Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Cleaning Out Party

A recent Monday found me at Andalusia at an ungodly early hour to take stock of an upstairs room with my fellow staff members and a local moving company.  Needless to say, I did not envision that my unofficial title of Bon Vivant would entail profuse sweating and heavy lifting, but such is the price of a view of Andalusia and of Flannery that few have the privilege to get.  As with the cow barn, equipment shed, and other uncurated spaces (to use a $5 term from the museum studies crowd), the contents of that upstairs room were fascinating. 

Chairs and bedframes reminded us of the people who lived here before and after Flannery's time. Bank statements showed the real, business side of a farm that is too frequently remembered only for the outrageous fictional events that took place there: a prosthesis theft in "Good Country People" or an unfortunate goring in "Greenleaf."  Dishes and kitchenware brought back memories of the designs and color schemes of the previous century and made me wonder how people could drink coffee from something that pink and not be blinded. We certainly felt Regina O'Connor's presence as we found several bolts of fabric that would have allowed her to ply her seamstress talents.  

Beyond the furniture and other household goods up there, I found myself taken in even by their containers.  Copies of the Union-Recorder that protected the more fragile items told stories of a Milledgeville gone by in advertisements for Goldstein's on Wayne St., Belk's on Hancock St., and Georgia State College for Women.  Still other items were wrapped in announcements of weddings and funerals that took place at First United Methodist Church, then itself right across from the college on Hancock St.  Suitcases and valises in the mold of Manley Pointer's and the Grandmother's from "A Good Man His Hard to Find" awaited their arrival at the site of Flannery's next lecture.

Several days' worth of laughs came from an item from Kidd's Drug Store, which formerly occupied a corner of Hancock and Wayne Sts. downtown.  It was a cardboard fan clearly designed for the hot Sunday afternoons in church, when the ceiling fans and open windows didn't quite get the temperature cool enough to stand.  The little boy pictured upon it has a very pensive, almost troubled look about him, and he's taken to his evening prayers to assuage his worries. A highly unfortunately-located staple also leads someone not paying attention to believe this boy has further taken a cigarette to his makeshift altar.   I could only assume that taking communion with that kid must be a good time, indeed. 

A magazine from a local doctor proved as startling as the fan did hilarious.  This was no waiting room Time, but rather the manual for lupus medication.  We were barely a couple of weeks removed from the anniversary of her death; happening upon this book in one of many boxes proved a bit of a shock.  "The wolf" as Flannery called it is a mystery to me still; I regard it mainly in my mind as a scapegoat rather than a degenerative disease. 

To detail all of the items that came out of that upstairs room would be quite an undertaking, but one that would provide us and our visitors with a better understanding of the goings and comings here at the farm. However, I'm not sure I'd like a full accounting. Coming across an item of unknown purpose and provenance is always exciting, even if it's something as mundane as a horse collar or cardboard drugstore fan.

--Daniel Wilkinson is a Visitor Services Bon Vivant at Andalusia Farm where he sits on the porch and muses for this blog when not visiting with Andalusia's guests.    

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