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Column: Some landmarks come and go, but their memories last a lifetime
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I was born at what used to be Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta. It later became Atlanta Medical Center and, in a few weeks, will become an empty building.

Someone asked me which sign I was born under. It was a lighted one that said “EXIT.”

A doctor named Thomas Harris saved both my life and my mama’s life. I was named for him. I’m glad he was named Harris. He could have been like the skipper on “Gilligan’s Island,” whose name was Jonas Gumby.

I would have hated to be called Gumby. I’ve been called Pokey a few times. You must know old cartoons to appreciate that.

I haven’t been in that hospital in years. I don’t guess I’ll ever go again.

I’m not really sad about it, but there is something odd about losing the place you were born. Sometimes when I was driving in Atlanta, I would pass the old Georgia Baptist and remark, “That’s where I was born.”

Now I’ll just be able to say, “I was born in a building that used to stand right there.” I hope that I never see that spot on the news as a place where someone was shot, robbed, attacked or carjacked. I know several places in the city that are like that.

The house we lived in when I was born has been torn down. It’s a part of town you enter with caution. The place where I had my tonsils removed, the old Ponce de Leon Infirmary, later became an abortion clinic. Some politician once made a comparison between having your tonsils removed and getting an abortion. I’m glad I didn’t find out.

There are a lot of buildings in our lives that sometimes go away forever. Schools, churches, great restaurants and others. I remember looking for an old place one time and drove up and found it had been razed.

Some hospitals are flourishing while others, particularly those in tiny towns, are closing their doors at a steady clip. I think that’s really sad.

The late President Lyndon Johnson wanted his hometown of Johnson City, Texas, to have a hospital and he managed to get federal funds to build one. It didn’t last too long. Interestingly enough, it is now a visitor center and museum for the Lyndon Johnson Historic Site.

Sadly, one of the recommended emergency rooms for people in Johnson City is in San Antonio, an hour away.

Old buildings and other landmarks will come and go. That’s just part of life. I don’t remember anything about Georgia Baptist Hospital, I was just born there. I am grateful for the late Dr. Harris, who did whatever was necessary to save me and Mama.

I saw him one time when I went somewhere with mama and she introduced me. I was too young to understand what an important role he played in my tiny newborn life.

Farewell, Atlanta Medical Center formerly known as Georgia Baptist. I know there have been many people whose lives have been spared because of your skilled doctors. I wasn’t the first, but in the next few weeks, somebody may well be the last.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.