Last Christmas on the Internet I read the daily bulletins of CarolAnn Normand in (email@example.com) from Beamsville near Niagara Falls in Canada and Millie Malone (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Dow City in Iowa on their travels south from Canada to Texas. They stopped and met with many Polio Survivors on the way and told their stories, mostly highly amusing, recounting the hugs and chats that went on far into the night. Never in a million years did I imagine that before the year was out I would be invited to join them on another pps friendship journey.
No sooner had I posted that I was now going to attend the Atlanta Post Polio Conference, Been There, Done That, Movin On,..... when CarolAnn wrote to me and offered to take me south to Lafayette to meet Jane (email@example.com), Linda M (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Eddie Bee (email@example.com). Within days Sparkie Lujan (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Missoula in Montana was to join us. We were then to travel north to stop in Loudon in Tennessee to meet with Marianne Lohmann and Wayne - our Medical Professional Registered Respiratory Therapist. Further north to Chicago to meet with Eileen Buenings (email@example.com), Denise Mealy (MealyD@aol.com), Jon Schoen (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sylvia Smith; then to Niagara Falls in Canada. Share the driving, gas and bring a sleeping bag, I was told. OK I said and extended my visit.
I travelled to Gatwick and caught the plane at 10.00 on Friday September 5th 1997. Up and away, and so different from 27 years earlier when I last flew. Eight hours later, flying for many hours over blue sea and occasional clouds, over Nova Scotia, Boston, New York, past the Smokey Mountains and banking hard round the skyscraper skyline of Atlanta to land. I shut my eyes here! Two girls met me with a wheelchair and luggage trolley and off we set to get my luggage. As I was staying at a private address I was sent to Customs to have my luggage x-rayed and searched. Had I brought any food into the USA, I was asked..... Nothing that is on the list of prohibitive articles I replied. One case was opened, and some clothes moved and there was the Marmite, Birds custard powder, Harrods Jam, Guinness Pint Glasses, videos of Lincoln City and the Lancaster Bomber at East Kirkby, and much much more........ You look as if you are going to have a good time here maam.......... off you go he said with an enormous smile on his face. Thank goodness he didn't open the other luggage! Brochures and much much more for the talk to Lenoir City North Middle School, information on the Lincolnshire Post Polio Network for the Atlanta Conference and would you believe a Guinness Beer Pump a gift for Wayne who just adores Guinness and is making a bar in his house - 48lb over my allowance and Delta had let me take it all without charge.
I was then taken by bus to the next plane (wow was it hot outside), a much smaller plane! It flew much lower and from my window seat I had a lovely view when flying level, but at any other angle I daren't look! I landed at Knoxville and had just been loaded into a wheelchair with all my hand luggage piled on top of me when I heard a voice say, "I believe that is my package" and Wayne took over. We loaded my cases into his Ford Explorer and off we drove to Loudon. Lovely scenery, hills and trees, and lakes, not a bit like I had expected it. As for being driven on the right hand side of the road and trying to work out how I would take the junctions....... horrendous! Could not believe it when he drove through a red light, but some time back, to save fuel they apparantly changed the law to allow you to turn right at a red light if there is nothing coming.
We arrived at his house and I met his son Scotty, girlfriend Colleen, and settled in. Cases opened and sorted out the things I had brought. Jim and Linnea - friends of the family - arrived and we shared Pizza and some lovely bourbon.
Next day I was taken by Jim and Linnea to the Cherokee Museum where there was a Craft and Folk Fair. We then went to Fort Loudon, the southernmost British Fort, and they were all dressed up for the period living as they would have done in those times. Suddenly a man tapped me on the shoulder; he had 'bad teeth', a rat in a wire cage on a pole, very tatty clothes and said in a passable British accent "I am from Bristol in England, and I am Titus Canby, Ratcatcher to His Majestys forces. I can exterminate all vermin from your houses. Would you like to use my services? Where are you from?" When I said "Lincoln in England" he raised one eyebrow and then carried on in theme, but when Jim and Linnea moved back to take photographs, he whispered, "Actually, I am from Ohio - never been to England!" The evening was spent around a campfire drinking more bourbon and listening to cricket. No, not English Cricket but crickets, tree frogs - the sound is amazing. When one landed on me, I moved faster than I have for a long time!
The next day after shopping at Marshalls, where I bought two pairs of shorts and a dress for $52 (about £32), Linnea took me to the Masons Place for lunch. A very old Bed and Breakfast place with wonderful antique furniture and a smoke house all fitted out as a bedroom. The lunch was gorgeous. Vegeterian macaroni cheese with sour dough bread with jalapeno pimento cheese, lettuce with dressing, and tomatoes. Linnea was doing a photo shoot for the local paper where she works. She dropped me off at the Nursing Home, where Wayne works, to meet Marianne. We were surprised how similar we were, and could easily be taken for sisters. We talked and talked. So much to catch up on, so much so that I went every day for the next two days. More about our chats later on. I also met Ken Howser who is 84 and who had been in the US Army in England during the World War II. He was lovely to talk to and told me many stories of Notttingham and Poole and other places he had visited. He would love to visit England again, he talked so highly of it.
The next day I visited North Middle School, in Lenoir City, where Jim is the special needs teacher in the 7th grade. I spent time talking to the pupils about Lincoln and England. They wanted to know so much but mostly about sport. I go back on October 7th to talk to the whole school.
Wednesday night I had my first drive into Loudon, and apart from driving out of the drive on the wrong side of the road I managed the rest without too much trouble. So much so that the next day I was allowed to drive to Chatanooga on the way to Atlanta. Driving in the States is really different. Apart from driving on the other side of the road, they drive in lanes but don't seem too bothered about which lane is fast and which is slow. It is really strange to be passed by a large truck in the slow lane going faster than you and the speed limit.
We drove through Atlanta and onto the Warm Springs Institute where President Roosevelt spent many days when he had Polio. We were shown round the buildings that were there at the time and told about how life was then. Families just moved from where they lived and built houses in the grounds to be near their polio children. These houses are now used by the medical personnel working there. They have just finished renovating the outdoor pool, although it was not open at the time. Their library also houses many old articles and photos which they are now archiving.
We then drove to the Hotel right the other side of Atlanta along six lane roads.... past big skyscrapers. The hotel, the Atlanta Marriott Gwinnett Place ,was large but luckily I was on the ground floor. The Atlanta Post Polio Association had rented me a scooter which made life much easier. I then bumped into a lady and knew insitinctively that it was Dema, a lady from Texas that emailed me for information just before I left England. I had asked her to email me again in a couple of days as I was leaving for the States and a PPS Conference. She emailed "What Conference? Can I come?" and four days later we shared a room. More about the Conference later.
On Saturday afternoon, CarolAnn, Sparkie and Millie arrived at the hotel for the Banquet, which was a lovely meal, and afterwards Pam and Tom Kincaid joined us. We spent the remainder of the evening sharing many a laugh, and a few drinks, and ended with five of us sharing one room. It was more than an hour before we were able to stop giggling and go to sleep.
Next morning the four of us packed into CarolAnns vehicle, and off we set for Lafayette to meet Jane. A long drive of 9 hours along the Interstate, and I was so disappointed because the scenery never changed - road and trees alongside all the way unless we went past a city. The scenery did not change until we turned south and went on roads on stilts over miles of swamp with water everywhere. It was some sight. We arrived in Lafayette and were royally welcomed by Jane Bercier and her 15 year old son Ryan. As you can imagine we have not stopped talking and laughing since.
Jane has MS and PPS and has been waiting for over a year for an ultra lightweight wheelchair, so Sparkie set about finding out why. In the course of all this she arranged for the local paper to come and do a story which appeared on the front page of the Daily Advertiser on Tuesday 16th September. On Friday we go the Channel 10 TV studios at 7a.m. for a five minute spot which will be repeated during the day. Tomorrow we go to meet Ermine Tate a lady of 92 who had polio as a child and who has written a book called "There is more than one way to skin a cat......."
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Last modification: 26th April 2009.
Last information content change: 26th April 2009.