ANYONE approaching the island from the river is greeted by thousands of Spanish moss-draped ancient oak trees competing for space with the palmettos and magnolia trees. After the blinding light and heat of the coastal plain, it's like waking up in another world. The circular turret of the imposing Club House, lit so that its cream brick glows against the dusk, is topped by a slip of a flag that ripples in the wind. Behind it, a picturesque windmill water tower rises before the dense pine forest. My eyes sweep over the dark brown shades of the monstrous old live oaks and their silvery curtains of moss. In the background I see some of the islands seasonal mansions, referred to as "cottages" by their owners, and their perfect dark green velvet lawns. Colored men searching for oysters stand waist-high in the river as we draw near the dock. I even see two brilliant cardinals flying overhead!
We've arrived at this magical little island they call Jekyl - a most delightful spot, with a diversified beauty of trees and beaches. It is quite unlike any other place I've seen; a tiny paradise, I should think.
A fairy scene opens out in wide prospect beyond. The foreground, south, west and north is one mass of verdure wall, dotted with semi-tropical plants and flowers. On the Atlantic side, the island is blessed with miles of wide, gently sloping white beaches. The grey-blue Atlantic Ocean glitters under the high sun, as if sprinkled with diamond dust. The very hard packed sand invites the islanders to bicycle and ride horses and drive automobiles over them.
I think about departing New York in the snow and awakening this morning to a mockingbird's trill and warm gentle sea breezes rustling the curtains. It doesn't seem possible, yet only two days ago we were putting locks on trunks and rushing off to the train station. I must say it was the most impressive starting away I ever took part in: servants waiting around to say good-bye, bags galore, golf bags, jewel cases, a French maid traveling with us, and Edytha's guitar. Adding to the excitement, that day was Mr. and Mrs. Macy's twenty-first wedding anniversary, and there were flowers everywhere.
When we finally reached the station, we went downstairs into Mr. Edwin Gould's private train car, appropriately named "Dixie." The wood and carpets were very much like a Pullman. At one end is the observation platform; next comes the sitting room with leather-covered easy chairs, a bedroom - a regular compartment where the French maid Claudine and I sleep, and then Mrs. Macy's room with double bed, dresser, and closet. She and Edytha sleep there. In the dining room, a bed lets down at night for Mr.Gould. Beyond the dining room are the pantry and kitchen where the steward and a woman cook prepared a delicious luncheon for us. Every inch of room is utilized, but nothing is crowded. It's delightful to wander about anywhere and have so few people around.
The people we traveled with were charming and attentive. Mr. Edwin Gould is a very gentle, kindly, considerate man of middle age-quite pleasant indeed. Mrs. Slate, a friend of Mrs. Macy, is attractive, clever and sweet. Mr. Burr joined us in Washington, D.C. He seemed vigorous, capable and energetic. He also appeared to be a bit flirtatious, which was a waste of time since he is married and middle-aged.
In Washington D.C. a car was taken off the train, turned round on a turn table by a donkey engine, and bunted onto the train again by a switch engine. That put the observation platform in the rear of the train. It was great fun to sit there and watch the process. And since we traveled along the Atlantic coastline, we could actually hear the ocean part of the way.
By the time we reached Raleigh, North Carolina, I felt the warm moist climate and wanted to hop off the train and rub it all over me. The live oaks were beautiful from there on, with festoons of moss hanging from the branches. In Savannah, I ran off the train to touch a palm tree to see if it were real. My feeling of laziness must have affected the train, since we arrived two hours late at our destination, Brunswick, Georgia. The little villages we passed had funny little run-down houses and some very broken-down buggies and teams. We passed a school where lots of little Negro children, dressed in bright colors, were pouring out the door. They made country schools with white children look tame and washed out.
We arrived at a perfectly elegant railroad station in Brunswick. With its slate roof and six gables it appeared very Victorian in the gingerbread style. The red-brown columns and three chimneys complemented it well.
The steamboat taking us to Jekyl Island wasn't ready so we motored about to see the sights of Brunswick. I immediately became fascinated with the manners of the southerners. The young man driving the car replied "Ma'am?" each time he didn't understand something we said. The only other passenger on the little boat headed for Jekyl was Mr. Theodore Vail, the president of AT&T. He seemed friendly enough so I engaged him in conversation and we passed the time quite nicely.
We were met at the sturdy little dock by the very handsome and gracious Superintendent, Mr. Ernest Grob. His long narrow face looked sculpted, and he was dressed in a fitted V-neck sweater over his striped shirt. Mr. Grob escorted us to our apartment house called the Sans Souci, meaning "without care" in French. The sun was leisurely setting over the water as we pulled up to the wharf.
All the roads here are topped with crushed oyster shells, including the circular drive leading up to the Sans Souci. Everything looks fresh and clean. Our apartment has a large drawing room, Mrs. Macy's room, Mrs. Slade's room and one that Edytha and I share. All are large and lovely.
What splendid isolation! No one is allowed to land on Jekyl Island without a pass, so besides the employees, of which there are many, the only people one meets here are bright lights in the social world or noted millionaires. This is a life quite different from anything I've ever seen, and I'm certainly not opposed to trying it out.
Copyright 1999-2008, Pamela Bauer Mueller/Piñata Publishing, All Rights Reserved.