GRANDMOTHER

My paternal grandmother’s checkered past left her widowed, the owner of a large house in a lovely Atlanta neighborhood close to downtown and a millionaire.  This was in 1952 when a million dollars was a big money.  Completely in character, Aunt Stanny, as she liked her grandchildren to call her since she never intended to grow old enough to actually be a grandmother, set about shedding that million dollars and having as much fun as she could.

The name Stanny was a bastardized version of Stananopoulis, a Greek name taken when she married a man named Jack, who we children called Papa Jack.  Jack is how she came to be a millionaire with the big house in Atlanta.  How she came to marry Jack is another tale.

So Aunt Stanny booked herself on the Dollar Cruise line and set off on her first voyage around the world.

The Dollar Cruise line was so named for two reasons.  The owner’s name was Robert Dollar, a Scottish Lumberjack in Canada who made good barging lumber to the U.S. and then expanded to own a substantial number of freight ships.  Robert Dollar was a shrewd Scotsman.  He refitted the upper decks on his larger cargo ships and launched his cruise company.

The second reason for the name was the way it worked.  When you booked a cruise on the Dollar line you paid $3500 and selected a date and a direction, east or west.  You boarded one of the cargo ships and settled into one of the few staterooms in the upper decks.  Stanny picked east and spent about two weeks heading toward Cork, Ireland.  She played cards and swapped lies with other travelers in the cramped lush quarters.

She exited the boat in Cork and spent two months in Ireland, Scotland and England.  When she was ready to continue eastward, she visited an agent of the Dollar Cruise Line, picked a sailing port and date and paid them one dollar for processing.  She then sailed to the next port, spent as much time as she liked in the new country then paid another one dollar and moved ever eastward until, nine months later, she exited her last ship in San Francisco.

She returned to Atlanta via first class accommodations by rail and was met at the station by my father, the only one of her children residing close enough to Atlanta.  She did not care for her children calling her mother.  Instead they called her by her first name, Margaret.

The souvenirs acquired in her leisurely circling of the globe were never with her when she came home.  They were packed in crates stuffed with paper, straw and wood shavings.  Sometime in the month after her return, the crates were delivered and placed on the screened front porch until as much of her family could be gathered where we sat in the large living room on the thickly sculptured blue rug listening to her tell of her adventures and looking at photos and then finally being rewarded for our presence by being handed a gift from a mysterious land Aunt Stanny had selected just for each of us.