Sixteen years ago, I got a call from the then (almost) brand new editor of this newspaper, Alice Queen. She was interested in having me write a weekly column. At first, I had no interest. I had written some columns for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but then Cynthia Tucker became the editorial page editor for that paper and I could no longer recognize my work when I read it in print, so I gave that gig up.
I had read that the Citizen's new editor had previously worked for a Lexington, Mass., newspaper. The last thing I needed was having my words omitted, ripped apart and rearranged by some liberal Yankee woman from Massachusetts. I politely declined, but Ms. Queen persisted and once we actually met and I heard words coming out of her mouth, I knew she was more Billy Carter than Ted Kennedy. I learned that she was a native of Montezuma and a proud graduate of the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and married to a man who has been known to shed tears over major Georgia football victories. You can't get more Southern than that. I gladly accepted the job and here we all are -- 16 years later.
Now I told you that to tell you this.
My opinion of New England -- and the Boston area in general -- greatly improved shortly after my initial encounter with my current boss. I actually visited Beantown, and took 40 or 50 eighth-graders with me. We had a grand time. We walked part of the Freedom Trail and saw Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church and several of the pubs where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty found enough liquid courage to stand up to a despot and change the world.
We visited Breed's Hill, where the battle of Bunker Hill was fought -- It's a long story; I'll tell it to you sometime -- and Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy. We didn't spend all our time in Boston, though.
We followed the path of Paul Revere and had a giant snowball fight on the village green in Lexington as we reenacted the showdown between the ragtag group of farmers and shopkeepers and the British Redcoats, and we visited the "rude bridge that arched the flood" where the embattled farmers fired the "shot heard 'round the world." You talk about living history!
What else? Oh, yes. We toured Harvard, the oldest college in America, and saw the homes of some of the greatest writers in the history of American literature not born in Porterdale. I loved that part. The kids -- not so much.
Their favorite day -- snowball fight notwithstanding -- was when we went to Salem and Gloucester and Marble Head. They loved the witch museum and the so-called witches they encountered in Salem Village and enjoyed the little fishing village where The Perfect Storm was filmed. There was no game at Fenway Park that weekend, but we did see the Green Monster.
We walked along and admired the mansions on Beacon Hill and learned all about JFK by visiting his presidential library. And the food! I wanted to expand the kids' horizons, so I fed them a lobster bake at Legal Seafood and clam chowder and Boston baked beans and -- well, they got their 1,500 calories every day. We had a grand time. It might have been the best group trip I have ever been on -- and I carried 18 teenage girls to Hawaii for two weeks and 65 of our readers to Alaska.
I enjoyed my Boston trip so much that I decided to celebrate my upcoming retirement -- this one is for real -- by going back. Since I don't have access to eighth-graders anymore and since my own children are far too busy to travel with their dad, I am taking 55 of my closest friends -- and we have a few spots left.
I'm going to show this group everything I showed my eighth graders -- but the food and accommodations will be greatly upgraded. Plus, I know more funny stories to share this time since it won't be my first rodeo, and I have enlisted experienced local tour guides to stay with me on every leg of the journey. Did I mention the lobster bake?
Here's the real selling point. I have arranged for a special drive-by viewing of the famous property in Lexington where Alice Queen lived when she served as editor of the Lexington Minuteman and played hostess for an afternoon to Ted Kennedy and his handlers. Ask her. She'll tell you the story.
If you want to go with me on vacation, shoot me an email and I will send you the details. If you don't, be sure to read about it in my column on the first Wednesday in June so you can wish you had.
And for the record -- I am really glad that Alice Queen turned out to be a Southern belle from middle Georgia instead of a liberal Yankee woman.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.