How King, Coca-Cola helped erode segregation in Atlanta

MLK and Jacob Rothschild

Fifty years ago this month Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King, an Atlanta native who had been actively working against segregation in the South for at least a decade when he was recognized with the honor, initiated a fundamental change in his home city’s business, religious and racial cultures when blacks and whites came together for the first time to share a meal in public to recognize the new Nobel laureate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not surprisingly given the climate of the era, the change didn’t come easily.

King was Atlanta’s best-known figure in 1964 and the first Georgian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but the question of how a segregated city would celebrate the accomplishments of a black man wasn’t an easy one to work out, according to the publication.

“ … the races didn’t mix, and King was still black. The immediate question became, how do you honor the man who was now the city’s most recognizable figure?”

Initially, there was talk in the black community about perhaps having a dinner at Paschal’s, where Civil Rights leaders had often met to discuss strategy. However, it was recognized that King should be received by the entire city, not just a segment.

Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, along with Catholic Archbishop Paul Hallinan, Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays, Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill and Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., formed a core group of organizers who set their sights on having a huge banquet at the Dinkler Plaza Hotel downtown, so that King might be honored by a gamut of Atlanta residents, according to the Journal-Constitution.

However, even after the dinner had been announced and a date set, no one bought tickets. Atlanta’s business community wasn’t buying into the idea.

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Officials say shipwreck off Haiti is not Columbus’ Santa Maria

Santa Maria stamp

It appears that the shipwreck discovered earlier this year off the coast of northern Haiti is not that of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria, according to the UN cultural agency.

UNESCO released a report earlier this month that concluded that a shipwreck in the Caribbean was likely from a 17th or 18th century vessel.

US explorer Barry Clifford had announced in May that he believed he had found the Santa Maria near the city of Cap-Haitien.

The ship, Columbus’ flagship from his first voyage to the Western Hemisphere, struck a reef and was abandoned in December 1492. Columbus returned to Spain with his two remaining ships, the Niña and the Pinta, beginning in January 1493.

“UNESCO said a team of experts who explored the site at the request of the Haitian government determined the wreckage was from a more recent vessel for reasons that included the discovery of copper nails and pins, used to fasten ship components, at the site,” according to an Associated Press report. “The Santa Maria would have used components of iron or wood, the agency said.”

The experts also believe that contemporary accounts, including Columbus’ own journal, indicate that the wreck is too far from the shore to be that of the Santa Maria, according to CNN.

The report added that it is possible the actual wreckage of the Santa Maria may be buried under what is now land because of heavy sedimentation from nearby rivers. It also recommended further archaeological investigation of the area.

The Santa Maria wasn’t a very big ship by modern standards, being about 60 feet long and weighing about 100 tons.

Clifford still stands by claim, calling the UNESCO report flawed because the agency’s experts did not consult him or the photos and charts he and his associates made of the wreckage site, according to the wire service.

He also said the copper components could have been used on the Santa Maria or the material came from another shipwreck that cross-contaminated the site in an area where a number of ships are known to have sunk.

“The explorer had reached his conclusion based on the location of the wreckage, the presence of the type of stones used for ballast in that era as well as a type of cannon that was there when he first took photos of the site in 2003 but had apparently been looted when he returned this year,” according to the Associated Press.

In its report, UNESCO faulted Clifford for announcing his findings in the media before officially informing the Haitian government of his intention to continue his research in the bay of Cap-Haitien.

(Top: 1892 US postage stamp featuring the Santa Maria.)

Glory of SF’s past captured by Bay Area photographer


San Francisco has long cast a lingering eye to its past, toward a halcyon age that was equal parts legend and reality, but remains embedded in the city’s DNA.

San Francisco’s glory days, which began with the California Gold Rush, lasted until after World War II, when the social upheaval of the 1960s brought tens of thousands of counter culturalists to the West Coast.

At the same time, manufacturing jobs left the city, housing prices began a steep rise that have continued almost unabated over the past few decades and, in connection partly to the latter, families began departing in droves for the suburbs.

In addition, thousands of social outcasts flooded in over the next couple decades as prisoners were released from overcrowded jails and the mentally ill were de-institutionalized.

Yet, the splendor of San Francisco’s earlier days can still be glimpsed in its architecture, particularly its early 20th century office buildings and even earlier Victorian homes, and along its waterfront.

Among individuals who have helped keep the memory of old San Francisco alive is photographer Fred Lyon, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who began shooting images of the cities after World War II.

Now in his 90s, Lyon apprenticed at as a photographer at age 14 before enrolling in a Los Angeles art school. He served as a Navy photography in the Second World War, based in Washington, DC, and moved to New York at the conflict’s conclusion.

san francisco 2He returned to California in 1946, and has since spent nearly 70 years documenting life in the Bay Area, with his work appearing in such notable publications as Vogue, Glamour and Mademoiselle. In addition, his work can be found in dozens of books.

Lyon most recently released “San Francisco, Portrait of a City: 1940-1960.”

San Francisco television station KTVU has compiled nearly four dozen of Lyon’s images from the city’s immediate post-war years, which can be seen here.

As someone who has spent a bit of time in “The City” over the years, but never saw it in its prime, I can say that it certainly appears to have been a different era.

In today’s society, where one sometimes sees individuals at funeral wakes in shorts and flip-flops, it seems difficult to believe there was a time when men regularly wore fedoras and women nice dresses.

(Photo credits: Fred Lyon, courtesy of KTVU-TV.)

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Sahara desert ants: A study in adaptability

sahara desert ant

The Sahara desert is about as unforgiving an environment as exists on Earth.

The African desert is characterized by intense heat and a scorching sun, especially during the hot season, when surface temperatures can reach more than 150 degrees during midday.

Most living organisms wait out the broiling heat in the shade, but not the Sahara desert ant, which seizes on the opportunities presented by the high temperatures.

Once the heat becomes unbearable for other species, the Sahara desert ant (Cataglyphis bicolor) emerges from the shade of its burrow to feast on the corpses of insects that have succumbed to conditions.

This species is reported to be able to forage in surface temperatures of up to 158 degrees for short periods despite the fact that it lives in an environment which has almost no identifiable features, according to the BBC.

Several abilities enable the Sahara desert ant to accomplish this feat:

  • While venturing out it periodically takes measurements of its angle in respect to the Sun, which allow it to plot a straight line back to its nest;
  • It relies on a unique odor signature that can guide it back to its home; and
  • It appears to use an internal pedometer to count its steps in a harsh setting where odors quickly vanish, enabling it to “count back” to its nest.

Being able to withstand such extreme heat reduces competition for food from less thermo-tolerant scavengers and likely reduces its chances of running into a predator.

“Three main characteristics and behaviors allow the Sahara desert ant and other thermophilic ants to be active in temperatures that would quickly kill most other animals,” according to the BBC. “They are quick; Cataglyphis fortis and Cataglyphis bombycina, its close relatives, have been clocked moving at one meter (3.3 feet) per second. Their relatively long legs mean temperatures at the height of their bodies are 6-7 degrees cooler than on the ground.

“They also pause on dry stalks of grass onto which they off-load excess body heat,” the news service added.

These abilities allow the Sahara desert ant to venture out at midday for 3-5 minutes at a time. Given the speed at which it can travel, Cataglyphis bicolor has the ability to travel farther from its nest than any other creature that lives in the Sahara with respect to size.

11-year-old me on why ancient man steered clear of Office Depot


Word is we had a lunar eclipse down our way early this morning. The event offered me an opportunity to recall how utterly obtuse I was 40 years or so ago.

Last night, as I dropped my girls off at their mother’s house, we discussed the eclipse. They explained how they were considering getting up around 5 a.m. to view the unusual celestial occurrence. They had a basic understanding of what caused the event and were excited to see it.

As I drove home, I recalled that when I was the age of my youngest daughter, 11, I not only didn’t understand what an eclipse was, I was utterly unfamiliar with the word. As evidence, I can recall the first time I heard about the concept of an eclipse.

My mother was attempting to explain that people can be afraid of that which they do not understand and was describing how ancient societies were often very superstitious and fearful of rare phenomena. Among things that confused and frightened prehistoric people, she explained, were eclipses.

As I was unacquainted with the word, and not a particularly bright 11-year old, my ears only caught the second part of the word, “clips,” and my mind immediately wandered to “paper clips.”

With an ignorant arrogance not unknown among 11-year-old boys, I immediately thought, “Wow, what a bunch of morons – afraid of paper clips! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Mind you, I wasn’t confident enough in this anthropological assessment to voice this view to my mother; I simply sat there in smug, silent awe that a group of people could be afraid of office supplies.

Sure, paper clips could be exasperating when they got all looped together, and they could cause some really agony if the end of one got under a fingernail, but any society that was afraid of paper clips must have been a pretty pathetic one, I reasoned.

Looking back, I don’t know at what point I finally learned what an eclipse actually was, or at what point I realized what it was my mother had been talking about, but some years later I made the connection that I’d been off base – way off base.

Needless to say, my girls – who are a bit wiser and certainly more intuitive than their father was at their age – always get a chuckle out of that story. And there’s certainly no shortage of similar tales for me to regale them with. I guess that’s one of the few benefits of having been a dense kid.

(Top: Lunar eclipse seen earlier this year. Not pictured: Paper clip.)

Old quarry offers spectacular view of past, present

Abby's photos 10 5 2014 433

There’s something about abandoned quarries that I find utterly alluring. The steep walls, deep pools of dark water, and abundant vegetation and wildlife enable me to imagine myself standing abreast a beautiful Nordic tarn.

This past weekend proved a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the area quarries, so Daughter No. 4 and I drove to Fairfield County, SC, to the old Anderson Quarry, which produced some of the world’s finest blue granite from 1898 through 1946. She is a talented artist and I knew she’d have an opportunity to take some spectacular photographs.

Once populated by an array of workers, skilled and unskilled, with some from as far away as Scotland and Italy, today the quarry is filled with emerald-green water that’s home to largemouth bass and bream. Hawks and buzzards fly overhead, and innumerable other critters – from lizards and turtles to velvet ants and ridiculous amounts of mosquitos – scuttle, scurry and buzz among 40-ton blocks of granite, cut but never delivered.

The quarry was operated by the Winnsboro Granite Co., which provided building materials for many of the nation’s most elaborate structures, including the Flat-Iron Building in New York and the Land Title and Trust Building in Philadelphia.

“The granite is uniform in color and texture, possesses good working qualities, is susceptible of a high polish, and is admirably adapted to monumental purposes. The product is used chiefly for monumental stock, and is reported to have been so used in twenty-four States,” according to a 1910 US Geological Survey titled “Granites of the Southeastern Atlantic States.”

Interestingly, nearly a quarter century after the quarry closed, blue granite was named South Carolina’s state stone, in 1969.

Today, all that remains of the once prosperous operation is decaying machinery, including a crane derrick that rests against a granite wall, 100-plus feet above the water’s surface, abandoned quarry structures, all built of granite, and an array of rusting pipes, likely used decades ago to pump water from the quarry to allow work to continue unabated.

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Simpler, natural lifestyle of ‘olden days’ left something to be desired

dead by 35

In fairness, infant mortality likely kept life-expectancy figures low for prehistoric man.

But among those who made it into adulthood, even the most mundane problems associated with lack of medical care – i.e. rotting teeth, hemorrhoids, sinus infections, etc. – probably made them wish they were dead.

And, as far as I knew, deaths due to injuries incurred during mastodon hunts are way down over the past few millennia.