Day One Hundred and Nine of the Scone by Scone Book Tour

Days 107, 108 and 109, WLBT

Sept. 24, 25 and 26, La Grange, Warm Springs and Plains, GA

by David Runkel

Spotted while stopped at a traffic light departing Birmingham, AL, an official state historic marker in metal – Site of the first Alabama-Auburn football game. 

Spotted on route 136 near Wenatchee, AL – the Dixie store.  The Tour didn’t stop, but we’re told later is one of last of its kind in the south, well stocked with every manner of authentic Dixie stuff. There were no doubt Confederate underpants, but we didn’t check.

We drove through eastern Alabama to reach the home of The Author’s cousin Ted Beason and his wife Ann outside La Grange, GA.  The family connection can be traced back to the 1600’s when the Beeson-Beason family first arrived on these shores from England.  Ted was unknown to The Author and The Tour Director until the 1990s, however, when he walked into the Rayburn House Office Building as an experienced banker to take up a professional position with the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.  Ted was exceptional in many ways, not least that most others on the committee staff were lawyers and he was the real thing, a banker.

He introduced himself and The Tour Director, then also working for the committee, promptly brought him out to Silver Spring to meet another Beeson.  Ted explains that the spelling difference goes back to the 1860s when several of the Beasons served in the Confederate Army and wanted to distinguish themselves from their relatives in the North, all Unionists.

Ted remains active in the field, having a busy investment advice office on the square, and both Ann and Ted are active in a number of civic activities as well as maintaining Ann’s beautiful, historic family home, gardens and lawns historically known as Cloverland.  Built in 1828, with four Doric columns added 100 years later, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Reached by a lane lined with pecan trees, the Beasons report the trees no longer produce nuts.  Too old!  Sound familiar?

Among their recent projects was to arrange with the Friends of the Library for a Scone by Scone 

Deedie Runkel to be featured as part of Author Talk at Friends of LaGrange Library
Deedie Runkel to be featured as part of Author Talk at Friends of LaGrange Library

reading Tuesday night attended by 32 people, the second largest group for a reading.  Some were brought out by a large article on Page 2 of the LaGrange Daily News with a picture headlined: “Runkel to be featured as part of Author Talk at library.”  The byline was “Staff Reports,” but much of it came directly from postings on the Scone by Scone website.   This is not a complaint, just a fact.

The Author’s talk generated a multitude of questions, as well as an opportunity to discuss both the best and the worst moments of her inn-keeping experience and the benefits and pitfalls of self-publishing and self-promotion.

One person asked how to locate a good bed and breakfast, having had mixed experiences in the past. That’s a tough question since different people have different expectations. What one person finds beautiful, others find dated.  What one person describes as a too chatty, ever present host or hostess, another finds delightful exchanges.  What’s delicious to one person is pedestrian to another.

Following the reading, we rushed to the concert hall for a concert by the symphony of Bernstein, Mozart’s and Beethoven. with the Conductor’s wife presenting an amazing oboe solo. 

LaGrange is a small city just a bit larger than Ashland, with a local college.  One of the last battles in the Civil War occurred in LaGrange and by a strange coincidence, one of the Union generals was named LaGrange.  The city chose not to change its name, nonetheless.

After The Author joined Ted at the Rotary meeting at Highland Country Club on Wednesday, The Tour resumed its presidential site visits stopping first in Warm Springs, home of the Little White House where FDR relaxed and created a place for himself and other polio victims to exercise in the warm, mineral waters. The site includes the house in which he spent a lot of time and where he died in April, 1945; the Help’s quarters; the healing pools; and a small but excellent museum.  The Tour in fact liked Warm Springs better than Hyde Park. Having spent much of her life in water, The Author could only imagine the exhilaration President Roosevelt must have felt upon being immersed in these pools.

Here’s a quote from FDR’s 1943 State of the Union speech emblazoned on the wall:  “The state of this Nation is good, the heart of this Nation is sound, the faith of this Nation is eternal.”  What was said in the middle of World War II, sadly may not apply today.

We were the first visitors at the Jimmy Carter museum in the former Plains High School Thursday

Day One Hundred and Nine of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Jimmy Carter Library

morning, going there despite the recommendations of a table of local men at breakfast in Americus.  When asked if there was anything to see in Plains, the group’s leader shook his head in the negative. “Na, now eight miles over on 280 in Leslie there’s the telephone museum.  It’s worth visiting.”  The Tour briefly considered it, but decided going to see one of the world’s largest phone collections in a renovated 1910 cotton warehouse didn’t fit in our plans for the day.

Two factors had gone into our Plains visit, instead of the Carter Center in Atlanta.  Plains is south, while Atlanta would have taken us north, and secondarily, traffic in Plains would surely be easier than Atlanta.  We were correct there.

The Author sat at the replica of Carter’s presidential desk in the main hall and we toured exhibits

Day One Hundred and Nine of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie as Commander in Chief

of the President and Rosalynn’s life, on display in several classrooms, the principal’s office and the hallways. All was reiterated in a 25-minute film shown for the two of us seated in the hard wooden seats of the school auditorium.  A highlight was the extensive display of Carter campaign buttons, hats, plates and other items.  More here than in any other presidential site The Tour has visited.

The Author’s first government job in Washington was in the Carter administration. She’d hoped to get a higher position than she did owing to the Carters’ commitment to being a family-friendly administration. Alas, one of the first questions she was asked in the interview was whether she had good child-care arrangements, “as this is a 24/7 job.”  When the author admitted she always went to her children’s plays, it was a deal breaker for the administration.

We passed by the 14-foot tall smiling peanut that has been moved from downtown Plains to an old decrepit gas station on the outskirts of town. Our tour guide shared that “Mr. Jimmy” hated that peanut some supporters had caused to be made and the minute he was elected President, he had it transferred to a dilapidated gas station.  With that, we headed further south for a long weekend of sightseeing in St. Augustine and Central Florida before a reading next week in Orange City.