I guess you could call Island Time a coffee-table book, but only in the sense that it’s a little bit larger than most books. It is an illustrated history of St. Simons Island, GA, and its larger format allows the photographs the display they deserve. This book is a credit to the staff at the University of Georgia Press. Island Time is written by Jingle Davis, who covered the coast as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and spent most of her life on the island where she grew up. The photographs are the work of Benjamin Galland, who also grew up on St. Simons and is a partner in h2o Creative Group in Brunswick.
Their lifelong associations with St. Simons inform the book and make it more than just a history and more than just a collection of sunsets. What a happy coincidence that two people who love their homeplace also have the expertise to tell and show this story.
This is a serious narrative of St. Simons, which is a state historical treasure trove. Ms. Davis thoroughly researched the rich effluvia of human endeavor built up over time on St. Simons, and she is very much the clear-eyed reporter in telling us what she has found, beginning with the native coastal tribes through the pirates and the Spanish on to the British and General Oglethorpe. She does not mince words in her depiction of the coastal islands’ early economic dependence on the labor of African slaves and their brutal conditions of climate, terrain and management. As she brings the history forward, she continues to note the presence and the contributions of the descendants of the Gullah/Geechee culture bequeathed by those original immigrants whose labor built the infrastructure of civilization on the coast.
If you don’t know St. Simons, this book is like a visit needing no sunscreen or mosquito repellant. Every period in the island’s history is fascinating, all the way up to modern times, and Ben Galland’s camera catches it all: the ruins, the marshes, the beach and, yes, the sunsets, which we have all tried to photograph.
If you do know St. Simons, you know how, when you are there, you feel surrounded by history, and it makes you want to know more about this beautiful and mysterious place of moss and marshes and scattered, nameless ruins. You know, too, that the St. Simons you love has been erased by the influx of modern money that has torn down the charming old beach houses and replaced them with anonymous condos.
Jingle Davis has seen that, too, and she reports that turn of events, just as she chronicles how neighboring Sea Island has developed from a haven for the rich to a no-access, guarded, gated enclave for the super-rich.
So, Island Time is the readable, relevant story of Georgia’s favorite vacation spot, which lies athwart the scenes of Georgia’s beginnings. In addition to Benjamin Galland’s breathtaking pictures there are lots of maps and photographs from earlier days to help you get your bearings.
Jingle Davis and Benjamin Galland will be at Avid Bookshop, 493 Prince Ave., on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. You can meet and talk with them, and they’ll autograph your copy of Island Time, if you have one. Mark your calendar now.