» posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2015 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – When is the best time to put a jigsaw puzzle together? A rainy day seemed right, when Brother was visiting during Thanksgiving week. I pulled out the State Flags and Capitols box I’d been saving for just such a day and dumped all one thousand pieces onto the card table. Brother raised an eyebrow and shook his head. I let tiny puzzle pieces filter through my fingers, trying to think of a working plan. “What strategy should I use?” I asked. “Colors,” was his reply. Now, generally speaking, that is good jigsaw strategy. But when the picture is 50 state flags, well that’s when you discover that most state flags are blue. In fact, only four state flags don’t have at least a touch of blue in them – Alabama, California, Maryland, and New Mexico.
The puzzle pieces sat in a pile for several days, as I half-heartedly tried to sort blue from blue from blue. After brother left, I raked everything back into the box and headed for my sewing basket. Being heavily dependent on Excel spreadsheets to help me organize almost everything in life, I grabbed a spool of thread and the scissors and with a little Scotch tape turned the card table into Columns and Rows. Then I put Post-Its into each section marking which state fit where. Aha! I dug into those thousand pieces again looking for words. “Mon” went into the Montana section, “sas” into the Arkansas slot; I was on a roll! How many flags have outspread eagle wings? Just two – Iowa and North Dakota. Plop plop. The palm tree went to Hawaii; the horses to Pennsylvania, the bison belonged to Wyoming. The challenge began to be fun, and (with magnifying glass in hand) I began to notice the details within the flags. I didn’t expect to have a learning experience, but that is exactly what happened. In my two-year Journey to 50 states, I didn’t pay much attention to the state flags. But suddenly I realized that flags are the story-telling devices of the state. And I love a good story! » read more
» posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2015 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.
I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!
I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.
“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration
» posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – The prettiest thing in the Alabama state capitol is the spiral staircase. At least, that’s my opinion; I had to stop the minute I entered the door and look up, in wonder. It is stunning, and mysterious. And then I noticed there are two; a pair of cantilevered spiral staircases graces the entrance hall, curving upwards for three stories in simple elegance, one of the building’s finest architectural features. This capitol was in use by 1851; the story goes the staircases were built by Horace King, a slave who was freed in 1846. Horace was known in Alabama, and surrounding states, for his talent as a bridge builder; because of this the Alabama legislature passed a special law exempting him from the state’s manumission laws, which required freed slaves to leave the state within a year of gaining their freedom. So Horace stayed, and after the Civil War he got into politics; serving two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives, in the building he helped design and build. The Alabama capitol is full of stories, as is true of any building of this many years. Two of the most famous are its use during the Civil War, as it briefly served as capitol of the Confederate States before that seat of government moved to Richmond; and its use as a destination point during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Today I was looking for stories; I’d heard about the murals so I headed for the second floor; I knew that much of the history of Alabama was displayed beneath the dome. Another story behind that; artist Roderick MacKenzie lived in an Alabama orphanage for a time. A freed slave and an orphan, two men whose creativity became part of the Alabama story. » read more
» posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – When Hank Williams moved to Montgomery in 1937 at the age of 14, Chris Katechis’ restaurant had already been open for twenty years. I’m sitting in Chris’ Place today, eating two of his famous hotdogs, beside a wall decorated in musical notes. I came in because I’d read that Hank Williams used to sit in Chris’ and write songs, and sure enough, I spotted a large poster of Hank as I came in the front door. “Do the musical notes have anything to do with Hank’s songwriting?” I asked my server, as she brought homemade onion rings stacked up cute like a tree. She went away to find out. The lady in the booth across the aisle had advised me on my order. “I worked here myself, back in the 60’s,” she told me, admitting she had no idea what was in the famous secret sauce Chris ladled over his hotdogs. “That’s why it’s called a secret,” she grinned. My server came back to tell me the musical notes on the wall were a part of the original décor, “just because Mr Chris liked music,” she said. Enter Gus, a third generation Katechis, who sat down in my booth and told me a little more about the restaurant, and Hank. “There was a jukebox in here, and Hank always sat in the back booth. Sometimes he’d write, and always he drank. When he’d drunk a little too much, he’d start womanizing. And when he got a little too boisterous, my grandfather would help him out the door. But Hank was a good guy.” “What songs did he write in here?” I asked, but no one had the answer to that. “Maybe Hey, Good Lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” Gus gave me his card and invited me to come back as often as I could. » read more
» posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2013 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – I stood on the star today. That’s the star the Sophie Bibb Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy placed on the spot where Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) stood when he was inaugurated President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. With one hand on the majestic white columns of the Alabama state capitol, I gazed down the marble steps it took me a while to climb; I looked further down the slope that’s still affectionately known as Goat Hill, because it once was pastureland for Andrew Dexter’s goats; I scanned the blocks on the street we know today as Dexter Avenue. Stand on that spot and you are standing in the pages of a history book. A block away the steeple rises above the modest red-brick church where Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968) was pastor from 1954 to 1960. It’s now known as the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church; the Montgomery bus boycott was organized here December 2, 1955. A few blocks more down Dexter Avenue is the Court Square Fountain, where Rosa Parks (1913-2005) boarded a city bus and refused to give up her seat to a white man, an act of civil disobedience at the time; a history-making choice. I’m in a history book all right, but civil war and civil rights are not the whole of it. There’s more. » read more
» posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – The Spanish moss hanging in the trees is a southern give-away. Otherwise, you’d think you were wandering the fields near an English village, complete with geese on the pond and cobblestone paths and, of course, a Shakespearian theater. But you’re really in the Wynton M Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery, Alabama, location of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), the sixth largest Shakespeare festival in the world. Bringing in more than 300,000 visitors from all 50 states and over 60 countries every year, the performing arts complex in the park has been a part of the Montgomery scene since 1985, thanks to the generosity of a certain Mr and Mrs Blount. What a gift! The park itself is 250 acres of landscaped paths and ponds, trees and open space; there’s a wooden bridge with a stone structure atop, perfect for a sit as you watch the ducks swimming below. Montgomery’s Museum of Fine Arts is on one side of the park; meandering roads take you to the Shakespearian edge on the other side. Thatched-roof restrooms? An English garden? You’ve reached the Carolyn Blount Theater, which houses the 750-seat Festival Stage; there is a 225-seat Octagon Theater too. You’ll find Shakespeare here, and more. » read more
» posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 by Linda Burton
Linda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – It started as I was leaving Florida. Farmland, I mean. Just north of Gainesville I spotted cattle grazing; their green pastures half hidden behind oak trees hanging thick with moss; the soft morning fog creating pastoral scenes worthy of an art collector’s wall. You might think of Florida as the citrus state, but what I saw coming north on I-75 was cattle, and billboard ads for western wear. I crossed the Suwanee River; notes painted on its sign set the tune off in my head. Nothing touristy here, just homefolks, working their land. I’m headed for Alabama today, and Montgomery, but there’s a stop I want to make along the way. It has to do with farming, and with change. West on I-10, traffic thins and pine trees thicken; then I turn north again. Off the freeway driving slows; there’s farmland everywhere; I find myself on Cotton Street. And yes, a cotton field is to my left. The stop I want to make? The Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama, the only monument to an agricultural pest anywhere in the world. » read more