My first column in The Telegraph on September 7, 2014, was in part about my Walker grandfather, “Papa,” a mule farmer in rural Washington County. Papa has reposed in the cemetery at Pinehill Methodist Church since 1957.
This week, I want to start with my Gray grandfather, “Grandbuddy,” as I want to make my point after telling you a little about him.
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Grandbuddy was born in Danville, Virginia, and married my grandmother, Hazel Nichols, when they both lived in Danville, Indiana. On their wedding day, they boarded a train to Hollywood, California, where Grandbuddy worked as a cameraman at Universal Studios except for the time he and my grandmother homesteaded near Tombstone, Arizona. Thankfully, for me, they ended up in Perry, Georgia.
There’s enough material for a book here, but let me say that Grandbuddy was an “out-of-the closet” Republican as far back as the 1930's, and because of his Indiana connections was accused by some of being the one thing that was more damaging than being a Republican, and that was that he was “a damn Yankee.” To my mind, it’s hard to be a Yankee when you are a native of Danville, Virginia, but such nefarious accusations are a common part of the political landscape.
Despite the heavy baggage of political party and accusations of northern ancestry, he served on Perry’s City Council for many years. He was Perry’s Mayor in 1949-1950. His political success probably stemmed in part from his rolling a peanut down Perry’s main street, Carroll, with his nose to pay off a political bet. School was let out for the students to see the show and the event made nationwide news. Again, I could probably write a short book about this.
Now, I hope the stage is set, and so to my point: As a youngster, I remember thinking that Grandbuddy was cool and thoroughly modern. He always wore a dark suit, a white shirt with a tie, and sometimes black loafers. I figured that a man his age who wore loafers knew what was happening and was really with it.
I wanted to be like Grandbuddy when I “got old.” I wanted to be with it. Well, I’m here, and I’ve failed the “with-it test” miserably. I’m not modern at all. Let me give a few examples.
I hear folks talking about apps. I think that’s what they’re saying. What are apps? I’ve heard some older folks say that “the world is app to come to an end, soon,” but I don’t think that’s what these modern young people mean. I’m app to pass on and never know what they were saying.
Another thing. Everyone under 30 talks so fast, that I don’t get it. Often it reminds me of the static on the radio when we used to listen to far-off rock and roll radio stations in places like Cincinnati, Ohio. They seem to increase their voice speed when leaving their telephone number.
Another thing is that so many young people apparently have developed powers of discernment that I don’t have. They are aware of possible uncertainty and perplexity that totally escapes me. It happens all the time. Let me explain.
I’m in a restaurant eating my hamburger and fries, and I ask the young waitress to “please bring me a little more ice tea” to which she responds, “no problem.” I carefully look around and conclude that she’s right, there is no problem, but it worries me that she saw the possibility of a problem that totally escaped me.
Despite all this, and there’s much more, I do think I remain fairly popular as I have lots of people saying that they want to be my friend, and I’m glad to have ‘em. Still, I know I’m not as cool as Grandbuddy was. I wish it was as easy as wearing black loafers with my dark suit.
I do think we, as a country, the good ole’ United States of America, do have problems, lots of them, which includes people in countries where the country is generally not friendly to us, with a few in the country claiming that they want to be friends, and with certain influential people in our country claiming friendship to some of them. I’m confident this friendship doesn’t extend to very many of us. I wish I could just say “no problem” and it would be alright, but I don’t think it works that way.
I’d best stop as I’m app to get myself in trouble. So much that I won’t be able to talk fast enough to get myself out of it.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.