October 20, 2007

Walkin' Marianna

The rainclouds came and went all day. By the time it cleared up, the lighting was pretty good.

The twilight on a variety of memorial stonework in front of the Jackson County Courthouse.

Main Street Marianna on the Lawton Chiles Trail.

It got rainy again near Sneads.

Almost canopied oak stretch of highway 90 near Oak Grove.

October 19, 2007

S-CHIP Blues

Children's health dominated Chiles' agenda, especially in his second term as governor of Florida.

President Bush's veto of expanded funding of S-CHIP--State Children's Health Care Program--has governors like Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Gov. Tim Kaine (D) in uproar.

A half a dozen states have even filed suit against the federal government to seek redress of this grievance.

Regardless of the political winds, the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies continues vital research on infant mortality and prenatal/early childhood health care.

The Lawton Chiles Children and Family Health Care Center in Bradenton, Florida offers pediatric care to folks like 4-year-old Eva Vasquez. A recent Bradenton Herald article discusses how poor families can "fall through the cracks" when they're too well-off for Medicaid, but not wealthy enough to buy decent insurance. That's where S-CHIP comes in. But if there is no money for S-CHIP, there is often little recourse but staying at home and hoping to get better.

Chiles and His Florida: Marianna

Marianna, just west of the Central-Eastern Time Zone divide on highway 90, probably stuck out for Chiles on his walk because of Chipola College. In his day, it was called Chipola Junior College, but now it offers full bachelor's degrees and it's got a new name. Apparently, the sports program isn't too shabby these days either. At about 6,000 residents, Marianna is also a bit bigger than the average courthouse town in the Panhandle. And it would have to be to support a community college.

And of course, Marianna doesn't want for Confederate lore. There is even a website and book devoted to the Battle of Marianna (1864), a small Union victory. Federal troops may have spared Tallahassee, but they laid waste to Marianna without much trouble.

Its proximity to Panama City Beach and the pleasant Chipola River running through it have gotten it a couple golf course communities--Florida State Golf Course and Indian Springs Golf Course. The location probably made for good digs in the old days since it's approximately equal distance from the two main towns of Old Florida--Pensacola and Tallahassee.

Marianna is the Jackson County seat, one of the oldest in Florida since originally there were only two regions in Florida--East and West--covering the length of the modern Panhandle and North Florida. In 1822, the Florida Territorial Legislative Council divided West Florida into Jackson and Escambia Counties.
Jackson County Courthouse, with easy access to I-10 and US 90.
One of the biggest county courthouses in the Panhandle I suspect. It was raining off and on all day and lighting was tough.

It was getting late in the day, so I didn't get pics, but I did see a correctional institute on the edge of town that I suspect is the one mentioned in the Walkin' Notes:

I visited the Marianna School for Boys in Marianna and I really enjoyed that visit. The last time that I went to a correctional school for boys was in Okeechobee a little over a year ago and that time I came away tremendously depressed. The boys all had very vacant looks, a complete lack of hope, a frustration on their faces and even the staff people did not seem to have any enthusiasm for the program.

But all that is changed, I think, in our whole system and I know it has in Marianna. Lennox Williams, who's the director of the school, is doing an excellent job as is Ollie Keller, the director of the Division of Youth Services.

They have put in group sessions. They have the boys in cottages and in those cottages they have several groups. The boys get together with anything that's bothering them or any problems that they're having between each other. It gives them an identity, it really gives them something that they can attach to and it makes them realize, I think, that someone does care. They get to caring about each other in that group and helping each other.

I talked to a number of the boys that had been to Marianna 2 or 3 times before this group program went in. All of them felt that they had a better chance of helping themselves and being able to get back into society than they'd ever had before. Now there is an air of hope about these boys. They're all enthused about the program. So I came away from there with a feeling that Florida is really on the track in this correctional institution for our boys.

October 18, 2007

Orange Blossom Special

Actually, Johnny Cash did write at least one song on Florida, "Orange Blossom Special," referring to the New York-Florida train of that name.

Walkin' Notes: Live Oak

Chiles had a grand time in Live Oak, and got to rethinking about Vietnam on his journey:

I met a fine gentleman, Mr. O.T. Watley, in Live Oak. He was cutting the grass of a business establishment and when I shook hands with him, I noticed his hands were gnarled. He told me that he had been hit with 7,500 volts of electricity and that it had literally blown up his hands and feet. The doctor told him he would never be able to work again and that he was 100 percent disabled. Mr. Watley decided he didn't want to spend the rest of his life lying around feeling sorry for himself, and now he has a lawn care service. What a wonderful example this man is and what a contrast he is with the people who refuse to even try to get a job but rather want someone to hand it all to them on a platter.

Then I moved on to the Occidental plant nearby. It's a phosphate operation, and I talked with many of the workers. I had an opportunity for them to ask me questions and one fellow asked what I could suggest to help the small farmers today. He pointed out that the farmer is getting $1.10 to $1.20 a bushel for wheat, exactly the price he was getting 10 to 15 years ago, yet the price of bread has gone sky-high during that time. I certainly had to agree with him that farmers have really had to improve efficiency and work doubly hard to stay alive with the price levels staying the same. The markup has been with the broker, the stores and others in the chain from grower to consumer. This, of course, is why the farmer is gradually disappearing and this is a critical problem.

I told this worker about a bill we'd just passed which allows soybean producers to get together and work together to promote the use of soybeans and get better prices. To me this is a much better answer than government controls. I think the small farmer is an essential part of this country, and to save him we must give him help and encouragement in every way we can — AND freedom to do anything he can for himself.

Another question I've run into quite a bit lately is, "What are your views on Viet Nam?" Well, I point out that I had always considered myself a hawk before, but I have now reached the position that I believe we ought to pull out of Viet Nam as soon as possible. President Nixon has now said we are not seeking a military victory. If we are not going to seek to win, then I think we should get our troops out as soon as possible. The danger is that Viet Nam will drain us economically, is dividing the country and is costing the lives of our fine young men. We cannot afford any of this. The greatest strength we have is our economic strength, being able to prove we've got a better system than Russia or Communist China. We cannot continue to produce more and do more for people if we allow this war to drain us, and to push us into the trap that the Russians have set for us. I don't know how soon we can pull out. We must prepare the Vietnamese people; I hope that this is already well along. But we must be firmly committed to getting out, and I don't think we should get involved in any more land wars in Asia.

The remark I made about my undershorts the other day brought many reactions. Sen. Beaufort from Jacksonville and his daughter, Mike, took pity on me. They came to walk with me Saturday and they left me two pairs of silk shorts, one pair bright orange and one bright green. I want to thank them. I wore the green pair and they cured all my troubles.

I got in on the tail end of a meeting at Madison High School the other night. The men there were making plans for the integration that their schools have to go through in September. I thought it was interesting because these men had gotten together and decided that, since they were under court order and there was nothing they could do, they were going to see that merging the black and white schools went as peacefully and as orderly as it possibly could. They had arranged to have the athletes from both schools have spring training together and the black coach had come over as the assistant coach in the white high school. They had brought a number of parents and students in from both schools, and all of them were really proud that they had decided to see that this thing worked smoothly.

As I went through Live Oak, I had a tour of the Boys Ranch with Jim Strayer, his wife Betty and their 5 year old son. Betty (Skipper) Strayer was a classmate of mine at Lakeland High School, and their son is a real pistol. It was after dark, but I could see what outstanding facilities they have there. They have several thousand acres with 2 1/2 miles of frontage on the Suwannee River itself. They have beautiful, cottage-type red brick homes with a couple living in with the boys. There is a gymnasium and stables, and some volunteers had flown in to build a ham radio station. There are over 100 boys here. These are dependent boys, not boys in trouble. They are either from broken homes or families where something has happened to the parents. They can really grow up here as boys. They have dogs to play with, they have family life, and many of the boys have gone on to the service or college. The ranch has been operating now for over ten years. It is sponsored by the Sheriff's Association, and they've done an outstanding job here for the boys.

Courthouse Town: Live Oak

Know you're in the right place when you see one of these. Maybe it's just that I noticed it for the first time, but it looked like Live Oak had more of an industrial base than other towns along highway 90--until you go west to Marianna where I recalled an enormous warehouse.
The courthouse, compared to others on the Chiles Trail, was much more shaded and landscaped.

Suwannee County Courthouse.

October 17, 2007

"Country Boy"

Country boy, redneck, cracker, yokel, bumpkin, hick, cowlick...the language and lore for rural dweller is endless. As far as books go, I still can't think of anything that makes me think of a Polk County boyhood more than Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. I was listening to some Johnny Cash the other day and found some lyrics that made me think of a Chiles boyhood--except for the farming part. One of Cash's few sunny songs, "Country Boy," reminds me a lot of the careless good times he must have had swimming and fishing in Lake Morton and hunting in the woods down the street from his home in Lakeland.

I don't know that Cash penned any songs about Florida. I'm sure he could have done a job. One thing is for sure, the Sunshine State has plenty of prisons he could have played in.

See Johnnycash.com for more info on him.

Chiles and His Florida: Live Oak

Live Oak was a bit of a disappointment. In fact, looking back at the whole Suwannee State Park-Live Oak-Madison swing...I should have stayed home and avoided the poison ivy. Given its name, I expected Live Oak to be more canopied--like Monticello but wilder. I got nothing of the kind. The mood in the town was a bit dark. Part of Main Street was blocked off for some reason and the far side of town was busy with a police action of some kind. I think they were waiting for a suspect's vehicle to show.

As usual, downtown was empty of activity. They have a large Bank of America though and a cluster of law firms next to the County Courthouse, so Live Oak has it better than lots of towns since it's the county seat and it's got easy traffic access to highway 90.

It's also got a railroad running alongside--same one that passes through Madison. Back in the old days, it probably boomed with agricultural activity because of those rails. Now not so much.

Welcome to Live Oak. Got a big green bog to make you feel right at home.
Farther up in the shot you can see the "Walkin' Lawton" signpost.
And 651 miles to the Florida Keys!
Main Street. There is a museum of some kind on the other side of the barricades.
On that grassy knoll, the railroad comes to Live Oak.
Industrial plant of some kind. There was a factory--chicken processing I think--on the outskirts of town. It was awkwardly placed and I couldn't find anywhere to stop to take a picture.

October 16, 2007

Skeptics of the Walk

Lots of folks, including family and close friends, urged Lawton Chiles not to begin a walk across Florida that they feared would embarrass him and end his career.

Tom Slade, a GOP state senator from Jacksonville in 1970: "I didn't think he had a snowball's chance in hell. He didn't have any money. He didn't have any organization. It was a total Mission Impossible."

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, who was one of the five contenders for the Democratic nomination in '70: "I didn't think much of it at the time. When he started it we just laughed at it, but he walked all over us."

One patron at McCurdy's Dairy Bar in Jay quipped, "Heck, I wouldn't vote for a man like that. Why, he can't even afford a car."

Citation: Crowley, Brian. "Remembering Walkin' Lawton's 92-day trek across Florida." Palm Beach Post. December 15, 1998.

October 15, 2007

Chiles and His Century

More digging into the research has given me new information about Chiles' walk through Century, Florida and the legacy he left the sawmill town.

Granny Hattie's restaurant, the diner where he breakfasted on eggs, sausage, and grits with city councilwoman Marie McMurray before kicking off what would be his final re-election campaign walk in 1982, has long since burned down.

I drove through the whole town looking for Hattie's when I visited a week ago, but found no sign of it. Ironically, I did find what was left of it. The Burger King where I ended up eating lunch was built next to the foundation of Hattie's place.

October 14, 2007

Jay to Munson, 18 Miles

After each day's walk, 10 miles on average, one of Lawton's aides would get a piece of red tape and mark a tree next to the RV where he slept, so he knew exactly where he left off. Anything short of that would be cheating, even five feet. Luckily, it's pretty country around Munson.

Lots and lots of goldenrod.
From the Walkin' Notes:

We left this morning from Jay about 8 o'clock. I knew we had a long day today to try to go to Munson.

The first people that I saw on the road — a car stopped and out jumped J. Kirby Smith from Bagdad. I had met him at the Milton Kiwanis Club earlier and had also seen him at Milton at a dinner Dick Stone had. He heard at the Gopher Club at Pensacola this morning that I was out on the road so he came out to see me and brought the Chairman of County Commission of Santa Rosa, W. O. Kelly, with him and Clifford Wilson, also one of the commissioners from Santa Rosa County. So we had a nice visit out on the road. Then they took leave and I started on down the road.

The first place that we came to on the road this morning was a place called Crossroads. That's the local name for it. I think it's where the road goes south to Milton and north goes up to Alabama. I met a couple of mechanics there. Had an interesting visit with them. One of them told me — a hard-working young man — that this year he was paying $3,OOO in income taxes, Daniel Sims was his name, and he had the feeling that the money he was paying, that much of it was being used to give people. He didn't mind helping anybody who couldn't help themselves, but he thought a lot of people were getting his money that weren't working and didn't want to work. He felt there were people that had made more money than he that wouldn't be paying as much taxes on a pro rata share of taxes as he was paying, that there were too many people that just didn't want to work today. He was also real concerned about the general permissiveness of our society. He said he was concerned about a bus driver who had almost lost his job because he had tried to stop the kids from throwing screws with a sling-shot. This general permissiveness of our society certainly concerned him. Both of these fellows felt that they had never gotten a chance to see anybody that went to Washington before and they both said they were going to help me and they wanted me to remember them when I got up there.

Then I went on down the road and came to Jay prison. This is actually one of the Dept. of Transportation road camps. This is where 30-something prisoners lost their lives when the fire swept through that building in about a minute. In the Senate we tried to outlaw the use of temporary barracks and also dealt with claim bills in connection with this fire. It was very real, seeing what had happened there as a result of the fire in Jay prison. I had a chance to talk with some people there today — a couple of them were there when the fire occurred.

Again today 3 or 4 people stopped and offered to give me a ride. I had one fellow — Dewell Adams was his name and he heard that I was out on the road — he went to a store and bought a coke and brought it out to me. He stopped and said he knew I wouldn't take a ride but he wanted me to have a coke.

Then I had one of the fellows stop from Independent Life Insurance. He told me that he had seen Rosemary Emmett, who said in Century she was going to sell me a walking policy. So I'm still looking for Rosemary; she's supposed to be getting me an application form. She's got a policy that's going to cost me 50 cents a week, but it's going to insure me as I walk so I think she'll be bringing an application out as I walk here.

Then as I walked up towards Pittman's Grocery which is getting close to the tail-end of my walk for today, two young ladies, Brenda Ellis and Alicia Simmons — these young ladies were 14 years old — had seen on television last night that I was walking and they told one of the daddies, Mr. Simmons, that they'd like to come out and walk with me a while. So he brought them out to the road and they walked down the road with me a while. Mr. Simmons was in the car along with their sister who was sick and we had a nice visit.

I walked into the Pittman's Grocery store and I got to meet Hank Locklin's mother. Hank Locklin is a country music star and has a home in Milton. His mother lives with him at the home. We had a visit about Hank, who is now in Scotland. His mother is keeping his home while he's gone. Then I visited in Pittman's store and talked with people there. Munson is a couple more miles down the road.

I'm going to make Munson before the end of the evening. I'm a good bit sore today. When I stopped for lunch or a little break, I notice that my legs get kinda stove up like the old race horse and it takes a while before I get loosened up again. At one stretch yesterday I timed myself; and I was walking as much as 4 miles an hour. Today I was timing it and this morning I think I was making 3 miles an hour. I stopped for lunch and doctored by feet since I have two blisters on both feet, and after lunch I was walking at a rate down to 2 miles an hour. It's going to take more hours right now until I get into a little better shape in the legs and get these blisters taken care of.