Here’s to Everyone’s Favorite Slice of Life

A meat-lovers pizza is the way to go for our family.

“By the way, I may not even look at a pizza for a good six months after this!”

That was how I concluded a recent note to my friend Ligaya Figueras, the food, dining and living editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, after I had spent almost a week editing close to 20 pieces on pizza for the paper’s spring dining guide.

Naturally, the night after that, you can guess what I had for supper — pizza.

Actually, these days, I only eat the meat, cheese and sauce on top, skipping the crust, in order to cut back on carbs — which is OK, since we usually buy frozen pizzas that Leslie dresses up with additional cheese, pepperoni and maybe some ham.

Although the dish’s origins are Italian, you practically could say something is “as American as pizza pie.” In fact, in a 2017 national survey of 1,000 Americans, 98 percent said they liked pizza, while 2 percent said they didn’t. Pizza also ranked as the second most popular fast food in America behind hamburgers (and 43 percent of Americans ranked pizza as their favorite).

However, my family was an exception to that rule when I was growing up. I remember when I was around 6 or 7, my Dad brought home a sausage pizza from a nearby Italian restaurant, the romantically named Campus Hideway. He’d been given the pie because he was the restaurant’s banker. I don’t believe we kids got any, and Dad complained the next day that it gave him heartburn. I don’t remember him bringing home another.

(Although spaghetti was a frequent dinner at our house, I don’t believe Mom started making pizza until I was in high school, and that was at the behest of my youngest brother, who also got her to start serving fried shrimp — something we hadn’t had before.)

My introduction to eating pizza was the square pieces with inch-thick crusts, some tomato paste and a slice of melted cheese that were served in the lunchroom in elementary school. They weren’t great, but they were more to schoolkids’ liking than a lot of what was served to us.

Also, school pizza was filling, probably because it was so sturdy. One day, in junior high, someone threw a piece up in the air and it stuck to the lunchroom ceiling; it was still there, weeks later!

The Brits are known to put things like sweet corn and tuna on their pizzas.

Pizza became more a part of my life in high school. The big date-night restaurant in my hometown of Athens was Gigi’s, a nice Italian place with a singer and jazz-pop trio in the lounge. A bunch of us, still dressed in our uniforms and our dates in their formal gowns, went there after the ROTC Ball, and most of us had pizza (though I recall my date ordering shrimp cocktail).

By the time I was across town attending the University of Georgia, the local outlet of the Pizza Hut chain just up the street from Gigi’s had become a major draw. I remember hanging out with friends at the Hut, as well as taking dates there.

Then, suddenly, it seemed like there was a pizza place every block or so in our college town, either chain or homegrown. A pizza price war broke out, and The Red & Black, the UGA student paper, was full of ads with coupons from pizza joints. Unfortunately, a bunch of those restaurants never bothered to pay for the ads, which ended up putting the paper in a big financial hole by the time I was on the staff.

After college, when I moved to Atlanta for a job at The Atlanta Constitution, pizza was practically a dietary staple. The paper was located downtown, just a couple of blocks from the then-thriving Underground Atlanta shopping and entertainment district — developed in the late ’60s out of Reconstruction-era buildings’ basement level spaces that had been abandoned when the streets had moved up to the level of the railroad viaducts. Leslie, my future wife, and I used to go to a pizza place in Underground called Jocko’s, where the brick oven-baked pizza was so buttery that when you took a bite, it would be dripping off your chin. Not exactly health food, but … we were young.

Probably the most popular style of pizza among my age group when I graduated college was the pies served at Everybody’s, near Emory University, a pizza institution for 41 years before closing in 2013. The pizzas there were known for their chewy, thick crusts (you had to request thin crust if you wanted it), and they were a sensation among young boomers.

Everybody’s style of crust became how I liked my pizza crusts in general: chewy and thick, but not tough. The crust isn’t paramount for me, though. I always have been amused by folks who go on and on about the “char” on the brick oven-baked pies that are considered by some to be a top priority of pizzadom. I don’t eat pizza for the charred places on the bottom or edges of the crust; I’m not sure why anyone would.

California Pizza Kitchen tried to popularize pizza with pineapple on top.

Still, despite Everybody’s, I didn’t abandon thin-crust pizza completely. And, perhaps because of my college days, I’ve always had a fondness for Pizza Hut’s pies. There’s something to be said for consistency.

As the years went by, pizza trends and places came and went. For a while, deep-dish was all the rage. Then, it was stuffed-crust pizzas, followed by California-style, and Neapolitan. We also tried Greek pizza, but I’m not a big fan of feta, so I didn’t find those pies particularly appealing.

A few years ago, when we were considering making pizza a Christmas Eve tradition (replacing the Waffle House), my family decided to try a variety of pizzerias in our area. Among them were Blaze Pizza and Mod Pizza, a couple of trendy counter-serve chain outlets that recently had opened up, and which were known for quick-serve, build-your-own pies. We concluded none of those newbies measured up to the Hut.

Actually, one of the best pizzerias in our eyes is Mellow Mushroom, our daughter’s favorite, which got its start in Atlanta in 1974 (when I first came to town) as a hippie-ish joint, and since has opened more than 200 locations across the U.S. It’s no longer for hippies; the pies there have high-quality ingredients and please just about everyone in the family.

My longtime friend Minla Shields and I also enjoyed getting together for lunch at a since-closed outlet of the local Shorty’s Pizza, where the gimmick is that the pies are named for musicians. Minla, who avoids meat, used to order the Dwight Yokum, which had a light red sauce, sliced tomatoes and runny fried eggs — she had them hold the bacon. I usually went in the opposite direction, ordering the Sid Vicious, which was topped with sausage, ground beef, Black Forest ham, salami and pepperoni.

But, to this day, Pizza Hut still will do for me in a pinch.

I also credit the Hut with helping me avoid slices loaded up with toppings I don’t like, thanks to its best-known menu item, the personal pan pizza for one, which became a thing in the industry.

Going back to college days, I remember that one of the unifying sentiments around a pizzeria table, when we were sharing a pie, was “no anchovies,” but a lot of folks loved things like olives and red onions on pizza. I preferred to stick with ground beef, sausage, peperoni and maybe mushrooms or some thin slices of zucchini (plus, always, extra cheese). I still do.

I don’t want to share a pie with folks who ask for things like tuna and barbecue chicken and artichoke hearts on their pies, or the aforementioned olives and onions.

Probably the most wrongheaded pizza topping I ever encountered was on one of our trips to London, where they think putting kernels of sweet corn on top of a pie is acceptable. Believe me, it’s an abomination — ranking right down there with pineapple on pizza, which Hawaii inflicted on us via California Pizza Kitchen back in the mid-1980s.

(Pizza is another area where the Brits and their American cousins part ways; a survey showed people in the U.K. picked mushrooms as their favorite pizza topping, followed by onions, chicken, corn and tuna. A 2016 Harris poll found Americans like pepperoni best, followed by sausage, and then mushrooms.)

Sweet corn and pineapple aren’t the most unlikely pizza toppings, though. In Costa Rica, they prefer coconut. (Unlike the rest of my family, I like coconut, but in desserts — not on top of a pizza!)

Olivia King and friends enjoy pizza at a party celebrating her 8th birthday.

Other memorably awful pizza slices I’ve encountered through the years included what they served at downtown Atlanta’s now-gone Omni coliseum, where I spent many a night in the 1970s and ’80s, covering concerts as the paper’s rock music writer. Omni pizza was like a piece of cardboard painted with some tomato paste and a slice of barely melted cheese on top, fresh out of the microwave.

In later years, after I became a parent, I encountered pizza that wasn’t much better at rec league baseball, basketball and soccer banquets. Frequently, those pies were from Papa John’s. Years before its founder became a pariah, I avoided Papa John’s pizza, because it had too much gloppy, overly sweet sauce. Most of the cheese on top of a slice would slide off with the first bite.

Not much better was the pizza at kids’ birthday party mecca Chuck E. Cheese, which I wrote about recently. (As I noted, the one thing most kids’ birthday parties had in common when our children were growing up was pizza.)

Interestingly, the pizzas we had during a 2009 trip to the Lake District of northern Italy were much simpler than anything you’ll find in the U.S. — maybe just cheese and tomatoes on top, or perhaps some ham or mushrooms and fresh basil.

Really, pizza as we know it in the States originated in New York City (the thinner crust variety) and Chicago (known for its deep-dish pies).

New Yorkers like their “slice” to be easily folded, thank you very much.

I’ve enjoyed both, but one of the most memorable pizza experiences I’ve had involved a New York pizza I didn’t get to taste.

My son and I had flown up to the Big Apple for a Paul McCartney concert at Madison Square Garden in 2005. The day of the concert, a couple of New Jersey-based friends, Al Sussman and Tom Frangione, offered to take us around the city, along with another visitor, Miami disc jockey Joe Johnson, host of the nationally syndicated “Beatle Brunch” radio show.

After we’d hit up some record stores in the West Village for Beatles bootleg CDs, Tom suggested we strike out for the “best slice in the city.”

The two Bill Kings are seen with Tom Frangione and Joe Johnson (right) outside Madison Square Garden in 2005. (Photo: Al Sussman)

(In New York City, they don’t talk about pizzas as pies; it’s all about the slice, preferably the type you easily can fold.)

I didn’t recall the name of this holy grail of pizzerias, but Tom told me recently that it was Lombardi’s, in the Little Italy neighborhood, established in 1905 and billed as “America’s first pizzeria.”

The only problem was, Tom wasn’t exactly sure how to get to Lombardi’s from where we were, so we walked block after block for what must have been an hour.

He kept encouraging us by saying it couldn’t be much farther, but my recollection is that the rest of us finally tired of the trek and pointed to the nearest pizza place, saying “Let’s get that.”

However, Tom said he recalls that we finally did make it to Lombardi’s, but the line was out the door and wrapped around the place, so we just settled for an unheralded pizza joint on a nearby corner.

Whatever, we never got to taste New York City’s “best” slice.

However, the substitute wasn’t bad at all; it was a fun outing with friends.

And, really, I think that’s what enjoying pizza is all about, anyway.

Giant mice, ball pits, arcades, pool noodles and so much pizza!

Pizza frequently was on the menu at the King children’s birthday parties, including Olivia’s 5th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese.

When I was a kid, most of my birthday parties consisted of inviting friends over to our home in Athens, where we played games in the backyard and ate hot dogs and hamburgers that my Dad grilled, along with cake prepared by Mom — plus ice cream and fruit punch from the University of Georgia Dairy.

One year, as a special birthday gift, my Dad built me a one-room, full-sized “club house” in a corner of our backyard, using lumber salvaged from a Victorian-era house that had been demolished in the nearby Five Points shopping district. And, for my party that year, Mom baked and iced a cake that was an exact replica of that club house, down to its barn-green paint, window in the side and slanted shed roof.

Those are sweet memories.

However, by the time Leslie and I had children, hardly anyone seemed to be doing backyard kids’ birthday celebrations. Instead, it was all about destination parties.

Our son Bill is presented with his baseball-themed cake during his party at Challenges arcade celebrating his 8th birthday.

So, our children ended up gathering with their little pals at swimming pools, one of those McDonald’s with a playground, a couple of different bowling alleys, a science museum, a noisy mall video game arcade and, of course, the dreaded (by parents) Chuck E. Cheese.

(Our daughter Olivia recalls one boy in her class having a party at his home, but his parents kicked it up a notch by renting a bouncy house with a Batman theme.)

Except for our son’s McDonald’s party, which I believe featured Happy Meals, and a couple of the parties held at the neighborhood outdoor pool, where I grilled, we mostly fed them pizza. So. Much. Pizza.

And, while in-school celebrations of their birthdays generally called for us to send iced cupcakes, we went with decorated (and often themed) cakes for their official parties, serving slices on colorful paper plates to the kids in attendance.

While we had homemade cakes (usually chocolate) at family birthday celebrations at home, the cakes for the kid parties usually came from a grocery store bakery. We most often went for vanilla layer cakes (though we did at least one chocolate) and, of course, they featured lots of ultra sweet icing (frequently in multiple colors) and sometimes were themed. I remember a Batman cake, a baseball cake (complete with little player figurines) and a princess cake for one of our daughter’s early parties.

(Between school, a family birthday dinner at home, their official parties and a visit with their grandparents and uncles in Athens, our kids usually ended up with at least four celebrations, and two or three cakes, spread out over a week or two — what we dubbed a “birthday festival.” We still use that term, since gift-giving often stretches out beyond the actual birth date.)

Young Bill plays an arcade video game during his 8th birthday party at Challenges at North DeKalb Mall.

As for the pizza, we usually ordered from Pizza Hut, which was much preferred (by me, at least) to the overly sweet and too saucy/slippery Papa John’s slices that invariably showed up at our kids’ sports team banquets.

We kept things basic, with the pies topped by ground beef or pepperoni, and always a plain cheese one, since a lot of young kids preferred that. (When we ordered pizza at home, we tended to go meatlovers, with extra cheese, of course!)

Sometimes, though, the party venues, especially the bowling alleys, provided their own catering (again, usually pizza), which generally was pretty decent fare. The exception was those pieces of cardboard topped by cheese and sauce served up at Chuck E. Cheese. Leslie and I both remember it as pretty dreadful, though the kids didn’t seem to notice.

Of course, they were too busy listening to animatronic animal “bands,” riding colorful rides and playing games. Leslie recalls the scene as “chaotic and disorganized,” but, mostly, the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.

I did, however, spend a good bit of my daughter’s Chuck E. Cheese party holding a trembling little girl from her class in my lap, after she was traumatized by that namesake giant rodent wandering around the place. Our daughter, Olivia, held up better, though she recently confessed: “I think I was a little bit scared” of Chuck E. “I was not into it.”

What she was into was using the party tokens provided to play games and win prize tickets. She remembers a game tossing little basketballs, and one that approximated bowling. “When you collected enough tickets, you could pick out a toy,” she said.

Olivia rides a “dragon” during her 5th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese in Norcross.

Olivia also enjoyed the rides, which were “like the ones in the mall.” And, she said, “the ball pit was fun. You could bury yourself in plastic balls, and nobody could see you.”

I shudder now at what all might have been on those balls, but it was a simpler time.

Olivia’s older brother, Bill, also did the ball pit thing, along with sliding down various tubes and slides, when he had his first birthday party at a McDonald’s playground in Sandy Springs.

Other birthday party venues in his first couple of years of school were Midtown Bowl and SciTrek, the children’s science and technology museum that used to be next to the Atlanta Civic Center. The latter featured exhibits and games that made education fun. Bill recalls also going there on a lot of school field trips, too.

For Olivia’s 6th birthday, we rented the activity room at a nearby YWCA and did more or less an old-fashioned party: “I remember playing pin the tail on the donkey, and we lay down on paper and outlined ourselves and then decorated it,” she said recently. “And we made crowns to wear.” She also remembers the pink Barbie princess plates used to serve the pizza and cake.

Olivia recalls being “a little” scared of the namesake giant mouse when celebrating her 5th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese.

One of young Bill’s more memorable parties was his 8th, at Challenges, a video arcade at North DeKalb Mall, near our house. We booked the party for a Sunday morning, before the arcade opened to the public, so we had it to ourselves. Bill was greeted with a chalkboard featuring his name and the date, and the dozen or so partygoers were given long strings of tickets they could use to play the many classic arcade video games, including one of those big multigame tabletop machines. A couple of arcade hosts thankfully helped the kids play the games, while I mainly tried to make sure we didn’t lose anyone.

Our son recalls Challenges as “a pretty legendary spot,” and a great party venue. “Arcade video games were a big, big deal then. Kids liked to play them. And Challenges was well-known.”

After the gameplaying, the Challenges crew served pizza and Coke (naturally) out in the mall food court, and we brought along the baseball-themed cake.

Even more popular, though, were the parties where we rented our neighborhood pool before regular hours. “Swimming parties were always the best,” young Bill recalled.

We couldn’t do the outdoor pool parties for Olivia, since her birthday is in March, before the pool opens, but we did do a couple of her parties at the Decatur-DeKalb Family YMCA, which featured an indoor pool. “I really liked the swimming ones,” Olivia said. She said it was special to have a pool party “when it was still winter.”

At our son’s outdoor pool parties, the local swimming and tennis club had a grill next to its covered picnic tables, so I channeled my father just a bit and grilled hot dogs. And, since Bill’s class had at least one vegetarian, those grilled dogs included late ’90s veggie dogs, which proved something of a challenge for the grillmaster — they tended to shrivel up rather quickly if the heat was too hot, and were rubbery otherwise.

Leslie serves birthday cake during Olivia’s 6th birthday party at the former YWCA on Lawrenceville Highway in Decatur.

(At a school function where similar nonmeat wieners were served, a fellow parent asked, “What do you put on a vegetarian dog?” She took a bite, and then answered herself: “LOTS of mustard and ketchup!”)

Young Bill recalls his first swimming pool party as a particular favorite. “That worked really well,” he recalled recently. “People could kind of choose their own adventure. We had a good time. I think the pool ones all were a pretty big hit.”

We also bought quite a few of those foam noodles kids play with in pools for Bill’s birthday party at the end of seventh grade; afterward, they sat in our carport storage room for years.

We usually rode herd on the dozen or more kids attending the parties ourselves, though for one celebration that Olivia had at the old Suburban Lanes bowling alley in Decatur (now Comet Pub & Lanes), our teenage niece Missy drove over from near Athens to help out. We paid her, of course!

As Olivia got older, the parties tended to involve fewer kids. One year, Leslie took her and some friends to a pottery painting place in Decatur, where they each picked a pot, painted and glazed it, and then, a week later, they were ready after firing.

And, Olivia recalled, “One year Mom took me and a few friends to a movie and dinner.” The movie was Vin Diesel in “The Pacifier” (there weren’t any good movies open that week), but the meal at Raging Burrito in Decatur was more of a hit.

Olivia and guests at her 8th birthday party enjoy pizza at the former Suburban Lanes bowling alley in Decatur.

For her best friend’s 16th birthday, Olivia saw the Indigo Girls in concert at Atlanta’s Chastain Park. Also, she got to celebrate her 18th birthday on a trip to Disney World with her two best friends. She got to wear a special birthday button, so “all the characters and workers would wish me happy birthday,” and they had lunch at a Moroccan restaurant in EPCOT.

Bill’s 18th birthday was memorable for two other reasons: He graduated high school that day, and his Grandma and Papa came over to attend the ceremony, and to go to a celebratory dinner afterward at a restaurant. We think that was the last time they made the drive to Atlanta.

A couple of party ideas that we didn’t use are among our son’s memories of other kids’ celebrations that he attended. “I went to a lot of laser tag parties, particularly for winter birthdays, at places like Q-Zar and Dave and Buster’s,” Bill said. “Also, back in that era, a lot of people did birthday parties at Braves games and they’d put your name up on the videoboard.”

As adults, our children also have managed to celebrate a couple of birthdays abroad, including Olivia in the Welsh capitol of Cardiff, and Bill in Italy’s Lake District.

Wondering how kids’ parties have changed over the years, I chatted with several folks who currently have young children.

The pandemic has reduced the size of parties and resulted in more at-home parties, parents said, but other types of parties they mentioned included a ninja obstacle course at a tumbling center, a Pokemon Easter egg hunt, having actors dressed up like Disney princesses visit the party, and hiring an ice cream truck.

One of Olivia’s most memorable birthdays was her 18th, celebrated at Disney World in Orlando.

Lauren Pangle, who has two boys, ages 7 and 3, noted that, before the pandemic limited things, destination parties still were big, using places like Leapin’ Lizards, an indoor playground that is very popular with today’s parents. But, she added, the pandemic has changed a lot. Recently, one of her boys had an old-fashioned backyard party, “so we could be outside and not have to spend an arm and a leg renting a space.”

Local parks also have become popular for outdoor parties in the past couple of years, one parent said.

Also, others noted that, even when kids have backyard parties these days, they usually involve the parents renting a bouncy house or some sort of inflatable water slide. My niece Caroline Billman rented a bouncy house for her son’s 2nd birthday party “and it was a big hit!”

Jamie Gumbrecht, who has two daughters, 7 and 4, said that, pre-pandemic, “we often wound up at parties at the big spots like the Children’s Museum, Center for Puppetry Arts, the zoo or Fernbank [science museum], or play spots like HippoHopp or even Little Shop of Stories.” One of her daughters had her last pre-pandemic party at her ballet studio, Neighborhood Ballet.

Snacks frequently are provided by the venue, she said, but “every so often, there’s a very Pinteresty party where someone’s parents go all-out with themed snacks. At some point, though, kids are just like, ‘Chips and sugar, please,’ even if you did your best to make carrots and cucumbers into a unicorn.”

In fact, she noted, “my kids will inhale the frosting off a cupcake, and hand the rest to me.”

I asked if anyone still does Chuck E. Cheese, but no one had in recent years. Said my niece Caroline, who also is expecting a girl in May: “Too germy, even pre-COVID.”

One thing that hasn’t changed: Staging birthday parties always has been a tall order for working parents, but the kids do seem to appreciate it.

It will be interesting to see what sort of parties our 1-year-old granddaughter will have as she gets older. Still, whatever her parents choose, I’m betting pizza will be involved.

A Soldier’s Tale: How My Parents Found Love in the Last ‘Good’ War

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bill King is seen in Bailey Park in Abergavenny, Wales, in 1943. He was stationed in the town in the run up to D-Day.

I was watching an episode of PBS’ “My Grandparents’ War,” in which British actress Carey Mulligan was surprised to find out that, when her Welsh grandfather was stationed in Australia briefly during World War II, a family took him under their wing and threw him an elaborate 21st birthday party.

That reminded me of a young soldier from rural Georgia who was stationed in Wales in the run up to D-Day. A kind Welsh widow threw the soldier a big 21st birthday bash. Of course, the soldier ended up marrying the woman’s youngest daughter — and that soldier and his bride became my parents. 

Mollie Parry King is seen in her hometown of Abergavenny, Wales, in 1945, while her husband, Bill, was stationed in Paris.

Mom and Dad met in August, 1943, at a town hall dance held for the Allied troops headquartered in my mother’s hometown of Abergavenny, Wales.

My father, Staff Sgt. Bill King, had grown up in Colbert, a small town near Athens, and had been drafted early in 1943 at age 20. Assigned to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, he just recently had arrived in Abergavenny, about 30 miles from the Welsh capital of Cardiff, at the time of the dance.

Mollie and Bill King are seen in a 1946 portrait taken in Athens, where they settled after being reunited following World War II.

My mother, Mollie Parry, was 17. The war had prevented her from going to university, so she was working in a local bank.

She went to the dance with a Welsh lieutenant, but she ended up being escorted home by my father. (She was told the lieutenant had been called back to headquarters. and had asked Dad to see that she got home, but what she didn’t know was that some of my father’s friends had gotten the lieutenant caught up throwing cards into a hat in the cloakroom during intermission of the dance.)

Bill and Mollie made a date to go to the movies the next night, and, afterward, she invited him in for a cup of tea. Her mother, Elizabeth Parry, recognized her daughter’s date as the young American soldier she’d seen walking by their house every morning. She had been impressed by how smart he looked, but noticed he had a bad cough, which she figured was due to smoking.

Despite wartime food rationing, Elizabeth Parry decided to throw a 21st birthday party for the U.S. soldier dating her daughter.

A day or two later, Gran went to the family doctor and asked him for a prescription for cough medicine. The doctor assumed it was for my mother, but Gran told him, “No, but there’s this nice young American, and he has a cough.”

The doctor said, “Mrs. Parry, you can’t mother the world.”

To which my grandmother answered, “Well, I’ll have a very good try!”

And that brings us to Dad’s 21st birthday party in January, 1944. Mom and Dad had been dating steadily, and my grandmother thought he was “a lovely boy,” while he thought she was the nicest lady he’d ever met. Dad had spent Christmas with the Parry family and felt very much at home at their big house on Lion Street, though he was billeted in another home nearby.

Writing years later in a journal she did for her sons and grandchildren, Mom recalled that, as Dad’s 21st birthday approached, “Mummy asked him if he’d like a birthday party. I think he was a bit overwhelmed. He said he’d never had a birthday party! Mummy said, “Never?” and he answered that his folks didn’t make a whole lot of fuss about birthdays.”

Mollie Parry and Staff Sgt. Bill King are seen in a sheep pasture near Abergavenny, Wales.

Gran and my Auntie Helen (Mom’s oldest sister; she was one of nine siblings), decided that Dad definitely was going to remember his 21st — and his very first birthday party.

So, despite the ridiculously strict wartime rationing the people of Britain were under, Gran told him to invite his friends and tell them they could bring dates.

(Only one friend brought a date, Mom recalled. The other friends explained to Dad that the girls they were dating “wouldn’t fit in at Mrs. Parry’s home.”)

As Mom wrote in her journal: “Mummy made a birthday cake (and) there were all kinds of sandwiches, sausage rolls, biscuits, individual trifles, wine, punch and ginger beer to drink.”

Staff Sgt. Bill King (right) poses with his future brother-in-law, Bill Parry, in this 1944 shot. The two had trouble trying to kill a chicken for a special birthday dinner.

All of my mother’s five brothers were on active duty in the war, but her closest brother in age, also named Bill, came home unexpectedly on leave from the Royal Navy. Gran and another of Mom’s sisters, Betty, decorated the sitting rooms with streamers and 21st birthday signs. Uncle Bill’s girlfriend, Joan, played the piano and thought she’d found the perfect song in a music book, not knowing that “Marching Through Georgia” was about Union Gen. William T. Sherman Civil War campaign in the state. But, Dad didn’t mind, and he and Gran harmonized on some old favorites. Everyone had a very good time.

That weekend, Gran also decided to cook my Dad a real Southern American meal. She asked him what that would consist of, and he told her “fried chicken, creamed potatoes, green beans, sliced tomatoes, and hot biscuits.”

Of course, to the British, “biscuits” are cookies, but, after questioning him, she determined that Southern biscuits were rather like scones without the sugar.

For the fried chicken, she was willing to sacrifice one of the pullets she kept out back (for eggs to supplement the family’s meager food rations).

With my mother’s brother still home, Gran assigned the two Bills to catch one of the pullets and kill it.

There ensued a comical scene in which the two tried unsuccessfully to dispatch the unlucky bird, so Gran had to go out and wring its neck herself, before plucking and cleaning it. Then, she cut it up, per my Dad’s instructions, and fried it.

Bill King revisits Bailey Park in Abergavenny, Wales, in 1980. He had posed on a similar bench in the park 37 years earlier, while stationed in the town with the U.S. Army.

As Mom recalled, “Since it was January, the green beans had to be canned, and the tomatoes were replaced with pickled beetroot. The dinner was delicious — everyone enjoyed it, especially the birthday boy. He wrote home about it and his mother’s response was, ‘Why didn’t she make banana pudding, too?’”

Of course, the British had not seen bananas for several years, but Gran had provided a lovely, creamy rice pudding, which the two Bills polished off.

(Years later, when my mother took me home to Wales for my first visit, at age 3, Gran made me a rice pudding every single day, because she thought I was terribly underweight.)

Staff Sgt. Bill King and Mollie Parry celebrate their engagement on her 18th birthday in April, 1944.

Mom wrote that her 18th birthday, that April, also was special. “Bill gave me an engagement ring and we had another party. He explained we’d have to get marriage permission from the U.S. Army and, of course, he very shyly asked my mother for permission to marry me. She felt we were rather young, but she also was aware that I was mature for my age, and so was Bill. My oldest brother was a bit cautious — he thought we should wait until after the war. My mother countered with, ‘We’ve brought her up to be level-headed and independent, and you know, once she makes up her mind, she doesn’t change it.’”

Their Army permission to get married (ultimately signed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower) had not yet come through by the time Dad left for London in July, but, once he was there, he tracked down the person responsible and got it moved on.

Then, he was off to France, landing at Omaha Beach, which, by late July, was peaceful. His unit spent the next several weeks bivouacking in tents, moving camp about every week or so, as they moved farther into France. Their chief job was making sure that Gen. George Patton’s Third Army didn’t run out of gasoline.

Finally, Allied troops rolled into Paris in late August, 1944, and that’s where Dad was stationed for the remainder of the war, at first staying in a couple of hotels the Army had taken over, and then in a former dormitory at the University of Paris.

Mollie Parry King is seen in the “going away” outfit that she wore for her impromptu wedding in November, 1944.

He longed to get back to the U.K. and his fiancée, but the only soldiers being granted furlough at that point were the married ones. So, he figured out another way, volunteering for courier duty in October, 1944.

His first courier assignment was delayed by fog, but, on Oct. 31, his name came up again. He sent a message via an Army friend to Mom, asking if she could meet him in London, and he flew across the English Channel with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.

When the train carrying Mom pulled into London’s Paddington Station, she later wrote, “there was my love, waiting for me.”

They “whizzed around London” in search of the colonel who could give Dad permission to leave the city, Mom said, and wound up at the flat of the colonel’s English secretary, named Peggy. The secretary’s American boyfriend, a Tech Sgt. Morgan, volunteered to take Dad’s place on the return flight to Paris, in order to buy my father more time in Britain. Meanwhile, Peggy tracked down the colonel at a cocktail party. Dad spoke to him, and was given verbal permission to go to Wales to get married. However, the colonel warned him that if he got stopped by MPs, his papers said Paris, and the officer would deny any knowledge of him.

The overnight train from London pulled into Mom’s hometown about 7:30 a.m. It had taken them 8 hours to cover the 150 miles, because of delays caused by German V-1 flying bombs buzzing overhead.

Mollie Parry didn’t wear her wedding gown during the ceremony, but she did when she posed with her new husband, Staff Sgt. Bill King, afterward.

Mollie Parry didn’t wear her wedding gown during the ceremony, but she did when she posed with her new husband, Staff Sgt. Bill King, afterward.

My parents were married at the Parry family’s parish church, St. Mary’s (known as the “Westminster Abbey of Wales”), at 10 a.m. that day, squeezed in by the vicar on a busy All Saints Day. Mom decided that her elaborate wedding gown (which she didn’t really like, anyway) was a bit much for a quickie wedding with no bridesmaids, so she instead wore her “going away” outfit — a periwinkle blue silk crepe dress with a new coat, fur cap and a muff, on which she pinned some orchids that Betty Morgan, her best friend since childhood, had brought to the ceremony.

After the wedding, they went back to Lion Street. Gran had taken an early Christmas cake she’d baked — icing and decorating it to look more like a wedding cake. Auntie Helen went to the shop she managed and brought back sliced ham, fresh bread, biscuits (the British kind), sausage rolls and several bottles of wine.

The newlyweds had a few precious hours together before Dad’s friend Tommy brought the major’s Jeep at 5:30 p.m. to take him to catch an express train back to London. The next day, Dad was back in Paris. It was six months before he got to come back to Wales, on furlough, but he and Mom wrote to each other every day.

Staff Sgt. Bill King is seen under an Allied speed-limit sign in Paris, where he was stationed at the end of World War II.

Everyone in the Parry family, and most of their friends in Abergavenny, were very happy about the marriage, though Mom’s godmother, known as “Nanny” Downes, told her brother Bill that, had he been alive, my grandfather (who had died in 1941) “never would have allowed Mollie to marry an American.” Uncle Bill set her straight: “Had Mollie wanted the moon, Dad would have built a ladder long enough to get it for her.”

In late November, 1945, after Thanksgiving dinner in the French port of Le Havre, Dad and the rest of his unit boarded a ship back to the U.S., and then he was released from the Army at Fort Gordon in Augusta. He was home in Colbert before Christmas.

My parents were reunited on March, 12, 1946, after Mom sailed to New York on a ship filled exclusively with British war brides, and then by train to Georgia. After six months in Colbert, they moved to Athens, where Dad had been hired by C&S Bank. And, that’s where they remained, raising three sons, who often asked to hear stories of how Mom and Dad met, and their adventures in the war.

Bill King revisits Bailey Park in Abergavenny, Wales, in 1980. He had posed on a similar bench in the park 37 years earlier, while stationed in the town with the U.S. Army.

My parents both viewed WWII as “the last of the good wars,” as Dad told an interviewer from the Athens Regional Library Heritage Room in 1994. Partly, that was because the threat was clear, and “everyone pulled together,” as Dad said. But, also, without the war, my parents never would have met.

And Dad wouldn’t have had that 21st birthday party.

A year or so before the library session, a visiting French reporter working on stories for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, visited Athens and interviewed my parents. She asked Dad how he felt when he knew he had to go to war overseas.

“At the time,” he said, “it was something I had to do.”

But, Dad added, “as it turned out, it was a great adventure for me because of the things that happened … that affected the rest of my life.”

POST-SCRIPT: My cousin Stu in the U.K. offered a slightly different version of the story of Gran killing the unfortunate chicken for my father’s Southern meal. He recalls that Gran always said she decapitated the chicken with an axe and that it ran around headless before dropping dead. That also is the version I heard when I was a boy, but, when writing this account, I decided to go with what my mother wrote in her journal many years later (that Gran wrung its neck). Either way, it’s a great family story!

My Family Has Brought Back Delicious Memories From Our Trips Abroad

A class teaching how to make paella mixta produced a memorable meal in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jenny Robb King)

I’ve written another Adventures in Food column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this one about memorable meals during my family’s travels to other countries. Through the years, we’ve hit the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain and South Korea, and we’ve brought back delicious memories. Here’s the Super Deluxe edition of that column, with bonus meals and stories!

There might not be a lot of foreign travel happening right now, but some of the most memorable meals my family and I have had through the years have been while traveling abroad.

From rijsttafel in Amsterdam and pollo al forno around the corner from the Cavern Club in Liverpool, to steak-frites and secret sauce in Paris and risotto in the Lake District of Northern Italy, my family has brought back many dining stories (and delicious memories) from our trips. 

The Indonesian meal rijsttafel, meaning rice table, is very popular in Amsterdam. (Mama Makan)

One of the most unusual meals we’ve had in another country was during a 1984 visit my wife, Leslie, and I made to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. A guidebook talked about the influence that the colonization of Indonesia had on Dutch cuisine, and recommended tourists try rijsttafel, which means “rice table.”

What we were served was a big bowl of rice and lots of little bowls of different spicy-sticky-sweet dishes. We enjoyed the meal, but, frankly, we weren’t sure what we were eating most of the time. However, that may have been a good thing. We do remember beef rendang (slow-cooked, crispy beef in coconut curry sauce) and pisang goreng (crunchy fried banana fritters).

(For years after that, whenever we’d put together a meal of multiple little containers of leftovers, Leslie would say we were having “rijsttafel.”)

Easily the most unusual meal any of our family has had was when our daughter-in-law, Jenny, was working at a school in South Korea, and the teachers and administrators went out to dinner. The school’s principal ordered san-nakji, and offered her some. She didn’t want to try it, since it is a live octopus dish, but refusing food is considered bad manners there, so she accepted.

One of the teachers mimed to her that she should chew it really hard. “That was the opposite of what I had planned to do, since it seemed the easiest way to get through it would just be to swallow it as soon as possible,” she said. “But I’m glad I listened, because I later read that it is rare, but possible, to die from the suckers attaching to your throat!”

She used her chopsticks to pry the suckers off, since the octopus leg was still wiggling and sticking to the plate. “I chewed it hard,” Jenny said. “It didn’t have much taste, or else I didn’t notice the taste, because it was sucking onto my cheeks. I eventually chewed it enough that it stopped sucking, and swallowed it. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I think I earned some respect from my colleagues for trying it!”

At the Old Mill, you can see the same view of Salisbury Cathedral made famous by painter John Constable.

Memorable settings have made several of our meals abroad special, including the time we were staying with one of my mother’s cousins, Roden, and his wife, Mary, in Salisbury. One evening, we took them to dinner at the Old Mill, located in a building that dates back to 1250. The food was pretty much standard fare (Leslie had sole, I had fillet and our son Bill had sausages), but the view of Salisbury Cathedral, the same vantage point immortalized by painter John Constable, was beautiful.

Years later, Leslie and our daughter, Olivia, dined at the Sorza restaurant on the Ile Saint-Louis in the Seine River, near Notre Dame in Paris. Olivia said of the pesto risotto: “I would have licked the bowl if that was acceptable in public.”

Pesto risotto was one of the highlights of a visit to the restaurant Sorza on the Ile Saint-Louis in the Seine River in Paris. (Olivia King)

And, Leslie and Livvy also made a 2017 visit to the very popular Le Relais de l’Entrecôte in Paris, where there is a set menu: steak-frites and secret sauce. All the waiter asks you is: How do you want your meat cooked, what do you want to drink, and what dessert do you want? The boneless steak is served in two portions, “so you think it’s small, but then you’re surprised,” Livvy said. It also is covered with an alarmingly green peppercorn sauce, she said, but was “one of the top meals of my life, thus far.”

They also were thrilled to find one of our favorite drinks, a kir, commonly available throughout Paris. And, Olivia said, “you didn’t have to explain to them what it was,” like you do in most Atlanta restaurants.

The Paris restaurant Relais L’entrecote has a set menu: steak-frites and secret sauce. All you have to do is tell them how you want the meat cooked. (Olivia King)

On a couple of trips to London, we’ve also enjoyed lunch at the Swan, a pub on Bayswater Road that started as a coaching inn, dating to 1721. On one trip, we had tasty ham baguettes, and, on another, fish and chips, but the atmosphere was the chief attraction.

Speaking of fish and chips, we’ve had many different servings of them throughout the United Kingdom over the years, but the most generous portions were at The Codfather in my mother’s hometown of Abergavenny, Wales (featuring a logo of a tough-guy fish toting a machine gun). When Olivia returned there in 2017, “I ate the entire plate after hiking 9 miles roundtrip up to the summit of the Sugarloaf,” one of the seven mountains and hills that surround the picturesque town. (By comparison, on the same trip where we discovered The Codfather, we also had fish and chips at our hotel in Liverpool, and it was half the portion, twice the price, and only half as good.)

The Codfather, a wonderfully named shop in Abergavenny, Wales, is known for its very generous servings of fish and chips. (Olivia King)

Still, the absolute best-tasting fish and chips we’ve had were the hand-battered Atlantic cod and chips at the Pen & Parchment, a 17th century inn in Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon, where even the wisteria winding across the front of the building is 150 years old.

Another traditional U.K. meal, which my mother often served us, is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, which Olivia ordered when we dined at the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant in London in 2014. It was very good and, unlike what you’ll get in many British homes, the roast beef wasn’t overcooked! (In fact, when she revisited the Sherlock Holmes pub three years later, she had the same meal again.) Meanwhile, I had another British mainstay there: bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes).

A traditional meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is served at the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant in London. (Olivia King)

During one visit to London in the early 1980s, Leslie and I stayed at a smallish hotel called the Devere Gardens in the Kensington area and I tried oxtail soup, a British comfort food. Thought to have originated in London’s East End in the 17th century, the dish combines beef tails in a vegetable stew. It wasn’t bad, but I’ve never had it again since. (Of course, it’s not something you’d run across very often in Atlanta.)

I first encountered another British classic, the “full English breakfast,” on a 1982 visit to Liverpool, but the best I’ve had was during our 2001 stay at the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, where you could avail yourself of juice, tea, toast, fried egg, fried bread, hashbrowns, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms and cereal.

The Brits have a thing for baked beans. Olivia had a “jacket potato” (baked potato) at the Cwtch Café in Abergavenny that was topped with baked beans. It might sound awful, but she said it “spoiled me for jacket potatoes now — I can’t enjoy them plain.”

The British like to use unusual toppings for what they call a jacket potato. Here is one topped with baked beans, and served with a side salad, at the Cwtch Cafe in Abergavenny, Wales. (Olivia King)

Elsewhere, I’ll never forget having a warming bowl of porridge at a bed-and-breakfast in Edinburgh on a rainy August day that was so chilly I had to buy a wool hat in town. Also staying at the same place was a group of young Japanese women, and Leslie recalls one of them asking the innkeeper, “When will it be summer, and how long will it last?”

On that same trip, we dined at a local pancake place, only to find that they didn’t serve their pancakes with syrup. We had to smear our stacks with jam!

The ploughman’s lunch is another U.K. favorite. Traditionally, it’s a cold lunch consisting of bread, cheese, maybe meat, pickled onions and perhaps a hard-boiled egg. On a visit to London with a couple of friends, Mark Gunter and John Sosebee, to see Paul McCartney perform at Wembley Arena, we stopped into a pub that was offering a ploughman’s lunch.

Mark saw what he thought was a bowl of salt on the bar, so he spooned a little onto his egg. We found out why the bartender gave him such a strange look when he discovered it wasn’t salt in the bowl, but sugar. We still laugh about the infamous “sugared egg.”

John Sosebee (left) and Mark Gunter (right) join me in one of our pub visits during our 1990 visit to the U.K.

And, then there was the time Leslie and I rose early at a B&B in Llandudno, in the north of Wales, in order to catch a train. The owner slipped us a paper bag that included bacon sandwiches (or butties, as the British call them), made with slabs of good white bread, butter and those thick slices of British bacon that put even the Canadian version to shame.

Interestingly, we also had some memorable meals in Britain at U.S.-style restaurants (and I’m not counting quick lunches grabbed at McDonald’s). We especially liked Chicago Meatpackers in London’s Charing Cross district, where they had a lot of railroad memorabilia and a model train chugging around the room. We got a kick out of a notice on the menu (aimed at British customers, I assume) advising that good steaks should not be eaten well-done!

There also have been numerous visits to London’s Hard Rock Café, which, amid all the rock ’n’ roll memorabilia, serves an American diner-themed menu.

But, we were very disappointed when we tried Pret a Manger, a popular London-based chain patterned after American sandwich and coffee shops. The food was awful.

Getting back into traditional British fare, on a solo visit that our daughter made to the U.K. between college degrees, she had afternoon tea at Chatsworth House, a grand estate owned by the Duke of Devonshire that was used for the Pemberley scenes in the Kiera Knightly film version of Olivia’s favorite book, “Pride & Prejudice.” (She had to book it two months in advance.)

You have to book well in advance for afternoon tea at Chatsworth House, the Duke of Devonshire’s home in Derbyshire, England, where part of the popular Keira Knightley film “Pride & Prejudice” was shot. (Olivia King)

And, she spent some time in the ancient city of Bath, where she dined at the Sally Lunn house, around the corner from the Roman baths — and itself dating back to 1483. There, she had the famed Sally Lunn bun, a teacake made with yeast dough, cream and eggs, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France, served warm and sliced, with cinnamon butter.

Livvy also got to celebrate her 23rd birthday in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Her birthday is March 1, the same date as St. David’s Day, the Welsh national holiday, so she got to march in the parade and then enjoy lasagna made with Welsh beef at the Duke of Wellington pub.

Olivia celebrated her 23rd birthday in 2017 with Welsh beef lasagna at the Duke of Wellington pub in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. (Olivia King)

Probably the most memorable mealtime view we’ve ever had was during a stay in Northern Italy’s Lake District in 2009, where dinner every night at the four-star Lido Palace hotel (originally built as a villa in 1865) offered a majestic vista of Lake Maggiore and three of its palace-studded islands.

Also wonderful was the food at the hotel’s Terrace restaurant, overseen by the ever-helpful Roberto, who would address Leslie as “Signora,” Olivia as “Signorina” and me as “Datore,” an Italian term of respect that roughly translates as “Boss.” My son, as the younger male, didn’t get any special honorific.

On the day our tour group arrived, they served us a “light” lunch buffet that included breaded turkey slices, quiche, pizza squares, pasta, puff pastries, fruit, cake and gelato.

Olivia (from left), Bill, Leslie and Bill, at one of the lengthy dinners during our 2009 stay at the Lido Palace Hotel on the shore of Lake Maggiore in Baveno, Italy.

The two-hour, four-course dinners (five, if you wanted a salad) sometimes didn’t start until 7:45 in the evening, and included such starters as cauliflower muffins and a tartlet with squash, leeks and taleggio cheese; a different cream soup every night; and a different pasta, except the last night, when we had risotto, one of the area’s specialties. Each night, you also had the choice of fish (usually from one of the nearby lakes) or meat, for your entrée, along with some sort of potato dish. Favorites included the eggplant and Parmesan lasagna al ragu, the veal escalope, and, our farewell meal there, when we chose trout with butter and sage.

One night, a strawberry and vanilla cake topped with a sparkler was wheeled out to celebrate the birthday of our 24-year-old son and a lady in our tour group. Young Bill got to slice the cake.

Young Bill cuts the birthday cake served at our hotel in Baveno, with Lake Maggiore visible behind him. (Leslie King)

And, always, gelato of various flavors was part of the dessert buffet. (Olivia also soon got us all in the habit of a midafternoon gelato break, no matter where we were. In Italy, you’re never far from a gelato shop.)

In general, the food at the hotel — and in the various restaurants where we had lunch — was wonderful, especially the simply prepared pasta (usually in oil and a light, creamy tomato sauce, not the heavy sauces favored in southern Italy). Zucchini was a frequent ingredient, as was eggplant.

Here I am lunching al fresco at Ristorante Pizzeria in Stresa, a tourist town on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. (Leslie King)

We had other delightful meals on day trips during that visit, including a lunch on Isoladei Pescatori (Fisherman’s Island) that offered pasta with tomato sauce, olives and eggplant, and fish with a spinach and cheese pattie; ham and cheese and chicken and cheese panini in Milan; and pizza at a covered outdoor café in Stresa, another town on the lake.

Five years later, when Olivia did a study-abroad stay in Rome, her most memorable meals included a pasta dish at La Fiaschetta in Rome (she liked the place so much, she ate there four times); and cacio e pepe served in a bowl made of Parmesan cheese.

Cacio e pepe, here served at a restaurant in the Trastevere area of Rome, is pasta with black pepper and grated pecorino Romano cheese. (Olivia King)

Of course, you can find fine Italian cuisine in other countries, with one of the best meals I’ve ever had being at Casa Italia in Liverpool. We’ve dined at the restaurant on several visits to the hometown of The Beatles, but the high point was when my son and I went there one night in 2001 and both had the pollo al forno — shell pasta and chicken and mozzarella in bechamel sauce, sizzling hot in a skillet and sprinkled with Parmesan and black pepper. Delicious!

And, in 2017, Leslie and Livvy split an excellent pizza at Bar Remo on Oxford Street in London.

Seafood always has been a favorite of ours, too, and we had a couple of fine meals at the original Manzi’s, which was near London’s Leicester Square, and was known for its curried halibut and strawberry flan. (There’s a new Manzi’s in Soho that pays tribute to the departed original.)

We also enjoyed seafood at Geales in Notting Hill, where, on our most recent visit, we had cod and chips, whitebait (a small battered, fried fish), salmon fish cakes, fried plaice fillet with new potatoes, and fish pie (with cod, prawns, salmon and smoked haddock in cream sauce, topped with mustard mashed potatoes).

I first discovered Geales, which unfortunately closed for good this past spring, while in London with my friend John in 1990. As John recalled recently, “I think I had cod and chips, and kept my eye on that damn cat wandering through the dining room, looking for a handout.”

John might not have been crazy about a restaurant with a cat, but Olivia (who loves cats) enjoyed dessert crepes from a crepe restaurant in Paris “that had a resident cat who wandered around.” She also dined at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London.

An instructor known as Angeles teaches visitors in Barcelona, Spain, how to make paella mixta, which includes chicken and seafood along with a lot of vegetables. (Jenny Robb King)

Our son and daughter-in-law had another memorable seafood meal in Barcelona, Spain, where they signed up for a class to learn to make paella mixta, which also  includes chicken and vegetables.

“A big part of the work was chopping veggies,” Jenny recalled. When it came time to cook the dish in a large pan, the teacher did it, though she allowed the students to take turns stirring. They also enjoyed sangria while they cooked, and, for dessert, learned to make a Catalan cream, similar to a crème brûlée. Said Jenny: “It was one of our favorite meals and experiences in Spain!”

We’ve also had some unforgettable servers during our foreign meals. One time, when we met up with our longtime friends  Carl and Randi Rehm at the Pavement Café in the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, we had a terrible waiter, who apparently got fired midway through the meal and was replaced by another one, almost as slow — though we didn’t really mind, since it gave us a lot of time to catch up.

On the positive side, the day after my son and I visited Liverpool’s Casa Italia, we went in there again for focaccia and pizzas, and we also got a taste of the famous Liverpudlian wit. The waiter we’d had the night before recognized us and, with a grin, asked if we’d like our “usual table.”

This wonderful dessert served at the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, Wales, features ice cream, strawberries and sugar cookies. (Olivia King)

Another meal, in 2014 at the Angel in London, featured not just delicious food (including soup with gnocchi for Leslie, halibut for me, an upscale burger for Livvy, and a superb dessert combining strawberries, vanilla ice cream and sugar cookies), but also a charming French waitress. While I was skeptical, she managed to talk me into trying something on the menu called Jasmine Pearls. It proved to be a delicious green tea scented with fresh jasmine flowers, and I enjoyed it, in spite of my doubts.

And, also in 2014, we returned to a London restaurant called Olio, in a hotel on Lancaster Gate near Hyde Park, where, 13 years earlier, we’d enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal, including fettucine arrabiata, pizza margherita and, for dessert, a chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and powdered sugar (the best dessert of that trip).

We were excited to revisit that earlier experience, but, unfortunately, in the interim Olio had switched to a European-Malaysian menu. When we expressed our disappointment, the waitress, who hailed from Turkmenistan, convinced the management to serve us from the Frank Sinatra Night menu that one of their other restaurants offered just one night a week.

We appreciated the effort — and, of course, she received a very generous tip.

College Life in the New South, 1971: Changing Times in Athens

(Apple TV+)

Looking back at the fall of 1971, my sophomore year at the University of Georgia was an interesting, transitional time.

The start of my second year at UGA actually wasn’t drastically different from my freshman year.

I was plowing through more of the core-curriculum courses — with the bulk of my journalism major classes still ahead — but I’d already decided to use all my electives for history classes, so I could get the equivalent of a double-major.

And, I’d already found a favorite history professor, Dr. Carl Vipperman, who gave interesting lectures, and whose big thing was to have you write an end-of-term paper based on primary research that you did by going back through the 19th century newspapers on microfilm at the university library. I’d always loved reading old newspapers, so that was right in my wheelhouse.

I thought about Dr. Vipperman recently as I was clicking through the 1971 issues in the online archive of the student paper, The Red & Black, which expanded to four-days-a-week publication (Tuesday-Friday) that fall.

From the pages of the R&B 50 years ago, it’s clear that college life in Athens, GA, had one foot in the old days, while also trying to embrace the future.

UGA students in the fall of 1971. (The Red & Black)

Female students still were called “coeds” and “girls,” there were “home ec” majors who were required to spend a quarter practicing homemaking in university-owned houses, and football players couldn’t have long hair or facial hair.

But, the campus was abuzz with political and anti-war activism, and the various byproducts of the sexual revolution were all around us, with both “women’s lib” (as it was called) and the burgeoning gay rights movement gaining momentum.

However, the transition to a new era wasn’t always smooth. The student paper broke the barrier against having a female in the Sanford Stadium press box for a football game, but she ended up writing about what she wore, and the fact that she knew nothing about football.

At least, “there wasn’t a campus dress code for women, like the one my sister lived under just few years before,” my friend Minla Shields recalls. “But, I was told by one professor that I couldn’t attend her class barefoot.”

And, the fashions of the day weren’t always that fun to wear. “My ubiquitous bell bottoms were wide and dragged the ground,” Minla said. “On rainy days, they wrapped around my ankles and it felt absolutely miserable.” 

A fall 1971 anti-war demonstration in front of the UGA student center. (The Red & Black)

Minla was a first-quarter freshman that fall (UGA didn’t go to semesters until years later) and lived in Creswell, one of the high-rise dorms (which were all single-gender, except for Oglethorpe House, which was privately run). She recalls she barely knew her roommate, who spent most of her time off campus, “so I had the room to myself … except for the pet rabbit she left in my care.”

Her room on the second floor “was well positioned for me to see women needing to be let in the fire door after curfew. I used that fire door a number of times, myself. The front doors were locked at curfew and the only other way in was past a dorm monitor, who doled out demerits.” 

Class registration still was held in the Coliseum, where you lined up to try to secure one of the punch cards stacked on a table for the class you wanted. As Minla remembers, “You would pick up and return cards, juggling conflicting class times, until you ended up with something resembling the schedule you wanted.”

P.E. still was required. I’d knocked out some of the hardcore classes (conditioning exercises and weightlifting), along with a fun one (flag football) my freshman year, so I took bowling that fall (and billiards winter quarter). Minla recalls taking square dancing.

Socially, campus was divided at that time into what we called “Greeks and freaks” (those who were in a fraternity or sorority, and those who weren’t). A guy I knew from a political campaign the previous year tried to interest me in pledging his frat, but I stayed independent.

Minla tried sorority rush briefly, and she found “I wasn’t very good at it. That first evening of rush, we were ushered down Milledge Avenue, from one sorority house to the next, every woman intent on one thing — making an impression so they would be asked to pledge. Halfway through the night, my mouth hurt from smiling, and I ran out of things to say, so I bailed.

“The next day, I discovered a new group of friends, and pot — and my place in UGA’s social order was established.”

Meanwhile, MiMi Dubose Gudenrath, with whom I’d been going to school most of my life, did go into the Greek system, and was living in the Chi Omega house that fall. “I never missed a football game or any of the band parties after the games,” she recalled. “Oh, and I went to class, too. Life was so good!”

Since I was from Athens and living at home, I didn’t spend a lot of leisure time on campus, other than listening to music in the Bulldog Room between classes. But, Minla remembers her favorite place to hang out was on the steps outside of the student union. And, her favorite study place “was in the nearby grass — unless the Children of God were out trying to recruit overly stressed students.”

The Redcoat Marching Band dropped Dixie from its name that fall. (The Red & Black)

The university had 19,232 students enrolled that fall, an estimated 500 of whom were Black. Campus life slowly was changing, with the Dixie Redcoat Band, which performed at halftime of football games, dropping Dixie from its name that season.

The first Black football players were on campus, but they were on the freshman team, since the NCAA didn’t allow first-year students on the varsity teams in those days.

My friend MiMi took an Industrial Arts class as an elective that quarter (because a guy in line behind her at registration recommended it as “fun and easy and no outside assignments after class”); also in that class was Horace King, one of those freshman Black players.

Although he was from Athens, they had not gone to school together, because she had attended Athens High (like me) and he had been at Burney-Harris, the Black high school. (The two schools merged into Clarke Central as part of an integration plan the year after MiMi and I graduated.)

Recalls MiMi of Horace, who went on to star in the NFL for the Detroit Lions: “Over the course of that fall, we shared pieces of our lives about two people and two families who had lived in Athens their whole lives but had never crossed paths. I learned a lot about him, his family, and his high school, and I hope he learned a lot about me and mine. I knew he was going to play football for Georgia, but I did not realize that he was among the first five African Americans to ever play for Georgia. Nor did I realize what a difference he would make for the generations of African American football players to follow him Between the Hedges. 

“I’d like to say we stayed connected after that class, but we did not. He was destined for greatness and did not disappoint. I always loved watching him on the field after our class together; I guess I felt like we were kindred spirits who collided for a while and then moved to another phase of our lives.” 

The Miss Legs competition still was a thing in 1971 at UGA. (The Red & Black)

Elsewhere on campus, there still were vestiges of old-school college life around that fall, like the Miss Legs contest, sponsored by Tau Kappa Epsilon, in which votes cost a penny each, with proceeds going to the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. Photos of the entrants only showed their legs. (The previous year, the winner had shown up in a pantsuit to receive her trophy. This year’s winner, crowned by head football coach Vince Dooley, wore hot pants.)

Meanwhile, in response to a Christian group that had been picketing Effie’s, a legendary brothel in town, the R&B editorialized that prostitution should be legalized.

We were still in the pre-Roe v. Wade era that fall, and abortions were not easy to get in Georgia — the director of the University Health Services was on record saying that Georgia’s abortion law should be liberalized — so, the campus paper featured quite a few ads for referral services sending women out of state to terminate pregnancies.

Also that quarter, a couple of students formed a Committee on Gay Education, and the R&B began a series of articles on discrimination against women on the university campus.

In a survey conducted by the paper, women were split 50-50 on the need for equal rights for them, while 42 percent of men were sympathetic to the cause, 35 percent were opposed, and 23 percent were undecided.

The politically active band Ravenstone was very popular with UGA students. (Ravenstone)

The local rock band Ravenstone, which was very popular with UGA students that fall — playing shows at Legion Field, the Memorial Hall ballroom and on the plaza in front of the student center — decided to start its own campus political party, initially called the Ravenstone Party.

“We want to give the alternate lifestyle a chance for expression in the present system,” lead vocalist Michael Simpson told the student paper.

Reminiscing with me recently, Michael noted that, in the fall of 1971, the Vietnam War still was going, “It was, in many ways, a very intense time.”

Ravenstone “was known as much for its stage antics and political activism as its music,” he said. The band championed gay rights and the legalization of prostitution, warned of dangerous working conditions at a luminous watch factory in town, and encouraged students to register to vote in Athens.

Michael’s stage patter also included advocating for legalization of all forms of sex between “freely consenting adults.”

Michael Simpson and his infamous T-shirt. (Michael Simpson)

His comments were a bit more graphic than that, which led someone to complain to UGA officials that he was spouting obscenity from the stage. He was invited to the dean of student affairs’ office. It didn’t help matters that he also had worn a T-shirt onstage emblazoned with SHIT.

But, Michael assured the bemused dean that “obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. He may see the shirt and think one thing, but I saw the initials for Sam Houston Institute of Technology. And, as they say, that was my story and I was sticking to it.”

(A little over a year later, the political movement started by Ravenstone, by then called Coalition, would sweep the campus elections.)

Of course, social activism wasn’t all that UGA students thought about that fall. On the recreational front, they were availing themselves of the new champion billiards and snooker tables in the University Union game room, as well as table tennis and coin-operated foosball games.

Andy Johnson quarterbacked the successful Georgia Bulldogs in the 1971 season. (University of Georgia)

And, the Georgia Bulldogs football team, which had muddled through a mediocre season in 1970, suddenly was among the best in the nation, led by my Athens classmate from junior high and high school, quarterback Andy Johnson.

As a result of the team’s on-field success, football played an even bigger role in student life that fall, especially the week of the big showdown between the Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers, both undefeated. The Tigers won, giving UGA its only loss of the season.

But, as my high school classmate Tom Hodgson recalls, football season meant more than just the games. “I was a freshly initiated fraternity man and, as such, football Saturdays were for dates and beer and bands on the porch following the final whistle,” he said.

“Most of us had only one suit, and it was probably heavy wool, with wide lapels and maybe a windowpane pattern. Almost appropriate for a November kickoff, but wholly inappropriate for September. We were miserable, but, damn, we thought we looked good! 

“The girls had it even tougher,” Tom continued. “Kilts and wool skirts and pantyhose and hairspray. That pretty Kappa you sat down with at the start of quarter number one was not the same creature when you stumbled out of the stadium and struggled up Lumpkin Street to the fraternity house sometime in the fourth quarter.

“But, at the house awaited cold drinks and ice and a soul-music band and more friends and almost certainly celebrations.

“I’d give anything to go back tomorrow,” he said, adding: “I’d wear shorts.”

Jeans were a common sight on students in 1971. (Pandora/Hargrett Library)

While fraternity and sorority members tended to dress up a bit more for football games, fashions for most students at UGA had not changed drastically from the year before, with jeans still the most common wardrobe item And, when women weren’t wearing bell bottoms, like Minla, their skirts tended to be either very short or very long. Here again, though, old attitudes still were in evidence, with the Sassy Fox fashion store near Athens’ Five Points district advertising: “Be the sassiest fox in Athens. Leave a trail any wolf will follow.”

On the other side of the gender gap, an ad for Gunn’s, a downtown menswear shop, showed a drawing of a man dressed like some sort of foppish court jester — which did not reflect, even remotely, anything I ever saw on the streets of Athens.

If Gunn’s sold any outfits like this, you certainly didn’t see them around town. (The Red & Black)

As for nightlife, there was a bit more of it in town that fall than the year before, but the bar and nightclub scene wouldn’t really take off until a few months later, when the legal drinking age in Georgia was lowered from 21 to 18.

Still, alcohol loomed large in student life, as ever, with the nightspots in town generally not looking all that closely at the fake IDs many students presented as they took advantage of the ubiquitous “drink and drown” promotions.

Joel Provano, who was a year ahead of me at UGA, remembers, “The fall of ’71 was a special time for me, as it was the first time I lived off-campus. In those days, you had to live on campus for two years, and being free of dorm life for the first time was a great feeling.”

Joel also recalls that “it was the first time in my college life that we had a really good football team … and what I remember most about that fall was the electric mood at the apartment complex on football Saturdays.”

He lived right behind the Fifth Quarter, a legendary bar owned by a former football player, and the residents in his complex “were mostly students, who were up and partying early on those Saturday home dates.

“And, of course, the party didn’t end when the game was over. Good thing the Fifth Quarter was within walking distance.” 

Alcohol was, as always, a major part of student life. (Pandora/Hargrett Library)

At Your Mother’s Moustache, a new downtown nightclub next door to a head shop, Terry Melton and His Laughing Disaster were the house band. That group “included Davis Causey on guitar and Randall Bramblett on keyboards and sax,” my old friend Bill Berryman recalls. “This had to be the most underrated band of all time. They always ended the evening with Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway.’” (A few years later, Causey and Bramblett would be part of Chuck Leavell’s Allman Brothers offshoot, Sea Level.)

Wednesdays at Your Mother’s Moustache meant no cover charge, and you could drink your fill (or more) for $2.50. On weekends, there was a $1 cover for name bands, 50 cents for lesser-known groups. Beer was 40 cents a mug, or $2.25 a pitcher.

At The Last Resort, a coffeehouse/music venue that had been around since the mid-’60s beatnik days, a more attentive crowd usually was on hand for nationally known folk or blues acts. The 85-seat club was full on weekends for the likes of Ray Whitley, Gamble Rogers, Jeff Espina, Steve Goodman, the Rev. Pearly Brown and Elizabeth. Hard cider was $2 a bottle, and draft beer 35 cents a mug, or $2.25 a pitcher.

The nightclub scene hadn’t yet exploded in Athens. (The Red & Black)

And, out in Normaltown, near the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School (now UGA’s health sciences campus), Between the Hedges, a rock ‘n’ roll club located behind the venerable hamburger joint Allen’s, sported a décor in the UGA school colors of red and black, and was a favorite with the fall football crowd. There, you paid $1.25 for call brands, $1.50 for cream drinks, and Michelob draft was 50 cents a mug.

The restaurant scene in Athens still mostly was geared toward fast-food, meat-and-three Southern cooking, barbecue, steaks and pizza/Italian.

Newcomers to the dining scene included Katherine’s Kitchen, with a biscuit-based menu; Wrangler Steakhouse, a block from the university Arch; and the Cracker Barrel, a Southern cooking restaurant located in a former mill store, down by the Oconee River.

Cafeterias still were very popular, with the Beechwood Buffet offering a $1.49 deal that included all the vegetables, salad and bread you wanted, plus one entrée and one dessert.

As for entertainment, the fall of 1971 was a great time for music, as Apple TV+ recently documented in the series “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything.”

In Athens, the record-buying options had grown from a year earlier, with Music Grotto, a more student-oriented store with posters on the wall and rock music playing on the stereo, having opened in downtown Athens the previous spring, and Record Bar coming to town that fall at the Beechwood Shopping Center, a couple of miles from campus. Other options included a place called Budget Tapes & Records, a couple of mom-and-pop record stores downtown, and the record departments of local discount stores.

With increased competition came lower prices. Soon, new LPs at the Music Grotto were selling for $2.99. Shortly after, Record Bar also was selling the hit albums at that price. And, then, Budget Tapes and Records responded with $2.69 albums. (List price for an LP in those days ranged from $2.99 to $4.99.)

I actually applied for a job at Record Bar (along with a lot of other college students), but I didn’t get hired. My most vivid memory of the store came that October, when I went in one day and heard Don McLean’s “American Pie” for the first time, playing on the store sound system — one of those pop culture benchmark moments.

Sly and the Family Stone played a Homecoming concert in Athens in the fall of 1971. (The Red & Black)

Among the hits playing that fall on the two local Top 40 radio stations (where most of the DJs were UGA students) were Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” Donny Osmond’s “Go Away Little Girl,” Aretha Franklin’s “Spanish Harlem,” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” and “Reason to Believe,” John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” the Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together,” Cher’s “Gypsies Trumps & Thieves” (her first solo No. 1 hit in the U.S.), Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft,” Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair,” Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs,” Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” Joan Baez’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Olivia Newton-John’s “If Not for You” and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

As the quarter went on, we also heard Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me,” the Stampeders’ “Sweet City Woman,” Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song (There Is Love),” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Lee Michaels’ “Do You Know What I Mean,” Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train,” the Carpenters’ “Superstar/Bless the Beasts and Children,” the Osmonds sounding like the Jackson 5 on “Yo-Yo,” the Chi-Lites’ “Have You Seen Her” (which my Mom particularly liked) and Delaney and Bonnie’s “Only You Know and I Know.”

Most of the disc jockeys on Athens radio stations were UGA students. (Pandora/Hargrett Library)

Also drawing airplay: Carole King’s “So Far Away” and “Smackwater Jack,” the Original Caste’s “One Tin Soldier,” Chicago’s “Questions 67 and 68,” Peter Nero’s “Theme From Summer of ’42,” Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You,” the Grass Roots’ “Two Divided by Love,” the aforementioned “American Pie,” Melanie’s “Brand New Key” and, as the quarter ended, John & Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

Minla said when she thinks back to the albums played in her dorm room, “I hear Carole King’s ‘Tapestry,’ Rod Stewart’s ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ or The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ in my head.”

Other LP holdovers from earlier in the year that still were big as school began included the Allman Brothers Band’s “At Fillmore East,” the Moody Blues’ “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” “Al Green Gets Next to You” and The Who’s “Who’s Next.”

New LP releases that fall included Lennon’s “Imagine,” “Led Zeppelin IV,” T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior,” “Santana,” Cat Stevens’ “Teaser and the Firecat,” Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors,” the “American Pie” album, “Chicago at Carnegie Hall,” The Who’s “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy,” Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey,” Billy Joel’s “Cold Spring Harbor,” Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water,” the Faces’ “A Nod Is As Good As a Wink … to a Blind Horse,” Traffic’s “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson,” Emerson Lake & Palmer’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” “The Electric Light Orchestra,” Badfinger’s “Straight Up,” “America,” the debut of Paul McCartney’s band Wings with “Wild Life,” Pink Floyd’s “Meddle,” and, just in time for Christmas, George Harrison and Friends’ “The Concert for Bangla Desh.”

On a down note, Duane Allman of the fast-rising Allman Brothers was killed in late October in a motorcycle accident in Macon.

Wet Willie headlined an “all night boogie” show that fall. (Courtesy of Mark Pucci Media)

Concerts in Athens that fall included a touring production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Sly and the Family Stone at the Georgia Coliseum (both for Homecoming), followed a few days later by Chicago.

Wet Willie originally had been announced as the headliner of a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. show at the J&J Center (generally a wrestling venue), but had to pull out. It went on anyway, with the Hampton Grease Band, Acme Blues Band, Milkweed, the Laughing Disaster and Smokewood. And, a few weeks later, Wet Willie did top the bill for another J&J “all night boogie” show, also featuring Eric Quincy Tate, Broken Home and the Laughing Disaster. Meanwhile, a free University Union concert presented Emerson Lake & Palmer at the Coliseum; the Tams were at the J&J; and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes performed in the Memorial Hall ballroom.

Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda were on the screen in “Klute” that fall.

Of course, going to the movies still was the most popular date night, though it was a rather mediocre fall for films (at least, in Athens, which tended to get the top new Hollywood films a few weeks after the big cities, in an era before blockbuster movies opened “wide” from the start).

Probably the best movies in town that fall were Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland in “Klute,” Michael Caine in “Get Carter,” Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Robert Aldrich’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” “Sara Miles and Robert Mitchum in “Ryan’s Daughter,” Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter in “Play Misty for Me” and James Garner and Lou Gossett in “Skin Game.”

Other features playing on Athens screens included Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen and Art Garfunkel in Mike Nichols’ “Carnal Knowledge,” Dustin Hoffman in “Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?,” Jaqueline Susann’s “The Love Machine,” Richard Chamberlain and Yvette Mimeux  in “Joy in the Morning,” Brian Keith in “Scandalous John,” Stacy Keach and Faye Dunaway in a Western called “Doc,” Sean Connery and Peter Finch in “The Red Tent,” Richard Thomas in “Red Sky at Morning,” “Friends” (which was notable only for its score by Elton John and Bernie Taupin), Peter Fonda and Warren Oates in “The Hired Hand,” Terence Hill in the Italian Western “They Call Me Trinity,” Anne Baxter in “The Late Liz,” Jason Robards in “Johnny Got His Gun,” Robert Vaughn in “Clay Pigeon,” Pam Grier in “Women in Cages,” Mia Farrow in “See No Evil,” Melvin Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” Elliot Gould in Ingmar Bergman’s “The Touch,” Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed in Ken Russell’s “The Devils,” Richard Benjamin in “The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker,” Yul Brynner in “Catlow,” George Hamilton in “Evel Knievel,” Mark Lester in “Black Beauty,” Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner and Santana in the concert film “Soul to Soul,” and second runs or reissues of “My Fair Lady,” Summer of ’42,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Gone With the Wind” and “Charly.”

Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter starred in “Play Misty for Me.”

The two local drive-ins offered either second-run features or such passion-pit fare as “Fulfillment (“suggested for married couples only”), “Shotgun Wedding” and “Chrome and Hot Leather.” Also, Athens finally had an X-rated cinema, the Paris Adult Theatre downtown.

While much my sophomore year differed little from when I was a freshman, there was one key difference that fall: I had a part-time job, working for the local school district in a program funded by a drug-education grant, alongside two friends of mine from high school.

We were hired as the program coordinators, and we spent much of that fall getting a new student hangout called The Place opened in an unused lunchroom at Clarke Central High School.

The idea was to provide a scaled-down version of a college student center, where the high school kids could listen to music, eat snacks, play pool and relax between classes — in a drug-free environment and under our watchful eye. We even showed movies on Friday nights (the first time I’d ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”).

It was a rather naïve approach to the drug problem, and it didn’t last long (mainly because a trio of college sophomores weren’t really equipped to manage the behavior problems that inevitably cropped up with teenagers).

Still, we felt like we were contributing something to society — a very big deal for many college students, then and now.

Oh, one more memory from that fall: Late in the quarter, I started growing a mustache.

I haven’t been cleanshaven since then.

(Special thanks to Jason Hasty of the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Steve Colquitt of the UGA Athletic Association, Mark Pucci and Greer Madden.)

Read more about the Georgia Bulldogs’ great 1971 football season in my Junkyard Blawg.

Find out about college life at UGA in 1970, my freshman year.

And, take a look at the nascent Athens music scene and other ways students entertained themselves my freshman year.

The main dish at this lunch club is rock ’n’ roll

Attending the June, 2019, music lunch club meeting are (back row, from left) Dick Wooley, Deborah Coons, Bill King, Forrest Haller, Mark Pucci and Randy Roman; (front, from left) Steve Jones, Dave Dannheisser, John McKnight and Karin Johnson. (Mark Pucci)

Here’s an expanded version of an Adventures in Food column I wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. …

The Chinese restaurant in Doraville where I attend a monthly lunch club features delicious Cantonese entrees, but the real main course is stories told about some of the legends of rock ’n’ roll.

The ATL Music Lunch Club is an informal gathering at Bo Bo Garden Asian Cuisine on Buford Highway. The club, which has been on hiatus during the pandemic, is a mix of folks somehow connected with the music biz.

John McKnight plays drums, Joey “Papa J” Sommerville plays trumpet, Don Dunlavey plays guitar; Randy Roman, Steve Jones and Dave Dannheisser are former record label guys; Rick Diamond is a photographer; Vince Canipelli is a veteran concertgoer who recalls seeing the Allman Brothers at Piedmont Park in 1969.

Bill King (third from left) is seen in his rock critic days with (from left) Capricorn Records’ Mark Pucci, Dick Meeder of 96 Rock and Pat Pucci. (Rick Diamond Photography)

Shortly after I retired in 2017, I was invited to join the group by longtime friend Mark Pucci, whom I’ve known since I was The Atlanta Constitution’s rock critic in the 1970s-80s, and he was publicist at Macon’s Capricorn Records (label home of the Allmans).

Thankfully, at my first few club meetings, I got to experience the extraordinary storytelling of local music legend Bruce Hampton, before he died onstage at the Fox during his 70th birthday concert.

Col. Bruce Hampton (second from right) is seen backstage at the Fox Theatre with (from left) Warren Hanes of Gov’t Mule/The Allman Brothers, and Mike Mills and Peter Buck of R.E.M. (Rick Diamond Photography))

The lunch group actually dates back about 20 years to when Hampton and former Capricorn Records Vice President Dick Wooley would meet for lunch at Little Szechuan on Buford Highway. Gradually, others started to tag along.

Chattanooga recording studio owner Glenn Halverson (who drives down for the lunches) was an early member. “I was only 36,” he recalled, “and I was very much intimidated. These guys were the real deal. I was smart enough to shut up and listen … and learn.”

Dannheisser likes that the lunch club is “such a diverse representation of the music and entertainment business — record company reps, radio DJs, studio and touring musicians, writers, photographers, and they all have their memories and stories of the industry’s better days. That makes it so enjoyable. I can’t wait till we reconvene to hear what everyone has been up to during the last year … should be interesting.”

Wooley recently summed up the lunch club as “just a bunch of old farts getting together and swapping war stories. … It’s a good little get-together. We have a few laughs.”

The May, 2019, meeting of the ATL Music Lunch included old-school Georgia soul music artist Hermon Hitson (center). Posing for the traditional post-lunch shot were (back, from left): Joey Sommerville, Dick Wooley, Mark Pucci, Forrest Haller, Bill King, Hitson, Randy Roman, Glenn Halverson and Vince Canipelli. In front is John McKnight. (Mark Pucci)

Nowadays, the age range generally runs from the 40s into the 70s — mostly men, but there are a couple of women among the regulars. Although Halverson, who sends out the email notices with meeting dates, has 75 names in his database, the usual attendance is about a dozen, although as many as two dozen folks have been known to show up. Guests sometimes drop by, including former Humble Pie guitarist Tom Johnson and longtime R&B guitarist Hermon Hitson.

Bo Bo Garden has an expansive menu, but the lunch fare is mainstream Chinese dishes. We meet there primarily because it’s one of the few places in town that has a table big enough to seat us all.

The crispy garlic bone-in half chicken at Bo Bo Garden Asian Cuisine in Doraville is an ATL Music Lunch Club favorite (and worth the wait). (Olivia King)

Some dishes take longer than others to come out, particularly the crispy garlic chicken favored by Wooley. We all throw a dollar into a pot and the last person to get their food (usually Dick) gets the money, which basically pays for his lunch and share of the tip. 

Over such group favorites as shrimp and eggs, shrimp with black bean sauce, mushroom chicken and shredded pork with garlic sauce, we share amusing tales about superstar encounters, talk about favorite performers, tell jokes and just share our lives. You might even hear a couple of folks comparing notes on hearing aids!

“I do love the stories about the music biz from the ’60s to the ’80s,” said one of the younger members, singer Karin Johnson, who performs locally with Blacklight Midnight, Vintage Boogie Band and That ‘70s Duo, and also works with Pucci in his music publicity firm.

Diamond agreed: “There are lots of great stories told every month.”

And, Dannheisser said, it’s “such a diverse representation of the music and entertainment business — record company reps, radio DJs, studio and touring musicians, writers, photographers, and they all have their memories and stories of the industry’s better days. That makes it so enjoyable. I can’t wait till we reconvene to hear what everyone has been up to during the last year … should be interesting.”

Noted Pucci: “The promo guys are the ones that have all the good stories, because they had the big budgets.”

Bill King’s first time at the ATL Music Lunch Club was in February, 2017. Attending that day (standing, from left): Forrest Haller, Augie Ray, Bobby Golden and Rusty Hendrix; (seated, from left): Moe Thaxton, Glenn Halverson, Col. Bruce Hampton, Randy Roman, John McKnight, Mark Pucci, King and Joey Sommerville. (Mark Pucci)

Yes, there are unprintable tales of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll from members’ younger days, but many stories are family-friendly. At my first gathering, I remember former MCA Records sales rep Forrest Haller telling how a cardboard standup of singer Tom Jones wound up with a couple of bullet holes in it.

As Haller recalled, One Stop Record Distributors, where he worked at the time, “was located in a large, old two-story house in a business-zoned area off Peachtree.”

The business took over the downstairs, while a financier named Ronnie was living upstairs.

One day, Haller said, “a record label salesman dropped by with new releases, and one was a Tom Jones album, and for a promotional item, for us to give to some record store for display, he carried in a life-sized cardboard cut-out stand-up of Tom Jones, and stood it up in the corner.

“Ronnie usually arrived later at night, after business hours, and went upstairs. At some point, he thought he heard a noise downstairs and came down with pistol in hand.  In the dark, in the corner, he caught sight of someone standing there and, frightened, he pumped two bullets into Tom Jones. 

“For several days after, all the record sales reps from around Atlanta came by to see the Tom Jones standup with a couple bullet holes in his chest … to great hilarity. 

“At some point, we gave it last rites and buried it in the backyard,” Haller concluded, laughing. 

One of Halverson’s favorite stories told by Hampton was about Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden, who had ordered a jukebox that had some problem. Walden got on the phone to the company, and “got so upset he was destroying his phone, beating it on the desk!”

Added Halverson: “The point was Col. Bruce telling the story. How he told the story made it funny.”

Col. Bruce Hampton was the founder of the ATL Music Lunch Club. Seen at this 2016 meeting are (from left) Glenn Halverson, Mark Pucci, John McKnight, Karin Johnson, Hampton and Randy Roman. (Mark Pucci)

He’s also still impressed that Hampton was at Funochio’s, a rock club on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street, when Lynyrd Skynrd was discovered.

Many of the most fondly told stories involve Hampton himself, a mentor to many in the music business, including highly regarded guitarist Derek Trucks. Said Steve Jones, a former Atlantic Records promotion man who recently retired from teaching at Georgia State University: “My favorite stories were any about Bruce. … I miss his presence at those gatherings so much … he was a magnet for uniqueness, creative thought and just downright nice people.”

Actor Billy Bob Thornton was in Hampton’s band at one time. After Thornton hit it big in movies, Hampton had a role in the film “Sling Blade” and the Colonel (as he’s fondly called) loved to recite one of his key speeches from the movie over lunch.

“Bruce was really the centerpiece of the lunch group,” said Wooley, recalling another favorite story told by Hampton, about how he encountered Little Richard in the mid-1960s, outside a club on Auburn Avenue. Richard was chewing out one of the guitarists in his band for daring to outdress him. That guitarist was Jimi Hendix. 

A couple of the all-time favorite stories from the lunch club involve Jimi Hendrix and Little Richard. (Billboard)

Speaking of Hendrix, Sommerville said his favorite story from the lunch group is Pucci’s about the first time he ever saw the guitar legend in concert, on July, 3, 1967.

Pucci and a friend decided to arrive early at The Scene, a New York City club where Hendrix was playing. “We turned the corner onto the street where the club was, and out in front was a large stack of Marshall amps,” he recalled. “And, sitting on top of them was Jimi, reading the National Enquirer!”

They talked with Hendrix for a few minutes, Mark said, adding: “The dope that I was, I didn’t ask for an autograph!”

Of the performance itself, Mark said, “That was the loudest show I’d ever heard anyone play up to that point. I remember he came out and said, ‘I hope you have your Blue Cross paid up.’ It was the first time I ever saw anyone play the guitar with their teeth, which he did on ‘Hey Joe.’”

At the time, Mark was living in New Jersey me and was planning on taking the train home. But, when he got to the station, he discovered that it was after midnight, and they’d switched to the holiday schedule. “There wasn’t another train until 7 the next day. So, I slept on a bench at Penn Station.”

Another Hampton story about Little Richard that Wooley recalls was when Col. Bruce was visiting Warner Bros. Records in Los Angeles with Frank Fenter of Capricorn Records and comedian Martin Mull, who was recording for Capricorn at the time. At the record company’s offices, they encountered Little Richard who “was waiting out in this little holding area, and eight hours later, he was still there waiting! He was out of favor at the time; this is when he was vacillating between rock ‘n’ roll and being a gospel minister.”

Haller also remembers that “Col. Bruce told us once his band was doing some club gigs with Muddy Waters in some nearby states and they were driving together late at night in Mississippi and Muddy told Bruce that they were near Clarksdale, and asked did he want to drive out to the famous ‘crossroads’ where supposedly Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for his guitar playing, and get out and stand around.  

“Bruce was a superstitious guy, and said something like, ‘No! Not on your life … I’m good enough.’”

Members often bring freebies to hand out, including new CDs from Mark Pucci’s publicity clients and copies of Beatlefan magazine from Bill King. Back row, from left: Tony Bryson, Dave Dannheisser, Dick Wooley, John McKnight, Rick Diamond. Front row, from left: Forrest Haller (holding up a copy of Beatlefan), Vince Canipelli, Bill King and Mark Pucci. (Mark Pucci)

Recently, I was reminiscing with former Memphis club manager Deborah Coons about how we miss our monthly club gathering. “I do Zoom calls all day with my work, which is OK,” she said, but “nothing beats face to face in the same room, eye contact interaction, laughs, breaking bread (twirling noodles).”

After that conversation, I was hankering for some Bo Bo, so my family ordered a takeout lunch from the restaurant.

Wanting to see what Wooley has been waiting on all those times, we included the crispy garlic chicken in our order. As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait on it, but, if we had, it would have been worth it. It was delicious.

The members of the ATL Music Lunch Club know whereof they speak, whether it’s music or Chinese food.

Binge-Watching the Happiest Show on Television

Finalists Luis Troyano (from left), Nancy Birtwhistle and Richard Burr carry their showstoppers out of the tent to greet family, friends and former contestants at the end of the 2014 finale. (BBC)

Here’s an expanded version of an Adventures in Food column I wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, featuring more notes, quotes and anecdotes …

Early in the pandemic, many turned to baking as a way of whiling away the time spent at home. Sourdough starters suddenly became a thing, and there were yeast and flour shortages.

Meanwhile, others chose to binge-watch TV shows like “Tiger King,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “The Mandalorian.”

My daughter Olivia and I have enjoyed the best of both worlds — bingeing the nine seasons of “The Great British Baking Show” available on PBS and Netflix.

Eventual “Great British Baking Show” winner Candice Brown chats at her workstation with co-host Sue Perkins. (BBC)

The show is a competition to find “Britain’s best home baker,” and the bakes are judged (frequently rather harshly) by celebrity chef Paul Hollywood. In the early years, he was joined by Mary Berry, known in the U.K. as the “queen of cakes” and prone to declaring dishes “scrummy” (scrumptious) and saying she likes them “cram-jam full” of filling. Since the show flipped from the BBC to Britain’s Channel 4 (and, in the U.S., from PBS to Netflix) in 2017, Hollywood’s fellow judge has been Prue Leith, a South African restaurateur and TV personality with an upper-crust accent that provides a nice contrast to Merseyside native Hollywood’s Scouse pronunciations.

Hollywood is known for his menacing stares and long pauses before rendering his verdict (the expressions on the bakers’ faces are a study in terror), while Berry and Leith are kinder, though no less exacting in their standards. In one episode, Leith said of Hollywood: “You do realize that when he says ‘not bad,’ he means they’re quite good.”

Paul Hollywood has judged “The Great British Baking Show” through its entire run. Until 2017, the other judge was Mary Berry. (BBC)

He also likes to lurk while bakers are working (which 2012 contestant Cathryn Dresser called “really unnerving”). Said 2019 baker Henry Bird of Hollywood: “It’s the eyes. Like a shark. Only even less mercy.”

Hollywood has been known to declare some bakers’ efforts tasteless or inedible. He told one contestant: “You’re great with your flavors — a lot of the time. But when you fail, you catastrophically fail.”

On the other hand, when he really likes something, he awards the contestant one of his much-prized handshakes, and their faces light up like a child on Christmas morning.

Sometimes, though, it’s the bakers who are their own worst enemy. In a 2013 episode, the brief for a showstopper was to make an elaborately decorated loaf of bread in four hours. Some of the bakers came up with plaited and highly decorated loaves approximating a wreath, a peacock and even an octopus. But, despite warnings from both Berry and host Sue Perkins that her plan for a tomato-shaped loaf of tomato-flavored bread with several tomatoes sitting on top of it, was too simple, and not going to be much to show for four hours, contestant Lucy Bellamy insisted on sticking with her “elegant” plan. Predictably, she was the baker sent home that week.

Quarterfinalist Martha Collison (left), seen with co-host Sue Perkins, was 17 when she competed on “The Great British Baking Show,” making her the youngest ever of the show’s bakers. (BBC)

Another time, a baker was asked whether he was making his own fondant for his bake, and he said no, apparently not noticing Berry’s glare. He also ended up being the one eliminated that week.

Hollywood isn’t always churlish in his evaluations. While he did tell one baker in a fruit pie challenge in the 2013 season that “One of my pet hates in pies is a soggy bottom. You managed to get a soggy top,” he told another baker in the same challenge that the pie she’d made was “quite frankly, delicious and one of the nicest pies” he’d ever had. Another time, he kept a baker waiting for an agonizing time for his verdict and then cracked a grin and said, “That’s one of the best things I’ve had to eat for a long time.”

Baker Lottie Bedlow gets one of the coveted Paul Hollywood handshakes during the 2020 “Great British Baking Show,” which saw the contestants all living together in a pandemic bubble. (Netflix)

The bakers generally take it pretty well when they’re eliminated, though tears aren’t uncommon. Even though they’re going home, they are proud to have been in the competition in the first place. Said Cathryn, after getting the axe: “I’m not surprised … little bit heartbroken … but it’s the best thing ever.”

An evolving cast of cheeky but charming comic duos host the show, describing what’s going on (amid jibes about Hollywood’s moussed hair and spray tan) and acting as timekeepers and cheerleaders/confessors for the frequently harried bakers, who are known on the show only by their first name. More than 10,000 apply each season for one of the 12 or 13 spots on the show, and those selected are a pretty diverse lot with widely varying ages.

(Olivia’s least favorite season was 2019, when seven of the contestants were in their 20s, and only two were over 40. She likes more of a mix, with both older “family” bakers as well as the younger ones. She also thought the challenges that season included too many dishes that no one would want to try to duplicate at home. Thankfully, “Baking Show” got mostly back on track in the 2020 season.)

The 2015 “Baking Show” finalists were (from left) Tamal Ray, Nadiya Hussein and Ian Cumming. Hussain was declared the winner. (BBC)

Watching the various seasons, you get invested in pulling for your favorites. Mine have included a pair of winners — Candice Brown, a spunky P.E. teacher known for wearing a different shade of lipstick every day, and Rahul Mandal, a milk-drinking Indian immigrant who triumphed despite a total lack of self-confidence — as well as adorable quarterfinalist Martha Collison, the youngest ever contestant at age 17. (The oldest winner so far was the unflappable 60-year-old Nancy Birtwhistle.)

Each season runs 10 episodes, with one contestant named “star baker” each week, and another eliminated, until the three finalists face off. And, fortunes can turn on a dime, with contestants talking of “the curse of star baker.”

The bakers, who must be U.K. residents, have included doctors, scientists, photographers, college students, engineers, a soldier-turned-stuntwoman, artists, a truck driver, teachers, a psychologist and stay-at-home parents. Said Hollywood to builder Richard Burr, who was named star baker five times, “You’re in the wrong job, mate.”

Sophie Faldo, seen with judges Prue Leith (left) and Paul Hollywood, holds up the coveted cake stand that was her prize for winning the 2017 “Great British Baking Show.” (Channel 4)

Each episode consists of three time-limited challenges (“On your marks, get set, bake!”), two of which they have practiced for at home. However, the middle “technical challenge” is one where they have no idea what they’re going to be asked to bake. These can range from relatively straightforward cakes, breads, pies and “biscuits” (what Americans call cookies) to obscure foreign dishes, or even a dish from the Tudor era that none of the bakers ever has heard of before. For the technical challenges, which are blind-judged, the bakers are provided with a pared-down recipe that omits key details (such as baking time).

The episodes end with “showstoppers” that range from elaborately decorated multi-tiered cakes to massive gingerbread constructions, or even bread sculptures. One showstopper challenge was to make a picnic fit for the queen, featuring 49 elements, including a chocolate celebration cake, 12 puff pastry sausage rolls, 12 savory scones, 12 mini quiches and 12 custard and fruit tarts — all baked in one oven, in 5 hours.

One of the most memorable “Great British Baking Show” creations was a lion’s head made out of bread by 2014 quarterfinalist Paul Jagger. (BBC)

The showstoppers have produced some of the show’s most memorable bakes, including a steam train constructed from cookies, a regal lion’s head made entirely out of bread, and an abandoned Chinese fishing village made of fruit cake, caramel, sticky toffee pudding and spun sugar.

The competition takes place in a large marquee tent in the middle of an idyllic pasture on a British estate, though the 2020 season was shot on the grounds of a manor house-turned-hotel, so everyone involved could be kept quarantined for the duration inside a “bubble.” (My daughter and I noticed that the pandemic season’s group of bakers seemed a bit sassier and teased each other a bit more, perhaps a result of having been quarantined together.)

The temperature inside the tent sometimes tops 100 degrees, making concoctions involving freezing, chocolate or caramel especially tricky. Emotions frequently can run high inside the tent, too, with contestants of both sexes breaking down in tears mid-bake. The dramatic string music used to score the series also builds the tension, as the bakers scramble to beat the clock. Sometimes, there are accidents, too, with one baker having to leave the tent after slicing off the tip of his finger and other incidents involving a broken oven door, a glass jar exploding and numerous ingredients (and even finished bakes) falling accidentally on the floor.

This 2016 showstopper, baked by Candice Brown, required contestants to make a picnic fit for the queen, complete with cake, sausage rolls, scones, mini quiches and custard and fruit tarts. (BBC)

Said 2013 contestant Sarah Jane Willis: “It’s like the craziest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. In a marquee in the middle of a field! It’s mental.”

The contestants’ thick regional accents might be tough for some American ears to decipher; Olivia likes to keep closed-captioning on when she watches the show.

Still, “Baking Show” somehow manages to be both quintessentially British and universal. (In the U.K., it’s known as “The Great British Bake Off,” but the name is changed in the U.S., where Pilsbury owns the rights to “Bake Off.”)

Liam Charles (left), a 2017 contestant, chats with Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and co-host Noel Fielding. (Channel 4)

My millennial daughter, son and daughter-in-law all started watching it before me. I’ve now seen all the series at least once, and a few of them several times. They hold up well to repeated viewings. (Olivia once watched three complete series — 30 hourlong episodes — in three days!)

There also are some one-off “Masterclass” specials, in which Hollywood and Berry show the proper way to make some of the dishes featured in the show, and, in recent years, there have been holiday specials featuring past-contestants coming back for a one-episode contest.

Having begun in 2010 (the first two seasons aren’t available in the U.S.), the show has been around long enough that its most recent winner, 20-year-old Peter Sawkins, started watching it at age 12. “I know 12-year-old Peter would be in awe,” he said after his win.

The order in which you view the various series doesn’t matter, which is a good thing, since the British producers, PBS and Netflix all number them differently. Olivia and I generally refer to seasons in terms of the winner, or a favorite baker, as in “that’s the Candice season” or the “Frances-Ruby season.” (There have been two different bakers in different seasons named Ruby, both favorites of ours, and we refer to them as “Ruby 1” and “Ruby 2.”)

The current cast of “The Great British Baking Show” consists of (from left) judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, and co-hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas. (Channel 4)

In Britain, the show is a really big deal, with lots of media coverage. For each episode, there’s a companion “Extra Slice” program featuring outtakes and interviews with the latest baker to leave. And, the London tabloids predictably delve into the contestants’ private lives.

Young Martha told the London Sun that, being on the show, you become a national treasure, “just by doing it, because everyone in Britain loves the ‘Bake Off’ so much.” In America, there’s a cult fandom on social media. Fans have their favorite winners, favorite contestants and even favorite episodes. (For those of you who follow the series, my own favorite bakers are: Candice, Martha, Flora, Ruby 1, Ruby 2, Andrew, Selasi, Lottie, Nadiya, James, Richard, Cathryn, Chetna, Luis, Kimberley, Ian, Steven, Manon, Rahul and Alice.)

Ruby Tandoh was a 20-year-old university student when she made it to the finals of the 2013 “Baking Show.” She’s now a professional baker and food writer. (BBC)

“Baking Show” combines the best of a competition and an instructional cooking show. Mainly, though, it’s just fun viewing, with lots of wry humor, awful foodie puns and the occasional adult double-entendre. (In recent seasons, you hear the occasional f-bomb, but in the BBC seasons you were more likely to get such quaint British oaths as “Oh, my giddy aunt!”)

Also, unlike American competition shows, there’s none of the backstabbing and cheesy manufactured melodrama. The contestants actually will pitch in and help one another.

Perhaps the biggest difference between “Baking Show” and U.S. competitions is that the bakers who participate are competing … for a crystal cake stand. That’s it! No big bundles of money, just the honor of being declared Britain’s best amateur baker.

At age 19, Flora Shedden was a semifinalist in the 2015 season. She’s since published a cookbook and opened her own artisan bakery. (BBC)

In times like these, watching “The Great British Baking Show” is good for the soul. The show has been described as the “friendliest competition series on TV,” and “one of the happiest TV series ever made,” and that’s definitely part of its appeal. Olivia started bingeing it while house- and pet-sitting for friends. “When I don’t have access to cable or satellite,” she said, “I always watch ‘Baking Show,’ because it makes me happy.”

Not that there aren’t moments that tug at the heartstrings. Teenager Martha generally had an irrepressible smile, but after one particularly negative judging, you could see her in the background, her face crumpling in tears. That was tough to watch.

(She bounced back quickly, winning a technical challenge and laughingly dismissing her earlier reaction as “weepy Martha with her rubbish custard tart.”)

Also, senior citizen Terry Hartill talking about how much he missed his deceased wife, and how baking helped fill the void in his life, is guaranteed to moisten the eyes.

It also was somewhat bittersweet recently rewatching the 2014 season, featuring finalist Luis Troyano, a big, loveable bear of a man. Luis died this past fall at age 48, and the most recent season ends with a dedication to him.

Mary Berry, Britain’s “queen of cakes,” was the co-judge on “The Great British Baking Show” through the 2016 season. She left when the show moved to Channel 4. (BBC)

The winners’ reactions also can get to you. When 2015 contestant Nadiya Hussain completed her journey from unsure baker to overall winner by baking the wedding cake she and her husband never had in Bangladesh, even Berry choked up. Declared Nadiya tearfully, “I’m never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say maybe. I’m never going to say I don’t think I can. I can, and I will.”

Nadiya, in fact, has been the most successful of the bakers, post-show, hosting three of her own TV series. She also was asked to bake Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday cake.

Nadiya also provided one of my favorite “Baking Show” moments. Hollywood, looking over her shoulder as she worked on a bake, asked, “Happy, Nadiya?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she replied.

He remained there, staring at her, but the spunky contestant had a great riposte: “Happy, Paul?”

“The Great British Baking Show” has had a revolving cast in addition to judge Paul Hollywood. Here, he’s seen with judge Prue Leith and co-hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. (Netflix)

One of our favorite finals is the one where Nadiya bested Tamal Ray and Ian Cumming, with all three showstoppers drawing raves from the judges. Another favorite is the 2016 final, won by Candice over Andrew Smyth and Jane Beedle. 

Probably the least satisfying final was 2019. David Atherton barely scraped into the final, and he is the only winner never to be named star baker. His series win mainly was a result of favorite Steph Blackwell’s emotional implosion during the final showstopper, which even prompted Hollywood to give her a hug.)

Overall, the Mary Berry years are our favorites, with the two judges providing a nice contrast. In one show, Hollywood, who hails from the north of England, was dipping his jaffa cake in his tea and Berry looked at him disapprovingly. “We don’t do that in the south,” she said.

While there isn’t any prize money involved in the show, quite a few other contestants besides Nadiya have had cookbooks published and have gone on to make appearances on British TV. A couple of the contestants have opened their own bakeries, and young Martha is now a food columnist.

As much as we enjoy just watching the bakers do their thing, you actually do learn while watching the show. I’m not a baker, but I now know the difference between rough puff and puff pastry, and how to avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom” on a pie. (Before watching this show I never realized there were so many different types of pastry!)

Olivia, who does bake, has picked up quite a few tips from the show. She learned how to use a piping bag, and she now has a collection of baking tools and “Baking Show”-related cookbooks.

A while back, after my daughter had baked another batch of her grandmother’s whole-wheat tea bread, I asked her, “What do you think Paul would say?”

Olivia smiled. “He’d say it’s underproved and underbaked,” she said.

“Maybe,” I answered, “but Mary would say, never mind, it’s still delicious.”

— Bill King

You can read the AJC version at https://www.ajc.com/things-to-do/food-and-recipes/binge-watching-great-british-baking-show-proved-to-be-just-what-we-knead/3IQ2MY3KKNEGDMCQVOERMJJBEY/

Where the big Dawgs eat: Serving up future memories

The Bulldog Room featured mostly an American grill-type menu in the fall of 1970, and was known for its burgers. (UGA Marketing and Communications)

This is a much expanded version of a piece I wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on college dining. …

Student life at the University of Georgia has changed quite a bit since I started my freshman year in Athens 50 years ago this month, but one thing hasn’t changed: College students always are hungry.

And, for most college students, who start out living on campus in dormitories, meal plans for the dining halls are how they satisfy that hunger.

A new and much larger Bolton Dining Commons opened at the University of Georgia in 2014. (UGA Dining Services)

By the time my kids attended UGA, students had a lot more (and better) dining options than in my day, when there were just two dining halls and a student center hangout.

Nowadays, UGA students can visit five different dining halls (featuring multiple stations offering varied cuisines), plus more than two dozen retail dining locations, ranging from the fast-food outlets at the Tate Student Center to grab-and-go markets and snack bars located throughout campus. The award-winning UGA Food Services even has its own taqueria truck!

Of course, thanks to the pandemic, the rules have changed a bit this fall, with takeout or Grubhub pickup replacing the usual walk-in-and-eat routine. Limited dine-in is available at some halls, but requires a reservation.

The Arch is both the entrance to the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens, and the symbol of the university. (Andrew Davis Tucker / University of Georgia)

Both my son, Bill, and my daughter, Olivia, used meal plans during their first two years at UGA, when they lived in dorms, and Olivia even had a commuter meal plan the second half of her senior year, when she lived off campus.

She always talked glowingly of Snelling Dining Commons, so, shortly before she graduated four years ago, I joined her there one day for lunch. Even though Snelling was around in my day, I’d never eaten there, in part because I never had a class near its South Campus location, but mainly because, as an Athens native, I was allowed to live at home, so I didn’t experience dorm life.

My meal plan was whatever my mother served at home, or what I picked up in downtown Athens, or hanging out between classes at the Bulldog Room in Memorial Hall (then the student center).

University of Georgia students dine in the old Bolton Hall dining room during the 1969-70 school year. (Hargrett Library)

My only dining hall experience was during orientation the summer before freshman year, when we were fed at the old Bolton Hall. To me, the food resembled unappealing school lunchroom fare.

I could understand why students’ nickname for it was Revoltin’ Bolton. It was infamous for an unidentifiable “mystery meat” that was supposed to be Salisbury steak with gravy. Randi Kaye Rehm also remembers one of the servers there referring to another dish as “roast beast.” And, Lynda Harden Powell remembers her first summer at UGA in 1971: “I ate at Bolton Hall, my one and only time. It was my first morning at UGA and they literally poured my eggs onto my plate. That definitely was my worst eating experience.”

Students of my day gave a higher rating to Snelling. The fried chicken was a favorite, and Greer Madden, who was a student worker at the dining hall in 1972-73, recalls “really liking their barbecue chicken!”

Rick Franzman spent most of his time on North Campus, and so wasn’t aware of Snelling until a friend dragged him there one day. “The first visit was truly Christmas morning,” he said. “Like the old Morrison’s and Piccadilly cafeterias, the three-rung rail to slide your tray along passed by dozens of selections of meats, sweets, veggies, manna and more, with each step along the way providing more temptation. I was soon making the trek from the north multiple times a week, making sure to be in a state of full belly growl upon arrival.”

The Snelling dining hall, seen here in 1969-70, always has been a student favorite. (Hargrett Library)

Marcia Killingsworth, who attended UGA in the mid-1970s, liked the variety of dishes at Snelling, “and the quality was always first-rate. I remember one girl on my hall ate there several times a week for the mac and cheese alone.”

Steve Oney also preferred Snelling, but said he had his “best times” at Bolton when he started in the fall of 1972. His girlfriend lived in the nearby Brumby dorm and he’d meet her for breakfast there every morning. “Not only did we get to flirt over scrambled eggs, but after she left for class, I’d spend the next two hours drinking coffee and studying. I aced every course that quarter, and I owe it to Bolton, and to her.”

A couple of decades later, in the late 1990s, Daniel Vasquez lived in Creswell Hall and ate mostly at the adjoining Bolton. As a freshman, he recalled, “I saw a beautiful guy working at the burrito stand and told my buddies ,”Wow. … that’s going to be my husband.” A week later, I unashamedly hit on him by giving him a flower I made out of electrical tape. We’ve been together ever since and officially got married in 2014.”

Snelling Dining Commons, formerly known as Snelling Hall, long has been the favorite of UGA students. (University of Georgia)

Joel Provano has a fond memory of Bolton that doesn’t have to do with the food or romance. When a big winter snow came, Provano recalled, “nobody had a sled, so we went over to Bolton and ‘borrowed’ some food trays, which were just big enough to sit on, and went sledding on the grass hill at Sanford Stadium. Great fun. I hope we returned the ‘sleds,’ but I wouldn’t swear to it.”

Jimmy Johnson, meanwhile, remembers Bolton staffers handing out trays for sledding — in exchange for meal tickets. By my daughter’s time, Dining Services had wised up and “whenever winter weather threatened, they’d take away the trays.”

In 1980, Joe Morgan lived in Russell Hall and generally ate at nearby Bolton. One night, he recalled, “they had a special ‘build your own sundae’ night. It was crowded, and all of the sudden the power went out! Somebody yelled ‘food fight!!’ and ice cream flew everywhere.”

You also could get in mild trouble at the dining halls. Mike Webb tried “foodlifting,” when a friend from another university visited. “We went through the line together, and I just put whatever dishes Ron, my friend, wanted on my tray, in addition to mine.” But, he said, “the food police were watching and collared us.” His punishment? He had to pay for his friend’s meal.

And Nick Montalvo remembers riding the conveyor belt for dirty dishes “on my belly” back to Bolton’s kitchen. “They told me not to do it again.”

Of course, students also ate other places, with meat-and-three restaurants downtown always a lure, while those students who joined fraternities and sororities usually had breakfast and dinner at the house.

Minla Shields also remembers “going to Hare Krishna meetings for the free food. I did that a lot.”

The Bulldog Room, seen here in 1970, was located in Memorial Hall at the University of Georgia. (Hargrett Library)

And, some dorm residents just cooked in their rooms. My future wife Leslie, who was a year behind me at UGA, remembers groups of students getting together to cook in their dorm. “All you needed was a hot plate, a pot and a can opener.” A favorite was dubbed “dorm paella,” which, she said, was “a mix of whatever people had.”

Then, there were the athletes, who had their own dining hall in the athletic dorm, McWhorter Hall, which wasn’t open to the general student population. “We ate like kings!” said Ed Allen, who played football for the Bulldogs in the late ’60s. “Steak on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Pork chops, baked and fried chicken, lots of good veggies and salad. … It was seven days a week, first-class.”

My brother Jonathan wasn’t a jock, but he got invited to dine at McWhorter once as the guest of someone who worked at the athletic association. “I felt like a midget in there, because everyone was so much bigger than me,” he recalled.

These clothes and hairdos will look very familiar to those who were around UGA in the fall of 1970. (UGA Marketing and Communications)

My main dining experience at UGA was the Bulldog Room, where I’d hang out when I had an hour or two to kill between classes. In addition to grabbing a bite, you’d see students studying, playing endless games of spades and bridge, and listening to the jukebox, which, during my freshman year, always seemed to be playing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” or Ike and Tina Turner doing “Proud Mary.” (To this day, whenever I hear those songs, I think of the Bulldog Room. For my wife, it’s Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” and Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae.”)

University of Georgia students in the Bulldog Room in the fall of 1970. (UGA Marketing and Communications)

The Bulldog Room had fairly limited American grill-type fare, but Leslie has fond memories of the sauce on the burgers, which was “like a less sophisticated version of the sauce on a Big Mac.” And, our friend Susan Wells, with whom we worked on the student paper, recalls having an “almost lethal fondness for those greasy grilled cheeses and fries. … I gained my freshman 15 during senior year eating those.”

Today’s Bulldog Cafe at the Tate Center (featuring Chick-fil-A and Panda Express) has more options, and lots more room, but lacks the ambience of the old Bulldog Room, which, in my day, saw probably the most diverse gathering of students on campus. It was where you were more likely to see the university’s Black students, and Michael Simpson was attracted to it when he started in 1969, because it was “where the ‘long hairs’ hung out. International students, gays, minorities would hang there, also.”

University of Georgia students relaxing in the Bulldog Room in Memorial Hall in the fall of 1970. (UGA Marketing and Communications)

Also, Jimmy Johnson remembers the Bulldog Room as “a center of the campus political and social scene. … This is where folks explained politics, feminism, and religion.”

Margie Roe remembers that, as wide-eyed freshmen, she and a friend named Susan vowed “we were going to make a friend a day. So, Susan and I were having lunch at the Bulldog Room … and, over by condiments, she said hi to a nice looking fella. One thing led to another; they have now been married 52 years, two kids, three grandchildren.”

Particularly for students from rural or small-town Georgia, the campus dining facilities also provided something of a culinary education. Jonathan Harris recalls a picnic event the food services division staged at UGA’s Legion Field. “It was the first time I ever had swordfish.”

And, Cathy Bowen remembers thinking, “what was this strange concoction of noodles and tomato sauce and cheese they were offering? I’d heard of lasagna, but this was before it became a staple of elementary school lunches, so I had never eaten any.  Of course, I learned later that there are actually better lasagnas than the amorphous blob dolloped out at Snelling Hall, but none that have ever given me more pleasure.”

Still, back in the ’70s, UGA’s dining hall fare generally was not all that healthy. “I remember it being a lot of comfort foods and high carbs,” Malinda Teasley Erwin said. And, Gayle Peeples recalls they served “mostly starch. None of this artisanal/organic/grown-on-campus fare they have now!”

A meal of grilled cheese, broccoli, curly fries and a fruit smoothy at the Village Summit dining hall, spring semester 2016. (Olivia King)

Indeed, the dining hall food my kids encountered between 2003 and 2016 was much more varied. You you could eat healthy foods, indulge in the likes of a Philly cheesesteak (one of the most popular items at Snelling), or split the difference, as when my daughter would be at the East Campus Village dining hall and a typical meal might be a grilled cheese and curly fries (“they were the best!”) with a fruit smoothie and steamed broccoli.

My kids agree that the food generally was delicious, and a good value. You paid a flat fee for the semester, my son recalled, and got all you could eat, which led some students to hang out there from, say, breakfast through lunch.

Darren William, who was at UGA in the mid-’90s, took advantage of the all-you-can-eat aspect. “Unlimited dining was great deal for my then on-fire metabolism. … Back in the days when you could eat an entire pizza, drink three sodas, finish up with a few scoops of ice cream, still be hungry two hours later, and be skinny as a rail.”

Still, while the meal plan was unlimited, “the only thing they didn’t allow was for you to take food out,” my son said. “You could walk out with a piece of fruit, but some folks would bring in the Tupperware and try to smuggle food out in their backpacks. They had people watching for that, and it made them very unhappy.”

Overall, my son said, “it was a pretty good meal plan. They put good effort into the food.”

Special cupcakes decorated for Homecoming 2013 at the University of Georgia’s Snelling Hall. (Olivia King)

Sravanthi Meka, who went to UGA in the late 1990s and liked the food a lot more than at Georgia Tech, where she later worked for five years, said the difference is that UGA’s dining service is self-operated, while Tech used a vendor. That meant “a lot of temp staff that are employees of the vendor, whereas self-op are university employees, so you tend to have … more connection to the students and campus itself.”

Generally, the dining hall staff at UGA is a mix of full-timers and student workers. Steve Houston worked at Oglethorpe House (“O-House”), one of the UGA dining halls, in the mid-’90s and was in awe of the breakfast cook, “who could have 20 eggs, 20 strips of bacon, and 20 sausage links on the grill at one time, cook them perfectly, and never bat an eyelash. She kicked butt, and she was fast!”

The dining halls also were one of the few places where regular students got to interact with the campus celebrities, aka football players, my son said, since that was before the NCAA decided to allow athletic programs to offer “training tables” again.

You saw a lot of football players in Snelling, my daughter said. “You always could tell an athlete because they were bigger, and dressed head-to-toe in Nike gear.”

Georgia football star (and future NFL player) Todd Gurley liked Snelling’s fried chicken, too. (University of Georgia)

During the summer of 2013, she dined at Snelling every day and frequently saw the athletes, plus trainers keeping track of what they ate. One day, she was sitting at a table by herself eating fried chicken (“I really couldn’t say no to Snelling’s fried chicken”) when future NFL star Todd Gurley walked up with a couple of teammates and asked if they could join her. “They all had fried chicken on their plates, too,” and that’s mostly what they chatted about. My daughter was amused that a trainer came over, bringing them some veggies to improve the nutritional value of their meal.

The football players, she said, were all nice. “I tried to get behind them during busy periods, because they just plowed through.”

During Olivia’s time at UGA, she ate at all the dining halls, including the Niche, out at the health sciences campus (formerly the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School), which offered personal pan pizzas, gelato and fresh, farm-to-table food. “The burgers were a little more gourmet, with grass-fed beef,” my daughter said.

She also ate at both the old and new Boltons. The old Bolton, now torn down, was “the freshman experience,” she said, since it was attached to one of the dorms where many first-year students lived, and “you could go there with people from your dorm.”

The new Bolton, which opened in 2014, has multiple floors, one of which serves breakfast all day. “It takes a while to explore, because there are so many options,” Olivia said, including a milkshake station that looks like an old soda fountain. (All the halls have ice cream whenever you want it.)

The Bulldog Cafe food court at Tate Student Center features a variety of dining options. (UGA Dining Services)

O-House had a wok station, but Olivia was partial to the Southern station, which offered fried chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits and mac and cheese. “It was one of my favorite meals.”

Still, her overall favorite dining spot was Snelling, where a worker named Frank recognized regulars and called out to them in a booming voice, and the cashier up front, Miss Sandra, doled out hugs.

In addition to multiple stations offering different dining options, the main line had hot entrees that rotated. “They did a really good pork shoulder,” Olivia said.

Me and my daughter in front of Snelling Dining Commons shortly before she graduated. (Olivia King)

Snelling also made sandwiches to order, she said, but the grill line for hot sandwiches tended to be slow, because of all the students who wanted the Philly cheesesteak. So, she found a hack: “I’d go to the vegetarian station and get a grilled cheese there.”

Olivia also loved the theme dinners, like a Hawaiian luau, a carnival (where you could get caricatures done and they had a balloon artist) or Taste of Home night, when recipes entered by students’ parents were in competition, with the favorites added to the regular rotation. For Valentine’s, “a couple could reserve a table that was nicely decorated.”

And then there was “Snellebrating,” the term of endearment for the early hours after midnight when Snelling, the only 24-hour dining hall, put out breakfast foods and, during exams, even beignets. “The late-night crowd was always interesting,” Olivia said. “You’d get spontaneous karaoke, and the workers would dance to the music, like at Johnny Rockets.”

While all the halls had a rotating menu of fresh-baked cookies, Olivia said, “chocolate chip cookie day at Snelling was the best day. The chocolate chip cookies at Snelling were so good! They weren’t as good at the other halls. For some reason, Snelling chocolate chip cookies hit differently.”

Which brings me to my Snelling visit with my daughter in the spring of 2016.

Olivia outside the UGA Creamery on a gorgeous spring day in Athens. (Bill King)

It was a special day. I wound up also getting a hug from Miss Sandra, who took the time to tell me what a sweetheart my daughter is, and, after lunch, we strolled to the nearby UGA Creamery for an ice cream treat.

I had regaled my daughter with fond memories of how, when I was a youngster, Athens moms throwing birthday parties for their kids usually went to the UGA Dairy for ice cream made from milk that came from the university’s own herd. I also recall going on school field trips to the UGA Dairy. So, I was surprised to find that we were served Mayfield at the Creamery, not the treat of my childhood!

(It turns out, the dairy that used to be on the UGA campus was closed years ago due to budget cuts. The animal and dairy science program still has a farm in Athens that is used for teaching, but UGA no longer has dairy processing facilities; all the milk from the farm is sold to a dairy processing co-op.)

No matter, even if it wasn’t ice cream made on campus, it still was a fine way to spend an afternoon with my daughter.

Sitting there, at a picnic table under the trees in front of the Creamery, watching students walk by on a glorious spring day, I think I fell in love with the Athens campus just a little bit more … as if that were even possible!

— Bill King

Click here to read about student life at UGA in the fall of 1970.

And, click here to read about how students entertained themselves in 1970, including a look at the budding Athens music scene before The B-52’s and others made the city famous around the world. 

College Life in the New South, Part 2: ‘Cool Town’ Before It Was Cool

1970

The Athens where I began school at the University of Georgia 50 years ago this fall would seem rather quaint to today’s students.

It was not yet what historian Grace Elizabeth Hale would describe as “the first important small-town American music scene and the key early site of what would become alternative or indie culture.”

uga arch
The Arch marks the gateway into the University of Georgia from downtown Athens.

No, the small Northeast Georgia city that would become internationally famous for bands like The B-52’s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers and Of Montreal was not yet a musical hotbed. That would come a few years later, with the fervid art-rock scene chronicled in a couple of film documentaries and several books — the most recent being Hale’s 2020 volume, “Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture.”

Michael Simpson, whose politically activist hard-rock band Ravenstone would form at UGA a few months later, described the Athens music scene in the fall of 1970 as “nascent.” He said it mostly consisted of “cover bands” playing the hits of the day in local nightclubs.

A lot Athens-based bands in the years leading up to 1970 had focused on playing fraternity and sorority parties on the Southern college circuit, including the Embers (which featured Terry Melton, later of Mad Dog Melton and the Laughing Disaster, and Dixie Grease), the Jesters (featuring Harold Williams and Davis Causey) and King David and the Slaves, a band originally from Jesup that had future local musical hero Randall Bramblett as a member.

Still, the seeds of the Athens scene that the world would come to know already were being planted. Owen Scott, a friend of mine since kindergarten, was playing in a folk/classic rock covers band called Black Narcissus that included Ricky Wilson and Keith Strickland, who a few years later would become members of The B-52’s. (In fact, the first time the B’s played together was in Owen’s parents’ basement.)

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Future B-52’s member Keith Strickland in 1970. (Owen Scott)

Owen recalls Black Narcissus never really jelled, but they spent a lot of time jamming at a farm owned by a couple of local teachers. “As far as I recall, we never played anywhere except at a house we rented on Georgia Avenue in the summer after we graduated. … We did a cool cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ [and] also did an unorthodox rock version of the hymn ‘Joy to the World’ (not the Hoyt Axton 3 Dog Night classic).”

Added Owen: “It was a formative time for the future B-52s.”

But, Athens in the fall of ’70 was not yet chockablock with clubs offering live entertainment, mainly because most UGA students couldn’t drink legally (which, of course, did not stop them from drinking). The legal drinking age wouldn’t be lowered to 18 until 1972, when the Athens nightlife scene grew by leaps and bounds.

The main outlets for live music in the Classic City were the Last Resort, open since 1967, which featured mostly touring folk, blues and jazz acts, such as Gamble Rogers, Elizabeth, Odetta and Towns Van Zandt. The first weekend of fall quarter, 1970, Jeff Espina was at the Resort for three nights.

There also were several hotel lounges in town that had live music (with several, like Daddy’s Dollar at the Key to America, featuring country acts, or rockabilly like Sleepy LaBeef), a few rougher spots, like the VFW on Sunset (where there was as much fighting as dancing), and a couple of jazz-pop venues, including the prime date spot, Gigi’s Italian restaurant on Baxter Street, which had singer Myrna Rose and her combo. My classmate Johnny Barrett also recalls dinner music (featuring some members of UGA’s Redcoat Band) at the University Club out on the Macon Highway.

Another regular venue for country music in the fall of ’70 was the J&J Center on the Commerce Highway, which also had multi-act rock music bills once a month, but mainly was known for its Thursday night pro wrestling.

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Between the Hedges, the main rock club in 1970 Athens, was located in the basement of Allen’s Hamburgers.

However, if rock is what you wanted, the main off-campus venue in the fall of 1970 was Between the Hedges, located in the basement of the venerable burgers-and-beer joint Allen’s, in the Normaltown neighborhood near the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School (now UGA’s health sciences campus). Simpson recalls he always liked playing the Hedges because “we could play whatever we wanted to, as long as people bought beer.”

(Other legendary rock clubs that many UGA students of the time remember came a bit later: Your Mother’s Moustache in downtown Athens wouldn’t open until February, 1971, next to the Glass of Hill Wall head shop on Wall Street, with which it was affiliated. The Station, a dining and entertainment complex located in the old Southern Railway depot near downtown, featuring T.K. Harty’s Saloon, also would open later in 1971. And, one of the best-known 1970s Athens clubs, the B&L Warehouse, opened in 1972.)

Of course, there was more to local music in the fall of 1970 than just rock and country: R&B star Bettye Swann (“Make Me Yours”) lived in Athens at the time, and a thriving Black music scene centered around such clubs as the House of Blue Lights, Hawaiian Ha-Le and Killian’s, as well as venues like the Army-Navy Club and DAV.

rhythm ramblers
Assistant Principal Walter Allen (on sax) led the Rhythm Ramblers.

Among the Black acts of the day were Grains of Sand (who toured regionally), the Fabulous Tropics, the In Crowd, Anthony Shield and the Imperials, Family Rebirth (which later became Common People Band), Funk Factory, and a pair of bands featuring local educators.

Walter Allen’s Rhythm Ramblers was led by our assistant principal at Athens High (who always joked he couldn’t read my Mom’s handwriting on notes asking for me to be allowed to leave campus to go to the orthodontist).

And, there was Armell Stroud and the Twisters, featuring one of the high school’s art teachers. The following summer, a couple of friends and I were the campaign staff for a local lawyer who was making a futile longshot run for mayor against the incumbent. One Saturday, we rented the county’s Showmobile (a bus turned into a mobile stage) and parked it at Beechwood Shopping Center for a daylong rally that culminated in a show by Armell and the Twisters, and I manned the mic to introduce them.

There actually was some intermixing between the local music scenes, with my friend Owen playing briefly with the Imperials, which featured a couple of classmates, Bobby Daniel and Reginald Whitehead, on trumpet. “I was typically the only white guy in the chitlin circuit joints we played,” Owen recalled.

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Leaves of Grass, which became Crossover in 1970, was known for its intricate vocal arrangements. (Jack Williams)

And, Bennett Johnson, a local Black musician who had succeeded Dr. Allen as band director at Burney-Harris High School — before it merged with Athens High to form Clarke Central in the fall of 1970 — was a member of Athens’ top rock act of the late ‘60s, Leaves of Grass. While the band was a frequent headliner at Between the Hedges in Normaltown, “we played all over the South,” Johnson told me recently.

Whitehead said the Leaves had an “awesome” sound, and The Athens Observer, in a later history of the local scene — dubbed the Normaltown River of Music — said Leaves of Grass was “considered by many the best band ever formed in Athens.”

Band leader Jack Williams said the original Leaves of Grass “was formed out of what was left of a band called The Nomads, which was originally based in Lancaster, S.C. The Nomads was an R&B group and Leaves of Grass was a response to newer rock music — Steppenwolf, The Rascals, Procol Harum, etc.”

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Glass of Hill Wall was Athens’ premier head shop in the fall of 1970.

By the fall of 1970, Leaves of Grass had changed its name to Crossover, with the addition of a couple of new members: Bramblett and Causey (who later would gain fame as part of Chuck Leavell’s post-Allman Brothers band, Sea Level).

Another of the band’s members, Linda McMullen DePascale, said Crossover did “mostly covers, which we were spectacular at doing … because there were at least six of us who could sing. The harmonies were very, very intricate.”

Linda was a trained vocalist, and Williams, who was a music major at UGA and had perfect pitch, arranged everything.

The band “rehearsed rigorously every day for at least four hours,” Linda recalled. “It was a deadly serious endeavor to us all. We were most famous for our Crosby Stills and Nash pieces: ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes,’ ‘Woodstock,’ ‘Teach Your Children,’ ‘Our House,’ to name a few. ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ by the Band was another crowd pleaser. … My job was to do ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ by Joni Mitchell, who I actually got to meet at the [Capricorn] Studios in Macon.”

“Crossover found its real strength in the songs that Randall was beginning to write,” Williams said. “We got the attention of Phil Walden, owner of Capricorn Records, who brought us to Macon to make demo recordings of these songs.”

your mother's moustache ad
A lot of UGA students think they remember seeing shows at Your Mother’s Moustache in 1970, but it didn’t open until Feb. 12, 1971.

But, he said, there were “some deep rifts” in the band at that point, and Crossover split during the Capricorn sessions, in late 1970 or early 1971. Bramblett and Davis went on to a stint with Laughing Disaster before Bramblett formed his own band.

Still, most of the musical performances attended by UGA students that fall were on (or adjacent to) campus, not in nightclubs.

Famous groups past their prime, and lesser current acts, like Hydra, played Memorial Hall (home of the UGA student center at the time), either in the ballroom or in a club called Dante’s Domain that had opened up a year or so earlier in the former site of the UGA Bookstore in the basement. Originally, rock bands, including the remnants of Big Brother and the Holding Company, played under the club’s black lights, but University Union officials, dismayed that the shows were drawing pot-smoking hippies, decided to switch to a coffeehouse folk music format by fall of 1970.

(Dante’s also sometimes had movies and speakers, including a “Rap Session ‘70” series that featured UGA’s own Dr. Eugene Odum, the father of modern ecology and founder of the university’s school of ecology.)

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The Allman Brothers Band, still featuring Duane Allman on guitar at the time, played the UGA Coliseum in the fall of 1970. (Twiggs Lyndon / Mark Pucci Media)

Also that fall, there was big-name entertainment, presented either by the University Union or the Interfraternity Council. The bigger concerts were held at the Coliseum (not yet sporting the Stegeman name), and, that fall, the headliners included Bob Hope, Steppenwolf, a Homecoming concert with the Chambers Brothers and Friends of Distinction, and a Macon-based group called the Allman Brothers Band opening for Pacific Gas and Electric. (DePascale remembers Leaves of Grass/Crossover opening for the ABB at a Sunday concert in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.)

For those who wanted something other than rock that fall, pianist Peter Nero played the Fine Arts Auditorium, as did the Atlanta Symphony.

Various religious student centers also offered entertainment, generally of the coffeehouse variety, though the Catholic Center did have a beer and pizza party one weekend. Nancy Miller Sizemore remembers attending shows at the Presbyterian Center. “My parents didn’t allow me to attend a lot of ‘nightlife’ places! They thought the local community theater and the coffee house were OK.”

Mini rock fests featuring the likes of Crossover occasionally were held on campus at Legion Field, or the new People’s Park that students had carved out of an overgrown vacant lot near the high-rise dorms.

last resort 1970s pandora
The Last Resort ws the place to hear acts like Jeff Espina, Gamble Rogers and Elizabeth. (Pandora)

The Red & Black ran a review of one such fest, where the rise of the counterculture was highlighted by the reviewer, who complained that those attending mostly were “a motley group, hardly representative of the university’s student body.” While there were “a few well-dressed Greeks,” she said, “the center of the crowd smelled of smoke and body odor.” It was “absolutely sickening,” she said, and “a dirty disgrace to the university.” The paper was flooded with letters of protests for the next few issues.

Actually, the campus cultural divide described there wasn’t always so clearly drawn. We all had denim in common.

Kappa Alpha member Tom Hodgson, with whom I’d gone to school most of my life, recalled “standard everyday wear” for Greeks was “jeans and polo-style shirts. I wore a lot of T-shirts because I worked at Farmer’s Hardware from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. every day. Not the preppy look some might expect.”

I remember a lot of flares or bellbottoms and, like Tom recalled, “lots of weird-colored shirts with huge collars.”

gibson's ad
This is the type of outfit Gibson’s men’s wear store in downtown Athens was advertising to students in the fall of 1970.

But, looking at the Edwardian dandy stuff that Gunn’s and Gibson’s and the other men’s wear shops advertised in the Red & Black that fall, I have to say I don’t really recall seeing guys dressed like that, even going out on dates, though Tom said that “on the very rare occasion that a jacket and tie were required, we came pretty close to this.”

I do remember a fair number of double-breasted suits and blazers, and, for casual wear, the previous year’s CPO shirt-jackets were still in stores.

Fashion shows for female students were held at Snelling dining hall and the Bulldog Room that fall, and trends included longer skirts, gaucho pants worn with boots, coats, vests, straight-leg pants, shoulder bags, heavy jewelry, T-shirt tunics, wide leather belts, buckskin and snakeskin handbags, and dog-collar necklaces.

Abrams Casual Shop was selling fringed handbags, long coats and jackets, leather and suede vests and pants suits. The University Shop was touting colorful shirt-dresses, desert boots by Clark’s of England, and bandito belts.

cocktail pants
This is the sort of outfit female UGA students saw in Athens stores.

In the skirt-length debate — mini vs. midi vs. maxi — most UGA women appeared to go either very short or very long; the midi rarely was seen.

One thing you did see a lot of on women was long leather boots.

You also saw quite a few guys sporting longer hair (not the Greeks) and lots of longer sideburns. Shag hairstyles for women were starting to show up, though the classic ’60s long hair parted down the middle still ruled.

Where did students go on dates? More often than the nightclubs, it probably was the movies.

On-campus movies were presented in the South P-J Auditorium, and the eclectic offerings of older films that quarter included “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “You Are What You Eat” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

Off-campus, Athens boasted five cinemas (including the newly renovated Palace, which opened that fall) and two drive-ins, but the releases available that fall weren’t among Hollywood’s best. Films playing Athens included Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in “Sunflower,” Brian Keith, Ernest Borgnine and Suzanne Pleshette in “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came,” Michael Caine and Cliff Robertson in “Too Late the Hero,” Franco Nero in “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” Joe Namath and Ann-Margret in “CC and Company” (a biker movie), Peter Boyle in “Joe,” Liza Minelli in “Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon,” Elliott Gould and Paula Prentiss in “Move,” Barbra Streisand in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” Gregory Peck in “I Walk the Line,”

suppose poster
One of the films playing in Athens during the fall of 1970.

Lauren Hutton and Robert Forster in “Pieces of Dreams,” Michael Crawford in “Hello-Goodbye,” George Peppard in “Cannon for Cordoba,” Carrie Snodgrass and Richard Benjamin in “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” Martin Balsam and the busy Richard Benjamin in Catch-22,” Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in “WUSA,” Jim Brown and Lee Van Cleef in “El Condor,” Lee Marvin in “Monte Walsh,” and such now long-forgotten titles as “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” “The Revolutionary,” “Soldier Blue” and “Savage Wild.”

Probably the best offerings were reissues of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” the Buster Keaton silent film “The General,” “Monterey Pop” and Disney’s “Son of Flubber” and “Fantasia.”

Of course, this was before the movie rating system shut X-rated fare out of mainstream movie theaters, so you could catch the occasional adult film, including the notorious “I Am Curious Yellow” at the Beechwood Cinema, and late-night showings of films with titles like “Caged Desires” at the Georgia Theatre on Thursday and Friday nights. The Athens Drive-In leaned toward sexploitation films like “The Birth of Triplets” (see the actual onscreen births, “nothing left to the imagination!”) and “No Greater Sin.” Alps Drive-In had mainly second-run mainstream features, like “John and Mary” with Dustin Hoffman, and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”

What else did UGA students do when they weren’t studying? Some joined clubs and organizations; some got involved in student politics; some campaigned against the war in Vietnam.

And then there was the age-old college recreational option: drinking. Although the legal drinking age still was 21 that fall, there was no shortage of drunk 18-year-old freshmen on and off campus.

This is one area that Greeks and freaks had in common.

As Tom remembers it, “Coeds did not feel comfortable going out without dates in 1970. They might go with a date to the lounge at the Holiday Inn and maybe a few other places. But in my little world (frat life) the girls tended to stay in their dorms or sorority houses if they did not have dates.”

That changed in the late fall of 1970, he said. “A little bar with 25-cent draft beer and peanut shells on the floor was right across Hull Street from the old bus station. It was called The Rail [later the Dog House]. For years, it was a guy-only place with the occasional date on a lucky boy’s arm. Then, one night, probably on a dare, a carload of Chi Omegas bellied up to the bar and ordered a beer. They were greeted with open arms. In fact, within a week it was known around town that unescorted girls were welcome at The Rail, and it felt like Mardi Gras every night.”

beer
Athens bars come and go, but beer is forever in college towns.

Bars did their best to entice students, too. Joe Costa remembers the Cave (formerly the Big Bamboo), out on the Atlanta Highway, “had a mug of beer for a nickel between 5 and 6 every evening!  That was the place to go if all you had was change in your pocket.”

The Fifth Quarter, then owned by former Georgia football player Wayne “Swino” Swinford, was another student favorite. Said Sam Richwine: “I remember one cold evening trying to sneak a pitcher out under my jacket. I probably looked about six months pregnant. As I approached the door, I was collared by the bouncer and separated from my prize. I was told never to come back. Apparently, they either had short memories, or did not harbor any ill feelings, as I was back in a few days.”

Of course, not all students were big drinkers. “I honestly don’t recall ever hanging out at a bar until my junior year,” Darrell Huckaby said, “but I snuck out every night at midnight and hit the Waffle House on Lumpkin and Milledge. Gained about 30 pounds.”

“If we did drink,” said my Athens High classmate Deanie Fincher, “we drank at someone’s house that year I lived in the dorm.”

For those who preferred to drink on their own like that, rather than in the bars, the road to the nearby town of Arcade, known for cheaper beer than you could find anywhere in Athens, was frequently traveled.

But, if you wanted to stock up in town, a popular place was Bubber’s Bait Shop on Broad Street.

Bubber was known for, ahem, flexible policies toward student customers.

As my friend Joel Provano recalls:

I was living in an apartment off campus, and my roommates and I had gone home for the weekend. We all returned on Sunday afternoon and wanted to drink some beer, but nobody had any. We were regular customers of Bubber, and knew that he lived in the back of the store, or at least he stayed there frequently.

His reputation of selling to minors was well-known, so we figured he might be willing to sell on Sunday as well.

We piled in the car and drove to the Bait Shop and, sure enough, we could see through the glass doors that Bubber was inside. We knocked on the door and Bubber came out. The conversation went something like this:

Bubber (irritated): What you boys want?

Me: We want to buy some beer.

Bubber explodes: Buy some beer!!! Are you crazy? You know it’s illegal to sell (expletive) beer in this state on Sunday. You want me to get locked up? 

Me: Well, we just thought maybe …

Bubber: What y’all want, a couple of six packs of Bud?

Joel summed up: “He charged us just a little extra, and we went happily on our way.”

You know, no matter what the year, that just may be the most Athens-UGA story I’ve ever heard.

— Bill King

Thanks to Jason Hasty, Owen Scott, Jack Williams, Linda DePascale, Michael Simpson, Reginald Whitehead, Clarke McKeever, Bennett Johnson, Johnny Barrett, Tom Hodgson, Deanie Fincher, Joe Costa, Joel Provano, Bill Berryman, Greg Veale, Roy Bell, Lynn Hardman, Darrell Huckaby, Chris Jones and all those folks commenting on Facebook.

If you missed Part 1 of my look back at student life at UGA in the fall of 1970, just click here!

And you can read UGA alums’ memories of campus dining through the years by clicking here. 

College Life in the New South: A Freshman’s First Quarter at the University of Georgia in 1970

uga arch 1974 uga alumni assoc
The Arch, official entrance to the University of Georgia’s campus, in the early 1970s. (UGA Alumni Association)

The third week of September, 1970, saw a momentous few days for me.

I turned 18 on Sept. 22. The next day, the Carl Sanders gubernatorial campaign I’d worked on for the previous four months ended with a runoff loss to future President Jimmy Carter.

And, bright and early the next morning, on Sept. 24, 1970, I began my freshman year at the University of Georgia.

Dad in Car
This shot was taken a few days before my 18th birthday for use in the Carl Sanders campaign. I delivered The Daily News in Athens early in the morning.

Recently, the impending 50th anniversary of the start of my college days prompted me to do a little time-traveling via the digital archive of The Red & Black, the student newspaper, as well as trading email and Facebook reminiscences with other UGA alums whose time on campus began that fall quarter.

Obviously, a lot has changed in half a century. The UGA where I matriculated in 1970 was a considerably smaller, more parochial, much less diverse campus, located in a city that was a little over a third the population it is now. The university’s computer center was proud to boast that it had in operation “an IBM/360 model 65, an IBM 7094, two IBM l40i 1s, an iBM 1620, and an IBM 1130. These processors are attached a variety of peripheral devices, including tape drives, disks, drums, data cells, and 45 remote terminals.”

And, for your personal use, you could buy a calculator that weighed 3.5 pounds for a mere $395 at one of the local shops.

The university, headed by President Fred C. Davison, consisted of 13 schools and colleges, the newest of which was the School of Environmental Design, established in 1969. The average salary for a full professor at UGA that school year was $18,050. (In 2019, it was $130,000.) Former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk arrived on campus as a professor of international law that quarter.

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UGA students studying in 1970-71, as pictured in the Pandora yearbook. (Hargrett Library)

I was one of 2,486 freshmen who enrolled that fall (when UGA still was on the quarter system, rather than semesters), though the class grew to 3,238 by the end of the academic year. Of those, 107 students were, like me, from Athens High School, the single largest source of UGA freshmen. Second was Lakeside High in DeKalb County, which produced 53 UGA freshmen. Total UGA enrollment that year was 18,286, with 14,189 from Georgia and 359 foreign students.

The student body was 60.1% male, and, during that fall quarter, The Red & Black reported on discrimination against women at UGA, noting that female applicants had to have a higher GPA in high school, higher class ranking and higher SAT scores to get into the university. A UGA admissions official denied it was discrimination, though, explaining that the requirements for the genders differed because “girls make better grades in high school.” He added that, if they didn’t have different standards, UGA conceivably could become a predominantly female school. (I wonder what he’d think of today’s UGA student body, which is 57 percent female.)

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Two female students at UGA, from the 1970-71 Pandora yearbook. (Hargrett Library)

Women also had to attend more hours of P.E. than men (a holdover from the era when ROTC was required for men, which it no longer was by 1970).

However, Deanie Fincher recalls “staying out later than my sister Martha had the year before.”  She’s correct; in a change that year, only first-quarter freshman women had a curfew (1 a.m. on weeknights and weekends).

The UGA student body’s gender consciousness hadn’t yet been fully raised, however. Weekly “powder-puff” football games were staged, featuring women’s teams from various dorms and sororities, such as the Brumby Bunnies, playing against a male team dubbed the “Russell Rapers.”

This also was pre-Roe v. Wade, and having a legal abortion in Georgia required a woman to jump through so many medical hoops that, for all practical purposes, they weren’t available to most students. The university’s Health Service, which reported about 500 unwanted pregnancies per year at UGA, provided counseling for those seeking legal abortions, which usually meant going out of state, mostly to New York, New Mexico or California, where legal abortions were much more readily available.

As for minority students, the UGA Fact Book for 1970 doesn’t bother to note how many of them were on campus that school year, but The Red & Black reported 100 Black students had been accepted for the 1970 school year, and half that many were expected to enroll.

So, yeah, you largely saw white faces on campus, except in one corner of the Bulldog Room in Memorial Hall, where many of the Black students gathered between classes.

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UGA basketball player Ronnie Hogue. (University of Georgia)

There were only three Black athletes on scholarship at UGA that quarter, The Red & Black reported, with the most notable being Ronnie Hogue of the basketball team, the first Black athlete to receive a full athletic scholarship. The first Black athlete offered a football grant-in-aid by UGA, John King, decided to go to Minnesota instead in 1970. So, integration of the football team wouldn’t happen until 1971, although one Black player, James Hurley, had walked on during spring practice in 1970. However, before the fall season arrived, he had transferred to Vanderbilt.

UGA had far to go in terms of race relations at that time. Classmate Bill Berryman recalled with sadness “sitting in the student section at football games and hearing the awful things students yelled at Black players for the other team, especially Eddie McAshan from Georgia Tech.”

The main area where UGA had made advancements in race was the Black Studies program, which was entering its second year. A student could earn a Certificate in Afro-American studies by taking 20 credit hours in Black studies courses offered in art, history, anthropology, drama, political science, sociology and music.

However, the marching band that performed at football games still was called the Dixie Redcoat Band. (The first part of that name would be excised the following school year, sparking outrage from the campus neocons in the Demosthenian Literary Society.)

Campus media was pretty limited in 1970. The Red & Black was published only twice a week, and campus radio station WUOG-FM still was in the planning stages, with the university having applied to the FCC for a construction permit. There were a couple of underground publications distributed: Veritas and the United Free Press. Meanwhile, we did have four daily newspapers available, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. I earned my pocket money delivering the local Daily News early each morning via car.

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This Pandora shot shows students loading up on textbooks for the new school year at the UGA Bookstore. (Hargrett Library)

The central campus had much less greenspace back then (the now-lovely Herty Field, where Georgia football was born, was a parking lot in my school days). As always, there was construction going on, with the former Commerce-Journalism building spending much of my time at UGA being renovated for Terry College. As a journalism major, I’d wind up spending much of my time in the Psychology-Journalism complex that had opened a couple of years earlier, but not so much that first quarter, as I’d been saddled by an advance orientation adviser with a schedule consisting of philosophy, P.E., geology and geography.

The newest building on campus was the expansive UGA bookstore, which had opened just 10 months earlier. (That didn’t stop the air-conditioning from going out in the store at the height of the fall quarter textbook rush.) The Robert Trent Jones-designed university golf course had opened just two years earlier.

Much of what’s now East Campus was the UGA farm (complete with a vintage barn), although the intramural fields had opened out there. Where the Tate Center is now was Stegeman Hall, home to an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool the Navy had built during World War II. Other Navy hand-me-downs still in use in 1970 included prefabricated apartments (known as the Prefabs) used as married-student housing to supplement the University Village built in the mid-‘60s. Also left over from WWII: 11 of the 20 buses that serviced four campus routes (plus a night bus).

There were 20 residence halls (11 of them for women), the newest of which were the high-rise dorms, Brumby, built in 1966, and Russell (1967). And, of course, they were overflowing. A proposal was pending that would require only freshmen to live in residence halls the next year.

Deanie Fincher, a friend of mine since elementary school, actually had enrolled at UGA the previous spring while still a senior at Athens High, and had gone to summer school. “So, by the time I started in the fall I had already taken three classes,” she said. “In September of 1970, I moved into Mell Hall to officially be on campus. I was a music major, so most of my classes were close by.”

She recalls that Oglethorpe House was the only co-ed residence hall (men and women on different floors), but it was a private dorm, not owned by the university at that time.

All but two of the dorms had phones, and residents were being offered optional refrigerators at a cost of $36 for three quarters that year. By the end of the quarter, though, hundreds still were waiting for the refrigerators to be delivered.

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A lot of students hung out in the Bulldog Room between classes. (Hargrett Library)

There were varying meal plans, depending on the number of meals/days you wanted at the two dining halls, the old Bolton (nicknamed Revoltin’ Bolton) and Snelling. You also could eat at the Bulldog Room, which was mostly fast food. (Athletes had their own dining hall in McWhorter Hall.) The meal plans ranged from $180 to $256 for fall quarter. Only Bolton was open on weekends, but nonresidents could buy meals at O-House.

As an Athens native, I was allowed to live at home, so I didn’t experience the dorm life my kids later would come to know so well, and my meal plan was what my mother served at home, or what I picked up downtown, or hanging  out between classes at the Bulldog Room, where the jukebox always seemed to be playing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.”

For those who chose to eat off-campus, downtown Athens offered several meat-and-three spots, including Lynn’s, Tony’s and Dobbs House (a 24-hour diner). Also downtown were Alice’s Crazy Corner Cafe, the Spaghetti Store, Wrangler Steakhouse, Lum’s (with beer-steamed hot dogs!) and the Varsity, right across from the Arch.

Away from downtown, Magnolia Manor on Hull Street, a boarding house, also served a down-home menu. And Beechwood Buffet at the Beechwood shopping center offered all-you-can-eat on Mondays and Thursdays for $1.59 a person, with your choice of meat, vegetables, beverage, salad and desserts.

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The Shrimp Boat on Baxter Street was a popular dining destination for students in 1970.

Other popular dining destinations for students that fall included several on Baxter Street: Hardee’s (near the high-rise dorms); the Shrimp Boat, where you could get chicken, shrimp, fish, sea food, sandwiches, pizza and salads; the Western Sizzlin’ steakhouse; Pedro’s, for Mexican; Ireland’s, where they served great steak biscuits; and Gigi’s, an Italian place with live music in the lounge that made a great place for dates.

Farther afield were Wishbone Fried Chicken, Shoney’s, McDonald’s, Burger Chef, Kentucky Fried Chicken at Davis House on the Macon Highway, innumerable pizza joints and, out on Atlanta Highway, Poss’ Barbecue, run by the family that handled the game day concessions at Sanford Stadium.

Also, in the Normaltown neighborhood of Athens, there was Allen’s, a venerable joint that classmate Tom Hodgson recalls fondly for “hamburgers on an English muffin, and travel posters going back to the ’50s or earlier.”

Bill Andrews remembers other places that “kept me nourished my freshman year” in 1970, including “Chase Street Cafe … Steverino’s … the Mayflower … Swamp Guinea and Little Bob’s.” And, he added, for “a good steak,” there was Prime Time on the Atlanta Highway.

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Dean William Tate, wearing love beads while hanging out with student demonstrators in the spring of 1970. (University of Georgia)

Class registration (which had taken place the two days before classes started), was held in-person at the Coliseum, where students had to deal with new-fangled computer punch cards under the watchful eye of Dean William Tate, a legendary campus figure.

“Registering for class and trying to get student football tickets were completely baffling to me,” Bill Berryman recalled. “It was my first experience with computer punch cards, and it never ended well. I also remember Dean Tate keeping order at registration. He scared me to death.”

Since I’d registered for my classes in advance at freshman orientation that summer (the only time I ever lived in a dorm — three days and two nights in Myers Hall), I didn’t have to face the registration ordeal, where students had been known to disguise themselves as repairmen in order to sneak in before their assigned time.

Student life in the 1970s, much like now, generally revolved around clubs and organizations at the student center (then Memorial Hall), fraternities and sororities for those so inclined (I wasn’t), and sports.

Joe Costa, a high school classmate, started a quarter early, in the summer of 1970, in order to “get used to college life.” That fall, he remembered recently, “I was having too much fun being rushed by the Fiji fraternity, which had a bunch of Athens guys in it.”

Adjusting to college life “was not a gentle transition,” recalled Tom Hodgson another Athens High grad, “but a full immersion into a life of independence, beer abuse, hints of debauchery and fantastic new experiences. Maybe I was better prepared than some, because I had an older brother who had invited me to college parties while I was still in high school. That part was cool.

“My brother and I pledged the same frat [Kappa Alpha] where our older brother was in a senior position,” Tom said, “and it was the exact same frat at the exact same school as my father, uncles, grandfather and great uncles had pledged. I guess you call that a legacy. No matter, cool guys chose me to hang out with them, and I was more than willing. I learned within a few days that the best fraternity on campus is the one that lets you play. I thought I was so grown up.”

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Much of student life in the fall revolved around football. (The Red & Black)

Tom correctly recalls that “college football, and UGA football in particular, was unabashedly front and center in the social universe of autumn in Athens.”

Pickup of student football tickets began the first day of classes, and the first home game was that Saturday, as the Bulldogs played host to Clemson. There was a street dance with a band called the Sweet Young’uns held that first weekend in Memorial Plaza, along with a pep rally for the Clemson game, and an American Brass jam session took place in the plaza after football on Saturday.

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Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, one of the architects of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, became a UGA professor in 1970. (University of Georgia)

As that school year began, much of the talk was about whether we’d see another quarter of campus unrest, like the anti-war protests that briefly had shut down UGA the previous spring, when 3,000 students staged a sit-in at the Academic building after National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University. The Red & Black was full of news of student activist meetings, and the state Board of Regents had issued a statement decrying the previous protests.

An open letter to college students from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, published in the student paper, warned: “There’s nothing wrong with student dissent or student demands for change in society … But there is real grounds for concern about the extremism which led to violence, lawlessness and disrespect for the rights of others on many college campuses during the past year.”

Carlton Powell remembers that fall as the time you started seeing a lot of Vietnam war veterans coming back to UGA. Many of them now were anti-war, and a group called the Vietnam Veterans Against the War frequently could be seen handing out flyers in Memorial Plaza.

Still, despite university officials’ fears of a repeat of the previous spring, the Vietnam Moratorium Day at the end of October saw only about 30 people show up at the UGA demonstration.

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There were chapters of Vietnam Veterans Against the War across the country, including at UGA. (Vietnam Veterans Against the War)

The military draft still was in existence that fall. After reaching their 18th birthday, males were required to be available for military service for a year (or any portion of it), but that year could be postponed by a student deferment; you’d then be eligible for service after you left college.

I qualified for such a deferment, but since my number in the draft lottery was low enough that it conceivably could be called (in which case I might have to serve after college), I enrolled in Air Force ROTC, which also opened to women for the first time that quarter, though only one female student signed up.

Shortly after fall classes began, I received a draft card that had my status listed as “1-A” (draft eligible), which alarmed my mother considerably. A panicked friend called and said he’d also just received a 1-A card; he was wondering if he should run down and enlist in the Navy to avoid getting drafted into the Army.

I told him not to do anything rash, that I had to walk by the Selective Service office on my way back to class, and I’d check on our status. The kind woman at Selective Service told me “we just haven’t gotten the list from UGA yet,” and assured me that my “2-S” card for student deferment would be coming along soon. And, it did.

In the meantime, Air Force ROTC’s reputation for being much less gung-ho than Army ROTC was well-earned at that time. We didn’t wear our blue uniforms very often, and we hardly ever drilled in formation. That was a bit of a problem when we had to march in the downtown Athens Christmas parade toward the end of the quarter, so the officers in charge just asked who had high school ROTC experience. Those of us who raised our hands were put on the right end of each line, and the others were told just to do what we did!

Eventually, it became clear the draft wasn’t going to go as high as my lottery number, so my military involvement ended with just one quarter of ROTC.

Drug use was another frequent topic in the R&B. Campus police had received extensive training over the summer on dealing with drug abuse, and Superior Court Judge James Barrow wrote a letter to the paper, reminding students that “the possession or use of any amount of marijuana is a felony carrying a minimum sentence of one year.” Possession of LSD could get you two to five years.

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Jimmy Carter was elected Georgia’s governor in 1970 after running a George Wallace-leaning campaign.

Classes were suspended for November’s General Election, and the gubernatorial race drew a fair amount of attention in the student newspaper, with both Jimmy Carter and his Republican opponent, longtime Atlanta newsman Hal Suit, visiting campus during the campaign. Suit won the mock student balloting, with 70 percent of the vote, and the Red & Black also endorsed the Republican — only surprising if you don’t know that Carter had defeated moderate Democrat Carl Sanders, his primary opponent, by running a George Wallace-inspired campaign designed to appeal to rednecks. Boy, were those voters surprised after Carter won and the new governor revealed himself at his inauguration as a Southern liberal.

Also on campus that fall, a moon rock was on display for two weeks, and economist-sociologist (and future Nobel winner) Gunnar Myrdal gave several lectures. The University Theatre presented “Biedermann and the Firebugs” at the Fine Arts Auditorium.

In a sign of the times, work continued that fall on a project dubbed “People’s Park,” located on an overgrown 7.5-acre plot of land on Cloverhurst Avenue, near the dorms, that was a remnant from when a black community called Linnentown had been razed in the ’60s for “urban renewal.” Perhaps inspired by a similar park at Berkeley in California, a student senator had proposed clearing the lot and making it a spot for recreation and concerts the previous spring. Surprisingly, the university administration gave its approval. Students had worked over the summer to clear the land, and a concert had been held there. With planning by UGA’s School of Environmental Design, the park eventually became a venue for musical performances, picnics and just soaking up sun, before fading from consciousness and returning to nature. People’s Park actually still is there, though my kids never heard of it during their time at UGA in the 2000s. It’s overgrown again, but is commemorated by UGA online.)

Just as the Tate Center is nowadays, Memorial Hall was ground zero for student organizations in 1970, with various clubs and groups headquartered there. Most nights, there were lectures on campus, where you could learn about subjects like Transcendental Meditation, started by The Beatles’ guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Memorial Hall also was where the University Union (which promoted various activities and performances) and the Student Government Association were based. The student executive branch and senate still largely were in the hands of the Greeks and middle-of-the-roaders that fall, but would be taken over within a couple of years by a leftwing activist party called Coalition — which, in true Athens style, grew out of the followers of a local rock band called Ravenstone. A sign of things to come …

Check out Part 2: Big-name concerts at UGA, alums and locals recall the nascent Athens music scene, the bars that flourished even in the days before the drinking age was lowered, other entertainment offerings available to students, and what we were wearing in the fall of 1970.

To read about the Georgia Bulldogs’ 1970 football season, and how the Senior Parade tradition was killed by an embarrassing showing at the Ole Miss game, check out my Junkyard Blawg.

Click here to read UGA alums’ fond (and not so fond) memories of campus dining through the years.