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Wholesale Observations: Another look at Macon, Ga.
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

Forsyth Avenue is a long, east-west road in Macon, that stretches from the eastern side of the old downtown, to beyond Wesleyan College’s “new campus,” several miles west. As the town has grown, over the past 50 years or so, the road has been extended and widened, with residential and commercial areas springing up along the way. A few miles west of the Wesleyan campus, Forsyth Road runs into the small community of Bolingbroke, presumably named for the English Earl of Bolingbroke, who was a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays, “The Life and Death of King Richard the Second,” the first of four history plays that chronicle the lives of several English kings.

One weekend my wife and I went to Macon for an “Alumnae weekend,” and while my wife was attending reunion festivities, I spent the day exploring the area. I wound up going west on Forsyth Road until I came into Bolingbroke, and had lunch at a delightful old country diner, “Twyla Faye’s Cafe,” a small place complete with black-and-white tile floors, red-checked table cloths, and good food.

The original owner was from England, had met and married an American stationed at a nearby base during World War II, and had moved to the U.S. with him after the war. The current owner was a local woman who had worked there for many years, and bought the place from her when Twyla Faye retired.

I then drove north across the parallel lanes of I-75 and visited two of our favorite nearby area places: High Falls State Park, and the small town of Juliette, home of the set for the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes,” and its famed “Whistlestop Café,” which I have written about in earlier columns.

Several years after that weekend, I had the opportunity to provide round-trip transportation to three international students attending Armstrong State College in Savannah, to a special Rotary- sponsored weekend in Atlanta, as the original driver had to back out at the last minute due to a sudden work conflict.

These three students were part of a larger group of maybe 65 international students attending colleges and universities across the state, on one-year full-ride scholarships provided by local Rotary Clubs. It was part of a program begun in the aftermath of WWII by a Rotarian in Thomasville, south of Macon, in an attempt to give young people from across war-torn Europe a window into America and our peoples, and build relationships with their future leaders.

Over the years, the Georgia Rotary Student Program has grown to provide such scholarships to over 5,000 students from all across the globe, and my wife and I have been a part of it over the many years we have enjoyed being Rotarians. It is a marvelous opportunity for folks on both sides of the oceans to get to know each other, learn about each others’ cultures, and build friendships, many of which have been long-lasting.

This particular weekend, I told my three students we were going to have lunch at “Twyla Faye’s Café” in Bolingbroke, on the way to their weekend event in Atlanta, and told them the story of how I found the place. They were charmed with the diner when we got there, and that’s where this story takes off.

Hannah, from Scotland, ordered the Chef Salad. Soley, from Iceland, ordered the bacon-cheeseburger, and I did the same. Hammad, a very nice young man from Pakistan, looked wistfully at the menu illustration of the hamburger, and said he would love to get it, but he “was a Muslim, and couldn’t eat ham.”

That’s when the two girls couldn’t help laughing. “Hammad, there’s no ham in hamburger!” one of them chuckled.

“Then why is it called HAMburger?” he asked, puzzled.

I smiled and explained, that was because it was originally invented in Hamburg, Germany. “OK, then, I’ll have one too!” He smiled.

When the food was delivered, of course his had two big fat strips of bacon on top; which he couldn’t eat. But Hannah was happy to take them off his plate and added them to her salad. She smiled; he grinned.

One of the funnier moments with those kids. But I was so glad to have had the chance to show them that small slice of rural America, and to get to know them better through that trip.

I am sure I gained as much from that trip as they did. Which of course was the entire point of the GRSP program. I was thankful it existed, and gave me the opportunity to learn more about these marvelous young people from all across the globe.

There is of course more to the story, but that is the main part.

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of the “Original” Savannah High School on Washington Avenue, and UGA. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at

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