Marching through Georgia - "a bleak, sad state" - Across America - 70 years ago - CycleBlaze

Marching through Georgia - "a bleak, sad state"

IN my twelve hundred miles' pedalling I had punctured four times, had one or two minor tumbles, and on one memorable occasion caught a sage-brush tuft in my chainwheel, causing the chain to jump and fix itself tightly. Nothing more "troublesome" had occurred, and I rode into Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, feeling in the pink of condition, and more firmly held in the bonds of cycling than ever before.

By now I had lost count of the State capitals I had visited, but Columbia took me to its heart in particularly friendly fashion. A call at the city's newspaper offices set the ball rolling, and quickly I found myself in a car being shown the sights. In all these cheerful, vital American cities, certain factors are common, and I was used to being presented to the "best lil' incinerator in Bear County," or the "greatest zinc factory east of the Mississippi." Columbia, however, had something special to show "Johnny Bull," as the driver of the sight-seeing car referred to me.

"Our nut factory, I mean loonie bin, aw nuts, the bug house, is worth seeing. First State hospital for the insane ever built in these here Yew-nited States, so you've got something sizzling to write home about." The asylum was a handsome place, and my guides showed me into every nook and corner. Several of the patients chatted to me, and one of them cried a little at my English accent. "Oh, it's wonderful to see someone from home," he enthused. "How it all comes back to me, the boat down the Thames to Windsor, the thrill of the Derby --." (He pronounced it a very guttural "Durby"). I was touched at my countryman's vivid recollections and mentioned the Dukeries, Cotswolds, and the New Forest. He knew them all and went into raptures.

"Sorry to cramp the works, Britisher," said the husky male nurse as we moved on, "but until we hooked him into this joint, that guy had lived all his life in Swansea, twenty miles from here. Never been out of the Carolina since he was knee-high to a grass-hopper, but I guess he's done a lot of readin' in his time!"

Columbia had little else to show me, and I was glad to retrieve my bicycle and start off along the now thoroughly-familiar U.S. Highway One. Late that night I crossed the Savannah river into Augusta and the State of Georgia.

The next day was memorable in the thermometer reaching 100 degrees in the shade [Ed: 38C], and as there was no shade at all on Highway One, I felt like a fried egg within an hour of saying good-bye to Augusta, and I recall a period of seventy-two hours during which I was weary of dusty roadways, worn-out autos blistering in the heat (it struck me as a nerve for car-owners tired of their old servants to drive out on the highway, strip off the number plates and leave the ramshackle "tin lizzie" to drop to pieces eventually), hovels in the fields in which negro families huddled together, and the never-ending cotton-fields.

No, I didn't like Georgia. Coloured folk were friendly enough when they dared to be, but they seemed afraid of white people's frowns. Police officials were gruff to the point of surliness, but perhaps I struck a bad patch at the time. Certainly the glimpses I had of stately white houses, set in emerald-green pasture, horses and dogs frisking about in front of the tall colonnaded porches were pleasing, but Georgia appeared to my eyes as a bleak, sad State.

I had three handkerchiefs tied on my head, but the heat penetrated just the same, and I was gulping too much water for health's sake. Weary of pedalling, I changed my method of locomotion in the late afternoon and marched through Georgia a good ten miles, wheeling my bicycle by alternate hands.

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