SEARCHING FOR JIMMY CARTER IN PLAINS, GEORGIA
Georgia (Perfect Travel Today) 12/9/17/–I had always been fascinated about Plains, Georgia, when reading about President Carter, and when the opportunity came to visit I jumped at the chance last month to try and find out more, and if possible even spot the great man.
He has lived in Plains his whole life, and would always love the lifestyle in this tiny place of about 800 inhabitants who refer to him as ‘Mr.Jimmy.’ To get there you drive south from Macon on the main freeway and get off on route 49 and proceed through several charming small towns with quaint names like Marshallville passing through cotton farms and pecan farms before you get to the closest town called Americus, about eight miles away. You should also plan to make a stop on the way at the Andersonville Memorial. which is the site of the notorious Confederate prison during the Civil War where thousands of Union prisoners died from starvation, disease and violence.
We arrived in Plains about 7pm on a Sunday night and since it was already dark, finally stopped in the main street, where there are about six stores, one with a huge banner depicting JIMMY CARTER 1976, his old campaign headquarters. I asked myself how could a peanut farmer from a tiny hamlet like this end up becoming President. I sort of discovered that the next morning. We noticed a sign for the Plains Historic Inn, but despite ringing the bell and banging on the door nobody came. In frustration we drove back to Americus and checked in at the Quality Inn for $67 a night.
On a Sunday night in Americus there were not a lot of restaurants open but we did get directed to a Mexican restaurant called The 1800, and were pleasantly surprised by the selection and in particular the generous size of the margaritas. Next morning we headed straight for Plains and a visit to the High School which also serves as a second Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the main one of course being in Atlanta. We pretty much had the place to ourselves as we watched a 20 minute film on Carter’s life and presidency, as well as strolling through the old corridors with plenty of Carter photographs and memorabilia on display. We quickly figured out that it was old school teacher who must have inspired him to run for the highest office in the land, and to this day Carter credits her with being the catalyst that set everything in motion.
Next up was a short two mile drive to his childhood home, a working farm that is now a National Historic Monument. Again we had the place to ourselves as we tread through the heavy pecan infested walkway to the house. Carter lived at the farm from 1928 through 1941 when he left for college, and the house had been built in 1922. There was no electricity until 1938, and the Carter family sold it in 1949. The National Park Service bought the house and surrounding area (17 acres) in 1994, with the remaining 343 acres still belonging to the Downer family.
At the farm, the family grew peanuts, cotton, sugar cane and corn, and raised vegetables and livestock for their own consumption. To be frank, Carter had an almost idyllic childhood despite the family never amassing much wealth, but this is where he learned about the environment, farming, business savvy and an appreciation of civil rights, since many of his childhood friends were black.
Then we went back to the main strip in Plains where again we had the place virtually to ourselves. All the half dozen store owners are characters, none more than Phillip Kurland, owner of the Plains Trading Post. This is the South’s largest political memorabilia dealer, and has a large collection of buttons, pins, stickers, books and much more from all if not most of the presidents.
Of course the Carter stuff is impressive with many of the books signed, and Kurland also admitted that the Reagan and Trump stuff were pretty good movers at this stage with the visiting tourists. Mr.Jimmy is of course a regular visitor to the store along with his secret service entourage, and Kurland did admit that when asked about current politics, Rosalyn Carter is not quite as diplomatic as her husband.
We also get the chance to see the Historic Inn in the daytime, and the seven rooms upstairs are all themed from different era’s. Weekends need to be booked way in advance, but weekdays are pretty available at around $185 a night and the place has a great feel to it. Jimmy Carter still teaches Sunday School almost every Sunday morning at a local Baptist church, and if you want to hear him then you can purchase a ticket beforehand, or turn up in the parking lot of the small church early in the morning.
1800 Restaurant-329 W.Lamar St, Americus-229-931-0018
Plains Historic Inn-www.plainsgeorgia.com 229-824-4517
287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211