My heart was beating faster as I approached the little town where I grew up as a young boy. I wanted to ride into town like a cowboy in a western movie. I could hardly wait to see the old antebellum homes and the quaint cottages occupied by the founding fathers. Ethylene McGarity was the owner of the old McGarity ‘plantation,’ a home with wrap-around porches and two large circular rooms, one on either end of the porches, that sat at the entrance to the little town. ‘Miz’ Ethylene, as we all addressed her, taught elementary school and was the superintendent of the local Methodist church. She had been my teacher in the third grade. In addition to her leadership and teaching skills, she was a great pianist. ‘Wait, something is wrong…………………………where is the house?’ It’s gone! The large gardens of evergreens, bushes, and flowers–all gone. And the stone benches with the massive yard that I, as a young boy, kept manicured to Ms. Ethylene’s desire…all Gone!! Later I was told the house had been disassembled and moved to another area.
Adjacent to Ms. Ethylene’s house was the town physician’s office. Dr. John Geradine’s home was where everyone from miles around came for health needs. Dr. Geradine was famous for administering ‘all-purpose capsules,’ which everyone knew were sulfur tablets. Dr. Geradine and his son, John Jr., who later became a physician, and his daughter, Josephine, who had a delightful personality, were a pillar in the community.
Across the street stood the house of Troy, Lois Allen, and their three sons. JT, Felton, and Herman. Herman had just returned from World War II, where he was in the thick of battle. Unfortunately, Herman was hit by a car and killed while walking beside the road. What a tragedy, fighting army battles all through Europe and then getting hit by a car upon his return home.
Traveling down the street, I pass the homes of Fritz and Bo Allgood and their families. Their property sat on the fringes of the town center, which was composed of three general mercantile stores, Blasingame, Barrett, and Allen. The oil mill, which had brought the small town notoriety for developing methods to extract oil and process cotton seeds, had recently burned, leaving a hole in the economy and patronage of the town. The cotton gin continued to flourish, where each Saturday, horse and mule-drawn wagons would line up for miles waiting to take their cotton inside the gin for processing into bales. As a young boy, the weekends were a sight to behold as we saw all of this activity occurring. The small bank flourished in the midst of what appeared to be a typical small southern town. Law and order were maintained by the town sheriff, “Sheriff Stargel”
It was good to see the homes of the Hutsons, Charlie and ‘Miz’ Nora. Miss Nora was the town ‘sage,’ the person everyone went to for advice on illnesses, planting flowers, or any other “how to.” Across the street were two homes where brothers John and ‘Mope’ Coker lived. Mope had made a name for himself playing armed services baseball and shared the outfield with Joe DiMaggio. The final little community store and home were owned by Charlie Guest. His small store was where the men gathered on Friday night to listen to either a baseball game or the Friday night fights. I accompanied my dad to those events. On the corner was the entrance to the local school with a gymnasium, home economics cottage, and industrial arts facilities. Due to consolidation, the high school had moved to another community, and now the school only had grades 1-8.
I turned and headed down the street toward my childhood home, first passing ‘Miz’ Lessie and Roy Mcgarity’s home, which sat across from Mrs. Bessie Mcgarity’s home. ‘Miz’ Lessie taught first grade at the school and was a no-nonsense, loving teacher. I loved Miss Lessie. Adjacent to this area stood two large antebellum homes belonging to the Blasingames and the Barretts. Several other homes were on the street as well as Johnny Everretts’ Barbershop. My home was at the end of the street, where the pavement ended, and the road was dirt. The University of Georgia, in partnership with Purina, had a large farm operated by Curtis Collier. The farm was based on research with chickens and pigs. Mr. Collier, fresh out of the army, organized a boy scout troop in conjunction with the Methodist church. The young men met every two weeks for scouting projects and many overnight excursions. Mr. Collier was an outstanding leader and mentor to those young boys.
Wait!!!! Something is wrong. My house is gone. On this large two-acre plot of land, surrounded by pecan trees where my childhood home was, stood a modern, classic new home.
Emotions flooded my mind. My home was a picturesque wooden structure with a porch and beautiful flowers my mother had nurtured. This house held memories of a lifetime where a vibrant young boy played backyard football, games of hide-and-seek, and took bike rides around town. This was where I roamed the woods in search of squirrels, took those bird dogs with my brother, and went quail hunting. This was the yard where friends could come, and we would have countless whiffle ball games, not to mention the glorious time catching ‘lighting bugs’ or playing that twilight game of ‘tag’
These memories were now all that remained. No one could imagine the depths of emotions stirred by this event.
I can never go home.