Southern Places: Explore aviation history in Warner Robins, Georgia

Steve is an Air Force veteran so when we visited the Macon area last fall, we had to go to the Museum of Aviation. Steve tied together some of the stories in this blog post. —Kim

The Musuem of Aviation

Deep in the heart of Georgia, there is a historic military installation that houses aircraft memorabilia from bygone days. The Museum of Aviation is located adjacent to the Warner Robins Air Force base south of Macon. All theaters of war in the 20th and 21st centuries are represented in the museum. Admission is free and you will find a lot of exhibits for kids.

As an Air Force veteran, I took interest not only in the stories of war heroes and flying aces but in the story of the base itself and its role in some of history’s biggest stories. Robins AFB has been and is still today one of the most utilized and mission ready military bases in the world. It has a history that is replete with many accomplishments both overseas and on the domestic front. As well as participating in our nation’s defense in a major way for over three-quarters of a century, Robins AFB has been a major corporate citizen to the middle Georgia community.

Beginning with the era of the Great Depression, the U.S. Army was in need of a site to perform aircraft maintenance and store needed supplies at a strategic location. The War Department (later the Department of Defense) selected a site near Wellston, Ga. (later named Warner Robins). Local leaders in the Macon area were ecstatic at the soon to be the reality of a large industrial complex in the area to be serviced by local dairy farms and pecan orchards, as well as other supplies. The base was originally called the Georgia Air Depot, and construction of the facilities began in August 1941.

Less than four months later, Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Field in Hawaii were attacked by the Japanese in a pre-dawn surprise attack which killed over 4,000 American military personnel and civilians. President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately called a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war, saying, “…this date, December 7, 1941, is a date which shall live in infamy!”

War was declared on Japan by Congress, and later Germany, who was an Axis Alliance partner of Japan along with Italy, declared war on the United States. Our country was at war, and the wheels of mobilization began to turn. We needed that base in Georgia!

The rest was history.

The depot was completed in 1942 and was named Warner Robins Army Air Depot at Robins Field. It was dedicated on April 26, 1943, and named after the late Brig. Gen. Augustine Warner Robins. The name of the town of Wellston had been already changed to Warner Robins the previous year in anticipation of the upcoming dedication of the newly constructed depot and airstrip. Macon mayor Charles L. Bowden officially presented the deeds to the depot property to the U.S. Army Air Corps on the day of dedication.

The musuem has a section dedicated to a movie about aviation in World War II. “God is My Co-Pilot” starred Dane Clark, Dennis Morgan and Raymond Massey and is an autobiography of Robert Lee Scott, Jr. , who flew with the Flying Tigers.

As we all know from our history classes, the war ended in 1945 in both Europe and the Pacific. Another World War had ended with a victory for the Allies, which meant a lot of rebuilding had to be done to repair all the damage the war had caused. This created the need to continue supplying our former enemies’ efforts to rebuild their cities and the lives of their surviving populations, while the Allied nations of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and France occupied them for the next several years. This mission became known as the Marshall Plan, named after former General of the Army and Secretary of State George C. Marshall.

The Berlin Airlift, a.k.a. “Operation Vittles”, was also a place where Robins AFB (as it was then named after it was assigned to the newly created Department of the Air Force to go along with the new Department of Defense in 1947) stood out in its mission to supply the people of West Berlin during the 1948 Soviet blockade. The Berliners hardly missed a meal, and the Soviets suspended the blockade.

Robins AFB at Warner Robins, Ga. became a vital corporate citizen in Middle Georgia as it continued to increase its mission status during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.

In 1981, the U.S. Air Force created and built the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB to become its second largest aerospace museum. It is situated on 43 acres of land adjacent to the city limits of Warner Robins. It houses aircraft indoors in four separate hangars with exhibits on multiple floors. There are many permanently grounded aircraft outside on the museum grounds. There is an old Air Force One which flew the President of the United States. There are Korean War-era fighter jets, the first jet fighters ever used in warfare by the United States.

The indoor exhibits are in a climate-controlled environment in each of the four hangars for the year-round comfort and enjoyment of the museum’s thousands of visitors each year. The museum in total has 93 military aircraft, including helicopters and missiles. It displays equipment used by aircraft personnel and pilots. It even has a gift shop.

Another feature of the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB is the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, which was created by Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris in 1989. Many brave pilots from Georgia or people who are otherwise connected to Georgia in an honored status concerning aviation are remembered here. They include men like World War I ace and Medal of Honor recipient Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker.

The contributions to our nation’s security made by the men and women of Robins AFB are innumerable. During the early 1960s the Cuban Missile Crisis was also handled in part by the staging of aircraft and weapons at Robins in the event of a call from President John F. Kennedy to launch an attack on Soviet offensive nuclear missiles staged in Cuba. This was a tense time for our country as our president encouraged us that we would be safe. Robins AFB was one base among many in the region under the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at the time, and President Kennedy was ready to give the attack order while at the same time working along with the State Department to negotiate with the Kremlin under Nikita Khrushchev to “stand down.”

The Russians blinked, and the crisis was over. The readiness of our forces was a key to the success of the operation, and the willingness of our president to “fight fire with fire” was crucial.

These are just a few of the stories you can experience at the Museum of Aviation. The kids will love some of the interactive exhibits. And again, admission is free.

Southern Faces: A shootout, a famous actress and a Cornbread Festival–Exploring South Pittsburg, Tenn.

South Pittsburg, Tennessee has the charm of a 1950s town with the modern-day convenience of good WIFI and a nice Italian restaurant on the corner. The town also has a history museum where you can talk to the locals on Saturday morning. If you are lucky, you will get to talk to Bob Sherrill. He’s been the voice of the South Pittsburg Pirates—football, not baseball—for 60 years. I won’t tell you how old he was when he started but he is still going strong. And he is still promoting the town he calls home that hosts one of the most unique festivals in the Southeast.  

Bob Sherill, voice of the South Pittsburg Pirates

How do you like your cornbread?

Hosting a festival celebrating the South’s second favorite bread (biscuits have to be first, right?) was a natural fit for South Pittsburg. Lodge Manufacturing Company set up shop in the town back in 1896 and is still there more than 100 years later. If you are from the South, your mama or your grandmother probably had a cast iron skillet from there. While the skillets are good for frying bacon, many dedicate them to making cornbread. My Lodge skillet has made cornbread that turned into the holiday dressing for the past five years. No one but me has ever cooked in it and certainly nothing has ever been fried in it. A woman’s cast iron skillet is special.

A quilt honoring the Cornbread Festival hangs in the South Pittsburg Heritage Museum

It was in 1996 that South Pittsburg leaders decided to create an entire festival dedicated to cornbread. It was a natural fit with Lodge occupying the town for the past 100 years to create and entire festival for cornbread. It’s always held the last week of April and besides cornbread, arts and crafts and tours of the Lodge Company, the town officials managed to share some good entertainment. Country singer Billy Dean is performing on Saturday night and gospel music singer Jason Crabbe is performing on Sunday. Admission is just $7 and that includes the concerts.

Revisit South Pittsburg history

1942 South Pittsburg High School letter sweater

History lovers will enjoy visiting the South Pittsburg Heritage Museum. You will first notice a large bell. This is the old chapel bell from Primitive Baptist Church (more on the church later). Also in the museum are mementos from the town’s sports history. Many of the items showcase the South Pittsburg High School football team. You will also see a 1942 letter sweater from the school’s basketball team.

The museum pays homage to the town’s iron-forged history and its love for cornbread. A quilt celebrating the festival is displayed toward the back of the museum—make sure you see it because it is beautiful. While the museum is small, there are too many artifacts to list so you will just have to go and see it for yourself!

Historical sites

Primitive Baptist Church

Primitive Baptist Church, also known as the Chapel on the Hill, is located just at the edge of town at the intersection of Elm Avenue and Eighth Street. The first services in the church were held in 1889. The church has stood at the same location despite nearly being destroyed by fire in 1954. South Pittsburg received ownership of the church and has worked to preserve it. Primitive Baptist Church is in the South Pittsburg Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

A historical marker in downtown is a remembrance of a bloody shootout that killed six law enforcement officers, including Sheriff G. Washington Coppinger and Police Chief James Connor and injured several others. The gunfight happened in 1927 at the intersection of Third Street and Cedar Avenue. The National Guard was called into the city by then Gov. Henry H. Horton because of the violence.

Marker describing the Christmas night shootout in 1927

Another downtown historical marker honors the life of actress Jobyna Lancaster Ralston-Arlen. Born in South Pittsburg in 1899, Jobyna moved to Hollywood and made several silent movies. Jobyna was in the first picture to ever win an Academy Award, “Wing.” She married actor Richard Arlen and retired from the movies in 1932.

The Princess Theater

The restored Princess Theater

While Jobyna never starred in a live production at South Pittsburg’s Princess Theater, her movie was the first one shown there. It was known then as the Imperial Theater and it opened its doors on July 29, 1921. The name was changed to “Palace Theater” three years later and renamed Princes Theater in July 1934. While a movie has not played there since the 1980s, local theater groups still use the renovated facility for plays.

Need another reason to visit South Pittsburg?

Harvey’s Pirate Restaurant

We always look for a local restaurant wherever we go. I already knew I wanted to go to Harvey’s Pirate Restaurant before our visit. I loved the older look of the place but I loved the service and food even more. You will be greeted warmly and your tea glass will never be empty. Try the hamburger steak! Next time, we plan to try the Italian restaurant.

If you can’t get out the to Cornbread Festival, get off I-24 and spend some time in South Pittsburg. And if you see Bob Sherill, tell him we said “hello!”

Planning your travel season on a budget

Many mark spring as the official beginning of travel season. We feel like we travel all the time but we actually spend most nights in our own beds. That’s because we believe in exploring our own area and saving money. There is so much to see within driving distance of our home we will probably never get to it all!

Don’t get me wrong. We love hotels, cabins and vacation homes. But we are on a tight budget like most people. So here are some tips for planning your travel season at home and on the road  without going broke.

Plan a staycation just like you do any other vacation.

Set a budget and create an itinerary. Since you don’t have to worry about traveling time, you can set aside seven days or even just a single day if you have a small budget. The internet is full of blogs about any location, even your own hometown. When you plan it, I think it feels more like a “vacation.”

New Echota, Calhoun, Ga. One of our “staycation” destinations

Contact your local visitors bureau for information.

Local convention and visitors bureaus have a wealth of information about what to do in your area. You may find some money-saving coupons there as well.

Try to include something for everyone.

Our teenager likes to eat and shop. We also had to accommodate my schedule as a freelance writer and our budget so we chose our activities carefully. Our three-day staycation last year began with a tour of my hometown of Rome, Ga. On the second day we went to Atlanta to visit Lenox Square Mall, then it was off to the World of Coca-Cola.  On the third day, we went to see the Atlanta Braves and some of the sites near SunTrust Park in Cobb County.

World of Coca-Cola

Discover your local parks.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are going to the local playground. Some parks offer more than swing sets and slides today. Manning Mill Park in Adairsville, Ga has a beautiful lake, playground and picnic areas. If you are more outdoorsy, find a park with campgrounds and a fishing area. Lock and Dam Park just outside of Rome has a campground and fishing area.

State parks also offer outdoor family fun without breaking the bank. In our area, Red Top Mountain State Park has a beach area and great places to hike. You could spend an entire day there and not do it all!Check out some history.

Our family has made it a priority to learn all we can about our area. Recently we visited New Echota State Park in Calhoun, Ga. This state-funded site does charge less than $10 to get in but it’s worth the money. You can also take advantage of a great deal from Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. An annual pass that allows you to see all of the historic sites for one low price.

Take me out to the ballgame.

We live in Braves Country and we love to take in a game. We watch for special deals for the team. We have good seats and never pay more than $20 per ticket. But the best deals are at the minor league parks. We live near three. We love the names of some of the teams. Last year, we watched the Chattanooga Lookouts play the Montgomery Biscuits. You will not only see future All-Stars but you may also see some current stars. Often major league players will do rehab assignments with a minor league team and you can see a superstar!

Check out the small towns in your area.

These tiny hamlets are often ignored but are rich in history and fun! In Northwest Georgia, we head over to Cave Spring. There’s a large spring-fed pool that is guaranteed to cool you off during these hot days. You can soak in some local history at the Historic Vann Cabin. Take a picnic and eat at one of many spots near the pool or dine at one of the downtown eateries.

Historic Vann Cabin

Finding the best places to spend the night

Everyone has different standards about where they want to stay. Some people won’t stay at a roadside motel but insist on a 4-star hotel in a metropolitan area. Others love camping or cabins in remote locations. And that is ok. You can find great deals no matter what you like.

We have stayed at many budget hotels and the majority of them were great. The managers and staff of these hotels want your business so if something is wrong, they are likely going to make it right. No one wants to have a negative review on TripAdvisor.

Maples Motor Inn

We also look for locally-owned motels. Our favorite destination is the Smoky Mountains and our favorite place to say is Maples Motor Inn. I thought this was our secret until TripAdvisor named it one of the best in America. The rates are reasonable and our rooms are always spotless. I have been staying here for decades and I have not had one bad experience.

Airbnb and other companies offer private homes and unique places to stay. We stayed at this great home offered by Evolve when we visited Highland, N.C. The big plus was the kitchen. We saved a lot of money cooking our own meals rather than eating out restaurants. And because it was a private home, we were so comfortable we didn’t want to leave.

Saving on meals

Eating is one of the best parts of travelling for our family. But you can blow a lot of your vacation budget if you are not careful. We have several rules:

  1. If we are staying in a place with a kitchen or microwave, we try to eat some of our meals “in.” That way we don’t fee bad when we drop a lot of money on an upscale restaurant.
  2. We do our best only to eat at local eateries but sometimes, it’s in our budget’s best interest to grab a cheap meal at a fast food establishment.
  3. The Smoky Mountains and other sites that attract a lot of tourist have coupon books that can save you a lot of money.
  4. Again, plan ahead. And stick to your plan. I am terrible about changing my mind but my husband will tell you that every time I do, it costs us extra money.

So how do you plan for your vacations and adventures? I would love to hear your tips!

Here’s to a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas Eve!

 I hope that you are having the happiest of holidays. I know that this time of the year is tough for some. I am still missing my parents and I can’t believe this is my third Christmas without them. Many of my friends and family are facing their first Christmas with an empty chair or two at the table. This year I struggled with Christmas but we got our tree up yesterday and I am trying. I can’t wait to see all of my siblings together later this week.

The past few weeks have been hectic ones at the Jarrett home. But we now have a new washer and dryer and a new SUV—and the bills that go with them. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have financial challenges and we are no exception. We will be working even harder this year on our financial future. And we hope to help others here and on our other blog. Our travels have kept me from losing my mind at times. I really should categorize it as “therapy.”

I cannot be thankful enough that my husband was not hurt in the wreck. He took a hard hit but survived well for a middle-aged man. He truly is my Superman. Just a couple of weeks before he was very sick. I had to do a lot of things without him. I appreciate him even more than I did before. I am so thankful that God put us together.

My Superman!

University Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep in Rome, Ga. was great in helping us out after the wreck and they went above and beyond. I was skeptical about our new Dodge Journey but I love it now! We will be focusing a lot on our “journeys in the Journey” and we will be photographing our car a lot. And yes, I do highly recommend University Dodge. This is our second vehicle from there.

Our mission with this blog is to show families you can have fun without going broke. We are not always the most frugal but we try. And some things are just worth the money like The Ark Encounter in Kentucky.

Our Dodge Journey

The business side of my writing career is very busy so we are scaling some of our traveling back at least for the first three months of this year. We still have a lot of things to write and you will see us around, as always. We are going to focus more on events and places in Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee. But we also have some trips planned for the Midwest and further east than I have been for later in the year.

Look for some changes on the blog and some new features as the year progresses. Please, continue to send us suggestions and ideas. And if you are a tourism official, we would love to put you on our calendar for next year.

We all begin a new year with hope. Part of me is still scarred from 2016. We started the year house-hunting with plans to rev up our blogging. We hoped to take my parents on some trips and we were adamant that any house would be friendly for our parents, who had mobility issues. Steve’s mom passed away suddenly and my parents passed away within three months and a day of each other. I am hopeful for 2019 but I also remember the words of my late Mama whenever we would plan something. It’s all “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.” So, we are making plans and putting it all in God’s capable hands. Whatever things we encounter on our journeys—good and bad—are in His control.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our house to yours!