Contributed by Alan Tibbetts
About fifty Internet Lodge members, ladies and guests visited Atlanta Georgia in the USA, May 10-14 2007. It was a very intense couple of days, but everyone came away from it grateful for the efforts of our Worshipful Master, Charles Lewis and our resident member, David Herman and their wives Helga and Karen in organizing this wonderful social event.
By the Wednesday afternoon, most had gathered at the Holiday Inn convention center hotel in Decatur about 6 miles east of Atlanta city center. Members from the USA, Canada, England, Barbados and Jamaica were present at the orientation meeting where our IL golf shirts were passed out along with a bag of goodies including the famed Georgia peanuts. Decatur is an old town, from 1823, built in the classic southern style with the DeKalb County courthouse in the middle of town and the shopping area in the square around it. It still has the small-town feel although the five million residents of metro Atlanta have expanded far beyond Decatur in recent times.
We were treated to a tour of Pythagoras Lodge No. 41 just up the hill from the hotel and heard a couple of talks. The first was on the history of the lodge, by Bro. Albert Martin, Senior Warden, the second on the history of Freemasonry in Georgia by W.Bro. David Canady, a Past Master of the Georgia Lodge of Research. The beautiful lodge building, a three storey structure from the 1920's is being lovingly restored using the funds from the commercial tenants on the first two floors of the premises. Dinner was at a local restaurant called "Mick's", which gave everyone a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones.
Thursday was a tour day in our big bus driven by William, who was a talkative expert on Atlanta history and current events. The old Fox Theatre was a real treat. A square-block size Moorish castle of a building, it was built by the Shriners of Atlanta (a Masonic-related social and charitable organization) in 1929 for their own use, but being completed just as the Great Depression hit, it was unaffordable for them and was soon sold to the Fox Theatre chain, which took over the 4,700 seat theatre, leaving the Egyptian Ballroom and other eastern-themed rooms for the Shriners to lease. The building is now owned and managed as a charitable trust, and is well worth preserving. We were treated to a show by the organist in residence, a former Canadian who plays "Mighty Mo" the orchestral organ that rises out of the cellars of the theatre. It can play almost any sound in addition to the usual musical ones. The whole building is decorated in the most over-the-top style; it must be seen to be appreciated.
Our lunch was at an Atlanta institution, "The Varsity" a huge hamburger/hot dog joint in the middle of the city surrounded by acres of parking for the vast crowds that come for lunch. We had a group photo taken in our special hats that can be viewed in the photo gallery. After eating, we visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden and its special exhibit of beautiful orchids and a collection of "Big Bugs" made of wood by artist David Rogers, scattered about the grounds.
Our evening was spent at Dave Herman's Lodge, Chamblee-Sardis no. 444 in another Atlanta suburb. A new building in the form of a double cube, it was the scene of our introduction to Georgia barbeque, in the person of a well-cooked piglet laid out on the table, supplying us with our pulled pork for the main course. The Lodge ladies laid on a great spread for us. We also met the "Travelling Men", a Masonic biker group from Charles' Lodge in Eatonton who love to ride and raise funds for charity. We were told to come casual, but the sight of pony tails and shaved heads dressed in leathers was a first for many of us, let me tell you. Funny thing was, they were just regular Masons like us! Upstairs in Lodge, we were treated to a piece of ritual by a young DeMolay (Masonic youth group) man, a Grand Officer of his order in Georgia who gave the "Flower Talk" in tremendous form for us. A long piece, it deals with love for one's mother, which was very timely, it being Mother's Day weekend.
Friday was our bus tour day, which began at noon, so Jane and I took the MARTA (Atlanta's underground) to the city center where we toured Underground Atlanta, a shopping area at the former ground level, one storey down from the current city streets, which are actually viaducts. Stores and kiosks cover six square blocks. We also spent a pleasant lunch hour on a street closed off to traffic with a live band for entertainment and tables on the road served by the many restaurants along the two block area.
Our tour included a trip to the Cyclorama, a huge 100 year old painting in the round of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign in the American Civil War. This one was unique in that the seating rotated 360 degrees as the mural was explained by the narrator. That war was a constant theme of our time in Georgia, and the running joke was "Who Won?" on the bus. We also visited the Atlanta History Center which included the Swan House, a stately home on the grounds as well as materials from the life of Martin Luther King, Bobby Jones the golfer and a huge collection of Civil War materials. We toured the wealthy Buckhead area of the city, home to movie and music stars, premier athletes and just plain rich folks. Even the working class housing we saw in the city was very well kept; apparently the city offers subsidies and gives awards to restored houses of any class. Dinner was in the "Watershed" restaurant, a converted car repair shop within walking distance, down the street from the hotel.
Saturday's program was the culmination of our Georgia visit. We again had a coach for all of us and we only had a little trouble with directions, not a lot! First was a stop in Milledgeville (two hours east of Atlanta), the state capital from 1839-69 where we toured the Old Governor's Mansion, now owned by the Georgia College and State University, furnished in 1850 style. This building was your classic ante-bellum mansion. We also toured the Old State Capitol building, now part of the Georgia Military College, from the same time period. This building was in crenulated-castle style, a real shock to see in the deep south. After lunch at a college student hangout called "The Brick", we set off to Eatonton for the Uncle Remus museum, a group of former slave cabins containing an exhibit of the famous animal character children's' books of Joel Chandler Harris, a local boy. We then proceeded to Charles and Helga's lake side home for a barbeque, the final event of our trip. Lake Oconee, like most Georgia lakes, is formed by a big dam and the lake front real estate is premium land, and therefore lined with modern homes. Tents were set up for the event, and the warm air and scarcity of mosquitoes made for a very pleasant evening. The barbeque with all the trimmings were great, and we were treated to music from a live band, the Oconee River Boys playing typical Georgia country music on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and stand-up bass for us. Everybody had a huge smile fixed on their faces the whole time. The raffle was very successful, almost everyone won something, and we raised over $300 which was donated to Chamblee-Sardis Lodge to give to charity, in recognition of their wonderful hospitality to the visitors from Internet Lodge.
The coach trip home to the hotel saw a trans-Atlantic sing along featuring every kind of tune one can imagine from America and the UK in surprisingly good tune. It was a great ending to a wonderful visit.
By any measure, this social visit to Georgia was a smashing success and enough thanks cannot be adequately conveyed to the Lewises and the Hermans for their hard work and their splendid southern hospitality. It was another noteworthy event in the annals of Internet Lodge to be sure.