Sunday, August 9, 2009

Excerpt: Grandmother arrives in Atlanta

While still in New York and New Jersey, Grandmother Eglé had received a telephone call in which it was suggested she had better come to Atlanta quickly. Her husband had gone on such a bender that he’d been hospitalized. “I learned that he was really sick and in a clinic,” she said. Yet, the worry and concern over her husband’s state seemingly was offset by her first experience of the deep South, an experience that foreshadowed a long love affair with Atlanta and its people and the many women friends she made there, if not with the man who had brought her to this brave new world.

Outwardly, her new home could not have been more different than Paris: Its population in 1914 approached a mere 155,000 compared to the French capital’s three million-plus residents; recorded Paris history began in the 3rd Century A.D., while Atlanta did not exist as a metropolis before the 1800s. Yet, the social milieu she moved within was remarkably similar: Society in both cities was consumed with maintaining appearances of propriety and class and, for Eglé in particular, putting on a brave public face.

“It was a 22-hour trip in those marvelous Pullmans,” she recalled. “Upon waking up in the morning, I was won over by the feeling of the South, the cotton fields, the Negroes coming home from work with a song on their lips.” If she was cruelly disappointed upon her arrival at Atlanta’s old Terminal Station “to not find my husband there,” she simultaneously found herself embraced by the upper crust of a little railroad crossroads state capital down in the middle of nowhere, whose denizens then, as today, appreciated a class act.

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