Archived Stories
from the Road

 


 

Morris Girls Road Trip
North Carolina, Georgia & Florida
Chapter 4

In early Spring, my sister Kitty Courcier and I made a journey back to the South, retracing our family roots from North Carolina, to Georgia and Florida to wrap up the final research for my new book, GROWING UP SOUTHERN – Stories from the Attic of Childhood Memories.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3 – Travel Day

9:30 AM

Strawberry Limo pick up Jane and Kitty @ Medway Road.

12:30 PM

Leave Oakland – Southwest #305; Arrive Chicago-Midway @ 6:30 PM (change planes)

7:55 PM

Leave Chicago-Midway – Southwest #3402; Arrive Raleigh-Durham Airport @ 10:45 PM

Pick up Hertz rental car. Drive to Dunn – approx. 50 mins/48 miles.
Holiday Inn Express, 900 E. Pearsall St., Dunn, North Carolina (3 nights)

FRIDAY, APRIL 4 – NORTH CAROLINA: Benson

 

Visit with cousin Lucinda Matthews Coates and other relatives.

12:00 Noon

Lunch at Lucinda’s house in Benson, sit around the table and visit all afternoon.

Lucinda and her husband Kirby’s house is situated on a plot of land that was part of our Great-Great Grandfather Patrick Dixon’s cotton and tobacco farm. They live very near my maternal grandfather’s house (C. F. Neighbors) where Mother was born, and the larger country Victorian house built by our Great Grandfather Haywood Dixon where I spend most of the summers of my childhood.

Lucinda has the original deed dated 1816 for the first land purchase, written in long hand with a quill ink pen, as well as a plot map dated April 16, 1858 indicating where 658 acres were located.

She also has a document drawn up during the Civil War for food supplies (bacon, cornmeal, wheat flour, sorghum, etc.) that were requisitioned by the authority of Lt. General Hardee of the Confederate Army. The receipt is dated a few days before the Battle of Bentonville, located about twenty miles from our family farm, where Sherman’s army overwhelmed the Rebels in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The battle lasted three days, ending in defeat for the Confederate soldiers on March 21, 1865.

4:00 PM

The Pound Cake Company – 101 A North Market Street, Benson

In 1991, our third cousin, Jan Matthews Hodges won her first ribbon at the North Carolina State Fair in the “true” pound cake recipe category. Over the years, she continued to enter when she could, usually bringing home a ribbon and always trying new methods to create the perfect pound cake made the old-fashioned way with only butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.

Then, in 2003, Jan knew that she had the perfect recipe and brought home the Blue Ribbon and Best of Show. Not only was her cake the best pound cake in the true pound cake category, it was the “best cake” at the State Fair.

Family and friends encouraged her to share her talent with others by opening her own pound cake bakery. There at the Pound Cake Company in Benson, she bakes her blue ribbon pound cakes in many sizes and shapes as well as wedding cakes and other amazing bakery goods.

The Bakery has been featured in Southern Living Magazine, and Jan’s pound cakes are available at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, and four locations of The Fresh Market at their stores in Raleigh, Cary and Southern Pines, North Carolina. And she ships her pound cakes all over the country. The first pound cake I received in 2003 was so delicious that I ate the whole cake by myself.

6:00 PM

Dinner with Jan’s family at home of her mother, Janet Matthews, widow of Lucinda’s brother Mickey.

SATURDAY, APRIL 5 – NORTH CAROLINA: Kenly

10:00 AM

Saturday morning drive over to Kenly to Aunt Gladys and Uncle Elton’s former home. Research Mother’s high school ring story for the book.

Visit Bentonville Battleground on the way back to Benson

2:00 PM Late lunch at Meadow Village Restaurant with Lucinda, Dura Faye, Janet Matthews and other kinfolk.
6:30 PM

Saturday night take Jan and her son, Mickey, out to dinner.

SUNDAY, APRIL 6 – GEORGIA: Atlanta/Decatur
10:00 AM Drive to Atlanta – Approx. 6 hour/394 miles. Stop for lunch along the way at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Holiday Inn Conference Center - 130 Clairemont Ave., Decatur, Georgia (1 night)
7:00 PM
Jane, Jim, Kenny & Kitty holding the cat.

Dinner with our long lost cousin Kenny Franks and his partner Jerry Kessler. We haven’t seen Kenny in more than forty years.

Colonnade Restaurant
1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd.
Atlanta, Georgia

Since 1927 this roadside family dining establishment has been serving up traditional southern American meals to loyal patrons.

It’s the place to take Grandma, in fact, this is probably where Grandma took her Grandma, but it also has a large clientele from Atlanta’s Gay community. One might go there for lunch after church on Sunday morning for fried chicken and corn bread, and a little nip for Dad at the full service bar. The decor is original 1950s modern.

MONDAY, APRIL 7 - GEORGIA: Decatur/Swainsboro
12:00 Noon

Lunch with Scott Peacock, Executive Chef @ Watershed Restaurant in Decatur
406 West Ponce De Leon Avenue, Decatur, Georgia

Watershed Restaurant is the collaborative creation of Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers with three women partners and award winning Scott Peacock. Watershed specializes in seasonal southern cooking with succulent dishes like Creamy Stone Ground Shrimp Grits, Southern Table Salmon Croquettes, and Roast Duck Breast with Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Local Greens. They also serve Fried Catfish with Hush Puppies, Grilled All-Natural Pork Chops with Mac-n-Cheese and Collard Greens, and Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, one of our mother’s favorite treats. And, they offer old fashioned, made from scratch desserts like their famous Very Good Chocolate Cake, Georgia Pecan Tart with Shortbread Crust, and a Chocolate Pecan Praline Parfait.

Watershed’s Executive Chef Scott Peacock is a southern food expert whose vision of southern cuisine emphasizes fresh, seasonal, regionally grown ingredients of the highest integrity, prepared with the barest of embellishments. Scott is the former chef to two Georgia governors. In addition to creating dishes at Watershed, Scott has written a cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from two Southern Chefs, with his friend and mentor, the late Edna Lewis, considered America’s foremost authority on traditional southern cooking. Scott has generously offered to provide recipes for my new book Growing Up Southern – Stories from the Attic of Childhood Memories.

Housed in a converted gas station, Watershed offers some of Atlanta’s finest dining in a casual, relaxed atmosphere and neighborhood setting. The restaurant is across the street from our hotel. Kitty and I intend to eat our way through the entire Watershed lunch menu.

3:00 PM

Drive to Swainsboro. Approx. 3 hr/179 mi.
The Bradford Inn – 688 S. Main St., Swainsboro, Georgia (2 nights)

TUESDAY, APRIL 8 – GEORGIA: Wrightsville
  Visit Wrightsville area with cousin Glynda Hatcher Rich. Glynda was named after our daddy, Glenn Steed Morris. When Mother had her “nervous breakdown” shortly after Jimmy was born, Daddy drove us to Georgia to stay with his sisters, Agnes (Glynda’s mother) and Dahlia (Kenny’s grandmother). I stayed with Aunt Agnes and Uncle Ed in Wrightsville and Jimmy stayed with Aunt Daggie, and Kenny’s mother and father, Sarah and Albert Franks, in Dublin. At that time, I was four and Jimmy was only six weeks old.
6:00 PM

Dinner with Glynda and her husband Roger Rich (Rear Admiral Ret.) at Coleman Lake Restaurant, 823 Stevens Crossing Road, Midville, Georgia

Located off a country road on the outskirts of Midville, the restaurant sits along side of the Ogeechee River, a blackwater river with cypress trees hanging with Spanish moss on either sides of its banks. Sometimes you can see alligators and fish like gar swimming in the river while you’re dining on the glass enclosed porch. Coleman Lake Restaurant is considered by some folks to be the best seafood restaurant anywhere in Georgia.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9 – GEORGIA: Savannah
  Drive to Savannah. Approx. 2 hours
12:30 PM

Lunch at Paula Deen’s “The Lady and Sons Restaurant”
102 West Congress St., Savannah, Georgia

Fried Green Tomatoes served with Vidalia onion relish and roasted red pepper sauce, Wedge Salad of Iceberg with tomatoes, bacon, red onion and house made creamy blue cheese dressing. Pulled Pork Sandwich made of The Lady & Sons famous pork butt, pulled and served on a bun with Paula’s BBQ sauce and coleslaw.

Drive to Leesburg. Approx. 3 hours 30 minutes
Days Inn – 1115 W. North Blvd., Leesburg, Florida (2 nights)

THURSDAY, APRIL 10 – FLORIDA: Leesburg/Eustis
 

Birthplace: research Leesburg, Sunshine Park, Main Street, the Rexall Drugstore, golf course and country club, try to find childhood friends Martha Webster and Madge Clements.

Dinner with cousin Charlotte Neighbors Compton and her husband, Royce, in Eustis.

FRIDAY, APRIL 11 – FLORIDA: Lakeland
 

Early drive to Lakeland. Approx. 1 hour 30 mins/73 miles
Lakeland Terrace Hotel – 329 E. Main St., Lakeland, Florida (1 night)

Visit Polk Theater where I saw the James Dean film, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, but more importantly, where I spent the day with Elvis Presley when he was in town for a solo concert in 1955. Get together with high school friends Shirley Scarborough and Ihla Phillips. Drive around old haunts and neighborhoods.

6:30 PM

Dinner with our brother, Jim Morris and his son, Chris, at The Reesecliff, the last vestige of a 50s drive-in restaurant that had curb service until a few years ago. It was just like Mel’s Diner in American Graffiti except the car hops weren’t on skates. When I was in high school, our favorite car hop was an older woman named Jo who had worked there for years.

SATURDAY, APRIL 12 – FLORIDA: Tampa
 

Early drive to Tampa. Approx. 35 min/33 miles.
Hilton Garden Inn – Ybor Historic District, 1700 East 9th Ave., Tampa, Florida (1 night)

Find the house on Palmira Street where we lived when we first moved to Tampa, Dale Mabry Elementary School, try to locate Jeanne Farmer and Joan Rushing, 6th grade friends.

12:00 PM

Lunch at Carmine’s Cuban Restaurant, 1802 East 7th Ave., Ybor City
Cuban sandwich and Spanish Bean Soup.

8:00 PM

Dinner at the Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East 7th Ave., Ybor City
Daddy took us to dinner at the Columbia Restaurant once as a special treat.

The Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez, a Cuban émigré who settled in Tampa, then a little town on Florida’s west coast. There, amid scrub palmettos and rattlesnakes, an enclave of Cubans, Spaniards, and Italians worked in the growing cigar industry in a neighborhood know as Ybor City.

Casimiro Hernandez found work, saved his money, and in 1905 purchased a bar, where he started selling soup, sandwiches, and coffee. Out of gratitude to his new country, he named his small café the Columbia, after the personification of America in the popular song “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.” He added a variation of this motto to his sign: “Columbia - The Gem of All Spanish Restaurants.”

Casimiro became known for dishes that the Columbia still serves – Spanish bean soup, his lusty creation that combines sausage, garbanzo beans, and potatoes in a beef stock; arroz con pollo, a classic chicken and rice dish; an authentic Cuban sandwich; and the 1905 salad, dressed with the family’s special blend of fresh garlic, oregano, wine vinegar, lemon juice, and Spanish olive oil.

Pijuan, Casimiro’s fabled chef from the kitchen of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, contributed numerous other works of culinary art, such as pompano papillot and steak capuchina to the menu.

SUNDAY, APRIL 13 – FLORIDA: Travel Day
12:10 PM Leave Tampa – Southwest #1672; Arrive Denver @ 2:15 PM (Change planes)
3:15 PM

Leave Denver – Southwest #1141; Arrive Oakland @ 5:05 PM. Strawberry Limo will meet our flight and take us home to Medway Road.

That’s all, folks!!!

 
©2006 Jane Bay - All Rights Reserved