Opinion: Southern Marriage Later in Life
Ginny and I went to Fairhope to attend the wedding of Stewart Speed and Kim Purvis.
We couldn’t wait to stay at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, a few miles south of Fairhope, which in turn is a few miles south of Mobile.
The Grand Hotel is unusual for a southern hotel. It has historical significance, dating back to its inception in 1847. It is large, with 405 rooms and a large, meticulously maintained grounds. It is a beautiful place to spend a long weekend.
The Grand Hotel is almost exactly four hours from Jackson, on Hwy 49 then Hwy 98. There are four lanes to the Alabama Line, at which point it eerily becomes two lanes just as you enter. the Mobile area.
During the descent, the importance of properly funding the maintenance of state highways was quite clear. Highway 49 begins to collapse. The entire section of the highway has ubiquitous cracks. It is only a matter of time before the road becomes dangerous.
Political sentiment against increasing the gasoline tax will quickly change once our major national highways become impassable. The problem is, it will cost a lot more to rebuild these roads than it would have cost to maintain them properly.
We got there in time so I could play a round at the Lakewood Golf Club, which is part of the Grand Hotel, now owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).
The Lakewood Golf Club is now part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, also owned by RSA. The golf course consists of 26 high quality public golf courses throughout Alabama.
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail was the brainchild of David Bronner, CEO of RSA, and perhaps Alabama’s most powerful man. He has been CEO of RSA for 48 years, controlling $ 38 billion in investments, making RSA the 50th largest public pension fund in the world.
Bronner used the massive wealth of RSA to promote Alabama with projects such as the golf course and the ownership and renovation of the Grand Hotel. Bronner says these investments have dramatically increased tourism and been an economic engine for Alabama.
Meanwhile, Mississippi has taken a different path with its PERS, the public employee retirement system. The PERS, seeking to avoid conflicts of interest, restricts investments in government and fund managers. Mississippi has three paltry public golf courses statewide and they struggle to stay afloat and fall short of the quality of Robert Trent Jones courses.
What is better? As an out of state golfer, I love the Robert Trent Jones golf courses. But if I was an Alabama public service retiree, I would be smoking. Alabama’s RSA investment returns stink.
Over the past 10 years, PERS has returned 10.07% of its investments. RSA returned half of it.
The nine golfers at the wedding party were all delighted that the remains of Hurricane Nicholas had disappeared just in time for the sun to rise.
The course was waterlogged so I decided to walk with my cart. But then the sun came out, the heat index rose to 98, and I was pushing a heavy cart through the waterlogged grass of a sauna. It turns out the course didn’t return to the clubhouse after nine o’clock.
“This is how old people die of heat exhaustion,” I said to myself as my sweat exploded and my heart pounded. The other members of my trio, who I had just met, probably thought I was an idiot. But no worries, a call to the pro shop brought me a cart and I lived to learn yet another life lesson: “Never walk on a golf course you don’t know.
Golf is a great way to meet new people, so I went to the Thursday night party with some new friends including Josh Oglesby, as well as many people I already knew: Wesley and Dolly Goings, John and Sylvie Robinson, Warren and Leslie Kennedy, Michael and Kelly Lindsey, Warren and Marla Speed and many more. Stewart and Kim have great friends and everyone was interesting and fun to talk to.
Most people don’t have a big second wedding party and that’s a shame. I don’t remember when I had so much fun at a wedding. Most of the weddings I go to now are for sons and daughters, so parents are not the main social center. Not the case here. The alumni were the main event and we all really enjoyed the limelight.
At this point, I must say a word of appreciation for the women of the South. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for making the effort to look and dress beautifully. The effort really pays off and the women at this wedding were as beautiful as the young girls.
No doubt all the men at this wedding complained to their wives for delaying a departure to put on makeup or make a last minute wardrobe change. But I know I can speak for a lot of southerners in expressing a deep appreciation for the time and effort put into looking pretty. It works!
JP Milam and I were able to work in a second round of golf, making six birdies between us (four for JP), despite a waterlogged course. At one point I addressed the ball as it was in the middle of the fairway and yelled at JP “You know I’m in casual water.” He yelled back, “The whole fairway is occasional water.”
On Saturday, Ginny and I cycled to Fairhope, a beautiful town of 25,000 that had only 15,000 ten years ago. The architecture was an interesting mix of beach, ranch, and New England Victorian style. Fairhope was founded as a sort of artists’ colony and has, since its founding, special taxes that support public beautification. This shows.
On the way back we got caught in a sudden summer downpour. As we took shelter under a living oak, a lady came out and invited us to sit her on her veranda. His hospitality was emblematic of the city.
This whole area is booming. It is 45 minutes from Gulf Shores, but is protected by the bay from the worst effects of hurricanes. It’s a great place to live and as southern as Jackson. I’ve always said that the five southernmost cities in the country are Jackson; Montgomery; Mobile; Colombia, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.
The last night’s event took place at the Frye House, Buzzy and Nicole Riss’ lovely pre-war home facing the bay. We stretched out on a huge backyard full of sprawling oak trees covered in Spanish moss. It was classic.
The group consisted of Will and Linda Pleasants from the Mississippi Delta and Jackson, now living in area 30A. Years ago, when “high density” beer was first approved, I joined them on the Cherokee stage and sang “Mississippi Half Step”. And I did the same thing again, to heavy applause.
As Stewart said, “Wyatt, I think you had more fun at this wedding than anyone else.”