View Full Version : High School was never like this

10-08-2006, 09:42 AM
Some schools offer student trips to places like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, the state capitol, or even abroad to Mexico or Europe, but not many schools offer a "Books, Blues and Barbeque" tour of the Mississippi Delta like The Altamont School in Birmingham, Ala. does.

For one week each October, students in grades five though 12 get to take the classroom out into the world during "Fall Project Week." While students in grades nine and lower take trips as a whole class with parents and teachers, older students get to pick and choose between smaller-group trips to a myriad of places, such as Spain, Italy or France, college tours, mountain climbing or service projects. Or, they can choose the "Books, Blues and Barbeque" trip organized and led each year by Altamont English teacher and director of admissions Jimmy Wiygul.

The annual trip is one of the school's most popular and is filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. This week, Wiygul brought 13 high school seniors to experience the unique culture of the Delta, with the main portion spent in Clarksdale, where the group took over the Shack Up Inn for three days.

"When we started these trips in the early 1990s, we used to just drive through Clarksdale and I remember going to the Delta Blues Museum when it was in the back of the library, but as time has gone on, now we spend one night in Memphis, one night in Oxford and three nights in Clarksdale and we day-trip out of here," Wiygul said.
In addition to their visit to Memphis, the group went to Oxford for lunch and a reading seminar with Southern noir novelist Ace Atkins; and cookies and lemonade with blues photographer Dick Waterman.

"We wish we could have stayed here for the whole week," Suzanne Sarver, 17, said. "The Shack Up Inn is amazing, and we all love being out here because it's a time for us to hang out and get to know each other better. When we were in Memphis, for example, we went to Beale Street, and it was very touristy. We live in Birmingham, where we get a lot of that, but down here, it's real laid back and we're having a great time."

Some of the highlights of their Delta visit included: A tour of Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary featured in a number of blues songs; the store on Money Road, where Emmett Till allegedly whistled at the white proprietress, which later led to his murder by her husband and brother-in-law in 1955; an afternoon performance by former Jelly Roll King Big Jack Johnson, backed by local musicians, at Red's Lounge; dinner at Madidi; a tour of the Delta Blues Museum; being guests on the King Biscuit Time radio show in Helena, Ark., with "Sunshine" Sonny Payne; a visit with 80-year-old drummer Sam Carr in his yard on Powell Road; a visit to Uncle Henry's on Moon Lake (a former casino featured in some of Tennessee Williams's works) and a night of music and dancing at Ground Zero.

Wiygul said seeing different parts of the world and combining fun, travel and education is a theme at Altamont.

"Some of the trips cost quite a bit of money, and while our school is private - I like the word 'independent' because in Birmingham, we're more diverse than anybody in town - we have about 25 percent on financial aid. We have a lot of middle-class families and you can't just jump off to Spain every year, so I started doing this as something that doesn't cost much."

There is also a memorial fund set up specifically for travel that helps financially needy students make these trips. A testament to the popularity of the trip is a group of alumni who paid $3,300 at a school fund-raising auction for Wiygul to take them on the "Books, Blues and Barbeque" trip this past July.

Sharing his love for the Delta to his students, Wiygul watches as they complete the circle by sharing it with others, saying, "There's so much history in the Delta, and the kids have been reading a lot: they've read an Ace Atkins novel, and short stories by William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. When they get home, they have to turn in three 'images' from this trip, however that comes. It could be a poem or a photo essay, something with meaning."

One image of the Delta that stands out for Sarver is the traveling.

"Driving down Highway 61 in our little yellow school bus, with all the windows down, because there's no air conditioning, the wind blowing, listening to blues music [the Jelly Roll Kings, Big Jack Johnson and Sam Carr's band with the late Frank Frost], and all around us is open cotton fields," she said. "It was great."

Sarver said she and the other students area already talking about coming back to Clarksdale for a reunion before they all take off to college.

10-08-2006, 09:55 AM
Cool. I will make a pilgrimage to Clarksdale one day. Delta Blues is......... well I can't explain it. I just like it a lot.

10-08-2006, 10:29 AM
When I was in high skool, the only field trips we took were to places like the fire station and the Wonder Bread bakery.

10-08-2006, 11:17 AM
When I was in high skool, the only field trips we took were to places like the fire station and the Wonder Bread bakery.

Not that theres anything wrong with that!
We toured Proctor and gamble in Cincinnati-got a mini tube of Prell, the only shampoo then that was in plastic. before Prell, glass bottles in the bathroom! Yes Im an old fart!

10-08-2006, 03:13 PM
When I was in school...........mega yrs ago the only field trip I can recall was a trip to Schaffers Bakery. Then to the zoo on the last day of school. Man thinking about it was a long long time ago. Think I need a nap now.


10-08-2006, 03:48 PM
When I was in school...........mega yrs ago the only field trip I can recall was a trip to Schaffers Bakery. Then to the zoo on the last day of school. Man thinking about it was a long long time ago. Think I need a nap now.


They have a bakery? Phil, who knew? Thought they only had beer for making "beer can chicken". (see how I tied that to q-talk to stay on topic?)

10-08-2006, 05:48 PM
They have a bakery? Phil, who knew? Thought they only had beer for making "beer can chicken". (see how I tied that to q-talk to stay on topic?)

Do you use yeast to make beer?

10-08-2006, 06:11 PM
Sounds like a real cool trip. I didnt get to go anywhere even remotely that nice when I was in school.

10-09-2006, 01:29 AM
When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning, uphill BOTH ways... yadda, yadda, yadda. And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

BUT NOW THAT I'm over the ripe old age of forty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damned Utopia! And I hate to say, it but you kids today, you don't know just how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter... With a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3's or Napsters! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and screw it all up!

And talk about hardship? You couldn't just download porn! You had to steal it from your brother or bribe some homeless dude to buy you a copy of "Hustler" at the 7-11! Those were your options!

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it! And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

Don't get me started on the cell phone for kids issue. We have all fallen into the trap of "it's for their safety". But it is amazing that we came and went and never had a phone on us and we all lived. A cell phone, hell, back then phones at home still had cords on them. Imagine being tied to one spot. Roaming charges... yeah, we had those... when we strayed too far from home we got charged with it and got our butts beat... there are some roaming charges for you!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like "Space Invaders" and "asteroids" and the graphics sucked a$$! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever, and you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

Nowadays kids have a million activities after school and on the weekends that they need to be taken to. When we were young, our Mom's didn't take us anywhere, except to the grocery store (and back then they didn't even have to take us in, they could just leave us in the car!). Heck they didn't even drive us to school... Your transportation was your stinking little feet.

Not to mention they would never have paid money for all of those activities. We were told, "What do you think? We are just made of money?" The answer was no, and we walked to where we wanted to go.

When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just screwed!
Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 40 channels and there was no on screen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your a$$ and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!

And now there are DVD players in the cars! God forbid they just stare out the window like we did. Now Mom's can't say, "If you don't behave, I am going to come across this seat and beat your butt". No, because they would hit their heads on the damn DVD player!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire... Imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that Stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about!' Kid nowadays wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

Sorry I just had too

10-09-2006, 08:05 AM
We didn't have a "senior trip" in 1970...our band had gotten locked down in their hotel in DC during the riots...and things were just a bit "iffy" around the country...

However, during my years with FFA I went to the National convention in KC four times with stops at the Purina research farm, Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, etc. Found out where to hang out in the Continental Hotel in KC to check out the bunnies on the way to work at the Playboy Club!!:rolleyes:

We had the Florida state convention at Daytona Beach each year...nothing like be 15-18 years old and staying on the beach...I actually made most of the sessions despite the bikinis.:mrgreen:

Visits to paper processing plants, poultry processing and production, etc. were ongoing each year. (I know, doesn't sound exciting, but when you are am ag student these things are pretty cool!)

10-09-2006, 08:46 AM
Cool. I will make a pilgrimage to Clarksdale one day. Delta Blues is......... well I can't explain it. I just like it a lot.

I can explain it Kevin: It's real.

Good story Robert. Fark France.

Some of you other guys think you had it hard cause all you had was Jiffy Pop? Sheeit!

10-09-2006, 08:56 AM
I think I took my girlfriend to the Shack-Up Inn a few times! Great place to have high school kids stay!! :eusa_clap

10-10-2006, 02:19 PM
Cool. I will make a pilgrimage to Clarksdale one day. Delta Blues is......... well I can't explain it. I just like it a lot.

Ya know, it's funny. Most people associate the blues with Memphis. I'm not taking anything away from Memphis and Beale Street but Mississippi has it's share of blues joints too as that article pointed out.....you just have to know where to find 'em.

Just down the road from us is this little place called Windy City Cafe that we frequent from time to time and that's where we first heard this fella.....


He used to stick to this area but he's starting to travel around now. If you ever get the chance to go see him, he puts on a pretty good show.

Just south of Memphis on US-61 is the Hollywood Cafe in Robinsonville. Good food, good music. Lots of history in this little place. Marc Cohn sang about it in "Walking in Memphis". Always somebody playing there.

You ever make it down here, let me know. Some of these places will scare you looking at the outside but once you get in, you feel right at home.