I remember so vividly sitting on the sofa in the living room of my house in Gulf Park, 10 years old, reading Gone With the Wind for the first time. I had to look up some of the words. It was slow going. I read all 1,027 pages, and then read it again.
I think I was actually recuperating from the ordeal of having my tonsils removed. There were complications from the surgery and I was in the hospital throwing up blood for two days. It was a hellish ordeal.
I grew to love the book. I identified with Scarlett.
This is the 75th anniversary of the publication of the book.
It got to the point where every year, when I had to have a book report and didn't have anything to report on, I'd write a report on Gone With the Wind. I knew all the pertinent information by heart - date of publication , number of pages , publisher [MacMillan].
I usually made A's on all the GWTW book reports.
I didn't know until I grew up that my family has ties to the story.
In 1939 when the film premiered here in Atlanta, my grandparents were invited to some of the parties afterwards. Since my grandfather had been a big league baseball player he was sort of a local celebrity. My mother remembers seeing the parade. She was 5 years old.
Margaret Mitchell was active in war relief work during World War II and one of Mother's cousins used to roll bandages next to Margaret and they got to be friends.
When Margaret died from being hit by a car, my mother lived just a few blocks away. She remembers it vividly.
I think I've told the story, but my dad's mother was reading Gone With the Wind right after it came out, and never heard a fatal car wreck just outside her house late one night. When Cordelia told the police she never heard a thing, she was up late reading Gone With the Wind, the police never bothered her again. Such was the popularity of that book.
Margaret Mitchell died at age 48, the same age I am now.
She was born in 1900, the same year as my grandmother Wilma Butler. [At least, I think that's right. Rumor is Mamaw fudged a year...]
The movie is flawed for many reasons, and if you've only seen the movie and not read the book, you only know half the story. Mitchell's book was carefully researched and is a wealth of information about the Civil War. Some of the history Margaret learned from listening to elderly Civil War veterans recount their stories while she sat on their laps as a small child.
Mitchell was undoubtedly a racist, and that is the major flaw of the book, of course. She was, however, a product of her time, and I don't feel it's totally fair to pick on her about race portrayals. Over the years she became more tolerant. Here's an interesting fact. In the 1940's she quietly gave thousands of dollars to fund scholarships for black medical students attending Morehouse College here in Atlanta, and she contributed to the building of the first black hospital here.
I have seen the movie many times. I once saw it at the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville with my friend John. We both knew all the lines and would sit there and say them aloud, much to the annoyance of others, I am sure. My all-time favorite is when Mammy says to Scarlet about Ashley coming home from the war "...and you sittin' there waitin' for him, just like a SPIDER!"
As a college freshman I watched the entire movie sitting on a table in the cafeteria, so uncomfortable, but determined to sit through the entire thing.
Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel is a wonderful program about Margaret that aired on the local PBS station here tonight. Mother and I watched the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Margaret was ahead of her time in so many ways, particularly women's rights. Scarlet was a moden working woman, after all.
Despite her flaws, Scarlet has gumption, a word I love. I am in need of some of it during this difficult time of my life.
There is a big display now on GWTW at the Atlanta History Center. I need to get over there.
No news to report really on the home front. Everyone is healing nicely.