Rollin Olson’s sad comments in his Letter to the Editor in the April issue are further evidence of how maligned the South of yesterday and today remains (A good idea). No, the South is not “all about slavery,” as even the most superficial knowledge of U.S. history tells us. I am not referring to revisionist history as taught in public schools since the mid-1960s, but real history based on the vast archives from the Civil War that were used by historians as opposed to the PC tripe that educators have taught in recent decades.
Mr. Olson warns the South of maintaining its ties to the past, else we “sink into being a nostalgia-ridden economic backwater.” On what planet does he live? The South has become our nation’s economic powerhouse since World War II, largely due to strong work ethics and lower costs (alas North Carolina is trying to become the most highly-taxed state in the nation). Yes, low-skilled textile jobs have been lost, but is Mr. Olson aware that the world’s largest apparel maker, VF, is headquartered in Greensboro, N.C.? I’ll bet that he banks with a Southern bank, drives a car made in the South, and eats daily produce, meat, or fish from the South. I’ll bet that he vacations on our shores and enjoys the splendid architecture of old Southern cities as do I. And what about his hometown of Baltimore? Surely he knows that it was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy? Is not quaint Baltimore harbor all about nostalgia? Read some history, Mr. Olson, before you comment on the South the next time.
Once you leave the politically-correct enclaves in the otherwise sane South, you will find that all that is good about our homeland hasn’t changed that much. For your poor readers who have been brainwashed by revisionist history taught in our public schools since the mid-1960s, I recommend two excellent books that will restore the pride of even the most downtrodden Southern man: “Robert E. Lee” by Burke Davis, a professor of history at Guilford College, Greensboro, N.C., and the famous trilogy “The Army of the Potomac” by Bruce Catton. Both were written in the 1950s and based on facts, the first by a Southerner, the second, a Northerner. Not only about the Civil War, these books provide an outstanding insight into true sentiments in our country on all those hot North vs. South topics of the mid-19th century.
As a symbol of my pride in being a Southerner, I fly a Confederate flag (more precisely, the “Stonewall Jackson” flag, also known as the “Stainless Banner”) next to the U.S. flag above my Cessna 170. It is truly a shame that idiot racist thugs used this same flag in the dark days of the South, nevertheless I have the deepest respect for those who died in the name of freedom — not slavery — under it. None other than General Robert E. Lee voiced opposition to both slavery and secession, years prior to the Civil War, but somehow this has been written out of the textbooks.
To most Southerners, Southern pride is all about freedom, independence, honesty, integrity, loyalty, patriotism, humility, hospitality, faith, kindness — and good ‘eatin. Yes, we have some sad chapters in our history too, but as one who has lived and worked in many parts of the world, I have learned that intolerance, bigotry, racism and hatred are human characteristics found in people of all cultures.
Now, when it comes to the “Best of the South,” I have many suggestions. Here are three that come to mind, where your readers can combine flying with Southern culture (no, dear Yankees, “Southern culture” is not an oxymoron):
Elizabethtown, N.C., Curtis Brown Field (EYF) — Home to Taylor Aviation and its Southern gentleman owner, Oscar Taylor. Take the courtesy car into town for a great lunch with the locals at Melvin’s, then visit the “Tory Hole” where Southerners defeated the British in the Revolutionary War. Sure hate to rub it in, dear Yankees, but it was battles such as this one, fought in the South by Southerners against the Brits, that turned the tide in our favor after a succession of defeats in the North.
Washington, Ga., Washington-Wilkes County Airport (IIY) — Got stuck here once when thunderstorms forced me down on a flight from Raleigh to Atlanta — my good
luck! The FBO had already closed, so a quick call to 911 from the pay phone resulted in a pleasant ride into town with the sheriff. I stayed the night at the brand-new Jameson Inn in town and enjoyed an inexpensive meal in the world’s cleanest Huddle House next door. No taxis exist(ed) in this small town, so the sheriff kindly drove me back out to the airfield the next morning, taking time to show me some of the many (over 100!) lovely antebellum homes that somehow were spared Sherman’s wrath. I also learned that Washington was the site of the last Cabinet meeting of the Confederacy, whose gold treasury mysteriously vanished soon afterwards. Some say it is still to be found in the area.
Decatur, Ala., Pryor Field (DCU) — A nice airfield in a great Southern town, and not only because I graduated from Decatur High School in 1975! My father had built the GE refrigerator factory on the Tennessee River, which flows past Decatur. It was from this same river that Northern gunboats shelled Decatur during the Civil War, largely destroying it and forcing the locals to move downtown a mile away. Since some of old town has been restored, Decatur today uniquely has two downtowns. I rented C-150s from Decatur-Athens Aero Services (DAAS), run by the same family in 2005 as it was in 1975. If you stop by Decatur, plan for lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ and save room for the coconut cream pie. You’ll have to eat a lot to spend $10. In the summer, bring your swimming trunks and try out Point Mallard, site of our country’s first wave pool (where I worked as a lifeguard to have flying money). NASA Marshall in nearby Huntsville, with its excellent museum, is only a stone’s throw away.
These are just three places for readers to get a taste of what we Southerners have always known — it ain’t no better anywhere else.