Some of my earliest memories are from when my father was a public relations officer at Camp Gordon. My parents met when my dad was at New York City’s Fordham University (Class of 1934) and my mom was a nursing student at Columbia University (my first lucky break – Dad had planned to become a priest).
DURING WORLD WAR II, Dad served in the Army in India. When he left to go overseas, Mom joined the Women’s Army Corps. Going through Officer Training School in Florida, Mom realized that she was pregnant with my older brother, Pete. Because the WACs were so new, paperwork and procedures were not in place to discharge women from the Army for pregnancy. According to family lore, her official U.S. Army discharge papers were said to have included the notation “wounded in action.”
My dad, Robert Faber, left the Army in 1955 and took a position as a reporter for the Augusta Herald. We moved to 1221 Greene St., and I went to the John S. Davidson School on Telfair Street close to the old Greyhound bus station. I have many boyhood memories of having fun in that park, which almost was our front yard back then. A very distinct memory is one of my father, wheeling a German-made baby carriage with special shock absorbers, strolling along that park with my new baby brother, Philip (born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Augusta).
The next year I went to Sacred Heart School for fourth grade, and my brother Pete went to Boys’ Catholic, which evolved into Aquinas High School.
Pete and I both attended and played football for Coach Denny Leonard at Aquinas. I have fond memories of summer swim training at the Bon Air swimming pool when that facility was the impressive hotel and landmark that it once was.
MY FAMILY MOVED to Virginia early in my first year at Aquinas, but Pete stayed in Augusta and was with Bowers Thrift Store on Broad Street, which later became Sky City. I loved to come back to visit Pete during those years, and see my friends in Augusta during Christmas break.
After graduating from high school in Alexandria in 1965, I went into the Air Force for four years during the Vietnam War. When I left the Air Force, I came back to Augusta as an advertising salesman at the Chronicle/Herald. As much as I enjoyed living and working in Augusta, I left to finish college in northern Virginia, with the intention of coming back to Georgia.
As I mentioned, I never made it back as a resident, but I have always thoroughly enjoyed my many trips back home to Augusta over the years.
Pete passed away in November 2012. My nieces, Kim and Libby, still live in the Augusta area, and my wife and I will be visiting them during Masters Week this year.
I always have had an interest in U.S. Military History and a few years ago, I read Lee: The Last Years, by Charles Bracelen Flood. Much of Flood’s excellent book focuses on Lee establishing Washington College (now Washington and Lee University). Toward the end of the book, an 1870 farewell train trip through the South by Lee is described. Arriving in Augusta, he stayed at the Planter’s Hotel before a reception that was planned for the next day. This quote from the book discusses part of the next morning’s event:
“A BOY OF 13 came to the hotel that morning on his own. He wiggled his way through the crowd until he got right next to Lee and then stood silently and unabashedly admiring him. The boy’s name was Woodrow Wilson.”
Reading that passage was certainly an “Augusta moment” for me. I was vaguely aware that Wilson lived in Augusta in his youth, but did not know that he lived just five blocks from my boyhood home on Greene Street. And I certainly had no idea that Lee and Wilson crossed paths, just several hundred yards from where I lived during my early school years. It’s amazing that Woodrow Wilson might have enjoyed the early days of the tree-lined park on Greene Street just as I did as a boy.
Pete later told me that, during the Vietnam War, even though he had two children, he was required to register for the draft. He was not drafted, but he mentioned that the recruiting office where he registered in the mid-1960s was in the building that was the Planter’s Hotel.
I HAVE BEEN re-reading some of the books I have about the Masters, and it has been fun getting back to so many memories from when I grew up in Augusta. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential visits; the Bon Air Hotel; “Hard Luck” Tony Sheehan’s auto accident on Walton Way; Camp Gordon; Broad Street; and, of course, the stories and anecdotes about the Masters itself.
I recently saw online Augusta Chronicle articles about the Masters, and thoroughly enjoyed the series. However, I was disappointed to see the headline “Augustans once congregated on the 16th green during the Masters Tournament.” I’m sorry to learn that the tradition has faded in recent years. My wife and I definitely will make a trip or two to the 16th, and I would love to come across some old friends – or maybe meet some new ones there.
I hope it’s a great Masters this year and a good week for Augusta. It’s always nice to get back home.
(The writer is vice president of a records storage company in Dulles, Va. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Vienna, Va.)