Living Columns & Blogs

A colorful past and cultural present in Macon

Spirits come to life at Riverside Cemetery

Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy presents a walk through history.
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Historic Riverside Cemetery Conservancy presents a walk through history.

From Thursday through Saturday of this week and last, the Riverside Cemetery Conservancy produced “Spirits through the Centuries” for their annual “Spirits in October” event. Six months of planning preceded the tours, which are led by volunteer docents who narrated the history of notable citizens interred during the last 129 years at Riverside Cemetery, while other volunteers donned costumes and make-up to appropriately portray those citizens.

Betty Causey and Carol Martin were part of the tour group on Saturday night when socialite Martha Fannin Johnston, portrayed by Suzanne Minarcine, told the story of entertaining President Jefferson Davis in her home in 1871 and of donating land for the establishment of a Girl Scout camp in west Bibb County.

Pam Norton, as Wesleyan College graduate and social activist Juanita Black, related the tragic loss of her husband when he was the first Georgia state trooper killed in the line of duty.

The history of some of the other more famous citizens included Jane Winston as Ellamae Ellis League, who practiced architecture in Macon for more than 50 years in the last half of the 20th century, after working for the Dunwody firm, which encouraged her to attend architecture school — a most unusual move in a then male-dominated field. League’s work, which included houses, commercial buildings, schools, public housing and hospitals is represented on the National Trust’s list of historically significant structures.

Among the men whose biographies entertained the groups — due to their contributions to the economic growth of Macon in the 19th and early 20th centuries — was E.D. Huguenin, played by one of Macon’s favorite history raconteurs, Phil Comer. Huguenin, a cotton broker and a pecan farmer, was well known for his skills as a diplomat and successful businessman. The Huguenin Heights neighborhood, bounding Tatnall Square Park on the west side, is named for its noted resident and still has ancestors of the pecan trees that once covered that acreage.

Joe Chitwood equipped himself well in the role of Charles Reb Massenburg, a proponent of the revival of the industrial revolution and successful owner of the Acme Brewing Company, who later became superintendent of the Macon Hospital.

After the comprehensive and fascinating tour of another chapter in Macon’s history, tour guests were treated to a reception in the mausoleum, a classically designed stone building overlooking the valley between the two sections of Riverside Cemetery, where hors d’oeuvres were served to the adults and buckets of popcorn were reserved for the children. The last tours are scheduled today; contact riversideconservancy.com for more information.

GREAT FOOD AND FUN AT THE ANNUAL GREEK FESTIVAL

Helenic traditions, the breathtaking architecture of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, the music and the friendly community of people bring us back every year for the annual Central Georgia Greek Festival. However, I don’t think I am the only one who heads straight for the pastries. I know because my favorite, baklava, is always sold out! Maybe that’s because I have to first fill up on the plumpest spanakopita pie, laced with fresh spinach, onions and feta cheese.

Any confection made with figs, apricots and nuts wrapped in that heavenly flaky pastry is good, but baklava is my favorite, hands down. Last Sunday, as I was hoarding mine, as if it might be lifted by a sweets thief, I spotted the baklava sundae, the epitome of gilding the lily, just as Louise and Andy Watson were headed that way. In Greece, this concoction might be made with salep dondurma, or stretchy ice cream, but Breyers Natural Vanilla was perfect for fans who would never know the difference after the honey, nuts and crunchy pastry were scattered over the top.

JAZZ AND ARTS AT RIVERDALE SETS A RECORD

There was competition with the Greek festival last weekend for patrons of the arts and of good music. The 13th annual Jazz and Arts on Riverdale festival, sponsored by the Jazz Association of Macon, set a record for attendance as homeowners on Riverdale Drive again welcomed the crowds to their street, sidewalks and even front lawns for a day of the best fall weather, for a stage full of fine jazz musicians and for tents lining the street — their shelves full of pottery, paintings, jewelry and other handiwork from Middle Georgia artisans.

The featured vocalist, Lauren Meccia, sang with the Mike Frost Band and, for the first time, Middle Georgia State University’s Jazz Band, the Knights, joined the seasoned performers that are familiar faces to regular patrons. Dr. Ed Clark, a Riverdale Drive resident, and popular horn player, brings his tractors out of retirement every year to pull the stage infrastructure into place for his fellow musicians. Congratulations to JAM for a banner year!

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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