For over a century, Columbus, Georgia has been a GI town. Although the City of Columbus has grown steadily since Fort Benning was established in 1909, for many decades the fort’s military population greatly outnumbered the civilians of Columbus. The city’s strait-laced, church-going citizens tolerated soldiers on its streets, allowed a few saloons to flourish, but left the most wicked dens of iniquity to Phenix City, Alabama, its neighbor across the Chattahoochee River. During World War II, General George S. Patton famously parked a tank on the bridge leading to Phenix City to discourage GIs from contaminating themselves with the wickedness of that community.
In 1960, my first stationing at Benning, I bought a second-hand Minox camera in a pawn shop and began taking pictures more or less surreptitiously on my infrequent visits to Columbus. Coming out of a movie theater late one night, I saw a soldier accosted by a pair of cops. Safely inside my old Chevy I took a quick snap of the scene and drove away. The Minox uses 16mm film, and its negatives are the size of an adolescent’s fingernail. My image was fuzzy and grainy, but somehow compelling. Decades later I came across the negatives in a long-forgotten envelope. It remains an image that invites more questions than it answers: What happened to this soldier? What was his offense? Did the police treat him fairly? I was thereafter always extra cautious on my infrequent visits to Columbus.
© 2018 Marvin J. Wolf
FROM Marvin J. Wolf
On this page are true stories, magazine articles, excerpts from books and unpublished works, short fiction, and photographs, each offering a glimpse of my life, work and times. I'll be posting weekly. Your comments welcome. © Marvin J. Wolf. All rights reserved.