Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo of the Day: A Portrait of Anne

This is my photo pal Anne Sampson tonight at the Perry F. Kending Awards gathering at Hollins University. She was talking about how great the light was for photography shortly before I shot this, proving her right. That's her Canon on the left.

This, by the way, is the Anne I know and deeply appreciate.

Remembering Mary Garber, the First (?) Woman Sports Writer


Mary Garber near the front end of her career as a sports writer.

Mary Garber’s name came up today during a conversation in Blacksburg with a young woman at Virginia Tech who wants to be a sports writer. I pulled Mary out of the air to give Brittany Keup, sports editor of Tech's student newspaper, a frame of reference for her chosen profession.

In 1946 (my birth year), Mary Garber began writing about sports full time, covering a swath of North Carolina around Winston-Salem. She is believed to be the first female staff sports reporter at a daily newspaper. I don't know that it's ever been proven, but I'll accept that as fact. 

Mary spent most of her 51 year career at the Winston-Salem Journal and the Sentinel before it was absorbed by the Journal. Mary, a tennis and softball player in high school and a football player as a child, covered all the male sports, as well as female athletes and black colleges and high schools in the area.

Born in New York in 1916, she moved to Winston in 1924 and graduated at Hollins College in 1938, intent on becoming a sports writer. She wound up at the Winston-Salem Twin City Sentinel in 1940 doing what women writers did then: working in the “society” (women’s) section. The Sentinel was much later bought by the Journal and Mary moved with the purchase. In the 1940s, the Sentinel had shifted her from news to sports as WWII pulled men from newspapers and she finally got to stay there.

Mary with the Winston-Salem Journal.
She became a strong advocate, not only for women in sports, but for coverage of black athletes in an area where that was not done. She covered the all-black high schools and Winston-Salem State University, the traditionally black college in Winston.

I was a North Carolina sports writing contemporary of Mary’s when I was a young reporter at the Asheville Citizen and the Asheville Times in the mid-late 1960s. I sat with her at a couple of basketball tournaments along the way. 

I found her tiny (she was five feet tall and weighed about  90 pounds), bright, chatty and knowledgeable, but I remember her most because she was the only woman I knew for years who wrote about sports for a living. And she did it well, finally making the Hall of Fame. Mary died in 2008, working nearly until the end of her life.

Gratutude: Interested and Interesting Students

UPDATE: At lunch today with Courtney (left) and Brittany.
Today, I am grateful for:

Interested and interesting college students. These are the kids who sit at the front of the class, get involved in extra projects--not necessarily for credit, but because they want to--reach out for mentors, follow directions and good advice, and remain enthusiastic about the wonderful world that surrounds them.

I was reminded of that last night at Roanoke College when beekeeper (and Madison Avenue bigshot) Howland Brickison finished his talk to a packed house on bees and a young man stood up and announced that he and some of his friends were so impressed with Howland that they wanted to form a beekeepers club, even though none of them keeps bees. Howland talked about how important bees are to us (they pollinate 30 percent of our food) and how they are under fierce attack from the chemical industry (among other threats). The kids figure they can have an effect on companies like Bayer, which produces horriffic pesticides that are likely a leading killer of bees.

Just the other night I was at Hollins President Nancy Gray's house for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Horizon program and ran into a 30-year-old student named May Piel, who simply knocked my shoes into the creek.

Like so many of the Horizon students, May has a story, not a very pretty one, but she is showing the kind of grit, determination and courage that these women exhibit on a daily basis. It's one of the reasons I so love this program and those in it. May is outgoing, happy, curious and encouraging. She's going to blossom into an award-winning rose.

My friend Courtney Dobbs is also a hiker.
And today, I have lunch scheduled with two Virginia Tech students, my friend Courtney Dobbs and her friend Brittany Keup. I met Court when she was a freshman (she's a senior now) and working a trade show as a member of the entrepreneurs' club at Tech. She was bright then and now she's accomplished (she not only is a wonder at business, but she's an All-ACC distance runner).

Brit wants to be a sports writer and Courtney figured that since I used to be one (for 17 long years), I would talk to her friend about it. She's right. They're seeking people who know their fields in order to get inisght and make decisions that will help round out their lives.

Curious kids. I just love them.

The Bee Man Delivers at Roanoke College

Howland Blackiston (right) chats with  a veteran beekeeper after his talk.
The house was full for the bee talk.
Howland Blackiston talked about bees to the delight of a packed auditorium on the campus of Roanoke College last night. Howland is a fascinating guy, a hotshot Madison Avenue marketing guy with a ton of Fortune 500 clients and a Carhart-wearing beekeeper on a couple of prime Connecticut acres.

He gives a great talk and his audience was so impressive in size last night that he took a few seconds to record a video of it for his wife back home. "She said, 'What if nobody comes?'" he said. "This will reassure her."

Howland Blackiston.
Howland has written two popular books on beekeeping and setting up in hives (one of them going into its third edition this month).

One of the interesting developments from Howland's talk was that a student group was formed to look more closely at beekeeping, lobby for endangered bees and perhaps even set up some hives. My guess is that if you're interested in joining, you can get in touch with somebody in the biology or public information departments (Leslie Taylor, ltaylor@roanoke.edu) at the college.

I did a story on Howland for the Roanoke College website a couple of weeks ago (here) and found him to be a fascinating man with a good story. His talk was equal to the man. Here's some of what it looked like.


Photos: Busy Night for Spiders and Dew

This is a shrub eye-view of the spider web.
This is the bush from above.
I awoke today to a dew-covered morning and this view of the big shrub on my front lawn. The spiders did their work overnight, then the dew highlighted it.

These photos come with an apology to my good friend Anne Sampson, whose technique I borrow here (though I'd never shoot it as well as she would). In Anne's world, the closer the camera, the better the photo. I think the great WWII photographer Robert Capa said something to that effect.
Looks like spider web mountains.
If you were a bug, you'd see it this way.
And if you were color blind, it would appear thusly.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back in the Kitchen: Tomato Soup for a Fall Day

I have just finished cooking the best tomato soup I've ever tasted. The tomatoes were picked from my patch this morning and I added rosemary, red basil and mint from the herb section of the garden. A little large-grain sea salt, some Spanish olive oil (that my son brought from his home there) and an onion completed the concoction.

I simmered the whole tomatoes and spices in just enough water to cover them for about four hours, put them into the Cuisineart and pureed them, then pureed a red onion and added it to the red-hot mixture. It blended perfectly.

I'm telling you honest and true: This stuff is golden. Can't wait until din-din.

2015 Writers Conference Open for Registration

The 2015 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference is live and online now. You can register, see who's presenting and read their bios at www.hollins.edu/roanokewriters.

This year, we have scheduled as a keynote best-selling writers Keith Ferrell and Roland Lazenby talking about the future of the book. These guys are informed, insightful, blunt and thoroughly entertaining.

The lineup this year for the 24 classes on Saturday is simply outstanding and the offerings cover a huge range of topics.

Go to the website and read all about it, then register. For $75  you get a shot at any six of 24 classes, a wine reception, coffee on Saturday and lunch in the Hollins dining room (which I strongly recommend). A woman once asked me if hotel rooms were included in the cost and I said, "Depends on what you expect for a 'room.' We can give you a spot on the quad to throw your tent."

It's the best deal on a writers conference you are likely to run into and you simply will not find a bigger or more impressive group of professional writers and writing teachers
to teach you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Photos: First Hike of the Fall-The Cascades

The Cascades Falls from above.
The standard postcard shot of the falls.
Today was First Hike of the Fall day and my pals Debbie Stevens, Jerry Cohen and Betty Remington took a run down to Giles County to walk the two miles up to the Cascades Falls. This is one of the prettiest hikes in the region, reminding me a lot of my home area around Asheville.

It is simply gorgeous on the way up with the creek running hard and wide all the way. The entire journey is dotted with small waterfalls, large boulders, brudges and heavy woodlands.

Warning: If you're looking for privacy, go somewhere else. Today we must have been up there with--this is not an exaggeration--500 people. We had one whole Virginia Tech co-ed fraternity (they swear that's no longer an oxymoron) pass us on the way and there were many dozens of families. It was busy.

But it's worth the effort, the crowds and the steep hike.
The falls, side view.
Kids seem to fall naturally into group poses.
It was too cold to swim, but kids didn't notice.
Helping out a frat mate.
Some of the crowd at the falls.
Kids find a little peace.
My pals Jerry, Debbie and Betty high up at the falls.
Debbie, Jerry and Betty have a lunch break.
Pampa is reflective.
Our group does the "falls pose," which is standard and all but required.
Students stand at the bottom of the falls. They jumped in.
The rock in front of the falls got crowded.
Debbie reaches to photo a mushroom.
Debbie, Betty and moi.
Betty on the log bridge.
This is the beautiful approach to the falls.
Debbie relaxes on a bridge.
Betty slips under a log.
The trip is just this pretty.

Photos: The Faces of Hollins Horizon

Debbie Lee (left), Caren Diefenderfer (right) and a friend dance to the jazz.
Former director Celia McCormick
The faces at the Horizon 40th anniversary celebration at Hollins President Nancy Gray's house overlooking the campus last night were happy, intense, curious and inviting. My camera accepted the invitation and tried to capture the spirit of this wonderful program.

Here is some of what we saw.

Celia McCormick, Director Mary Ellen Apgar and her mom embrace.
Brook Dickson and John Maxson chat.
Brook Dickson, President Nancy Gray and a friend engage in intense discussion.
Musician William Penn, theater maven Ernie Zulia.
Horizon student Ericka Kelly
Prospective Horizon student Whitney Conley.
Johanna Schroeder of Horizon shows off some lovely hair.
Mary Ellen Apgar and her dad, John, belt out a tune.
Sonya Chappelear captures the color.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Photos: Hollins Horizon at 40

Horizon's last three directors: Evelyn Bradshaw, Mary Ellen Apgar, Celia McCormick.
Here's how Hollins sees me.
Hollins University celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Horizon Program today and it was a joyful reunion for a number of women who have taken advantage of one of the most unusual programs around.

President Nancy Gray welcomes.
Horizon began as the Continuing Education Program and was that until Evelyn Bradshaw took it over about 20 years ago. The name was changed to Horizon, but the goal remained the same: educate women who are non-traditional students, generally older, often single mothers. These are women who are generally going back to school because their education was interrupted. Hollins gives them a chance to be students in any curriculum the university offers, to take their time, to save a lot of money.

I have been close to the program--without attending it--for a good while and even the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, which I founded seven years ago, has adopted it as the recipient of our annual scholarship. It is a wonderful program and it has produced valuable people. I'm a fan and Hollins knows it.
The gathering on the quad.
Graduate Laura Hawley and me. She's an old friend.
Mary Ellen Apgar is a graduate of Horizon and its director.
Graduate and activist Mara Eve Robbins with her signs.
Celia McCormick has as much grace as anybody I've ever known.
Mary Ellen addresses the crowd.