The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

During the summer of 1864 the insane yankee General William Tecumsch Sherman and his marauders had crossed the line into the Great State of Georgia, alarming the citizens of Atlanta. “Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s petulant, half-mad governor, grew increasingly and understandably anxious about Sherman’s advance.” (From: The Grand Design: Strategy and the U. S. Civil War,” by Donald Stoker)
The troops of Confederate General Joe Johnston were vastly outnumbered. On July 9, “Governor Brown sought another means of strengthening Johnston’s army and saving his state: he decreed what equated to a levee en masse. Brown (with a few exceptions) summoned to the colors all men in the Georgia reserve militia between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, all those fifty to fifty-five, and all free white men between seventeen and fifty who had not been subject to conscription. “Georgians,” Brown cried in his proclamation, “you must reenforce General Johnston’s army and aid in driving back the enemy, or he will drive you back to the Atlantic, burn your cities and public buildings, destroy your property, and devastate the fair fields of your noble State.” Anyone who has seen the movie, “Gone With The Wind” knows how things turned out. The South has still yet to recover. If you question this, please check out the map of the US charting the “Hardest Places to Live” in the US published recently by the venerable NY Times:(
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMedia&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1). Every chart and map I have seen in my now seventh decade shows something similar.
The USCF, according to the chart provided by President Ruth Haring (it can be found on the USCF website in an issue of Chess Life magazine, but one has to be a member to access it, so go to “Chess For All Ages,” the wonderful blog by Mark Weeks http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2013/06/2013-uscf-executive-board-election.html), the largest age group, by far, is the one comprised by children. The numbers flat line until one sees a bump around age fifty.
Governor Brown had to call upon the very young and old because those of the “prime” age group, the one advertisers covet, those of the ages eighteen to forty-five, had been decimated by death, severe wounds, or desertion by cowardice, like Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
USCF President Ruth Haring and the boys on the board find themselves in a similar situation. The adult chess players, for whatever reason, have deserted; there are none to be called upon because they are no longer members.
I have posted several links to several recent Armchair Warrior blog posts on the USCF forum. I am suprised to report the discussion has been interesting, and civil. Typical of the responses is this one by Thomas Mager:
by tmagchesspgh on Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:45 pm #282799
“When the Fischer boom went bust in the late 70’s and 80’s, there wasn’t a surge of juniors at that time to replace the players who left the game. We have a big demographic hole from that era. Today, when I go to a large Grand Prix tournament, I see lots of gray hair and tons of kids below the age of 16.”
I received an email from a reader of the AW in which he blamed me for “…constantly criticizing the USCF and offering no ideas to change the situation.” He obviously missed the part of the post, “THIS EVENT IS CHILD FRIENDLY” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/this-event-is-child-friendly/), where I wrote, “I do not have answers to these questions.” Nevertheless, his comments stung, causing me to reflect and cogitate on what I would do if, by some quirk of fate, I were installed as the Supreme “Pooh-Bah” of USCF. (Think of me as Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis, in the movie, “Armageddon.” From the Internet Movie Database – “After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120591/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_63)
The first thing I would do would be to institute a program named, “Bring ‘Em Back!” I would appoint a team to contact as many former members as possible via email, snail mail, telephone and cards and letters, and any other feasible idea offered. The former members would be welcomed back with a membership costing only as much as any new scholastic membership, at least for the first year. I would immediately institute a membership drive which would award prizes to the members who recruit the most former members. First prize would be an all expenses paid trip to St. Louis as a special guest to spectate at the US Championships. The St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center is so wonderful that just a trip there, with the chess HOF across the street would be enough in itself, I suppose, but why not go all the way?
Next I would immediately lower the cost of a membership for any Senior, those eligible to play in the US Senior, to the same as that offered little Spud. I would also offer a lifetime membership for those Seniors age 62 and up of only $300. Many would be willing to “bet on the come.” Most would not live ten years, but they would have the satisfaction of knowing they had helped USCF in time of crisis. Older players also have something invaluable to any organization, time.
The last thing I would do while hitting the ground running would be to stop publishing a monthly magazine. I would cut the magazine to a quarterly publication in order to make it a “world-class” magazine, on a par with the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess. The columns, like “The Check is in the Mail,” which has already moved, could be continued online, while the magazine would focus on noteworthy US tournaments, and have interviews with featured players. Consider the comment made by GM Levon Aronian, the #2 rated human player in the world, “I love it when the book consists of light analysis but plenty of words describing the subtle psychological details.”
http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-very-special-interview-with-levon.html
These are the things I would do immediately, with other ideas to follow.
For those who are unaware, the title of this post comes from a song by the greatest Rock & Roll band of all time, a group held in high regard by peers, The Band. Just thinking of the song makes me well-up. Listening to the song always brings tears to my eyes.
The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it’s a time I remember, oh so well,
[Chorus]
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’. they went
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,

Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me,
“Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E. Lee!”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good.
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the very best.

The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’. they went
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,

Like my father before me, I will work the land,
Like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave,
I swear by the mud below my feet,
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.

The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and all the people were singin’, they went
Na, la, na, la, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na,

The night they drove old Dixie down, and all the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’, they went
Na, la, na, la, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/90003/

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