A glimpse into a closed community 

Waking Up Men is author O. Kay Jackson’s tribute to Savannah’s “Rivertown.” Jackson has been a professional writer for more than 30 years.

“In Brunswick, I worked for the Brunswick News,”she says. “I’ve worked for the Savannah Morning News on a couple of occasions.”

In addition to reporting, Jackson also has worked at public relations. “Ihave a very checkered job history,“ she says. “I pretty much have employed myself.”

Throughout her career, Jackson has won several awards, including the Golden Quill, a worldwide prize for producing an in-house newspaper for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Jackson also won the Thomas A. Stokes Award, a national award given for investigative reporting. She has won eight state awards for investigative journalism from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Associated Press.

During her newspaper career, Jackson covered the Georgia ports. She also wrote a personal column about the ports and the people who work there.

Most of her jobs have centered around the Savannah River. When Jackson was given the opportunity to work as a dispatcher for tugboats and pilots, she jumped at the chance.

“A dispatcher is kind of like an air traffic controller, only with ships,”Jackson says. “You have to keep track of every single thing that is going on the river at any given time so you can relay that to the pilot or captain.”

Or, as Jackson has written, she was “a well paid nag who got to wake up men and order them to work, which, when you think about it, is pretty much a perfect job for a woman.” “It is a 24-hour-a-day port,” Jackson says. “Ihad to wake up pilots at 3 a.m. and make sure they got to where they needed to be.”

Jackson got the opportunity to work as a dispatcher because of her newspaper work covering the ports. “It was the most interesting job Iever had,” she says. “It was the most addictive job I’ve ever had. Journalism also is addictive.”

Waking Up Men is Jackson’s second book. With her brother, Robert, she wrote a book called ODATT--Adventures in 1999. The book, which was about 12-step recovery programs, featured cartoons by Robert, while Jackson provided the text.

“It is still selling, but nothing like this,”Jackson says. “I’ve been working on this one a long time.”

A book about the local ports was needed. “I don’t personally know of another city where ships come that close and people don’t know that much about them,”Jackson says. “I think people will be fascinated and get a good understanding of life on the river. These ships go to ports around the world.”

In fact, Jackson’s book also visits other ports. She has included stories from ports in other parts of the United States and across the Atlantic.

“I’ve read a lot of books about other ports,”Jackson says. “Every one I’ve encountered was not written by a writer. They were interesting only to someone who is interested in the topic.”

If you’re looking for a dry, scholarly account of the ports, look elsewhere. Jackson’s book is intentionally engaging, and it is often humorous.

But the book also is informative, with technical information about actual operations at the ports. For those of us who never fail to stop and stare at those huge ships passing along River Street, the book is particularly valuable.

On a personal note, Jackson is divorced and has four grown children.

She also has seven grandsons and one granddaughter.

“Savannah is definitely my home,”Jackson says. “I’ve been here since 1976. My folks were here before me. My children all grew up here.”

And, yes, O. Kay is her real name. The “O” stands for Olive, a name bestowed by her father specifically so she could be called O. Kay.

“It’s a great byline,”she says. “People remember it. And there was another Olive who was always surrounded by sailors.”

Jackson always has been interested in writing. “I was writing before Ihad words,”she says. “Iwould draw stick figures and make up stories about them and charge the neighbor kids for them.”

In writing Waking Up Men, Jackson got lots of encouragement from friends, including local legend Paula Deen, cookbook author and owner of Lady & Sons. Deen recently married Michael “Iron Mike” Groover, a river pilot.

For a time, Jackson did public relations work for Deen. “The problem was that there was no energy left for my book,”she says.

“That’s the nature of being a journalist,” Jackson says. “You are interested in life and give your job everything. It got harder and harder to do.”

Finally, Deen told Jackson she needed to write her book and fulfill her dream. “I told her, ‘Give me some of your luck,’”Jackson says with a laugh.

Jackson started her own publishing company to publish the book. Jedi-Jan Publications is named for her grandchildren -- Joshua, Elliott, Devin, Ian, Jordan, Alex and Nathan. The dash represents her granddaughter, Amanda, who had not yet made her appearance when the company was named.

“Joshua and Elliott live in England, and Devin and Amanda live in Ireland,”Jackson says. “The others live here.”

Jackson is doing public appearances to promote her book, and will appear on the Coastal Sunrise program May 20 on WSAV-TV. On May 22, which is Maritime Day, from 1-4 p.m., she will be signing books at E. Shaver’s Booksellers, 326 Bull St. She will speak at the Smart Seniors Luncheon on July 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Response to the book has delighted Jackson. “People are coming back to me saying on the river, it is called The Book,”she says.

“Most of them are enthusiastic,”Jackson says. “But they are not used to having their business known on the street.”

If Waking Up Men sells well, Jackson will be writing other books. In the meantime, she is working on selling this one.

“I really do want people to like this book,”Jackson says. “My hope is that the people on the river will come to be as proud of this book as I am. This book is a celebration of what they do.”

About The Author

Linda Sickler

More by Linda Sickler


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Connect Today 10.22.2016

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