Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Iced oatmeal, brand-X vanilla crème sandwich, and very small, very round, very hard sugar cookies-this fare along with gallons and gallons of Kroger lemonade set the stage for a celebration at Greater Atlanta Christian each December of my last ten years.

At the yearly Festival of Cheap Cookies, entertainment consisted of a video primarily written, produced, and directed by Balloon Calves Productions featuring timeless characters like The Finch, Spartan Boy, GAC Man, and the Men’s Drill Team. Along with actions films, dramas occasionally emblazoned the festival screen. Dramas like the David and Angie Fann wedding drama.

Matt Elliott, Mr. Balloon Calves himself, part chaplain and part comic, extraordinary at both, launched the careers of a diversity of dancers and actors including Christopher Dowdy, Aaron Paul, Jared Thomas, Wade Roberts, Jimmy Chupp, Dana Davis, David Fincher, and Donna Strickland.

In between exams, for a short forty minutes, the GAC senior high gathered for bad cookies, weak lemonade, and riotous laughter.

Other traditions at GAC exuded more dignity, but the Festival of Cheap Cookies possessed a certain store-bought baked goods charm that I am missing right now.

Actually I miss a great deal about GAC. Not because there is anything wrong with Memphis Harding Academy, but because I feel like I never really got to say good-bye to my friends and to the students I love so much.

The other day I was in an assembly at church or school singing a song Matt taught us our first year at GAC. I felt myself a little short of breath. Not the short of breath one experiences from exercise, but more like the what I think folks may experience in a panic attack.

One moment I was in GAC chapel singing “Day by Day” while Chris, Afro and all, sang with the freshman a few rows back. A fifth grader, Trevor, just yards away, was singing praises too while wading through Alpha-psi-whatever and collecting pogs.

In dream-like time ten years passed. Now Chris, 24, and Trevor, turning 21, make their life music miles away and I too have left GAC.

The years in that moment enrich my life with memories of teaching politics, history, and high school psychology in a double wide trailer with Dr. Alan Henderson in the room next door leading minds to ponder Jeus and world religions.

Recollections of praise songs, debate trips, Rock for___ Concerts, presidential elections, Dana Davis Eagle conferences, faculty singing, construction projects, trips to the Czech Republic, senior trips to Orlando, valedictory speeches, and graduation ceremonies rush through my consciousness.

I cry when I remember saying goodbye to Doc Love.
I cry when I remember the class of ’99 and the loss of Melissa Davis.

I sense the sweetness of victories and the sting of disappointments and failures that dot the landscape of those years.

I embrace the precious moments in which I worked at GAC alongside my sister Kim and her husband Ted with all of our children here together. Sometimes my mom, JoJo answered the phones and we enjoyed what I think are God greatest blessings-family, community, meaningful work, and spiritual passion.

In those days, I would have worked at GAC for free. Every day was a delight.

I see Atlanta from Stone Mountain and relive the senior class devotional we shared the same week Lincoln Hamilton was baptized. I can almost feel the cold water in the Gulf of Mexico, a lake in Covington, Georgia, and a swimming pool in Birmingham, as I recall the baptisms of dozens of GAC students.

I hear Trevor telling me, "The guys in 8th grade guys are really happy I am going out for spring football. Mom, they are as excited as when I was baptized."

I count ways Matt Elliott, Clif Jones, Brad Kinser, Uncle Ted Thames and others inspired, loved, and encouraged my boys, but time constrains me.

My friends' faces appear in frames. I imagine them animated like the HP printer ads and wish they were here with me.

I recount the gifts from the faculty Christmas luncheons, although admit I still startle when the little reading lamp from last year starts to open.

I take some pleasure that in all that transpired, I escaped without ever receiving a gift from Brad Kinser and Thom Jacquet at Christmas.

I thank God for grace shown to me by this dynamic community of believers, full of lovers of God and doers of his Word.
I cherish the committment to quality education in a Christian environment.

I smile when I think of Matt Elliott and Balloon Calves Production moving to Buford, going from 0 to 3 in a few short years. But what a legacy, Matt--The Festival of Cheap Cookies.

So, today, in honor of a grand tradition, I eat iced oatmeals here in Memphis as I run off my final exams and raise a plastic cup of weak lemonade to my friends at GAC.


Dana M. said...

What a precious memory, Bev. Thanks for sharing that charming collection of moments with us.

I forgot to tell you all the last time you were in town, I'm doing Tuesday chapel for the Elementary school now. Coach Davis is still unable to return because of his health. (I'm sorry I don't know more to fill you in with).

While the reason for my need to fill in is sad, I am grateful for the opportunity. I hope I am doing it justice.

We love you, guys! Have a great Christmas.

Matt Elliott said...

Ah, such a great post. Brought back a lot of great memories for me, too.

Do you know the story on how the festival evolved? In 1995, Jimmy Chupp & I just wanted to sort of have "recess" during exam week during one of those chapel times. We thought it would be great to provide refreshments, so we approached the then-manager of the school cafeteria. She was going to charge us $2 per cookie! Instead, I went to the grocery store and bought enough cheap cookies (the butter cookies with the hole in the middle are my favorite!) and bought enough snacks and bad store-brand jugs of koolaid for the whole high school for a little over $50!! :-)

You may also remember that we added a Christmas karaoke feature to the proceedings for a few years there. It was so bad that it was good.

We miss you, too, Bev.

Anonymous said...

Bev, we miss you, too!!!

As a matter of fact, the Festival of Cheap Cookies is only minutes away as the kids finish their first Friday final...

God bless you & Merry Christmas!
(Immanuel has come!)

jrunkel said...

I share your void this year as I sit at home while the Festival continues without me. We miss you terribly at school and I miss you as a wonderful friend. I will always cherish your candidness and intellect, but I will forever miss the way you make me laugh. You are a true friend and I love you.


Agent B said...

Hi Bev,

Will you tell me where your son Chris (an Lauren!) is these days? I knew him in Abilene...and I assume they've moved.


cristheo0247 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anne-Geri' said...

First of all, thanks. You know better than anyone what that blog might have meant for me.

Second, I can tell you how to get these weirdos off your blog comments who try and use your space as their own personal commercial.

Man, I love you.

Anonymous said...

If GAC keeps losing priceless people like Bev Dowdy and Matt Elliot, will teachers in 25 years have such fond memories of their time there?

I cherished my time on that little (now monstrous, extravagant) Norcross campus. Thank you for flooding my own mind with memories, Bev.

Jacinda said...

I know you wrote this post a long time ago, but I just now ran across it. I attended GAC for 13 years and my dad still works there. While I don't have any memories of the "Festival of Cheap Cookies," alot of the names you mentioned are familiar to me. It is a good place!

Agent B said...

Never mind my previous comment. I found Chris here in the fair mother city. Thanks.

Nita said...

Poignant memories, Ms. Dowdy!!! I love it!