Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

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.



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.


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

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.

A Selfish Prayer?

On my way to work this morning I asked myself a perplexing question.  It was a question anyone else would think stupid, not perplexing. The only thing you would find perplexing is that I found it perplexing. The answer is so abundantly obvious, why would anyone bother asking it. It was along the lines of, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”  Duh!  But I asked it anyway.

Because my car radio was dead, I had some additional time during my commute to think…and pray. The last few days I had been convicted of my lack of prayer for my children and, therefore, I was busy catching up on prayer along Pleasant Hill Road. Then came the question: Is it selfish to pray for MY kids?  Wait! Let me explain the question.

Is it selfish to pray for MY kids?

There are billions of children around the world. Therefore, should I care more about MY four kids than any of these other children?  Just because they are MY kids, should I Continue reading

Revealing: What’s On Your Christmas List?

It’s a common question being asked today: What’s on your Christmas list?

The question is revealing long before an answer is given. Why? Because the question, itself, exposes us—the gift-giver. It tells us something about ourselves. When this question rolls off our lips it may convey one of the following things about us:

a)      We care enough to give a gift the recipient would enjoy receiving.

b)      We fear the wrath of the recipient if they don’t get the gift they want.

c)       We are so practical we see no need for the “surprise” element in gift-giving.

d)      We don’t know the recipient well enough to know what they want or need.

It’s the latter answer, (d), that has me thinking this Christmas season.

ChristmasGiftThe ability to give a gift that “fits” shows knowledge. It demonstrates that the gift-giver knows the recipient well enough to know what the recipient needs or would enjoy. When we have to ask for a list it may indicate that the relationship is weak.

If we are talking about a gift for the mail carrier or our dry cleaner, we shouldn’t be concerned that we don’t know them well enough to know what gift would be particularly meaningful.  But when it is a spouse, child or Continue reading

Hey Kids, Grandma Was In Gitmo!

Oh, the things you learn while enjoying a late Sunday lunch at Macaroni Grill.  It took over 50 years for mom to tell me she was once in Guantanamo Bay. While mom was unhurriedly enjoying her entrée of a Chicken Under a Brick she told me of how she, as a recent high school graduate, and three other young ladies ventured south into the Atlantic.

Colleen Townsend, Bea Correll and Virginia Graves were planning the trip to Cuba. It was to be part adventure and part visit to see Bea’s sister, Molly, whose husband was stationed at Guantanamo Bay. Mom was the younger sister of Colleen who did not want her little sis tagging along. Yet, Bea was fond of Bonnie and wanted her to be included. Colleen didn’t have much of a choice and mom transformed the adventurous trio into a foursome.

The four young ladies drove from Birmingham, Alabama to Miami where they boarded a ship bound for Havana. From there they flew to Guantanamo Bay where they spent a week visiting Molly and wandering off the base for some sightseeing.

Continue reading