Oh, crepe

One of the benefits of editing a community newsletter like Candler Park’s Messenger is meeting lots of interesting neighbors and folks who do business in the neighborhood. March 15 was Hungarian Independence Day so I stopped by the crepe stand that appears each weekend on the northeast corner of Oakdale Rd. and McLendon Ave. to chat with its proprietors for an article that I plan to write for next month’s issue.

While waiting for owner Maria Nagy to arrive I interviewed her ex-husband, Tamás, as he was making crepes for passersby. Here he is making a strawberry crepe and explaining a little bit about the traditional European food that’s become a staple of American street corners and festivals.

© 2014 D.S. Rotenstein

The fellmonger’s office

Wool pulling. Credit: Rudolf A. Clemen, By-Products in the Packing Industry (1927).

Wool pulling. Credit: Rudolf A. Clemen, By-Products in the Packing Industry (1927).

Fellmongers disappeared from the American industrial landscape in the last century. They were specialized meat and leather industry byproducts dealers who also prepared skins and leather from lamb pelts removed in slaughterhouses. In 2000, the last American fellmongers processed a batch of wool inside the Pittsburgh Wool Company. The exercise was captured in a documentary film produced for the Pittsburgh History Center and was documented in reports I prepared for the History Center and for the National Park Service (now in the Library of Congress: HAER No. PA-572).


James Callery’s Duquesne tannery (right) shortly after it was built. It later became the Pittsburgh Wool Company. The site on the Allegheny River north shore had tanneries and wool pulleries there continuously from the 1830s through 2000.

Pittsburgh Wool Company facade, 1996. Photo by author.

Pittsburgh Wool Company facade, 1996. Photo by author.

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Georgia sunshine: the semantics of public records


Georgia court records. Are they open if they are in plain view? Photo by author.

Georgia’s government regularly gets failing grades for transparency when it comes to making records available to the press, researchers, and the general public. A recent survey of states by the Center for Public Integrity flunked Georgia with a grade of 46% on two questions: 1) Do citizens have a legal right of access to information?; and, 2) Is the right of access to information effective?

Under Georgia law, the governor and legislative branches are exempt from the state’s Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. §50-18-70). The judicial branch, including county superior courts, operates under a different set of rules for making court records — case files, land records, etc. — available to the public. Continue reading

New Candler Park historical marker


Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project marker screen capture.

A small group of Candler Park volunteers installed a new historical marker at the site where the first Antioch East Baptist Church stood between 1877 and 1916. The installation took place Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. Residents used a posthole digger to set the new panel, which features text and historical images, near a commemorative granite bench which was installed in 2011.

The marker is part of an ambitious effort to document early African American history in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood. Planning for the marker began three years ago and it is the fourth historical marker placed in the neighborhood stemming from Candler Park’s BiRacial History Project founder Edith Kelman’s research.

New historical marker and commemorative bench. Photo by Edith Kelman.

New historical marker and commemorative bench. Photo by Edith Kelman.

Funding for the marker came from the 420 Oakdale Group. Kelman worked with community volunteers and Atlanta design firm Goolrick Interpretive Group to develop it. Volunteers Randy Pimsler and Danny Feig-Sandoval excavated the postholes for the marker. Onlookers include 420 Oakdale Group members Kelly Jordan, Don Bender, and Roger Bakeman.

This video slideshow captures the installation and a more complete account will appear in a future Candler Park Neighborhood Organization newsletter.

© 2013 D.S. Rotenstein



Columbia Heights reborn

The riots that tore through Washington, D.C., after Martin Luther King’s assassination in April 1968 left many neighborhoods physically and emotionally scarred for decades. Columbia Heights was one of the most adversely affected. Continue reading

Jesse James in Iowa

Jesse James (1847-1882) was a nineteenth century outlaw who became a popular figure in American folk legend and folk song. By the twentieth century, film and television joined the earlier oral and print traditions with fictional and documentary renditions of James’s life.

Jesse James Historical Site, Adair, Iowa.

Jesse James Historical Site, Adair, Iowa.

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New life for old interviews: Some Atlanta music & journalism history

Eric King and Joel (J.T. Speed) Murphy at the Blind Willie's bar, Oct. 24, 1990. Photo by author.

Eric King (front)  and Joel (J.T. Speed) Murphy at the Blind Willie’s bar, Oct. 24, 1990. My recorder is on the bar. Photo by author.

Earlier this year I began taking steps towards completing a project that had its origins back in 1990. For a few hours the evening of October 24, 1990, Eric King and I consumed a fair amount of alcohol  and talked blues music and history at the bar of his Atlanta club, Blind Willie’s. At the time, I wrote a blues column for a short-lived alt-weekly, Footnotes. I had been spending lots of time in Willie’s and I had wanted to interview King for background material for future stories. Continue reading

Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, Washington

The Washington, D.C., Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) office has begun posting excerpts from the oral history interviews I did for them between 2007 and 2009. The first excerpt posted is from my summer 2007 interview with Washington Parks and People executive director Steve Coleman.

My interview with Coleman covered a lot of territory. The clip posted at the DC LISC Website focuses on the rehabilitation of Washington’s Meridian Hill Park (also known as Malcolm X Park). Surf on over to the page or listen to the clip here:


Old Julia and Elwood

Well, the name of it is Old Julia still. I guess you hard of that. — M.R., March 1988.

Former turpentine camp site, St. Johns County, Fla.

Former turpentine camp site, St. Johns County, Fla.

“Old Julia” was the name of a turpentine still and camp that operated in rural St. Johns County, Fla., in the 1920s and 1930s. And then, like other temporary naval stores processing sites in the Coastal Plain flatwoods, its owner moved the buildings and people to another stand of longleaf pines to extract resin for distillation into turpentine.

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Some changes: fixed media, new graphics, and spring cleaning

Over the past three years this site has changed platforms once and servers twice. It also has gone through some growing pains, false starts, and wrong turns. When I migrated the blog from WordPress.com there were some formatting errors that occurred in the earlier telecommunications history posts (embedded media not rendering correctly, etc.). Also, because of changes in Google Maps plugins over time, some of the embedded maps in older posts were broken.

After a couple of weeks of repair work, all of the graphics and other embedded media in the Western Union microwave network series appear to have been restored. The site has a new brick background –Catskill brick pavers from Savannah, Ga. — and better optimized photos. Gone are many of the posts that detoured from the site’s purpose: telling stories about the past. They diminished the site’s integrity and were a distraction from what I set out to achieve with this site.

New posts on the way cover recent past resources in the Washington suburbs and some fun ways to combine music with oral history. Future posts will be shorter and mainly will provide introductions and complementary information for blog posts and articles published elsewhere in edited sites, like the recent piece on a Southern poet’s home, and e-journals.