I really haven't spent much of my life in Columbus, Georgia. I was born here, at Bush Hospital, which no longer exists. When I was nearly five, we went on a troop ship ( my father was an Infantry officer ), to Europe where my father was stationed briefly in Frankfurt, Germany, then in Salzburg, Austria. My brother, Charley, made his debut there. On our return, we lived at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina before returning to Columbus, GA. For my first year of high school, I went to boarding school at Sacred Heart Academy in Cullman, Alabama, then came home to finish the rest of my high school years at Columbus High. From there, I attended Charity Hospital and Mercy Hospital in New Orleans, coming home only for brief vacations.
Columbus is home to Ft. Benning, a huge infantry and airborne training center for the U. S. Army. Columbus is across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, Alabama which, during the 1940's and 1950's, had the reputation as being a haven for gambling, prostitution and organized crime. I attended parochial school in Phenix City from the 3rd to the 8th grade. It seemed to be a pretty quiet place then.
In fact, during my high school years, I didn't recall too many exciting places for us to dine out. I don't view Columbus as the center for gourmet eating. Perhaps living in the San Francisco area for the past thirty or so years has skewed my perspective! However, for the last three nights, I've been out with my friends, Beth and Luther Stanton, and a few others, and have had an absolutely delightful time, After fixing dinner for my mother and getting her settled, I've spent each evening, reminiscing, laughing and enjoying good food, reasonably priced.
Thursday night, we went to Rose Hill Seafood Company. This place has been around over thirty years and specializes in all kinds of fresh seafood, fried and grilled, and also sells seafood to the public. They also have an oyster bar. It is a huge place that accommodates large parties and, the night we were there, a group of forty, were celebrating something in a corner of the room. The waitresses have been there forever and seem to know everybody.
I got to have my whole catfish which you can easily eat right off the bone, leaving a complete catfish skeleton. Of course, I polished off TWO dozen raw oysters first, at only $6.95 a dozen. In San Francisco, you pay three times that for Gulf oysters! Their hushpuppies and cole slaw aren't as good as at Ezell's but everything else is better - and Ezell's doesn't have raw oysters!
This picture is a little overexposed but you get the idea. Also, the oysters were a bit small. Sometimes, I've had giant oysters. I love them with chili sauce, lots of horseradish and lemon and I never bother with crackers.
Beth and Luther Stanton - my wonderful friends!
Luther has been crazy for fifty years - why I would expect him to act any different now!
Fried whole catfish
Another view of the catfish and the small serving of cole slaw - at Ezell's, they bring you all the slaw and hushpuppies you want! I love eating the crispy catfish tails!
Tommy & Dale Wommack
Janice & Henry Snyder
Carmen Henesy & Phil Mather
Friday night, we headed into downtown Columbus. I was amazed at all the restoration that had been done to this old mill town! Columbus, with an estimated population of over 280,000 is the 3rd largest city in the state and the 120th largest city in the United States. It was founded in 1828 and was named after Christopher Columbus. Until their removal in 1836, this was the home of Creek Indians.
The Chattahoochee River connected Columbus to the world, in its early days, as a means of shipping cotton to New Orleans where it was then sent on to Liverpool, England. Textile mills sprung up all along the river.
During the Civil War, Columbus became important because of its ironworks and shipyard but it saw battle only AFTER the war ended when a union general attacked and burned many of the industrial building. He was unaware a treaty had been signed.
Today, many of the mills are being turned into beautiful loft condominiums and the historic areas are being revitalized, giving the city new life.
Our dining choice Friday was at Mario's on Broadway in the restored downtown section of Columbus. Twenty-five years ago, I wouldn't have gone down there if my life had depended on it
( and it might have! ). The restaurant, classified as Mediterranean, is at the top of a long flight of narrow stairs ( no elevator - thankfully, there is a handrail on either side ) and opens into a cavernous room with a dance floor, a bar and a few tables. It was practically empty which I thought seemed strange for a Friday night, especially since the place is relatively close to Ft. Benning. I understand that, occasionally there is a belly dancer but none was performing that night. With my ample belly, I thought I might earn a few dollars but, with the restaurant empty and my friends booing the idea, I decided to order the wine instead. There were no Greek or Mediterranean wines, just some rot gut CA choices and a passable Australian shiraz for $25 which I chose. We picked spanakopita, hummus and baba ganoush for appetizers which came with pita bread - and all were absolutely delicious. My friend, Beth, who knew Syliva, the cook, had talked with her earlier and got the scoop that the lamb shanks were especially good. Beth and I ordered those and another friend had the lamb shisk kebab, both excellent and very tasty
choices. Someone else has "really good" falafel.
All in all, it was a very nice evening. We laughed and carried on to our heart's content since it was basically "our" place!
Luther Stanton, Carmen Henesy and our Aussie Shiraz
Luther Stanton, Phil Mather and Tommy Wommack
Lamb Shank and very good rice pilaf
Linda Kestner, Beth Stanton, Dale Wommack
After dinner, we stopped at Beth and Luther's for a quick hello to Lucy who had been waiting patiently. Luther tried to engage her in a howling contest but Lucy just wanted to cuddle and wasn't performing. Luther did, however.
Lucy is just happy to be cuddled.
Our Saturday night outing was to a Chinese buffet at the Hong Kong Restaurant, a place where Beth and Luther have eaten several times. They usually ignore all the other offerings and concentrate on the Alaskan king crab legs. Another Columbus High classmate, Gloria Dodds, met us there with our senior yearbook tucked under her arm. We were so busy looking at that for the first hour, we didn't even think about food. Sadly, a great number of our classmates have already died. I honestly remember so few of them but it does make me sad that our numbers are dwindling. Our sweet young waitress, from China, got such a kick at seeing the pictures of our youth, especially Luther, who was "most handsome" in our class. She brought all the other waitresses to point out our before pictures to them. When we told them those pictures were made 47 years prior, I'm sure they thought we were going to croak at the table! When I realized how many crab legs we consumed, it wouldn't have surprised me, either.
Beth Stanton, round 1
Carmen Henesy & Gloria Dodds
Beef & mushrooms - I really LOVE mushrooms so I ate about a hundred from various dishes
Beth & Luther Stanton & Carmen Henesy
Luther Stanton, Most Handsome, Class of 1962, Columbus High School, Columbus, GA
Carmen Henesy, Class of 1962, Columbus High School, Columbus, GA
( I could not get this in focus...when I get home next week, I'll have to try again )
I have never had so much fun during my visits home. Often, Beth and Luther are away when I am in town or I am only here for a long weekend and our schedules don't mesh. It has been so wonderful being able to spend so much time with them and reconnecting with Gloria Dodds and hanging out with the Wommacks who are now my friends, as well - even though they went to the wrong high school ( we forgive them for that ).
GO BLUE DEVILS!