My wife and I moved south, the deep South, from Michigan, in 1986, and our first stop was in Athens, Ga. I had no idea the cultural shock that we both were going to have to go through by making this move.
We always wanted to move South for the weather and to be able to play golf year round. We had heard, of course, about the Southern hospitality, and we couldn’t wait to make the move and get away from all the ice and snow and lack of sunshine in the Ann Arbor area. We were going to miss our great friends that we had gotten while living there for about 19 years.
My wife worked at the University of Michigan Motts Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor and as a result, we had season tickets for all the Michigan football and basketball games — on row 9 in the Big House that holds over 100,000 screaming fans. That was really going to be missed, as you can imagine, if you are college sports fans like we are.
Also, both of our children attended and graduated from Michigan State University in Lansing, and that got us up there for games, also. So, we sold our snow thrower and packed away our winter clothes which we were now only going to use when we made trips back up North.
We arrive in Athens and the first night there we have dinner downtown, which is really a fantastic place, with my new boss. We had a great meal and during it we are told that Madison, Ga., the beautiful town we came through on our way to Athens, was the only town that Sherman didn’t burn down. Holy Cow, what a way to greet us to the Deep South! I thought that was the perfect way to begin our transition. It was only fitting that we understand that we had a lot to learn about the Civil War, about which we actually knew practically nothing. Y’all from the South know a 100 times more than we did at the time. It is a common topic of conversation in the South but never talked about up North.
We, of course, got kidded a lot about our accents (we thought THEY were the ones with the accent) and about how little we understood about the Southern way of talking. We made fun of their closing of schools and businesses and stocking up with groceries as soon as one snow flake was predicted … until my wife got stuck in downtown Athens and needed to have a wrecker get her back on the road again.
We loved living in Athens and wished we could have stayed there as our final retirement location, but a change in jobs had us moving to Roanoke Rapids, N.C. In Athens, you either were part of the University of Georgia staff or a local born and raised in the area, or you didn’t fit. I didn’t realize how much a difference it made that we were Yankees, but it did. However, when we arrived in North Carolina, no one talked about the Civil War and we were accepted immediately upon arrival. I will never forget all the neighbors bringing us various types of food to our door to make us feel right at home. While there, I went through a great deal of medical problems and it ended up costing me my job.
Through another company, we had the opportunity to move to Albany, and we jumped at that because it got us to an area with no snow and we could retire here and play golf year round. The only problem was that we were back in Georgia again and the acceptance of strangers was similar to Athens. Surprisingly, the Civil War is still being waged here as in Athens.
Relationships with family are very strong here with an obvious distrust of strangers, especially those from north of Cordele. We moved to Albany in 1993. I did become president of my Sunday school class, so I guess I am making progress here slowly but surely. Now if we can get someone to play golf with us, we’ll feel like we are really making progress.
We love it here in Albany except for the gnats and the ungodly hot weather, which even the locals say that they can’t handle. In another 20 years, we will be here long enough that we can be called Southerners … not! That old Civil War is far from over in this area of the county.
Written by Ted Anderson. Insurance agent Ted W. Anderson worked in sales for half a century, has lived in Albany since 1993. He is president of Dover Lane Neighborhood Watch. Send email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.