Does your little Jimmy Oglethorpe know how to say “Please” and “Thank you”—and “No, ma’am, that’s not a Regency home; that’s Federal style?”Can your modern Julie Gordon Low shuck her own oysters, change a flat tire and fend off an online predator?As concerned parents and invested locals, we have a new generation to raise—and a rich traditional culture to uphold. How do we balance the two? We asked Savannah parents and educators for their expert opinions.
Dr. Katy Moretz is a pediatric neurologist who takes pride in the fact she was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital and has lived in the Coastal Empire ever since. Raised on Tybee Island, she feels blessed to stay in Savannah with her husband, Dr. William Moretz III, and relive her coastal childhood through their two children: Henry, 7, and Emily, 4.
A Coastal Childhood: “When I went to college at the University of Georgia, everyone was so jealous of me for being from Savannah. My parents, Jim and Kathy McNaughton, still live on Tybee, and all my friends would beg to come home with me on the weekends. I never realized how lucky I was to grow up here until then.”
Special Skills: “Teach your children how to fish and enjoy seafood. My kids will eat shrimp—Lowcountry boils are essential. They love crabbing, and one day I might show them how to tear open a boiled crab the way Wink taught Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Also, I’ll teach them to throw a cast net, which I believe is something all Savannahians should learn.”
Teaching Values: “Good manners are vital, but Savannah’s children also need to learn to deal with heat and bugs! They need to appreciate nature and to be well-rounded socially so they can be tolerant and accepting of all people.”
Take the Kids: “My favorite event of the year is the Fourth of July fireworks at Tybee—there is nothing like lying on the beach and looking up at a sky full of lights. I think kids should visit Fort Pulaski, the Children’s Museum and the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. And one of the greatest experiences for children is to take a boat to dinner—I love boating to Bonna Bella with the kids in the summer.”
Culture Under Fire: “Country clubs and clubs in general seem to be popular around here. We’re members of the Wilmington Island Club. All of the clubs are so much more progressive than they used to be. People are becoming more tolerant of each other and more effort is put forth to bring people together. It’s a slow process because some traditions are so strong that it’s hard to change people’s beliefs. Churches are still pretty separated and we need to work on that as a community.”
Role Models: “Paula Deen. She’s is such a great example of a Southern woman. She’s come such a long way in her life to build her success. I’m secretly trying to set up my daughter with Jack Deen in an effort to become part of the Deen family!”
Cindy Edwards is the author of the etiquette-inspired blog “Southern Proper” and the mother of two grown Savannahians: Joe, 22, and Jack, 19. A native Georgian, she has spent the past 23 years in the Hostess City with her husband and college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III. She volunteers with the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival, March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah.
Teaching Values: “The most important thing we can do for our children—other than love them and give them a stable home—is to teach them the Golden Rule. I also think people have higher expectations of (Savannahians). They expect us to have manners because we are from Savannah.”
Special Skills: “Children should know how to introduce themselves to other people. It puts everyone in the room at ease and it gives the child confidence to go out into the world. I made sure my boys knew how to reach out and properly introduce themselves, looking people in the eye when shaking hands. Small children aren’t comfortable with that, but my sons got in the habit. Eye contact is so important for children.”
A Coastal Childhood: “The biggest blessing has been spending our summers on Tybee. We were fortunate one year and got to see the turtles migrate from their nests and make their way out to the sea. Who gets to see something so amazing in their lifetime?”
Only in Savannah: “Every local child should get the chance to go to an oyster roast and shuck (his or her) own oysters. I also made sure my boys toured the Historic District and learned to appreciate and understand the history of our city. Children should know about the architect William Jay and his contribution to designing some of the most fabulous buildings in Savannah. To me, learning the history of our city is the most important experience.”
Culture Under Fire: “Research shows children nowadays just aren’t communicating the way they should. We need to make sure they learn to step away from the cell phones and video games and to enjoy their surroundings. They need to know it’s a gift to stop and enjoy the world and the people around them. My sons liked to play video games, but one day I had my son put away his game and walk with me to the beach to explore. When we got home, he hugged me and said it was one of the best days he ever had.”
Role Models: “I would like for my sons to emulate their father by being the kind of man who cares for people and the community. He works morning, noon and night for others, and I’m not just talking about his work at the hospital. I want my sons to always help people when they can and to always give more than they take.”
A VERY BUSY DAD
Tony Jordan has helped raise more than 1,000 Savannahians—including two of his own: Tony, 10, and Daniel, 5. Originally from Washington, D.C., Tony married into a local family and has immersed himself in the city for almost 20 years. After working with troubled youth through the juvenile detention service, Tony collaborated with his wife, DaVena, to found the award-winning arts and technology program AWOL (All Walks of Life), which aims to inspire and empower at-risk youth.
Special Skills: “I’m from the city—I’m not a hunter or a fisherman or a fixer-upper kind of guy. My father-in-law, ‘Papa,’ God rest his soul, was from here and he was that kind of man. One day something was broken in the house and I heard my son say, ‘Do you want me to call Papa?’ We laughed, but I also learned to make sure I had our elders show the boys—and me—how to fix things.
“My mother-in-law knows all about shrimp and she teaches my boys how to cook and peel shrimp. By having our elders teach the boys how to do things that are natural to this area, we give them a chance to learn about this unique environment and to pay homage to their elders who are from here.”
Teaching Values: “One of the most important things is faith in God. Every night I pray with my sons before they go to bed. Prayer gives them a time to reflect on others in this city and to care about them so they can build stronger bonds with their neighbors. I regard the value of faith in terms of planting seeds—it gives my sons something to believe in during hard times.
“Also, in AWOL, we teach the kids that they have the power to change their environment. We teach the same lesson at home with our boys.”
A Coastal Childhood: “We have a large, diverse group of people here in Savannah. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough interaction between races, but we have the power to make those changes. I try to expose my boys to as much diversity as possible, so when they grow up they are comfortable in almost any situation with any group of people.”
Culture Under Fire: “Poverty is huge here, and Savannah will have a hard time moving forward economically if we don’t teach our children to move forward and to interact with each other in a positive light. We need to raise them to be well-rounded and progressive thinkers—fair-minded people who are willing to come out of their comfort zone and interact with each other.”
Role Models: “Oh, that’s easy. First, Pastor Ricky Temple from Overcoming By Faith Ministries. Second, Ron Thompson who owns the Inn at Ellis Square.
“Next would be Murray Wilson from TPS Consulting. He has shown me that giving your time is more valuable than giving money.
“And finally, Sidney J. Johnson; he’s 87 years old and he has been giving me great advice over the years. He always says, ‘Know the mix, but don’t get in the mix.’ All of these men have been mentors to me and they are the kind of men I want my sons to be like.”