, often accompanied by a big smile: “Oh Jack Bruce, the great bassist for Cream.”

The legendary Scottish musician died today. Jack Bruce was 71.

Bruce wasn’t the most famous of the rock trio. That honor belongs to Eric Clapton. Ginger Baker rounded out the band.

I heard the news today listening to the BCC on satellite, while on my way to a late afternoon run. I wish my dad, Jack W. Bruce, Sr., would have been here to hear it. Dad and I had noted the regular occurrence of someone hearing our name and striking up a conversation about the 60’s rock band. We never had much to add to the conversations; it wasn’t our genre of choice in music.

Jack Bruce will be missed  by family, friends and fans around the globe, but his music will live on. He left his mark. Even I know his song, “I Feel Free,” one of the songs he authored that will continue to be played.

There is no doubt he is the most famous Jack Bruce of all time. But the greatest? –that honor still goes to my dad who would be 83 next week.

James River Morning Run

Bridge to Belle Isle

Bridge to Belle Isle

It’s not every day I write about one of my runs. Yet, it’s not every day I have a run like this morning’s.

I woke in Richmond, Virginia, having traveled up with my brother to watch my nephew compete in the talent competition for the National Beta Convention. Whenever I travel I try to find a memorable place to run. Never have I been so successful.

I’ve run on beaches, highways, viewtrails, paved paths and urban sidewalks. Yet, never have I had such a diverse run. I googled Best Places to Run in Richmond and was directed to Belle Isle. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1.5 mile trek to and through the island sitting within the James River. The view from the bridge was nice and the flat trails pleasantly took me along the rocky river bank. It was perfect.

Another,more experienced, runner pointed me to the 7.5 mile North Bank Trail. Interesting. My longest run since the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2012 was a run just under 6 miles a couple of weeks ago. However, I convinced myself I could run a couple of miles and then turn back. I never turned back–got lost a couple of times, but I never turned back.
Continue reading

Why Persistent Prayer Is So Difficult

Most of my blog posts are a personal reflection of something I am learning, experiencing or with which I am struggling. The latter fits this post. I’ve recently admitted to myself, and God, that my prayer life is nearing extinction. I pray throughout the day, but the fervor and the dedicated times of prayer have waned. I’ve found myself needing to go back to training camp for a refresher on the basics of living a life that honors God. Prayer, persistent prayer, is one of these basics.

sharkThe Shark Who Gave Up

There was a study I remember from my psychology class in college that left an indelible impression upon me. A shark was put into one side of a tank which was divided by a clear glass panel. On the other side of the tank was a school of smaller fish—a perfect dinner for the shark. The shark would dart toward the fish, but each time it would ram its nose into the glass barrier. The shark tried and tried again. Each time it scurried toward a fish it would abruptly hit the glass. Finally, the shark gave up and quit darting toward the smaller fish. What happened next in the study is truly fascinating. Continue reading