Sunday, October 26, 2014

Delta Delta Delta Memories 1968

Delta Delta Delta Memories 1968

Along with this invitation came many memories. I graduated from Dothan High School in 1968 and was excited to be heading off to the University of Alabama. I had been accepted on Early Admittance to Agnes Scott, but suddenly had an epiphany -- Agnes Scott College did not have a football team! I quickly came to my senses and applied to the University of Alabama, the only college I had ever seen, and that was because my father took a quick drive through Tuscaloosa after a doctor's visit to Birmingham with my mother! Daddy graduated from the University of Alabama where he was a Sigma Chi before he went to medical school at Tulane.
That summer I attended Freshman Orientation where, along with my roommate (whom I had never before met) and others on our hall, we took off down the halls to find others more experienced to ask what we really needed to bring with us in the Fall. At the first open door with a friendly face, we introduced ourselves and asked our questions. Imagine my surprise when I found that same friendly face at the front door of the unique round Tri Delt House during Fall Rush of 1968.  Beth "Pieface" Finch (Curtis) just happened to be President of Delta Delta Delta.

I had started dating one of my best friends' brother's best friend, Joel Ramsey, that summer. He had grown up just a few blocks away in the house at the intersection where I had learned my right from my left (up the hill to the left was the IGA and to the right was the Country Club). I admired that house every time we stopped there, especially at Christmas when his mother had the most beautiful Christmas trees in the bay window of the white Monterrey colonial at the top of the hill. He had transferred from the Citadel and was then a senior at the University of Alabama. He planned to attend Law School if the Vietnam War didn't call him first (a distinct possibility since his birthday brought him a low draft number). 

I remember Rush almost as if it were yesterday. I had bought my clothes for Rush from Creamers Dress Shop selecting mainly earth tone dresses. Yes, we dressed for Rush and football games back then! In spite of the short skirts, I remember how very hot it was and how hard it was to be "cool" in the heat. 

Joe was a Pi Kappa Phi who had fallen in love with every girl on campus with long hair when he transferred from the Citadel. Fortunately, I had long hair. He told me, "Lots of good sororities at Alabama, but you can't go wrong with First Circle." Those were the houses in the curve of Sorority Row ... Alpha Gamma Delta (that most Dothan girls pledged just as most Dothan guys pledged Sigma Nu), Kappa Delta (that my Aunt Elliece wanted me to pledge because Miss Kathleen Fuller, one of her Colonial Dames friends, had been one of the founders of the Chapter, she told me), and Delta Delta Delta, a sorority in which I had no connections. Except the chance meeting with Pieface. And yet, it became my first choice. I especially remember the big impression that Susan Cleage made upon me during Rush. 

I, along with my new friends at Martha Parham Hall (all female at that time) who had gone out for Rush, all sweated it out, literally, through Ice Water Teas until Serious Night and then Squeal Day when we got our bids. Joe was waiting for me in front of the Tri Delt House with his best friend, Robert Grimes. He'd called my mother and already knew what I had pledged. I gave him a hug and then headed up the steps to embrace my new sisters. 

Look at these girls! Wouldn't you want them as your best friends? That beautiful Round House and those wonderful young women became my home and family for the next four years. There I am on the second row third from the left. 

Barbara Jean Adams (Langston), pledge sister and later University of Alabama cheerleader, directly to my right above and in the middle below, was later selected Pi Kappa Phi Star. So we, her sorority sitters who dated Pi Kappa Phis, had to celebrate. Yancey Nowlin (Trucks), Mike Teal, Barbara Jean Adams (Langston), Susan Kuster (Barton), Ronnie Coleman (Archon of Pi Kappa Phi), Joel Ramsey and Sharman Burson (Ramsey). 

 Ahh. Those were the days my friend... So young. So foolish!

We elected Donna Dearman (Smith) president of our pledge class. As pledges, it was our responsibility to decorate the "Round House" for Homecoming.  Since I was dating a Pi Kappa Phi, I enlisted helpers from the Pi Kappa Phi House to come assist. Among those who came were John and Jake Bivona who, in later years, Yancey came to know quite well. Her  daughter married John's son.  Billy Barton met Susan Kuster and the two of them married. 

I am up the ladder here stuffing crepe paper in the chicken wire of our Homecoming float. From the safety of the ground below Theresa Inge (Beekman), Rondi Bates (Turner), Judy Clemmons, Judy Reed (Sheppard) et. al. provided moral support. Our song was from the Jungle Book, "The Bear Necessities," a play upon words, of course. Our football coach was Bear Bryant. As you can see, there is some age on these photographs.

Anne Kerrigan (Sheppard) and I took the lead  pulling the float down University Boulevard past the Quadrangle singing at the top of our voices. I think Anne must have pulled her bear head off with the heat because, otherwise, I cannot imagine her leading our float in curlers!

Look for the Bear necessities,
Those simple Bear necessities
Forget about your worries and your woes
Look for those Bear necessities,
Just let us put your mind at ease,
Those simple Bear necessities of life!

 Mary Colquitt Ray (Evans) was our fantastic pledge trainer.  There was no hazing in Delta Delta Delta.  They teased us that there would be something terrible that would happen to us in the basement -- it turned to to be a party honoring the pledges! I had the best Big Sister of all! Laurie Stone (Cooper) is in the middle below with glasses on.

We rolled our hair in humongous curlers then -- and slept on them!!! This is me with my study board and the hair dryer I took everywhere. It worked, however, to capture the attention of the love of my life. We got pinned.  Joe got rolled in molasses and feathers and dumped on the front lawn of the Tri Delt House. I attempted to pour water on his fraternity brothers from the balcony (and accidentally hit him. He hasn't forgotten!)

Riverboat at the Pi Kappa Phi House. Who could resist that guy? Not me!
It was much more fun being on the other side of Rush. Rather than Fly Delta we sang: Tri Delta!

Skit Night

Donna Carol Hipp did a fantastic job with this!

I met a little girl in Honolulu
She was the kind of girl who did the Hula
She was a prancer, she was a dancer
She was a cutie, a real beauty
And there wasn't any need for much improvement
She had a meaning in each little movement
She said Aloha I want to go Tri Delta Way
Allea Aloha la a la a,  Aloha la a lo a
She said Aloha I want to go Tri Delta Way!

I wish I could remember the words to the following song...
Jane Gray Beddow, Lizard McDonald, Cynthia Boorem and Theresa Inge 

Serious Night

There I am below in the middle on the balcony singing our Serious Night song.

Tri Delta True
I'll dream of you and love you
When college days are o'er
Those vows I took
May I remember always

At last a picture of my Big Sister, Laurie Stone and me (above)! I am in the front with Laurie just to my right (left looking at the picture). Gigi La Blanc, Mary Colquitt Ray, Martha Cowden stand behind us. Donna Carol Hipp, Lizard McDonald and Barbara Jean Adams stand on the steps. 

I returned to my sophomore year in 1969 engaged. Joe was a freshman in Law School. We married November 8, 1969. Alabama had an away game that weekend. So, I only experienced two Rush seasons, one as a rushee and one as an active. By the time the 1969 Homecoming arrived, I stepped out of the married students dorm, brand new Rose Towers on the Black Warrior River, excited about actually seeing a Homecoming Parade and saw a car with shaving cream all over it decorated stem to stern with "Just Married". "Look, Joe," I said. "Someone else just got married!" "Sharman," he said. "That's OUR car!" Our groomsmen and bridesmaids had been real busy during the night doing something we had outsmarted them on doing on our wedding day. (They had to do it twice because the first time it rained and washed away all their hard work!)

Rondi Bates (Turner), Margaret Lambreth (Fuller), Yancey Nowlin (Trucks), and I got to visit in Margaret's beautiful home in Alex City just a few years ago. Facebook has brought many of those Sisters I had lost touch with over the years back to me. Those friendships remain very special.

Those were gilded times. The Round House is gone. But in my mind I can still experience running out the back door from Harris Hall, hair in curlers, with my roommate Rondi on Friday night for the tuna fish and brownies with the sound of Otis Redding (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay) drifting from an open balcony door of the Tri Delt House across the street mixed with Steppenwolf (Born to be Wild) coming from an open KD window and the Supremes (Love Child) floating on the air from somewhere in the distance, the brisk autumn air, the anticipation of band party at the Pi Kappa Phi house, and the excitement of tomorrow's football game in Denney Stadium only about 200 yards away. 

On November 16th, 46 years later,  I will return to a different Tri Delt House but one I was privileged to make a small contribution toward building. You see, I had a debt to repay. They welcomed this anxious South Alabama girl and gave me the security of a family in the middle of a huge student body my first time away from home. My Tri Delta sisters encouraged me, supported me, and have always made me proud to be always and forever a Tri Delt.

Delta Delta Tri
By and by,
You'll know why
This girl is a Delta Tri.
Little Shy
Loves her guy
And he loves his
Delta Tri.

Three children and five grandchildren later, Joe and I still live in the home I admired when learning my left from my right. I'm the one with the obligation of putting the Christmas tree in the bay window.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Wakefield Plantation Cookbook and History has a new addition: Manners and Etiquette.

In the South, Manners matter.

 “The more you act like a lady, the more he’ll act like a gentleman.” Sydney Biddle Barrows

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t." Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on EBOLA

Thoughts on Ebola

On cue, we run across the valley, across a creek, and then into bushes. We stay close. Never looking back. I am fifteen and I run like I have never ran before. As we go further into the bushes, it gets darker and darker. Together we move as one, for we cannot see ahead. The moon provides some light when we are in the open, but most of the time in the bushes it was pitch dark. We stop and lie down on the desert ground to rest. It gets colder. A baby cries close by..."

I try to run away, but the sound of the baby crying draws me. I crawl toward the sound and find the mother lying motionless, not breathing. The moonlight shines bright on the helpless child's innocent eyes looking at me. I look at her mother. I close the mother's eyes, grab her carryall and lift the child into my arms. If I leave her she is certain to die. I run with the others toward the wagon that take us to a wagon that takes us to a garage. Everyone smiles, because we have made the crossing! I think, I am safe now from the gangs and rapists that roam the streets of my home in Guatemala. My family has pooled their savings so that I might make it to my cousins in America. 

We make no noise. I remember that the child's mother joined us late. Her eyes were bright and her face was flushed. Nerves? Excitement? 

I quietly ask around. No one claims to have known the mother or the child.  To leave the child would mean its death. I am afraid to ask the Coyote or trust him with the child. Her crying endangers them all and he would just as soon abandon her to the desert animals, I know. The carry all has no diapers for the baby. Another mother shares diapers with me. The little girl opens her eyes and smiles at me. I scrounge through the carryall and find a bottle though I only have water to give her. I cannot abandon the baby!

An older woman holds the child for me to dispose of the diaper. The coyote throws the diaper back at me. They are to leave no sign. I pick up the diaper and put it into the carryall. There is nowhere to wash my hands. The coyote touches each individual and pushes them into different groups. Together, but apart, he  takes us to the San Diego airport for a flight to Los Angeles. The coyote directs me and others in my group to a cab. The child cries and throws up. I comfort the child who falls asleep. A coyote assistant takes us to a nice neighborhood with fine homes and large yards. 

From there, he once again divides the group. Overnight buses, trucks and cars transport members of the group to different parts of the country. I find my family living in Alabama. They see the sick child. They are concerned. 

"We are all in America illegally. If we go to the hospital with the sick child, will we be deported?" I ask. I do not want to go back.

My family work hard in construction or plants trees or picks fruit. I brought this upon us. We decide that I will take the child to the small rural hospital in Alabama.

I go to the restroom and change the baby's diaper once more. "They will take care of you here, little one," I whisper. I put the dirty diaper in the pail. I take the child into the emergency room and then I go to prepare myself some coffee to fill my empty stomach filling it with sugar. I look back into the room. No one is watching. I slip out of the waiting room and run into the dark and several blocks over. I climb into the waiting car. 

I have done all I could for the child. I am safe. The child is safe. I am so exhausted that my eyes ache. The coffee did not sit well on my stomach. But I smile and laugh. I have made it. I kiss my cousin and her children. 

A nurse comes out to register the woman who was just there. She finds the child. 

The child is dehydrated. They take the child into the emergency room and call all social services to aid the child.  A young mother walks in with her child. She puts her diaper bag on the floor where the young woman stood preparing the coffee. She touches the same carafe. She walks with her child by the hand to where the infant was found. She places the diaper bag on the entry counter. Her child falls to the floor. She lifts him in her arms and places him on the entry counter, signs in then goes to her seat. 

As Business Insider reports, "EBOLA preys on our human need to touch and care for the sick, which is why much of its spread is to caregivers and healthcare workers.
"The mechanism Ebola exploits is far more insidious," as Benjamin Hale wrote in Slate. "This virus preys on care and love, piggybacking on the deepest, most distinctively human virtues."
That's why the virus strikes children, their parents, families, and communities. All it takes is one small slipup, one uncalculated act of humanity, and the disease spreads even further.

In this simple scenario, who all is now contaminated? Has that hospital developed a secure isolation unit and invested in protective gear for nurses and health care workers? How carefully is the baby's specimen taken to the lab or does it go through a pneumatic tube loosing the virus onto the sides of the tube and potentially onto other specimens that those in the lab come into contact with? The young woman touched the doors, the coffee machine, her shoes carry the virus into the room. 

How many others eventually come into contact with the baby, the young woman and the vehicles in which they rode? Will the child go immediately into foster care? 

How secure is the water system? Will the sewage from flushing toilets be treated sufficiently so that the virus does not get into the water supply? Will all possibly contaminated materials be properly taken care of?

The hospital waiting room could just as easily have been a fast food restaurant, bus station, or grocery store.

As I think these thoughts, I cannot help but wonder about the economic repercussions and the way we live life thinking about potential spread of this deadly disease. Although Ebola spreads less easily than a cold, because it isn't airborne, the Ebola virus is far more persistent.

Like cold germs, Ebola virus particles survive on dry surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops, for several hours. But unlike a cold virus, which primarily infects the respiratory tract, Ebola can also live in bodily fluids like blood and saliva for several days at room temperature.
Doctors have found Ebola in the semen of men who have survived the virus up to three months after they recover.

The bill for the average Ebola patient treated in the US is a lofty $1,000 per hour. In West Africa, where that sort of money isn't available, most patients simply go home to die. Is our for profit health care prepared for such an onslaught?

As I wrote the scenario above, I realized that the disease cannot be contained in Texas. 

So, what can we do to protect ourselves and our families. Hand sanitizers — along with chlorine, heat, direct sunlight, soaps and detergents — can kill Ebola living outside of a host, according to Doctors Without Borders and numerous reports. Washing hands with soap and water immediately after contact with potentially affected areas, objects or persons is effective. When soap is not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is a good substitute.

For those who want something stronger, Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, a non-profit humanitarian organization, told the Washington Post chlorine is most effective. “Soap and water is better than nothing, but chlorine and water is what will kill the virus and stop the spread of Ebola,” Horan said last week. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Note from Robert Sweet of the National Right to Read Foundation

I wanted to share this wonderful email that I received today from Robert Sweet of the National Right to Read Foundation ( He is commenting upon the Opinion part of my website:  This note brings the wonderful gift of encouragement!


This is Bob Sweet…President of The National Right to Read Foundation.  I just found your website and posted it on  Thank you for your clear thinking and fact based writing on the “politics’ of education, and other relevant topics.  Yes, I have been tempted many times to head to my garden and pull weeds too!  And, I do not blame you one bit for feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged about making change. I have been on the front lines for many decades myself, and even though I too am discouraged, and weary I trudge on because each child we rescue in our efforts is worth every bit of "blood, sweat and tears.”  At the moment my wife Joy and I are in Murrieta, CA to resent the Patrick Groff Teacher of the Year Award to a young lady who is a kindergarten teacher here.  She too was a “casualty” of the upside down reading practices when she was in elementary school.  He Mom called our office and both my wife and I spoke with her, between the sobs and tears being shed in frustration for her daughter.  After battling the school system for a long time, with no avail at that time anyway, she pulled her daughter out of school and taught her to read at home…using phonics of course….duh!  Now, her daughter is a kindergarten teacher in the very school system that could not teach her to read.  I visited her classroom a few months ago and the NRRF Board and I decided to choose her as our “Teacher of the Year for 2014.”  I will be presenting it to her in a couple of hours…and, even though the school district is still lost in the morass of “politics” and poor education policy like Common Core and “leveled reading”  (same old same old) there are glimmers of light that are beginning to shine through, and this young lady is one of them.  The news reporters will likely be there today…and certainly the children in Ashlee’s classroom will be proficient readers at the end of the school year.

I want to thank you for including so much valuable information about the lack of proper reading instruction on your website, and for your willingness to engage in the battle against illiteracy.  The value of even a few students who succeed is worth the effort.  God bless you.



P.S. Dr. Patrick Groff was my mentor and friend and served on the NRRF Board for almost 30 years.  At the request of his son Christopher I spoke at Pat’s memorial service last April.  He was 90 when he passed away.