Archive for March 18th, 2014

In Search of William Starr Basinger. Or: The Oysters Go to Athens

March 18, 2014

Sugar decided that we would take fresh May River oysters to his cousin in Tennessee.  That was a grand plan, except for one small issue:  we were leaving on a Saturday and would not see his cousin until Tuesday.  Uck.

We did not eat seafood when I was growing up.  The closest thing we got to fish was catfish or salmon croquettes.  Catfish, some might argue, is hardly a fish, but rather a bottom feeder.  Fried catfish is quite delicious, but I was so worried about bones.  It’s such a bony fish, and must be chewed well to ferret out the bones.  And fried salmon croquettes were greasy and not a favorite of mine, even today.  They might actually be delicious if I tried them again, but I just remember the ones that my mother made, rarely, from canned salmon.  Uck.

I’d eaten fried oysters in a restaurant, and they were chewy and rubbery.  I didn’t see how fresh oysters could be any better, because they’re OYSTERS.  Right?  Right.

There’s a seafood market in our little town, and we went by to check out their selection.  Yes, they had fresh oysters, BUT.  Sugar wanted May River oysters.  He grew up on the May River, and when he asked the clerk if they had May River oysters, the man said yes, right here.  The container of oysters had an address of Trask Parkway, which is definitely not on the May River, and is probably about 45 minutes away.  Y’all see how this is going to play out.

Sugar called the Bluffton Oyster Company to inquire about the life of a fresh oyster in a cooler traveling to Tennessee.  The nice man answering the phone told him that fresh oysters will keep for 10 days on ice.  Apparently the phrase “ON ICE” is a critical element, and Sugar was convinced that we could do it.

So I set off for the Bluffton Oyster Company on a Saturday morning.  Wait, what, you say?  Saturday?  But you are not leaving until Sunday!  That’s right, I had a small window to pick up oysters before I went to work at Saturday noon, and then we were leaving early Sunday morning.

The next dilemma arrived in the form of quantity.  How many fresh oysters should we get?  I have no clue, and can’t even offer an opinion.  Sugar thought that we should get two quarts, no, make that three quarts.  Those of you who know how much three quarts of oysters actually is probably just got wide-eyed right about here.  Turns out it’s a boatload, pardon the pun.






This old cabin across the way is being remodeled and renovated.


Another amazing live oak. I can’t stop taking photos of live oaks.

When I got to work, I took the 3 quarts of oysters, on ice, into the building and stashed them in the refrigerator, and wrote a note to myself not to forget them.


Yay, me, I didn’t forget them, and even if I had, I’d be making a trip back to work.  We set off for Athens, Georgia, and the University of Georgia, by way of the back roads.  I suppose I should make a google map, if for no other reason than to prove that I can do it.  Make a map, that is.


We arrived in time for a late lunch, and found the Pita Pit where we’d eaten years ago.  Since we have now eaten there twice, we have established a tradition, and apparently we’ll have to eat there every time we visit.



Yup, still cold. We had the advantage that the weather was cold from the effects of the storm Titan.

We drove around a bit, in a mood of nostalgia for Sugar, for he went to school here and has the diploma to prove it.  He saw a place that he remembered, and thought perhaps that it might have been there when his mother went to UGA.  It looked like just the kind of fine dining we needed.


Yes, it does look like a warehouse, doesn’t it?  It is a burger joint with nary an organic item on the menu.  I wish that I’d had the camera with me, but we scored some cool paper hats.

Of course, when we got back to our room, Sugar was hungry in half an hour.  I’d brought along a loaf of whole-grain bread and some organic coconut & peanut butter spread.  He ate two sandwiches, and then we saw an unidentified insect-like something on the table.


We poked and prodded at the little husky thing and wondered if we had discovered a new form of bedbug, when we realized that it was a seed from the whole-grain bread.  Vision is a wonderful thing.


And now it’s Monday, and the oysters are still good.  Sugar babysat them often, and added ice when necessary.

It was time for a Sugary tour of the campus, and we set off to find where Uncle Charlie’s house was.

Later in their life, William Starr Basinger and his wife Margaret Roane Garnett Basinger lived on campus with their daughter Margaret Amelia and her husband Charles Morton Strahan.  Charlie was an engineer, and he designed several buildings and architectural features on the campus.

When Sugar used to walk to campus, he would pass along this stone wall, and he’d see chipmunks scampering about, foraging at waist-high level.


No chipmunks today. Nothing but a sweet memory.

First we went to a building that Uncle Charlie designed.







And a little further along the quad, we saw this marker.


Old College

Built in 1806 by Jett Thomas to the specifications of college

president Josiah Meigs.  Old College was the first permanent

building on the University of Georgia campus.  Originally

named Franklin College in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the

building served as housing, dining, and classroom facilities

for the fledgling University.  As the campus grew the

building came to be known as Old College.  Condemned as

structurally unsound by 1906, the building was largely rebuilt

and rededicated in 1908 at the behest of preservation-minded

alumni.  During World War II, Old College was utilized as

barracks by the U.S. Navy.  In recognition of the buildin’s

significance, a full rehabilitation was completed in 2006 in

observation of its bicentennial.

We walk a little further along the quad.  Across the way, we see Uncle Charlie’s house.




Yes, Uncle Charlie’s house was torn down to build the Law Library.  Ah, sadness.  It’s a bit soothing to know that William Starr Basinger, an actual attorney lived at this spot, but only a bit.

Next, Sugar wants to look at his hall where he studied history.









This was the furthest location of our route around campus, and as we headed back, he commented again about the Lustrat house.

This shot is taken across the quad, and I crouched down to include the greenery.

This shot is taken across the quad, and I crouched down to include the greenery.

His uncle Edward went to the University of Georgia, and family stories say that he spent time at the Lustrat house, enjoying their company and speaking French.

A bit further along, is a place that made history.  Uncle Charlie designed the connecting architecture that linked two separate buildings, but that’s not the historical part.

IMG_6140\ IMG_6141




On January 9, 1961,

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter

became the first two African American students

to enroll at the University of Georgia

when they walked past the historic Arch

and into this building to register for classes.

On this day, January 9, 2001,

as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration

of the desegregation of the University,

we salute the courage and fortitude

displayed by these students

and their families in paving the way

for others to follow.


We’re just about ready to leave campus, when suddenly I realize that William Starr Basinger’s journals are in the archives here.  HERE.  Right HERE.

Do we have time to go to the library?  Are we ever going to come back here?

Yes, we go to the library and speak to the reference desk librarian, who directs us to another building and shows us the logistics on a handy map.  Which clinches our decision that we have to press onward to North Georgia, because, really, if we go to the archives, we will spend all flippin’ day.  Sugar already has his great-grandfather’s journals, transcribed and in book form, but we just thought we might go gaze upon his handwriting.  So, another day.

As fortification for the journey, because we are pioneers and all, we stop at a coffee shop on the way back to the van.




Sugar asked me, right about here, “Did you just take a picture of our coffee?”

Well, duh, all the bloggers take photos of their food.  After all, if you had an opportunity to see into the everyday life of your ancestors, wouldn’t you want to do it?  Wouldn’t you want to see their plates, and their hands, and their thoughts?  That’s right, I thought so.

Onward the oysters.