Around Town: Mariettans getting kick from remembering the ... locomotive chase
by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
April 15, 2012 12:00 AM | 3232 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JUDGING from the sharply togged throng at Thursday’s “re-premiere” of the Walt Disney film “The Great Locomotive Chase” at the Strand Theatre in Marietta, you’d never know it was there to see a 50-year-old Fess Parker movie that was never much of a hit and which was seemingly aimed at pre-teen boys and history buffs. But so it was, as the City of Marietta kicked off the 150th anniversary weekend of the Civil War locomotive epic in question.

Steve “Thunder” Tumlin, who was at the original “Southern premiere” of the movie at the Strand in 1956 as a boy and who as current mayor was the impetus for the city’s string of commemorative events this weekend, came attired in a white tuxedo jacket — no doubt cutting a more debonair figure than he did at the original showing in ‘56.

“I love Marietta. It is a passion,” he declared from the stage as he and the other four members of the organizing committee made brief remarks as the crowd settled into their seats after a VIP reception on the fourth floor of the renovated movie house.

“This is a remarkable city. There is a living memory of what has happened here before. History passes through this city like the railroad tracks,” he continued. “In looking back through the original program (from the 1956 showing), most of the businesses and families mentioned in it are gone, but it is part of our heritage. In 1956 I was a true Southern Confederate finally starting to make peace with my Yankee brethren. …”

Even so, there were plenty of whoops and hollers from the crowd encouraging the celluloid Rebels during the chase and fight scenes once the movie started. And more than a few in the crowd could be heard humming or softly singing along early in the picture when “Dixie” was sung on-screen.

THE CITY’S anniversary weekend committee was chaired by Kathy Young (spouse of Georgia Trend publisher Neely Young), who told the crowd the events were being staged without the use of any city tax dollars, thanks to lavish contributions from WellStar Health System and the Steve and Virginia Tumlin (the late parents of the mayor) Foundation. Other members are Connie Sutherland, director of the city’s Gone With the Wind Museum, City Manager Bill Bruton (who also sported white tuxedo), and Tumlin, who arrived on stage accompanied by the sound of a clap of thunder as he was introduced by Strand director Earl Reese.

Among the attendees were several great-grandchildren of those in the Chase, including Wilbur “Bill” Kurtz III, a descendant of General conductor Capt. William Fuller.

Reese recounted that the anniversary weekend and the showing of the film had been the mayor’s idea and that Tumlin had called him personally two years ago to reserve the theatre for Thursday’s event.

“And I counted, and I’ve only had 103 emails from Thunder about tonight since Monday,” Reese quipped to the crowd.

MARIETTA native Russell Bonds, author of “Stealing the General,” the most comprehensive account of Andrews’ Raiders and the Chase, noted to the crowd that, “I grew up here and grew up with this story.” Among those in the capacity crowd were his mother, Nancy Bonds, and wife, Jill.

Bonds, an attorney for Coca-Cola in Atlanta, also noted that trains on the Western & Atlantic tracks through Marietta usually ran at top speeds of just 16 mph in that era, and that folks liked to quip that the cowcatchers on the locomotives should be moved to the back of the trains “to keep the cows from climbing aboard.” But, said Bonds, the Chase was so desperate that the two locomotives — “The General” and “The Texas” — were careening down the rickety tracks at 60 and 70 mph.

“And keep in mind as well that locomotives in that era did not have brakes. The only way of slowing them down was to throw them into reverse,” he added.

Bonds noted that he had done 21 TV and radio interviews that day for national and local outlets. He concluded by telling the crowd that the movie they were about to see was “like ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ ‘The Great Train Robbery’ and ‘The Great Escape’ all rolled into one.”

And in many ways, it was. One viewer who had not seen it since his childhood five decades ago said it was a much better film than he remembered and that while the dramatic scenes were pretty wooden, the action scenes were particularly well done.

UNLIKE most of the events being commemorated during the war’s Sesquicentennial, the Chase did not involve huge numbers of soldiers killing or maiming each other, and thus allows the events surrounding its anniversary to enjoy a lighter-hearted feel.

That is apparent in Marietta, where a veritable trainload of events are slated as the city’s “Civil War Weekend” continues. Highlights will include concerts at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today on the Square by the 8th Georgia Regimental Band, programs at downtown museums and Zion Baptist Church, a “Disney Party for Kids” on the Square at 4 p.m., and an 8 p.m. showing at the Strand of the other movie about the Chase, Buster Keaton’s silent classic “The General.” And don’t forget Sunday’s 1 p.m. “Garden of Heroes” statue dedication at Brown Park next to the Confederate Cemetery.

WILLIAM M. WINDSOR of east Cobb, who says he is “considered by many to be the father of the multi-billion-dollar ‘imprinted sportswear industry,’” has announced his candidacy as an independent for the 6th District U.S. Congressional seat held by incumbent Tom Price (R-Roswell).

The then-Texas Tech student got in the T-shirt business in 1969 and launched a trade magazine and trade show for the industry in 1977, he said.

He later was president of a trade show company and then CEO of 1st Communications, a company he co-owned with Mitt Romney’s outfit Bain Capital, he said. He presently is CEO of The Windsor Companies, is “chief activist” at Lawless America and says that from 2008-10 he “led a successful effort to clean up corruption in Ontario, Canada.

He and his wife, Barbara, have two children and two granddaughters.

Windsor initially planned to run for Cobb magistrate but now has set his sights higher. He notes that congressmen have the power to initiate impeachment proceedings against corrupt government officials.

“I plan to launch investigations against every federal judge, and I will start many impeachment proceedings. I will do everything in my power to minimize the number of corrupt people we have as judges and in other government positions,” he says.

“I have signed a Contract with the Citizens of the United States in which I promise to be honest and in which I make myself accountable to the people. If I violate the contract, a grand jury can vote to remove me from office, and I will resign. I give the people a guarantee. To the best of my knowledge, no other elected official has ever done so,” he said.

No word on whether Windsor is related to Britain’s royal family.

POLITICS: Sam Huff of Sam’s BB1 in east Cobb will host a meet-and-greet for Sheriff Neil Warren from 4-6 p.m. Sunday at the restaurant, 4944 Lower Roswell Road. Complimentary barbeque will be provided. … Tony and Laura Werner will host a fundraiser for Cobb Superior Court candidate Judge Greg Poole at their 881 Gordon Combs Road from 7-10 p.m. on Friday. … Alice Summerour has been re-elected as chairman of the Cobb SPLOST Citizens Oversight Committee.

SICK BAY: Retired Marietta Square haberdasher Davis Walker, who suffered a serious fall several weeks ago, has been moved from Kennestone Hospital to Signature Healthcare on Kennesaw Avenue. No visitors asked as yet. … Retired Cobb tax office official Scott Chadwick is on the mend after back surgery this week. … Metro Ambulance VP Devan Seabaugh of Marietta, who suffered a double compound fracture of the wrist in a fall in the woods last week and was at risk of bleeding to death had his wife, Beth, not applied a tourniquet, is on the mend.

MARTINIS & MORE returns to the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art Friday and will feature Marietta’s Boozer McClure on piano, reports director Sally Macaulay.

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