Halcyon Days

Columns and reflections by Terry Britt

Archive for September 2008

Out Of Touch

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The center of downtown Sweetwater, TN, along Main Street.  Where department, clothing and specialty stores once ruled the scene, it is now dominated by antiques dealers.  As I arrived in the afternoon, I had just missed a classic car and truck show.

I spent last weekend in eastern Tennessee and my hometown of Sweetwater, the first time I had been anywhere in the area in 15 years.  I was there to go to my high school class reunion – or the private dinner that wound up as a stand-in for said reunion.

Out of a graduating class one member placed at 86 in the spring of 1983, we had 11 come by for beer, margaritas and Tex-Mex.  Oh, conversation, too, and probably more than one unspoken musing as to just where the heck everyone else was.  This was only reunion year No. 25, just five years removed from what was a well-attended 20th reunion (albeit one I didn’t get to attend due to work obligations) and not that far down the timestream from the first official get-together in 1993.

Granted, I know of more than a handful for whom the travel was too cost prohibitive, a couple of others who had to be out of the area that weekend and, sadly, a few class members who are no longer around.  Then again, I knew not to expect much of a turnout after two previous attempts at more formal reunion events this year drew a response of 13 and 8, respectively.

I still had a fun time, though, especially paired with another reunion over the weekend with my youngest brother’s family in Chattanooga.  They were happy to give me a place to stay, saving me quite a bit of money and giving me a chance to spend some time with my niece and nephew, both in high school now, for the first time in nearly four years.  Still, the sparse turnout at the class reunion dinner prompted one thought I’d like to present here: Are class reunions joining a growing list of vanishing staples of everyday life?

Residential geography certainly plays a part, but I wonder if communications technology doesn’t play a bigger one.  Twenty years ago, if you wanted to keep in touch with a friend from high school who wasn’t going to the same college as you, it took some effort to compose a letter and pop it in the mail, or save up for what might be a rather expensive item on your next long distance phone bill.  As for getting together in person, well, there was the urgency attached to the class reunion when the time came.

Compare that to our current keeping-in-touch buffet of e-mail, IM, SMS and Classmates.com, just to name a few, and maybe the mystery of “I wonder what so-and-so is up to these days?” has diminished sharply, or at least enough to knock the wind out of the idea to make a road trip and plop down $50 for a night of dinner and dancing.

Regardless, I’m glad I made the very long road trip from East Texas to get away for a weekend, see a few people who once were faces I saw nearly every Monday through Friday, and check out the changed and the unchanged in the place that will always be the place where I grew up.

As a newspaper journalist for 25 years, Terry Britt knows something about vanishing staples of everyday life.  You can reach him at terrybritt@hotmail.com.


Written by terrybritt

September 14, 2008 at 8:57 pm

The Ike Blog

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Sunday wrap-up: Looking outside today, you would have never known anything potentially destructive had touched the neighborhood or the city.  A daylong rain shower with occasional wind gusts was all yesterday brought and the evidence had just about dried up completely by the afternoon.

Of course, there are a lot more people in Texas who are not as lucky as we were here in Canton.  A local reserve police officer I know told me we have about 200 evacuees staying in shelters set up in churches and elsewhere, and just when they will be allowed to return home – and what they will find once they do – is an unknown at this point.  Government officials in some towns along the Texas Gulf Coast have already stated it could be weeks or even months before any semblance of normal life returns.

If anyone reading this has an urge to help, I suggest doing so through the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org).

God be with everyone affected by Ike.

6:08 p.m.: Things have died down considerably in the last hour. Light rain continues to fall and it is still breezy outside, but it appears the harder stuff hit the area to the east of where I am. Tyler Morning Telegraph is reporting about 100,000 without power in an area running through Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Palestine, Jacksonville, Crockett, Tyler and Smith County, and Wood County. God be with them all and hopefully they will get power restored very soon.

I’m going to retire for the time being, though another round of high wind and rain is being forecast for this town starting about 8 p.m. CDT. I’ll pick up the blog again if the situation starts to get intense during the night hours.

4:12 p.m.: The center of what is now Tropical Storm Ike is just to the north and east of Canton. As it moves onward, I expect the wind and rain to whip up again as the back end of it passes through.  Indications I’m getting by radio and other reports is conditions are considerably more treacherous to the east of here in and immediately around Tyler, Texas.

In the last hour or so, I’ve spotted several pickup trucks and other vehicles traveling along my street. I really hope they are out only to check on other family members. This is not the time to be joyriding in a storm.

The water buildup in front of my apartment continues and I’m hoping I don’t start to feel dampness in the carpet covering this home office room later.

3:45 p.m.: Well, here’s a little twist I didn’t count on – losing my cable signal (and the Internet connection with it), but not electrical power.

It went down about 2 p.m. CDT and finally came on in just the last few minutes.

Meanwhile, rainfall has been steady, wind is occasionally gusty, but not much else. The water, though, is starting to build up around the stoop/front wall of my apartment.

1:30 p.m.: The rain has started to pick up and is visibly being windswept down the street in front of me. Nothing major yet, but you can sense the intensity is definitely rising. Water is starting to collect out front. I had a little flooding mishap in the back bedroom in May, so I’m hoping the dirt work and the French drains the landlord installed will be good enough to prevent a repeat this weekend.

I just got word from my son that he has been called to report for Civil Air Patrol duty for the next 3-4 days in the San Antonio area, primarily to check on residents down there and assist National Guard troops. Imagine that in your absentee letter for high school!


Noon, Sept. 13: I’m going to update this site as Hurricane Ike continues to move inland today (Sept. 13) through East Texas. Right now in Canton, the rain has picked up and the tree branches around my apartment have begun short fits of swaying in the wind, but this obviously is just the beginning.

My immediate concerns: Power lines, obviously. I will continue to update this site about every 30-45 minutes as things progress and I continue to have power for my ‘Net connection here at home.  Still, if the wind gusts reach the 65 mph in the forecast, we’re sure to have some downed lines at some point. Also, there is a large tree right in front of my living room window here. I’ve parked my car as clear of it as possible in the hopes of lessening the odds of a direct hit if that tree falls.  I’ll also have to hope and pray it does fall backward onto the building itself.

My prayers go out to all those in Galveston and Houston that they may be rescued if needed or otherwise will be OK. I’m donning a Galveston Island shirt from a summer visit two years ago as a little sign of solidarity through this. Likewise, my prayers go out to those evacuated from that area and all their family members, as well as all those in the numerous other affected areas of Texas and Louisiana.


Written by terrybritt

September 13, 2008 at 12:30 pm