From dirt to ink

INK, The Years of Journalism Before the Days of Bloggers, by Robert Coram, Five Bridges Press, Atlanta, GA, 2019. Soft cover, 265 pages.

Cover of INKThis is the second of Robert Coram’s memoirs, beginning where Gully Dirt ends, with his escape from his hard-scrabble southwest Georgia home.  The opening paragraph sets the stage:

I was twenty-four, had flunked out of college, served three sentences in a military stockade–which, if you want to get technical, can be called a federal penitentiary–been tossed out of the U.S. Air Force, served a year on probation for letting a patient escape from a mental institution, then come to Atlanta, where I had been fired from my first three jobs.

One stupid mistake after another.

You may remember the opening of the 1990 movie, Goodfellas, where the narrator, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), explains that “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” All Robert Coram ever wanted to be was a reporter. In the South in the 1950s, the pinnacles of journalism were the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, different papers, with different staffs, but with the same owner and sharing spaces in the same building.  It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that in the days after WW II and before the rise of television and then social media, everybody in the South who counted, whether they looked to the past or hoped for change, read one of these two papers every day. By comparison, all other southern newspapers were local.

If you paid your dues, worked your way up from obits in small-town newspapers, learned to boil down a mountain of facts into 250 words and dictate them into a telephone as the clocked ticked towards that evening’s deadline, and did this long enough and were extremely lucky, you might aspire someday to work for one of the Atlanta papers.

Now, at the age of 24, despite one stupid mistake after another, Robert Coram is being handed this opportunity. What he does with it is the subject of INK.

I don’t want to spoil any of the book, but you’ll find a surprisingly lot of John Boyd in Robert Coram and perhaps even something of yourself:  We’ve all done stupid things and survived. The opening quote is from Jean Renoir, “The only things that are important in life are the things you remember,” but it could have easily been Nietzsche’s famous dictum, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”

[Note: I have known Robert Coram for some 20 years–we both lived for many years in the northeast corner of Atlanta–and for about half that time, I worked for his wife, Jeannine Addams, in her public relations firm. Jeannine is still my agent, although they are now divorced. His mention in Boyd that I was working on a book applying Boyd’s principles to business is responsible for the lion’s share of whatever success I’ve had with that book.]

Safe and sound

Back home after a 4 1/2 hour drive from Athens.

Whoever is managing the clean-up effort here in South Carolina knows what they’re doing. We came down the back way through Augusta, Allendale, Fairfax, and Hardeeville.

Work crew on US 321 between Estill and Hardeville, SC

Work crew on US 321 between Estill and Hardeville, SC Many thanks for their heroic efforts!

Although we saw dozens of trees that had blocked the roads only 48 hours ago, we had no delays.  We’re talking 2-lane secondary highways for the most part.  The SCDOT web site was pretty accurate, and we augmented the traditional way with intel we picked up from locals at our frequent refueling stops.

Still have some more work to do.

Still have some more work to do.

Unfortunately, my poor little golf cart wasn’t so lucky on our cut-through trails.

Double Ace

Double Ace: The Life of Robert Lee Scott Jr., Pilot, Hero, and Teller of Tall Tales Robert Coram’s bio of Robert Scott, Brig Gen USAF (1908 – 2006), is now out.  I’ve ordered it and will post a review here.

cover of double aceAlthough General Scott isn’t well-remembered now (a Google search for “Robert Scott” didn’t include him in the first 10 pages of results), after WWII, he was famous as a daring fighter pilot and author of God is my Co-pilot. I met him several years ago when he was running the Museum of Aviation at Robbins AFB, about 2 hours south of Atlanta down I-75. This is an incredible museum, incidentally, with a collection of Air Force aircraft second only to the USAF Museum at Wright-Pat.  You’ll find the L-5E Sentinel (cruising speed 90 mph), the SR-71 (“Over 2,200 mph”), and pretty much everything in-between, including the P-40 Warhawk flown by Scott and the Flying Tigers.

If you can spend a day or two in this area, you won’t be too far from Andersonville and the National Prisoner of War Museum (my dad was a POW of the Japanese from  April 1942 – September 1945).  Boyd emphasized humane treatment of prisoners — and widely publicizing that fact — as a great way to encourage enemy troops to defect. Obviously there have been exceptions, but all-in-all, I think we have done this pretty well since the Civil War.

While you’re down here, check out nearby Macon, one of the capitals of Southern music, including Otis Redding, Little Richard, and the Allman Brothers.



Good morning, ATL

Hartsfield JacksonIf you’re staying near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, check out the Renaissance. This is the view from my room. It can be a little noisy, but it’s worth it to watch the world’s busiest airport operating in its full glory, especially after dark. Click for a larger view, and see if you can spot the Delta flight that’s just taken off from the other side of the field.

That’s the new international terminal on the left.

The tower, by the way, is the third tallest in the world and the tallest in North America.

Interlude: More Southern ambience

MSC IlonaWe had guests in a couple of weeks ago, and one of the things we often do is drag them off to Savannah for strolling and libations. While we were there, the MSC Ilona sailed majestically up the Savannah River, providing the afternoon’s entertainment for the tourists on River Street.  As always, click for a larger view.

The Port of Savannah is the country’s fourth busiest container port and fastest growing over all.  In the FY ending June 30, the port moved right at 3 million containers (imports and exports) and should comfortably exceed that figure in 2014. The port is beginning a deepening and expansion program to be able to accommodate the larger ships that will be coming through the expanded Panama Canal.

Although we don’t have an IKEA store within a 4-hour drive, we do have a giant, 789,000 sq-ft IKEA distribution center that handles 15,000 containers through the Port every year. The store recently installed a 182,300-square-foot solar array producing approximately 1,973,562 kWh of electricity annually. Virtually all the furniture in our house came from you-know-who.

Georgia TheatreAnd then last Saturday, I went up to Athens to celebrate my brother’s retirement, after teaching for 31 years at Georgia State.  We did what everybody does in Athens, we hung out.  It has to be one of the greatest towns on the planet for that purpose. I went to Ole Miss and so am partial to Oxford, but it’s just too small to compete with Athens and its incredible band scene. In keeping with the spirit of the two schools, we go in more for culture — Faulkner and that sort of thing.

Here’s the Georgia Theatre last Saturday night, featuring the Bobby Compton band. You can see his bus on the left side of the picture.

Happy Father’s Day 2013

GC Richards MukdenHere’s a picture of my late father, Grover C. Richards (he dropped “Jr.” when his father died) taken in Mukden, Manchuria, September 1945. He’s on the far right, along with another POW and two of the Soviet soldiers who liberated their camp. Click for a larger view.

Dad was captured on Corregidor in May 1942, after the fall of Bataan. He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery for actions in the Bataan campaign. He retired from the Army in 1961, got his Ph.D., and retired again as Chair of the Psychology Department at Georgia Southern College, as it was then known, in 1981. He died in 1996.

After the Storm

A sharp line of thunderstorms rolled across us about 7:30 last night leaving only minor tree damage in our area and some much needed rain. At around 8:30 I noticed a bright orange glow out our west-facing windows, ran outside into the last tailings of the storm, and took this picture. Ten minutes later, it was pitch black.

Fortunately my iPhone is in a water-resistant case.

After The Storm