Jack Simpson: Recounting the pleasures of a Southern oasis



Even in my senior years, I remember it like it was yesterday. Actually, it was 1955, and I had completed my training and graduated from the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. We got our first office assignments and, as a new Special Agent, I was headed for Atlanta, Ga.

I had been living in Virginia, several miles outside the nation's capital. Summers there were hot and humid; winters were cold and often snowy. Atlanta sounded like a nice place to begin a new career, and I looked forward to it.

I had heard that Atlanta was the largest city in the South and that it had been destroyed in the Civil War and was rebuilt. It was striving for a reputation as an international city. It was home to the Coca-Cola Company and CNN. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were also located there. Someone told me the weather in Atlanta was sunny and mostly clear and winters were mild! This was comforting to know since I was about to uproot my family and find a new life down South.

Home of sports teams and full of affluent suburbs, Atlanta seemed homey enough except for its terrific traffic problems. Maybe it wasn't all that bad because, after all, it was home to author Margaret Mitchell and to Martin Luther King Jr. It was surely an interesting and friendly place, I was told.

After a career that carried me to Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., and back to Atlanta, I retired after 23 years in the FBI. My family and I would probably never have thought about residing in Atlanta if we had not been sent here and spent so many years living here. What we found here among people considered friendly and salt-of-the-earth were Southern hospitality, warmth and good neighbors. Nice climate, too.

After so many years of being southernized, we can no longer brag about being damned Yankees -- and maybe we no longer care for the title! We have eaten a heap of grits, said lots of "y'alls," and absorbed large amounts of Southern culture.

And, yes, the weather has indeed been a plus. Of course, we have had some snow reminding us of living in Virginia and Pennsylvania. However, compared to winters up North, the ones down here were mild, allowing for a great deal of outdoor activity.

Other positive things about living in this area are the wide-open spaces, the parks, forests, mountains, the beautiful streams and cultural events. We have made a lot of friends through the years and many are still available to help us enjoy our retirement in the area.

Yes, here in Rockdale County, we have found a little oasis on a quiet, somewhat secluded piece of land that offers a degree of isolation and a place of departure from the hustle and bustle of a growing international city with its heavy traffic, busy airport and increasing diversity. Here it is still possible on occasion to sit on the patio out back and see deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, opossum, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and lots of hummingbirds. It doesn't take much to make the members of this family happy, y'all!

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears every Friday.