Saturday, February 20, 2010

Born To Preppy: Deep South with a dash of the North mixed in...

Me and my brothers in our front yard- Georgia circa 1970's
Another picture of part of our front yard- standing near the pond

Being Preppy, and all it consists of, wasn't a lifestyle trend picked up by my family within its trendy heyday of the early to mid 1980's- it was a lifestyle we were already living. Our version of Preppy which derives from the Deep Coastal South could be summed-up as perhaps, "the interesting cousin in the wedding party." Southern Preppiness of this nature can give the Northeastern Preppy (as so well sketched out in The Official Preppy Handbook) a run for its money in the bon vivant department. We're that cousin who can still pull off loads of daytime diamonds, a bit of flouncy ruffle, blonde helmet hair and laughing too loud as we're telling a joke at the reception's bar while waiting for our fourth glass of Chardonnay to be poured. I have a couple of aunts who aptly fit this description and I'm most likely as well am on my way to being of similar, er, distinction, hmm. Gotta' watch those ruffle-flounces...
Within my family, it was my great Uncle Skeet who fit so fully into this bon vivant category. A talented painter who wasn't able to realize his full potential, he lived quite a colorful life within the enjoyment of a few good cocktails and lunching at The Oglethorpe Club, car racing along the Isle of Hope, sail boating and amateur theatrical productions being played out both on and off the stage set of Savannah, Georgia. His wife was long-enduring to say the least. As for his brother, my grandfather who was a Yale-educated bank president, well, he was the one who took some of that Northeastern Preppy pragmatism to heart thankfully for the family's fortunes such as they were. Even though it meant that our family went from their expansive historical homes downtown and out on the Isle of Hope on into more sturdy and practical brick houses in and around the Ardsley Park area, Grandaddy Wylly kept several families in good stead during many decades when the fortunes of Savannah were on an ebbing tide kinda' slide. In my book, he gets a lot of credit and kudos for that. A bit of infused Northeastern Preppy's practicality definitely aided our family both back then and now as well.
My own parents established a neat balance between the Spanish Moss draped white verandas of Southern Coastal Preppydom and the sturdiness of Federal-style-bricked Northeastern Preppyness. Their's was a relaxed and elegantly simplified rennovating-an-old-farmhouse kind of Southern-Northern lifestyle hybrid that kept us grounded yet still steeped in family culture, lore and traditions. We had many homes over the decades, but when I think of my "home" where I "grew up", the ole' modest but pretty nothern farmhouse readily comes to mind.
Early childhood for me was spent in Georgia going between Savannah and Macon with summer months spent out on Tybee Island, but by the time I was in junior high, we had moved to the north. I actually really enjoy having had the experience of both cultural arenas to grow up within: I believe that there was an important balancing going on within that for me personally as well as for both of my brothers.
And so it seems that for the current generations of my Southern Preppy family, we're a bit Southern Gothic with a dash of Northeastern Pragmatic mixed in which... is actually quite alright with me.


  1. where in the North did you live? and how long did you live there?

  2. Hey there!

    We moved to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin when I was 10 and I lived there up through my college years then my parents stayed until Dad retired and they headed back south.

    We love Whitefish Bay which is a cute Americana-ish suburb up from Milwaukee which skirts Lake Michigan- in fact the 1890's farmhouse my parents rennovated (on Lake Drive) was so near a park on the lake that I'd cross country ski over to it from the house when the snow was deep enough :)

    Good memories of my personal Northern Exposure years...

  3. I loved reading your blog! I too read the handbook and loved it!! I manage a number of "preppy" looking cottages here on Tybee Island, Ga.


  4. Hi Diane! Thanks so much, that's always so thrilling to hear that folks are enjoying this blog and I just read your blog as well about Tybee- wonderful :) You've captured the essence of such a special place so well... I'd love to follow it but am not doing Twitter- is there another way to get posting updates?

    Every once in a while I pop down to Tybee since I have relatives living on it and always hafta' swing by ole' T.S.Chu's store to see if they still have that creepy Madame Fortune Teller machine tucked away in the corner there...used to sooo freak me out as a child, lol.

    Your cottage rentals look adorable! I'll recommend them to people who don't have kith n' kin living on the island to stay with.

    Best from here on this island a bit north of ya' ;), Lachlan

  5. Y'all look adorable, but your brother's little suit in that last picture cracked me up! But who am I fooling? I was about the same age in the 70's and have a box full of similar and hilarious photos in the closet. Thanks for sharing and giving me a giggle...

  6. You're welcome Monique! I know... didn't little kids really get so dressed-up by their parents back then? It IS a riot to look through pictures like these- good memories :)

    Best, Lachlan