“Do you like our street?” asked the man blithely crossing one of those confusing, cars-going-every-direction Savannah intersections. “That’s MY house.” he added with a big grin. “Would you like to come in and see it? It is the oldest building on this street.”
My husband and I exchanged a glance, and followed the man up the steps. He was so cheerful, with a completely matter-of-fact hospitality, that it would have seemed terribly rude to decline. And that is how we met Mr. Duke Beauregard Turner of Savannah.
Here’s the house:
I’m thinking, like you do in such instances, “What if he’s an axe murderer?!” My husband’s kinda fake-y smile indicated he was thinking the same thing. We had been doing our usual Savannah sight-seeing: walking the streets, poking into the odd little shops, and yes, gawking at the quaint historic architecture. This was a particularly charming house, with a “Built in 1850” bronze plaque by the front door.
So Mr. Turner gave us a tour. He talked about the history of the house (originally built for a prominent wealthy merchant) and pointed out some of the more significant features. And it was, in fact, quite intriguing to see how folks might live in such a museum-quality environment. He was not boastful in any way, perhaps just “house-proud” as they say in the South, and with a genuine desire to share his enthusiasm that was quite infectious.
However, the biggest “wow” was not the house itself, but the antiques that furnished it. Mr. Turner and his wife have amassed some really cool treasures, if you like that kind of thing, which my husband and I do, being regular viewers of The Antiques Road Show. The thing about really old stuff is that it all has such fascinating stories attached to it…that’s what we really like.
So when he asked us if we wanted to go upstairs to see some “really unusual and interesting things”, I pushed aside my “DEFINITELY AXE MURDERER!” thoughts, smiled and said, “Sure!”.
The architecture upstairs was even more personal and charming, with some pieces like a large oval gold-leaf-framed mirror with a fierce, wings-spread eagle across the top that looked so Revolutionary War I swear it could’ve come from Betsy Ross’s place.
But the piece de resistance, the Big Kahuna if you will, was over the fireplace. It was a large, framed, torn and tattered, slightly charred, but completely colorful and intact CIVIL WAR CONFEDERATE FLAG. (!) Now I don’t know about you, but big ole Confederate flags kinda make me a little uneasy. I guess I get confused: true and important artifact, clearly on the wrong side of history, what would my New York friends say, etc.
This particular flag was the real deal and given to Mr. Turner’s family after the death of his great-grandfather on the battlefield. Approximately 2 1/2′ square, it dominated the room. Written boldly on the flag itself was a list of important battles this particular Confederate Army Company had been engaged in, such as Bull Run, Antietam, and several other very significant campaigns. Mr. Turner explained that someone from his regiment had taken special care to be sure this memorial flag got to his ancestor’s surviving family.
And that’s what it was: a memorial and a tribute to his great-grandfather’s service. It is quite moving to look at in that context, which is the privacy of Mr. Turner’s home.
As we left the company of this delightful, pleasant man in one piece (no axes, antique or otherwise) I was appreciative that Mr. Turner had certainly made our day, and while he was genuine and unfazed, I still found myself wondering:
Is it politically incorrect to display Confederate Army memorabilia??