SAVANNAH – The first trip off the farm where I grew up in Middle Georgia came when I was of preschool age and joined a group of rural folks in Johnson County for a day trip to Tybee “to see the ocean.”
It was something like a three-hour ride on a groaning, old, yellow school bus. My paternal grandmother took me along on the trip, the very first travel adventure of my life.
Even today, I can remember the overwhelming astonishment I experienced by seeing the mighty Atlantic, never once thinking that I would someday cross this vast ocean in an airplane.
The other impression that was frequently pounded into my head was that I should not venture away from my grandmother and run the risk of being entrapped by the undertow. “We might never see you again,” my grandmother advised.
The culture in which I grew up there was always an accentuation of the negative. Provincial people usually fear the worst. I can remember a lady telling my Sunday School class, “Don’t never go in water until you learn to swim.” In my precocious, provincial years I never figured out how I was going the accomplish that.
On that first travel adventure, I remember hearing the ocean roar. I saw its power and force that became a reminder that I would never be a sailor. Joining the Coast Guard, which I did after college, was a matter of convenience. That introduced me to sea sickness, which has kept me from becoming an aficionado of ocean cruises.
However, that first travel experience would lead to a lifelong affection for this Georgia port city. All excursions here bring about elevated anticipation when I make the drive down to Chatham, where I enjoy interacting with friends and embracing the city’s peculiar history. I am fascinated by the lore and legend of Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe’s arrival to establish a colony in the name of King George II.
There are many historical vignettes related to the settling of what would become the state of Georgia. Joining Oglethorpe on his second voyage to the colony was John Wesley, the cofounder of the Methodist Church. There was a move by the great religious icon to convert the legendary Indian chief, Tomochichi, who befriended the general, to Christianity.
The wizened Indian chief demurred, noting the hypocrisy that often accompanies religion.
Any trip to Savannah makes you appreciative of the history of the city and the interesting towns and counties along the way — especially if you take the back roads via Greensboro, Sparta, Gibson, Louisville, Millen, Guyton and Bloomingdale.
You arrive here, and you renew your abiding appreciation for the memory of songwriter Johnny Mercer, who had many credits to his remarkable legacy. He was a friend of Hollywood icons such as Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. He wrote lyrics to four Academy Award winning songs and is buried at Bonaventure Cemetery.
Mercer founded the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He never forgot his Savannah roots. I enjoy finding my way to the Moon River Bridge near here and immediately am moved to recall his lyrics about his hometown body of water.
“Moon River, wider than a mile”
“I’ll be crossing you in style ... someday.”
Talk about a person “having a way with words,” Johnny Mercer was one of the all-time greats. He belongs at the top of the list of those who have put pen to paper, the extraordinary poets, elite composers and legendary American writers.
Of course, you come here, you want to put your hand in the paw of Uga, the University of Georgia mascot. As it has been for more than six decades, the Seiler family has raised and coddled all the mascots, with the greatest of love and affection.
No labors in any category have been laced with more love than that of the Seilers for the Ugas. They have never commercialized the mascots and have always been the most passionate of caretakers with the most substantial of devotion. Tender loving care has been the Seiler modus operandi with the mascots, sharing them with all University requests and supporting humane society events and projects ad nauseam.
Such little things that the average Georgia fan is unaware of — like Charles Seiler taking his lunch hour every day to go home and walk Uga X. That is but one of the little things that comes with taking care of the most famous mascot in the country.
The Ugas never suffer for attention when they travel on behalf of the University of Georgia. It is the same way at home.