A paper route + a bike = you know everyone in the neighborhood

My two brothers and I had contiguous paper routes in Tallahassee, Florida, while we were in junior high and high school that we ran on our bikes every morning for years. We knew everyone in most of the houses from the high school to the north edge of town in the neighborhood where we lived.

I believe I got my paper route first followed by my brothers getting paper routes. When one of us was sick, Mother ran all three routes in the car while one of us handled all three routes. We delivered The Florida Times-Union, from Jacksonville, in the mornings. That meant we were up early because we had to get all the papers out before we went to school.

Sometimes I even substituted for the carrier delivering the local paper when he was sick. His route covered the same territory as mine, the difference being that he delivered papers to almost every house. That made it easy for me since I seldom had to worry if a home got a pape or not. Most did.

Most of the people on our routes paid us monthly for the paper. That meant going from house to house down our customer lists collecting for the paper. None of the dogs liked us. One bit me. Most of the people paid, though some bounced checks or the person with the money wasn’t home. I could have written a book about the trials and tribulations of a newspaper carrier, listing (among other things) the excuses for not being able to pay to the eccentric places in their yards where they wanted the paper to be tossed.

A surprising number of people knew our parents through PTA, the university, Scouting, and various civic clubs. Even though Tallahassee had less than 40,000 people then, within our paper route neighborhoods, the atmosphere was very much that of a smaller town. And, since I walked or rode my bike to school–through our paper route area–everyone knew who I was, where I was, and whether I was doing anything wrong (in their parental opinions).

I liked having a paper route because it was an easy way to earn money. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t walk or ride anywhere without somebody seeing me and remarking to my parents that they saw me walking down Spruce Street later than expected, to which my parents replied “he has band practice after school.” While that response kept the spies from thinking I was up to something, I didn’t really like them knowing everything about my schedule.

Of course, if anyone told my parents they thought I threw a rock at their yapping doggie, I could always tell my parents they bounced two checks and still owed me for two months’ worth of papers.

There are days when it seemed like a war zone out there and days when I knew that knowing everyone (and their foibles) in every house gave me more power than a teenager ought to have. Tattle on me, suckers, and your paper’s going in the flower bed with the snakes.

Malcolm

I didn’t want to get sued, so I never wrote that “What the Newspaper Boy Knows” novel

On Location: Tallahassee’s John G. Riley Center & Museum

The John Gilmore Riley Center & Museum for African American History & Culture, Inc. is a historical and cultural gem that sits at the bottom of a hill in downtown Tallahassee, at the corner of Meridian and Jefferson Streets. The Riley House was constructed circa 1890 on the fringe of a community called Smokey Hollow. Its owner was a former enslaved man, John Gilmore Riley, rose to prominence as an educator and civic leader. – Museum Website

This beautifully restored Queen Anne house with its wrap-around porches serves as the perfect headquarters for this museum of African American History and Culture. One night say that the home once anchored the east-side community of Smokey Hollow which was lost due to so-called urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s.

Currently on exhibit, Legacy and Learning, an “intergenerational exhibit exploring the history and cultural traditions of everyday life.” Artifacts and art show how everyday appliances and other objects hve changed over time. The museum also features Heritage Education, tours, and history trails. Among the tours is the Smokey Hollow Commemorative Site and its “spirit home” models of the shotgun style houses that made up most of the community.

You might also enjoy the jogging and biking and trails at nearby Cascade Park.

If you live in and/or are visiting Tallahassee, all of this belongs on your things to do list. I was initially surprised when an individual in a Facebook group focusing on Tallahassee said he was born and raised there and had never heard of Smokey Hollow. I realized that the once-vibrant African-American neighborhood has been gone for about sixty years. Those of us who lived there sixty years ago knew about the community as well as the debates in government and the press about getting rid of it. But younger people very easily could be unaware of it. The park and the museum fix that problem.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of short stories and novels, many of which are set in the Florida Panhandle where he grew up.

How the hell did I miss that?

I’ve done a lot of research into the Florida Panhandle part of the state where I grew up to make sure I got the facts right for my Florida Folk Magic Series of novels. Mostly, I’m looking up things I remember just to check my memory. <g> What exasperates me, is stumbling onto stuff that, figuratively speaking happened right under my nose–and I missed it. Never heard of it, not on my RADAR, might as well have been going in in another part of the country.

Wikipedia Photo

Now, it’s happened again. I’m researching north Florida for another story and I find a vibrant African American community that people at levels of governement wanted to get rid of because they considered it an eyesore. They wanted the land for “better” things. “Hmm,” they said, “we’ll call our needs ‘urban renewal.'”

As I read about this, I see citations to the daily newspaper that landed in our front yard every afternoon. I see the names of the editor and the reporters from that paper all of who knew personally or was familiar with from constantly seeing their bylines.

And yet, nothing about the systemic racism disguised under various politically correct pretexts is familiar. I should mention that the community was on the other side of town and far away from the places we shopped, went to school, or saw movies. I delivered telegrams all over the city, including many African American enclaves, but never there. And yet, the debate simmered in the press and in civic and government meetings around town for about ten years.

That’s why I have to ask again, “How the hell did miss that?”

I feel like I’m researching something that happened far away rather than ten miles from my house. My parents are long gone, so I can’t ask them whether we discussed this at the dinner table. If they did, I must have zoned out inasmuch as my thinking was focused on my part time jobs, my courses, and what girl would be sitting next to me in class.

So there it is: totally unaware of a nasty little scheme that included the governor, the city council, the merchants, and the service clubs. I wish I could say that I missed all this because I was drunk.

Okay, so I have no excuse. The characters in my story are going to know about it and talk about it even if I was clueless in those days.

Malcolm

The Sacrifice

In 1959 when I was a high school student in Tallahassee, Florida and my father was the dean of the Florida State University School of journalism, the state’s board of regents (then called the board of control) decreed that FSU’s journalism school would close. The reason, which was never spelt out, was probably politics. Purportedly, the state thought it was spending too much money duplicating degrees at Florida State and the University of Florida in Gainesville.

  • Needless to say, both universities provided similar degree programs in a multitude of subjects. So, there was a duplication in many areas.
  • Of the two schools, the one at the University of Florida was weaker in terms of faculty and equipment.
  • My father was the most widely known journalism educator in the state. One wonders if he unknowingly stepped on somebody’s toes.

FSU teaches media courses under the auspices of a School of Communication. However, I think it is missing many courses that should be taken by anyone planning to be a reporter. 

The professors in the school of journalism were spun off into other departments, English among other things, or–like my father–received offers from other universities. My father had taught at many of them already as he followed his career prior to FSU. He chose to stay at FSU after the journalism school was destroyed and became a professor of English Education.

In 1959, I resented this. My father seldom spoke of the politics of higher education. While he was vocal in the press about the closing of the FSU journalism school, he never exactly told my two brothers and me why he wasn’t taking a position at another journalism school. My mother told me that he was making a sacrifice on behalf of the family because he felt we were so invested in Tallahassee (school, church, scouting, friends) that it would be unfair to us to force us to return to California or New York or Oregon where he had previously taught.

I told her that my dad’s career was more important than the hassles of moving to a new town and finding our way in new schools. She told me never to tell him that.  I didn’t.

The Scottish Clan Campbell’s motto is “forget not.” I do not forget and I often do not forgive. So the alumni association of Florida State University hasn’t made any headway getting me to join, nor have they received a dime of my money. When they ask for my reasons, I tell them and they say that was long ago and I say so what?

In 1959, I wanted a family meeting about living in Tallahassee or moving away. If we had one, I have no memory of it. It saddens me, though, this long after the fact, that I still do not agree with the sacrifice my father made for the family 62 years ago. And it angers me that FSU was too frightened of its own shadow to stand up strongly in support of its journalism school.

It was, I think, lose-lose for everyone in 1959, but there are times on long summer nights when I remember it like it happened yesterday, and think that it was all so unnecessary.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

 

Magnolia Florida, long gone and almost forgotten

“Magnolia, Florida was a thriving river port town in southern Wakulla County, Florida (until 1843, Leon County, Florida), established in the 1820s and is classified as an “extinct city” by the State Library and Archives of Florida. All that remains of the city is the rundown cemetery – the last known burial was in 1859.[1] The cemetery is on land now owned by the St. Joe Paper Company. The town was located near the small city of St. Marks, Florida.” – Wikipedia

People Playing Croquet in Magnolia – Florida Memory Project photo

When I was little, the old-timers in Tallahassee, Florida spoke of the extinct town of Magnolia, south of town on the St. Marks River, that developers once hoped would be a port city for cotton and other products.

There was nothing left of the town but a small cemetery that local ghost enthusiasts claimed was haunted. If you live in Tallahassee now and have been around for a while, you might recall that between 1963 and 1977, Elizabeth F. Smith captured the spirit of the area in her publication “The Magnolia Monthly” out of Crawfordville, Florida.

Magnolia–not to be confused with Magnolia Springs in Florida’s Clay county–was well-planned, but failed because the Railroad needed for its survival bypassed it and went to St. Marks instead. The town was founded by the Ladd family which you can learn more about here.

The remains of that railroad came up for sale when I was younger, and I thought then that it would make a nice tourist attraction. Never happened, for better or worse, though it might have improved the financial status of Wakulla County.

But my fascination for the town, the river, and the slash pine forests owned by the paper company stayed with me. I mention the town in my short story “Sweetbay Magnolia” in my new short story collection Widely Scattered Ghosts. In fact, the grandmother in the story had a house in Magnolia and the sweetbay magnolia in her back yard reminds her of old days and old loves.

As always, it’s the real places that get my attention.

–Malcolm

All that remains of the town. Florida Memory Project photo.

 

 

 

The place where I grew up is toast

“Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States in terms of pressure, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969. It was also the strongest in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. In addition, it was the strongest on record in the Florida Panhandle, and was the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane in the contiguous United States, in terms of wind speed”. – Wikipedia

I cannot help but follow the weather maps and news about Hurricane Michael. When referring to Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida, the word “catastrophe” is often used. I grew up in Tallahassee which is about 20 miles from the coast. We spent many hours along the coast from St. Marks to Alligator Point to Carrabelle to Apalachicola. We seldom went to Panama City because–even then–it routinely filled up with tourists. I’d never been to Mexico Beach.

The photographs, as editors keep saying, look like a war zone. I’ve seen this before, but not on this scale in Florida. It’s a miniature Katrina. We saw most of the affected coastline as kids from speedboats and sailboats. We spent many hours at a St. Theresa beach cottage owned by good friends. I hope it’s still there. It’s hard to look at all this in news pictures just as it’s hard to look at Glacier National Park wildfire stories in news pictures.

Not that I could do anything if I were there, but I feel like I should be there even though I’ve been away from the Florida Panhandle for so many years, I know very few people there anymore. Yet, there’s something special about the places where we grew up and/or spent a lot of time that draws us to them when the people there are in trouble.

The area where Michael hit has often been called “the forgotten coast” because most of the tourism and development were elsewhere. In that sense, I have always been happy it was forgotten because I didn’t want it to attract the commercialized mess of places like Daytona Beach. But now, I hope that FEMA programs and agencies that help with rebuilding places after so-called acts of God don’t forget the forgotten coast.

–Malcolm

 

 

Florida in Pictures – Tallahassee’s oldest church

The First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee is the capital’s oldest building in continual use. It was dedicated in 1838. Atypical in the South, the church accepted slaves as members who sat in a balcony that runs along three sides of the sanctuary’s “second floor.” Earlier, the church served as a refuge during the Seminole Wars and then, in the 1960s, as a leader in the civil rights movement.

I was a member of this church during my K-12 years in Tallahassee. My brothers and I were also members of Boy Scout Troop 101 sponsored by the church during those years. All three of us became Eagle Scouts, so it saddens me that the church at some point ended its association with scouting. It also saddened me when a large number of members who disagreed with the church’s civil rights stance split off during the mid-1960s and formed a new church.

The church is on the National Register of Historic Places where its Gothic Revival architecture is noted. The foundation included rifle slots that, by now, have probably been covered over. In contrast, solar panels now provide a portion of the church’s power and were–in 2010–considered the county’s second-largest solar panel array.

My father, Laurence, wrote the church’s sesquicentennial booklet of poems called “The Future of Old First in 1982.” He had, in earlier years, been a deacon, elder, Cub Scout pack leader, and explorer post leader.

The photograph shown here was taken sometime in the 1800s:

Florida Memory Photo

The church as it appears today, with the Methodist Church in the background and the church’s education building on the right hand side of the picture:

 

I don’t know if the church ever rings the bell in the steeple these days. At some point, the steeple was renovated and those of us attending Sunday school classes were allowed to ring the bell on Sunday mornings. The bellrope was accessed through a trap door above the balcony pews just above the church’s narthex. Everyone wanted to ring the bell! We loved it for its old fashioned sound, a sound out of history.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Folk Magic novels are set in the panhandle west of Tallahassee.

 

 

 

I wish I’d heard the blues at the Red Bird Cafe

Just across the main east-west thoroughfare from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, sits the oldest black neighborhood in the state. Known as Frenchtown, the area was beginning to decline when I rode my bicycle on Macomb and Dean Streets delivering telegrams while in high school. Those older than me remembered the days when Frenchtown’s Red Bird Cafe was an important stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, and they spoke fondly of the days when Cannonball Adderley and Ray Charles lived in the area and were famous along the streets for their music.

Red Bird Cafe - Florida Memory photo
Red Bird Cafe – Florida Memory photo

The yellow Western Union tag on my shirt identified me as a harbinger of death as surely as a black car in a military neighborhood. Perhaps it was that tag or perhaps it was luck, but I never ran into any trouble in Frenchtown even though most of my friends thought I was crazy to go there even though the job required it. I usually took bad news because that’s what telegrams were all about in Frenchtown. The recipients often made me open the yellow envelopes and read the messages at their front doors, and helplessly seeing their reactions and sometimes helping them compose a reply was–I think–my introduction to what it was like to feel the blues.

I wish I’d been more daring then, for I went to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert at FSU, but never went to the Red Bird other than to pedal past it on my bike. Surprisingly, I delivered–much to my embarrassment–more than one singing (usually “Happy Birthday”) telegram in Frenchtown where whole families and their neighbors gathered in the small yards to hear that poor, sweaty white boy sing. Who knows what would have happened if I’d ever had to sing such words at the front door of the Red Bird. Maybe somebody with an “axe” (guitar) would have emerged from the crowd and joined in. Never happened. But as I worked on my Conjure Woman’s Cat novella with its strong leaning toward the blues, I couldn’t help but think of Frenchtown and all the music there I never heard in the world where it lived.

If I owned a time machine, I’d get out the yellow Western Union tag that I “borrowed” from the company when I left, and I’d go back to the Red Bird and listen. In real life, all that music was at once so close and so far away.

–Malcolm

http://www.conjurewomanscat.com/

Hello Florida Readers: Need fantasy, magic and ghosts?

One of my contemporary fantasy novels, three paranormal short stories and a collection of three folk tales have Florida settings. I grew up in Tallahassee and explored most of the state’s panhandle, so I enjoy going back for story locations.

  • The Seeker: (Tallahassee, Panacea, Carrabelle, Tate’s Hell Forest) – Contemporary fanntasy novel about a perfect love gone horribly wrong between a young man from Montana and a young woman from Carrabelle who meet on a summer job in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Misunderstandings arise after the young woman is assaulted on a dark, Tallahassee street.

    Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook, and they are family friendly.
    Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook, and they are family friendly.
  • Emily’s Stories: (Tallahassee, St. Marks) – This three story set of magical paranormal stories features a 14-year-old girl who talks to ghosts and birds to solve problems. She doesn’t want a housing development in her favorite woods, sees a bear stalking her father on a Montana vacation, and wonders why her grandmother loves the sweetbay magnolia tree in her back yard so much. The audiobook was narrated by actress Kelley Hazen who makes you feel like you’re right there in the stories.
  • Cora’s Crossing (Marianna) – In this paranormal story, two college students driving home on a stormy night find their route oddly detoured across an ancient, haunted bridge north of Marianna. What they find there, and the danger it gets them into, will make them truly believe that Bellamy Bridge is haunted. The bridge, which is still there, is closed to vehicles but can be reached by a trail.
  • Moonlight and Ghosts (Tallahassee) – An abandoned and purportedly haunted mental hospital attracts the attention of a young man who used to work there. Something or someone wants him to return and, as it turns out, solve a crime in progress. Needless to say, this is a paranormal story, but it also ties into my experiences years ago as a manager at a center for the developmentally disabled.
  • Spooky Stories (Marianna, Tallahassee) – This two-story set bundles “Cora’s Crossing” and “Moonlight and Ghosts” together in one volume. This edition is also available as an audiobook.
  • Kindle and Audiobook
    Kindle and Audiobook

    The Land Between the Rivers (Tate’s Hell Forest) – This three-story set of folktales features Panther, Snakebird and Bear at the dawn of time as they make their way through the wetlands and flatwoods between the Apalachicola and the Ochlockonee rivers. I camped and hiked throughout this area when I was growing up, so it’s a favorite of mine–one that still needs the determined efforts of those protecting Florida’s endangered species of plants and animals in the state’s at-risk ecosystems.

  • My work in progress is a folk magic story set in Liberty County in the 1950s. The characters include a conjure woman, her cat, her customers, and some really nasty people who need to be jinxed. More on this later.

Malcolm

New Personal Note: The HVAC Georgia Summer Blues

It’s really spooky: ‘Moonlight and Ghosts’

I’m happy to announce my really spooky short story “Moonlight and Ghosts” was published today by Vanilla Heart Publishing in an e-book format.

Publisher’s Description: On a moonlit night, Randy’s intuition is drawing him back to an abandoned psychiatric hospital where he once worked. He and his friend, Alice, have heard the ghost hunters’ claims the building is haunted, filled with strange lights, apparitions and the voices of former patients calling for help. The Forgotten point Randy and Alice to a crime in progress… and there’s not much time to save the victim.

That abandoned building…

There used to be an abandoned psychiatric hospital and developmental center near the house where I grew up. Before it was converted from a secondary hospital for use by the state department of mental health, I visited patients there–and it all seemed normal enough. It closed for a variety of reasons, including lack of funding and ended up sitting as an abandoned and often vandalized building for over two decades.

During this time, it became a magnet for ghost hunters. The more I looked at the pictures on line, the more my imagination started tinkering with an idea for a story. Like the main character in the story, I once worked as a unit manager at a center for the developmentally disabled. Fortunately, I never worked in this building. But what if I had and what if I went back on a moonlit night and found several ghosts waiting for me with an emergency message?  Hmmm…

I hope you like it!

Price: 99 cents on Kindle, and in multiple formats, on Smashwords.

Watch the Book Video on YouTube

Read the beginning on Amazon (use “look inside”) or on Smashwords (use “view sample) for free.

Malcolm