March 26th and 27th 2004

Cartoonist Walt Kelly ...... Pogo for President ...... Philosophical Pogo


This Years Honored Guest is Sam "Scrawls" Rawls (below in the black hat)



Photograph by Lynn Boykin

By Robert Latimer Hurst

Born in Clitheroe, England; educated at Rossall School; was graduated from Leeds University with an honors degree in textile engineering and became a member of the fourth generation of his family to work in the textile industry. The reader will note that this lead seems to be setting up a premise for a riddle. It's not. It is introducing Bill Westhead, an author who will be among those honoring Pogo `Possum at the Okefenokee Swamp Park on March 27.

Westhead's biography points out that he served in the British Army, worked in the synthetic fiber spinning industry in Wales, England and Northern Ireland; by 1973, he had joined Scapa Dryers and in that same year, he and his family emigrated to Waycross, Georgia, where he served as vice president/company director. Here, the textile engineer became responsible for design and development of heavy industrial fabrics for use in the manufacture of paper.

Another interest seemed to be never far from the surface of Bill's consciousness. He began writing over 20 years ago, with a devout seriousness for the last ten. He has published three historical novels: Once in Old Frederica Town (1993), Clogs (1999) and Confederate Gold (2002). Along with these books, this writer's fiction and non-fiction materials have been published in Cricket, Animal Tales and Crafts `n Things, with articles appearing in various trade magazines. Westhead's fourth novel, The Mill, a sequel to Clogs, is currently being reviewed by an agent, while the author researches yet a fifth book about a Southern woman spy who risked her life for the Confederacy.

Winning writing awards from the Southeastern Writers Association and Animal Tales competition has gained for the adopted Waycrossan a reputation and an audience.

Bill says that he reads extensively about "the history of places he calls home" and believes that this local heritage helps in understanding both the people and the place. He adds that the attitude and actions of a citizenry today can be, and often are, influenced by major as well as minor historical events.

Bonsai collecting and the Waycross Community Theatre also hold great fascination for Bill, who is married and has two daughters and four grandchildren.

Okefenokee Swamp Park General Manager Martin Bell urges area citizens to come out to OSP on March 27 and meet this author who has researched and written about South Georgia as well as his native soil.



Teller of Tales

 By Robert Latimer Hurst

Ware County Author Luther Thrift, who has spent his entire life around the Okefenokee Swamp, tells that his stories, both factual and those "somewhat embellished," come from his hearing the "old- timers talking when he was a boy." These family tales and legends go back to that oral tradition so common with the settlers who had little time for books and writing when the land needed their full attention. Thrift, whose family on both his mother's and the father's sides reach back to those pioneer days in the Okefenokee, capitalizes on that knowledge in both his books and his talks.

Okefenokee Swamp Park General Manager Martin Bell, who now employs Thrift as a boatman and teller of tales, urges the public to visit OSP on March 27 and meet and hear Luther tell some of his remembrances, reminiscent of those times when crowds would gather to hear swampers Hamp Mizell, Will Cox, Lem Griffis and others relate the legends, folklore and history of "The Land of the Trembling Earth."

Much of this Okefenokee authenticity and flavor are gone, but Thrift holds on tight to the old tradition and delights his listeners with his down-to-earth anecdotes. And during the "Pogo-for-President" Rally at OSP this legendary swamp talltaler will entertain with his in-depth look into Okefenokee's past.

"Spring in the Okefenokee is a season of flowering grandeur. It is the time when flower lovers visit Georgia's largest freshwater flower garden," Luther relates. "The `Land of the Trembling Earth,' as it was called by the Muskogee, is the home of many rare and beautiful flowers. While pondering that upcoming Pogofest, I remembered a flower that possibly was named for our world famous swamp marsupial. It is most recognizable when it blooms in the spring. This beautiful little swamp orchid is the Rose Pogonia. Most folks don't associate the orchid's name with ol' Ok-fe-nok's number one `possum, the reason being that most pronounce `Pogonia' as `Po-gone-ya' instead of `Pogo-nia.'"

Luther has penned books about the legendary Okefenokee Cox, Thrift and Tatum families, along with a newer collection called "Tales of Ol' Ok-fe-nok Swamp." Illustrated by Tina Highsmith Rowell, this anthology of lore and history allows the researcher and layman to get a deeper insight into the complex background of the Okefenokee Swamp and Southeast Georgia. The author informs that he has another book almost in readiness. He has titled it "On the Waycross and Southern Rail," and it relates those tales of what happened when those narrow rails carried passengers from Hebardville to Billy's and Floyd's islands in the Okefenokee.

General Manager Bell stresses that, for those who enjoy those Okefenok tales from the past, March 27 at OSP is that time when they can relive and enjoy "what was," according to local writer J. Luther Thrift.



`Wanofkee County' Author

By Robert Latimer Hurst

 Though Marshall Dell declares that fantasy is not his first preference in literature, the reader finds it hard to believe this statement after reading his "The Enchanted Okefenokee." Here is a story of a young boy's venture into the "Land of Trembling Earth," seeing what is to most unseen and experiencing that which might be akin J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit creations.

 A native of Ware County's Bickley Community, Dell, who attended Ware County schools, served in the Navy and worked for the Postal Service for 37 years. He presently lives in Folkston with his wife, Annette; they have three children and three grandchildren.

 "The Enchanted Okefenokee," in its second printing, is most popular with children eight-years-old and up, especially girls, says the author. Edited by Roberta George of the Snake Nation Press in Valdosta and illustrated by Janie Little, also of Valdosta, the book allows the reader's imagination and creative talents to flow along with the narrative.

 Okefenokee Swamp Park's General Manager Martin Bell urges the public to be present at the "I-Go-Pogo" festivities on March 27  at OSP to meet Dell and talk with him about his writings. Autographed books may also be purchased at this time, indicates Bell, adding that other authors and entertainers will also be present, along with many special events, on this day at the Park.

 A second book, titled "Nothing Is Hardly Ever Like It Seems," is predicted to be ready at the time of the "I-Go-Pogo" event. This will be a collection of short fictional stories set in Ware, Charlton and imaginary "Wanofkee County." 



Author of `Okefenokee Collection' Reveals Swamp People, Places, Critters, Scenes & Things


 By Robert Latimer Hurst

 As the Suwannee and St. Marys rivers flow serenely from their Okefenokee home, they leave in their currents history and lore. Eldean Griffin has captured these bits and pieces in his poetry about the Okefenokee Swamp in a book entitled "Okefenokee Collection: Swamp People, Places, Critters, Scenes and Things," published in 1991. And the Okefenokee Swamp Park boat guide and poet will be on hand March 27 at the "I-Go-Pogo" festivities to talk about his work.

 To capture the feelings of this place of serenity, where once the Indian roamed and wildlife thrived, takes one who knows the area. Eldean, a Brantley Countian, came from a family that settled the High Bluff section of Big Creek and Cow House Island in the 1830s, when those Native Americans found refuge before the Trail of Tears. "Some of these poems came from stories my dad, Perry Griffin, told me. He inspired this writing," tells the poet.

 "I wrote this to affirm my love for the great Okefenokee Swamp and its people who live now and have lived in the past within its boundaries. The birds, animals, and reptiles have become a part of my daily life. I hope something I've said will inspire others to help preserve and protect the natural beauty of the Okefenokee," he adds.

 He obtained his associate degree in business administration from South Georgia College after being graduated from Waycross High School and a term in the U.S. Navy.

 In 1974, Griffin joined the OSP force as a tour guide, retiring in 2003. But this retirement did not stop him from the part-time work he loves at the Swamp Park.



Former Instructor for the Gifted Designs

Teaching Unit


 By Robert Latimer Hurst

 She believed that local history and lore was something that the classroom should include; therefore Carol McLagan inserted in her lesson plans for her gifted children classes stories about early Waycross, including Tebeauville, Ruskin, Hilltop, the Wildes Massacre, Obediah Barber, time of the trolley, Hebard Cypress and even Hebardville Store. Upon retirement, "Ms. Mac," as she was fondly called, still wanted to share her love with those yet to come.

 Dr. McLagan joins the other guests scheduled for appearance at the “I-Go-Pogo” Rally at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, March 27, according to General Manager Martin Bell. She will further explain her work on these activity units that are created for all youngsters who find that local heritage is fascinating and something to which they can relate.

 Designing an activity unit on one of her favorite subjects, the Okefenokee Swamp, allows her to pass her teaching experience to children everywhere, she tells. Included in "The Swamp Park" packet are an activity book with original pictures for coloring, brain-teasing puzzles, information on the animals of the Okefenokee and a tape of three of her original songs about those animals.

 "I hope elementary-aged school children will enjoy all of these activities and songs as they learn more about our Okefenokee Swamp," she states. Her packet is currently on sale at OSP and the Heritage Center.



O'Leno and River Rise State Parks In North Central Florida Are Other Sites Witnessing The Colorful Spring Season


 As has been reported in several area newspapers, Pogo `Possum is running for national office. His official campaign gets its kick-off this Saturday (March 27) at the Okefenokee Swamp Park. He has requested a number of folks who have written about ol' Okefenok to help him get this event off the ground. Among those authors accepting his invite are Taylor Schoettle, Marshall Dell, Luther Thrift, Bill Westhead, Eldean Griffin and Robert Latimer Hurst. All have contributed to letting the public know about this enchanted wilderness and all wish to share some of their findings at this celebration of spring.  "We'uns is all gussied up for this occasion, which is now a part of Pogofest. So take this heah message to be an official invitation to come out, visit and help `Put the `Possum' in Power,'" says Pogo.

 Writing about local happenings and history and traveling are my addictions, says Robert Latimer Hurst, free-lance writer and former Ware County School System educator. And this avocation began because of his love for the power of words and journalism, which he taught at Ware County High School for over 30 years. After serving as Ware's public relations director for many years, he retired in 1994 with 40 years as an English and media instructor as well as PR director. Upon this retirement, he vowed that he would adhere to no more deadlines. But this promise to himself he could not keep.

 With the help of many former students and their families, Hurst has written three books about the local and regional scenes, as well as many stories for local papers on both historical and travel subjects. He relates that a few remaining copies from the third printing of "This Magic Wilderness: Parts I and II" can be purchased at Brantley's Printing and Office Supply on Brunel Street. "At Random in the Wilderness" will be on sale at OSP on Saturday.

 "Of course, one really special subject for featuring in the Ware County area is the Okefenokee Swamp, and I am especially happy about what General Manager Martin Bell and his staff have done, and are continually doing, at the Okefenokee Swamp Park. Uniting this work with the on-going Pogofest can be a wonderful motivation for Ware Countians and others, as well, in showing the positive side of this section. I have always believed that our heritage here is something about which we should have great pride and something that should never be lost," says the local author.

 Hurst will join other area writers at the March 27 "I-Go-Pogo" Rally at OSP during the morning hours. "I do hope many of my former students will drop by the Park to see their native soil ablaze with spring glory,  to say `hi' to their former teacher and to immerse themselves, for a short time, in their heritage." He  confesses that he no longer has a grade book.


Photo Courtesy of Taylor Schoettle


Pioneer On Okefenokee's Natural History Will Talk About His Popular Guide

 By Robert Latimer Hurst

 Taylor Schoettle, a Philadelphian whose education in zoology, physiology and biology were attained from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania, left his home state for a devotion to the Barrier Islands and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. This marine education specialist, who worked with the University of Georgia, became instrumental in promoting three environmental education centers along the coast.

 After much research and hands-on work, Schoettle produced books that he planned as comprehensive and appealing. He desired not only the student of science as a target audience but also those who were not necessarily acquainted with the scientific community's jargon. An example is his "A Naturalist's Guide to the Okefenokee Swamp," which combines illustrations, explanatory notes, suggested reading lists and even italics to get across the message. His analysis of the Okefenokee Swamp leaves the reader will no doubts about this vast marshland.

 "To meet and listen to Schoettle's comments will certainly be an education for anyone who joins those in attendance on March 27 at the Okefenokee Swamp Park," says General Manager Martin Bell. The administrator adds that it is most important that OSP be promoted as a living classroom, not only for just the scientist and academician but also for those whose interests move in other directions. "Mr. Schoettle allows the layperson an entrance into the complex ecosystem of the Okefenokee."

 "A Naturalist's Guide to the Okefenokee Swamp" investigates the ecology, geology and natural history of this watery acreage and its surrounding pinelands. Naturalist Schoettle doesn't stop here, however; he underscores what humans have caused to happen here and tells about those pioneers' hardships while settling and living in the swamp.

 Dr. Chris Trowell, another specialist on the history and nature of this "Land of the Trembling Earth," emphasizes that Schoettle's enthusiasm and knowledge appeals to make what he writes and speaks informative. Buddy Sullivan, author of "Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater," adds that the naturalist's "combination of succinctness and readability, along with drawings, diagrams and maps, gives Taylor's books clarity and approachability."

 Teaching gave Taylor great satisfaction, but he never appreciated having to give (or receive) grades. "They do not belong in education," he firmly believes, according to his website, www.okefenokee-natural-history.com. His love for animals led him into being a curator for three zoos, and in El Paso, Texas, while supervisor of that zoo, he saw the movie "Conrack," based on Pat Conroy's novel, "The River Is Wide." So impressed with Georgia's coastal scenery as portrayed in this film, he eventually moved with his family to this state.

 Manager Bell points out that on March 27 at OSP everyone will have a chance to meet this naturalist and author who has made the Okefenokee Swamp his dedication.


CHRIS TROWELL TO BE AT OSP MARCH 27 ---Chris Trowell, whose research and publications on the Okefenokee Swamp are found in naturalists' and scientists' libraries around this country, will be present at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, March 27, according to General Manager Martin Bell. Trowell, an archaeologist and former South Georgia College social science professor, has endeared himself to both students and professors alike because of his intense and scholarly studies of this vast Southeast Georgia wilderness. Shown here is Trowell discussing his work on some Indian mounds on Chesser Island with some former Ware County students.







Cartoonist Believes `Southern Hospitality' Originated Here


Credit Goes to OSP Landscaping Crew and Staff

 By Robert Latimer Hurst

 Sometimes a person takes for granted or seems much too close to those things around him or her to take full notice. I am guilty of this very thing. I remember when I was in school at Columbia University in New York that to go to the top of the Empire State Building held an exciting moment for me. An elderly lady, who was also looking down at the skyscrapers below us, turned to me and spoke, "You know, I have lived in the shadow of this building all my life, and this is the first time that I have been to the top."

 How many have taken the time to visit the Okefenokee Swamp Park? Well, springtime is a very good time. And a special thank-you should go to OSP's maintenance crew, including Mark Deal, landscaping specialist; Woody Maxwell, greenhouse manager; Ken Mullis, planting and care manager. They have, with the help of maintenance crewmembers, Bill Dawson and Paul Dowling, and the entire OSP staff, transformed the winter browns into a one more colorful scene.

 General Manager Martin Bell uses the term "team effort" when praising this group, and adds that the public can really see the results of their work on March 27 when they come out to the "Pogo-for-President" Rally, which is now gaining statewide and national attention through various press releases. Manager Bell adds that it was Dawson and Dowling who helped him establish the "Pogo Campaign Headquarters," a real feature for OSP's current season.

 Not only are these media items creating interest, but also remembrances and testimonies from previous Pogofest attendees are underscoring the fun had and Southern hospitality met by those who came from all over the country. From Charlotte, North Carolina, Marcus Hamilton, who is cartoonist for the "Dennis the Menace" strip, insists that "Southern hospitality must have originated in Waycross, GA, `cause it was on display in abundance when I arrived there on March 27 (2003)... it was indeed comforting to be greeted by the friendly members of the Pogo Fan Club. Janice Parks, a Waycross resident and former mayor and city council member, was in charge...and Steve Thompson, Pogo and Walt Kelly fan clubs president, and Marilyn White, igopogo.com webmaster, made me feel like a lifetime member."

 Ms. White, from Nampa, Idaho, exclaims that she has been present for every Pogofest event each year since 1989, missing only 1991. She remembers riding in the old Ware County fire engine that "gave up the ghost" in the parade and had to be pushed away from the parade --twice, once in 1992 and once in 1995. She also has fond memories of the Pogofest during the period when the Lithuanian Olympic team was present and when the late Nancy Campbell was involved in the festivities.

 Steve Thompson, whose attendance reaches back to 1988, missing only one year, points that he has seen all of the seasons here, admitting "the July temperatures are a bit hard on us Northern types" but quickly adding "the current spring venue is certainly the most beautiful in the Okefenokee Swamp."

 Thompson says that his interest has always been to meet "fellow Pogophiles or Pogophanatics or just plain Pogophans ... I have always found it interesting that people come from all over the U.S. (and even one from Germany, two years in a row) just to spend a couple of days in the Okefenokee Swamp. Nearly 30 years after his death, Walt Kelly's version of life in this Swamp still attracts new fans and inspires old ones, and seeing the place in reality always impresses them, and they say how much they feel as if they've actually stepped into the comic strip."

 And a "Pogophile" from Lakeland, Florida, tells how he and his family, during past Pogofests, camped in an Okefenokee campground, attended all the events and look forward to returning. "We totally enjoyed ourselves," writes James Matheny.

 Cartoonist Hamilton, a Cartoonist Walk-of-Famer, stresses the pride he feels as a participant of the Waycross, Georgia, event and is especially proud to be following the footsteps of such talents as Billy DeBeck, creator of "Barney Google," and "Uncle" Fred Lasswell, cartoonist for "Snuffy Smith," as well as Bill and Bunny Hoest ("The Lockhorns"), Bill Holbrook ("Kevin & Kell"), Patrick McDonnell ("Mutts"), Mort Walker ("Beetle Bailey"), Jeff Smith ("Bone") and, of course, the cause of this whole festivity, Walt Kelly and his "Pogo."