The Year of “Betts”: “Retired But Not Shy” at Seven

[NOTE:  I launched “Retired But Not Shy” in June 2010, a couple of weeks after hanging up my whiteboard following a long career teaching History at an Atlanta prep school.  At that time, I had what I thought was a great title and a cool avatar, but only a dim idea of what I hoped to do with the blog.

The closest I could come to a “mission statement” in 2010 was the blog’s subtitle, “Doing History after Leaving the Classroom.” This seemed clear enough on the general subject of my musings, yet sufficiently vague to give me room to maneuver as I looked for “blog-worthy” historical topics.  And so, I sailed into the blogosphere, eager but without a clue what lay ahead.]

* * * * *

Over its first twelve months “Retired But Not Shy” attracted a total of 657 hits.  Not that I had known what to expect, but the number seemed underwhelming, even to me. Still, I figured that a newly-created blog was bound to require time to grow.  Moreover, I was  having a great time, regardless of the size of my audience, so I plunged onward into year two. In an effort to, um, “drive traffic” to the site, I linked it to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.  I even created a “subscription list” of friends who’d indicated they were at least willing to read the blog; small at first, the number of names on this group e-mail gradually increased.  I regularly notified my “subscribers” that I’d put up a new post and a little bit about the topic; embedded a link; and reminded them that “comments are welcomed.”

The number of visitors to “Retired But Not Shy” has grown steadily over the past seven years, from less than 700 in year one to more than 4000 in year seven.  Does this growth mean that my blog now is “wildly popular”?  Not hardly, but at least it has developed a loyal following.  So, thanks to all who’ve found your way here since June 2010.  I hope you’ll continue to stop by!

* * * * *

I began this blog hoping to put up a monthly post of around 2000 words.  As I got into the habit of posting regularly, and continued to enjoy doing so, my only question was, “what will I write about next”?  The answer, as it turned out, was: “as many interesting, history-related topics as I can find!”  Within a few years, I built up a sizeable backlog of essays, and I was able to begin posting twice a month, a pace I’ve maintained ever since.

By the end of year seven, I’d published 142 posts, so many that I’d begun to worry about the ease with which a visitor could find items of interest on the site.  A viewer could  check the blog’s “archives,” but that involved either going through month by month or using the  “categories” function, a crude sort of index, that I doubted many visitors even noticed.

Consequently, in yet another attempt to guide visitors to posts of interest, I added this year, at the top of the homepage, a series of topical “pages.”  Currently there are eight of them: Blues Stories; Dead Georgians; Historical Reflections; Interdisciplinary Work; Prep School; Teaching History; The South/Civil Rights; and The Vietnam Era.  Clicking on any of these topics brings up a “page” listing all posts in that category, with each title linked to the specific post in the archives.

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“A Citizen of Georgia”?

Another significant feature at “Retired But Not Shy” over the past two years has been the return of  “long form” posts.  An eight-part “historical problem” from post-Revolutionary Georgia history, “Who Was ‘A Citizen’? (Georgia, 1783-1788),” began mid-way through year six and finished in August 2016.  This year’s series, “Betts: A Mother’s Memoir, 1923-1964,” is based on the writings of my late mother; four parts were published in year seven, with the rest scheduled to appear early in year eight.

Betts in 1942

Viewers’ reactions to these two series have been quite different.  The “historical problem” didn’t receive many “hits,” but that was fine with me.  I had developed the “problem” to revisit a conundrum I’d tried unsuccessfully to resolve during my dissertation research more than forty years ago, the identity of a pamphleteer who signed himself “A Citizen.”  And, despite the apparent lack of interest from my readers, the exercise allowed me finally to “solve” the problem, or at least get closer to a solution than I’d been able to do as a grad student.  (For the introduction to the “Historical Problem,” go here.)

The “Betts” series, on the other hand, which takes my mother and her families from 1923 to 1964, has been warmly received.  I had long promised Mom that I would “do something” with her memoir once I retired, but that assurance took longer than I’d expected to fulfill, so long that she didn’t live to see it.  Still, Betts’ story obviously resonated with many of you out there in the blogosphere, and I appreciate your visits and your comments.  (If you need to catch up in “Betts: A Mother’s Memoir,” here’s a link to part one.)

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Perhaps the most surprising thing revealed by the statistics furnishes on activity at “Retired But Not Shy” is the continuing appeal of several very early posts.  To give some idea, let’s look at two “top ten” lists, the first for year seven, the second for years one through seven:

Year Seven (June 2016-May 2017)

  1. Teaching Prep School with a Ph.D., I
  2. Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
  3. Bobby “Blue” Bland
  4. Teaching History Backwards
  5. The Chitlin’ Circuit
  6. Son House
  7. John Lee Hooker
  8. Life—and Death—on a Cherokee Plantation
  9. Betts, II
  10. Georgia Governor George R. Gilmer

Cumulative (June 2010-May 2017)

  1. Teaching Prep School with a Ph.D., I
  2. Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
  3. Teaching History Backwards
  4. Son House
  5. Mississippi John Hurt
  6. The Chitlin’ Circuit
  7. Muddy Waters
  8. Georgia Governor George R. Gilmer
  9. Bobby “Blue” Bland
  10. High School, Now—and Then: Reflections on a Fiftieth Reunion

Notice how many of the “pages” (or topical indexes) are represented in both lists—Blues Stories; Georgia History (those “Dead Georgians”); Historical Reflections; Prep School; and Teaching History.

If you know anything about the Blues, you’ll also recognize that lots of Blues fans have found their way to “Retired But Not Shy”:  four of the top ten posts from this past year, as well as half the posts on the cumulative list. This continuing interest in the Blues posts still surprises me, though after seven years you’d think I’d be used to it.  Thank you, Blues aficionados!

The most popular post on each list, “Teaching Prep School with a Ph.D.: Is It for You?,” has been “the little engine that could” for this blog. Its appeal has been so strong that I eventually added three posts on other aspects of the same topic (go here, here, and here).

As a Georgia historian, I had expected those of like mind to visit regularly, and they have. The “Dead Georgians” posts consulted most often concern the state’s treatment of the Creek and Cherokee Indian nations in the 1820s and 1830s as Georgia worked with grim determination to move the Native American tribes out.  This helps explain the enduring popularity of posts on two Georgia governors during the era of Cherokee Removal, Wilson Lumpkin and Governor George R. Gilmer; as does, I continue to believe, the research topics meted out by Georgia history teachers in secondary schools and colleges throughout the state.

One item on the year seven top ten list and one on the cumulative list can be found on the “Historical Reflections” page:  Part II of the “Betts” series; and “High School Now—and Then,” which I wrote after attending my 50th high school reunion, pondering both similarities and differences in the quality of the education offered by my public high school in Delaware in the early 1960s and by the prep school in Atlanta where I taught from 1973 through 2010.

Finally, from the “Teaching History” page, “Teaching History Backwards” describes a different approach to my History of the Modern American Civil Rights Movement course and how that turned out.  The title admittedly suggests that the post is a broader treatment of the topic than it actually is, but even a visitor disappointed by my approach can still pick up at least a few tips.

* * * * * *

For  those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to several books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)





About georgelamplugh

I retired in 2010 after nearly four decades of teaching History at the "prep school" level with a PhD. My new "job" was to finish the book manuscript I'd been working on, in summers only, since 1996. As things turned out, not only did I complete that book, but I also put together a collection of my essays--published and unpublished--on Georgia history. Both volumes were published in the summer of 2015. I continue to work on other writing projects, including a collection of essays on the Blues and, of course, my blog.
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4 Responses to The Year of “Betts”: “Retired But Not Shy” at Seven

  1. Lasley Gober says:

    Love the topical headings, creating the ease of going back. Frankly, I love the thought of “Historical Problems”! What isn’t problematic about History? What you’ve done is to promote learning for life and a life of learning. Cheers…and Happy Fourth of July!

  2. Glen Browder says:

    A good step forward for you and readers. I’ve read all your Betts chapters; and I’m waiting for the next one (which I assume will be the final post).

  3. Thanks for the comment, Glen; I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. The next installment should be the final one, but I’m thinking about adding one more part beyond that one, dealing with Betts’ views on family, history, and family history, as taken from her letters. We’ll see. . . .

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