February, 2011


Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.

“Donnie.”

“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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Photo of Roy Hutchens - Courtesy of Tucker Historical Society, Inc.

“You need to go to that meeting tonight, Diane,” said Mama. “Roy Hutchens is an extremely knowledgeable person on Tucker, and he is getting on up there in years. You don’t get a chance to hear him very often.”

“I am. I’m going tonight. He’s speaking on Main Street at a restaurant near Fountain’s Drugs – after hours.”

“Alright! Now come by the house when it’s over, and let me know what all he had to say,” said Mama.

“Why don’t you go with me, Mama? You’ll know the people there, and I don’t.”
“Because I just don’t feel like it. My knees are bothering me, and I’ve already got my gown on. You go on, and no matter how late it is, come by the house. I want to hear everything he says.”

So here I sat, in a room of strangers, though a few of them looked familiar. Trish England seemed to be in charge. I reminded her that she etched a sketch of my son, James, when he was about three years old. Cookies and sodas was served, and soon everyone settled down for the special guest speaker, Roy Hutchens.

Trish introduced him. “We are extremely proud to have a distinguished authority on Tucker, with us tonight. Our guest has been a reporter, writer, and editor, a successful career – all started out on a typewriter he bought for ninety-eight cents. Most Tuckerites know him from his column posted in the Eagle, Tucker Federal’s newsletter. His column ran for over twenty-six years. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure – and the pleasure of the Tucker Historical Society – to present, Mr. Roy Hutchens.”

A small and somewhat frail, elderly man hesitantly took the floor. He was dressed in a casual tweed suit, which was topped off with a snappy bow-tie. He seemed very unassuming and shrugged off the grand introduction. “Well, I do know history – concerning the Tucker area. I also know Lilburn history. I’m afraid you are going to get more than you asked for, because I do not know how to separate the two. You cannot have one without the other, so please bear with me. And if I go on too long, Miss England, please just raise your hand and I’ll wrap it up. There is really no end to it all, and I don’t want to tire y’all out too much tonight.”

“Mr. Hutchens, we want you to talk all night if you can. We want to hear whatever you have to say!”

Everyone was in agreement and supported Trish England’s statement. Mr. Hutchens placed his hands behind his back and assumed a speaking posture. He spoke, and held a captive audience. I cannot recall all he said, but I do remember a story about genealogy. I will paraphrase him to the best of my ability.

“You must know your genealogy,” he stated. “It is imperative! If you do not know who you were, you will not know who you are! I’ll give you an example. But first, let me tell you a little bit about DeKalb County – the county where we find Tucker, Georgia. The first known reports about DeKalb County, stated the area was covered densely with trees. Trees so big they covered the sky, which sometimes made it  hard to tell the time of day. The ground was covered in thick pinestraw. When the pioneers began to clear the land, they found the pinestraw lay thick – so thick – it went all the way up to a man’s shoulders.

Back in the Indian and early settler days, maybe back in about 1823, the DeKalb County border went all the way up to the Chattahoochee River – up where now Holcombe Bridge Road crosses over the river into Roswell. The Chattahoochee divided the nations – so to speak. The Native American side of the river was what is now known as Roswell. The early settlers encouraged by James Monroe, were on the opposite side of the river. That’s where they were supposed to stay. But, I’ll tell you what happened. I’m not saying it was right. I’m not saying it was wrong. I’m saying that this is what happens when you have pretty Native American women on one side of the river, and healthy robust men on the opposite side of that same river,” he paused and laughed. “Yes sir, I’ll tell you what happens. The men swim across the river!”

Everyone laughed and was in agreement with Mr. Hutchens. Knowing he had not offended anyone, he went on, “And over time, the men took wives, and brought them across the Chattahoochee to live amongst the settlers. And, some frontier men stayed on the Indian side, and lived with them as family.”

“And there was just such a man who took a bride, and they lived on the settler’s side of the river. They were married before the Creeks and Cherokees and before God. They raised a family. One day, the man said to his wife, ‘I know we are married before God and am satisfied with that, but I feel a need to file our marriage with the US government. I want you and our family protected, in case something should ever happen to me.’ He packed up his family in a buckboard wagon pulled by mules, and took them all the way to Jefferson, Georgia. There he went in the courthouse, and filed the union. Now, it was legal in the eyes of the white man’s government too. As the years went on and generations passed, the story of the couple who filed their rights with the government in Jefferson County, was passed down in the family. This blended family knew their rights.”

Mr. Hutchens paused to drink water and collect his thoughts. He took on a serious tone and continued, “You know, the world has not, and is not, always fair. I know that all of you have heard the story of the Trail of Tears. Yes, it happened, and it came to the descendants of this couple. The family was given a choice. They could stay and continue to carve out a life here in Georgia, or they could go out west with the Cherokees, and live on a new reservation. They were told that life would be good out west – a new opportunity. Some decided to stay in Georgia, while others went west.”

Mr. Hutchens paused as he carefully chose his words, took another sip of water, and continued, “And generations passed, and this separated family lost contact with each other. In fact, they were all but forgotten as a family. And we all know what happened to the reservation out west. After a time, the government allowed white settlers to take that land – which belonged to the Cherokees. Expansion! It was called!”

“This particular family was told to get off their land. When the family stood up for their rights, they were told to – ‘take it to court.’ Upon taking it to court, they were thrown out of court! They were told, ‘Redskins don’t have a right to the court system! Only white men held that right!’ So, this family was destitute, as were hundreds others. This family came together, and pondered what to do. They opened the family bible to read a verse or two for inspiration.” Mr. Hutchens smiled and looked us all in the eyes, “And, boy did they get it.”

Roy Hutchens quietly paced a bit, and then decided to share his smile with us. “A member of the family took the bible and read the words written inside the front page. That day, they read about their family back in Georgia, and how that marriage was filed in Jefferson, Georgia.  They contacted that family. The Georgia family knew of the family members out west, because it had been passed down orally – generation to generation. An attorney along with papers filed in Jefferson County, were sent out west to the family. They were well  represented in court. They were awarded many acres of land. I believe, if I’m correct, about a hundred acres.”

We all clapped. Mr. Hutchens beamed as he said, “I told you it was important to know your history – state, county, township, and family. It could mean everything to you one day. But the story about this family gets even better.”

“One of the descendents of that family who went west, born in 1879 in Oklahoma, learned how to lasso so that he could work his family’s cattle ranch. He was taught how to use a rope by a freed slave. This descendent won roping contests, began to speak publicly, and eventually became a philosopher of sorts. He starred on Broadway and seventy-one movies and wrote over four thousand syndicated newspaper columns. He befriended presidents, kings, and senators. He became well known for statements – simple yet profound.”

 

SmilingMamaand Diane

Helen Diane Story and Annie Helen Voyles-Story

If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned.


I never met a man I didn’t like.


Live your life so whenever you lose, you’re ahead.

 

“Well, if you guessed Will Rogers, you are correct,” said Roy Hutchens as he took a bow.

 

“Well, Di, what did you think of Roy Hutchens?” asked Mama.

“Oh Mama, he was fabulous!”

“Come on in. I’ve tea made. I want you to sit down and tell me all about it.”

 

 

Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia

Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia Story

“Girls! You won’t believe what’s happening!” Mama turned to us and said as she hung up the telephone. “Lib Garrett just told me that Tucker is getting ready to have a birthday! A fiftieth birthday!”

“How do they know how old Tucker is?” I asked.

“’Cause, Diane, Mr. Hutchens says so. Roy Hutchens keeps up with things like that in the Eagle. He knows more about Tucker and Lilburn Georgia than anybody in DeKalb or Gwinnett County. And if he says we’re about to turn fifty – then we are.” Mama laughed as she poured herself a glass of tea. “Of course, Jack Hudson and Dewey Turner know a good bit about Tucker too. Lots of historians in Tucker! Everybody’s gonna dress up in old fashioned clothes for the party.”

“Old fashioned clothes?” My ten year old sister, Patricia asked.

“That’s right Patricia,” answered Mama.

“Where are we going to get clothes like that?” asked Patricia.

Mama thought for a moment and then said, “I’m gonna call Cousin Anna. We’ll just have to make a trip out to West End and go through Granny and Aunt Tillie’s old trunks. I’m sure we’ll find something at Cousin Anna’s to wear to a semi-centennial.”

“When can we go to Cousin Anna’s? How about tonight?” I loved to visit Cousin Anna King-Maxwell. She lived in a big house near the Wren’s Nest; a house with sixteen foot ceilings. Each room had a  huge fireplace and over-sized furniture. The center of the house hallway was long and wide – large enough for my sisters and I to roller skate without bumping in to each other. The house made haunting sounds from the grandfather clocks throughout the house.  And when the clocks chimed, it sounded as though they were speaking to us saying, ‘We seeee you. We seeee you. We seeee you.’  When the house quieted down, we squealed with fright and delight. It was thrilling! Each room had a large trunk full of items from the mid 1800s – back when Cousin Anna’s mother – Matilda “Tillie” was born. Tillie’s younger sister, Emma  “Granny” Voyles was my mother’s father’s mother. Lots of vintage clothes in those old traveling trunks.

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Before Mama could answer me, Patricia asked,“Semi-Centennial?”

“Yes, that’s what they’re calling it. Ya’ Daddy’s been hearing talk about it for weeks. And now, Lib says it’s been decided. Tucker will have a celebration party!”

“Where’s it going to be?” asked Patricia.

“Main Street Tucker. I don’t know all the details yet,” went on Mama, “except that we’re all supposed to dress like folks did in 1907 or in the pioneer days.”

“Why the pioneer days?” asked Patricia.

“Well, because you know really Tucker was settled in 1821 – back when Monroe was president.” We looked at Mama with anticipation. We loved her history lessons on Tucker. “Tucker used to be called Browning District. But in 1907, they changed the name from Browning District to Tucker.”

“How’d we get the name Tucker?” I asked.

“Well, the train came through Browning District – you know the one that crosses Main Street in downtown Tucker – it came ever so often to deliver supplies and mail. The conductor of the train was Captain Tucker. So folks would see the train coming and say, ‘Here comes Tucker.’ And I guess it just caught on.” Mama smiled and explained, “You know I’m not that old. I just heard about it. And here it is 1957! We’ve been called Tucker for fifty years. Patricia, how do you want to dress?”

“I don’t have anything old like that Mom. Maybe Cousin Anna will have something for me too.”

“I have something to wear. I can wear my Pilgrim dress you made me, Mama.” I answered.

“That’s right Diane. That’ll be perfect.”

“Pilgrims wore those clothes in the sixteen hundreds. That’s a lot older than 1907! Or 1821! Only the Creeks were here then.” answered Patricia.

Helen and Frances.

Helen and Frances, Helen wearing the dress from the travelers trunk

“I know, Patricia, but that’ll be alright,” explained Mama, “Lib says that a lot of the women are wearing long dresses with bonnets.”

“Barbara, we’ll try one of Patricia’s dresses on you. I think the hem should just about touch the floor on you. If that doesn’t work I’ll have to get busy on my treadle sewing machine,” Mama said to my six year old sister who was quite happy to ignore us, and play with her doll, Sally.

“Better hurry up!” said Daddy as he walked in the backdoor. He was grinning from ear to ear, “They’re gonna have a high sheriff, and if a woman’s not wearing a long dress and bonnet, he’s going to arrest her!”

“What! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tom Story, don’t tease the girls like that! You know this is going to be a fun event! You’ll have them afraid to go.”

“I’m not kidding,” grinned Daddy, “and if a man doesn’t have a beard, he’ll be locked up! And no way out of jail, unless someone pays you out with a wooden nickel. Real money won’t do.”

There was no way I was going to be afraid to go to the Semi-Centennial. With a smile like that on Daddy’s face, I knew he was just teasing us. We all watched and listened for Daddy to tell us more.

“Yep, they elected Joe Reeves to be the high sheriff.”

Tom with Sister Sarah Story-Graves

“What? I thought they would elect Gene Cofer,” said Mama.

“No, Gene’s gonna be busy with the parade. He’s gonna drive one of his fancy antique cars through Main Street. In fact, he may drive more than one. He’ll park them in a safe place back behind Cofer Brothers and change them out,” laughed Daddy.

A parade, a jail, wooden nickels, a high sheriff, and Gene Cofer’s antique cars, wow, this party was shaping up! And I was not worried a bit, because I already had my outfit. Only thing, I was a little hesitant to wear my Pilgrim dress. It was a pretty dress. Mama made it for me; a long black cotton dress with long sleeves. The cuffs were made of white cotton with a white cotton apron, all topped off with a white Pilgrim cap. I wore the outfit in a Tucker Elementary School Thanksgiving play, one that I could not recall my line. I knew everybody’s line and took it upon myself to coach everyone. Betsy Snead broke the awful silence by skipping over me. All I had to say was, “Please, won’t you have some corn?” That was one time when I wish I had listened to Mama when she told me to “sweep around your own backdoor.” It was embarrassing, and I had not planned on wearing that dress again. But it would have to do. I did not want to be locked up in jail.

“Exactly where will the jail be, Tom?” asked Mama.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

Now that was a good question I thought to myself. And where and how do you get a wooden nickel? Just in case!

“They want to build it across the street from the new Tucker Federal, somewhere along there,” said Daddy. Then he started grinning again. Now, what was he going to say? He had our attention. “Doc Newsom wants us to build a saloon.”

“My stars! Have the people in Tucker lost their minds?”Mama asked.
“No,” laughed Daddy, “Fred Hannah and Dan Hopkins want to call it the Red Dog Saloon!”

“Who is going to build all of this stuff?” asked Mama.

“Cofer’s will supply the materials and it’s all voluntary. I’ll help.”

“Build a saloon? Daddy, are you really going to build a saloon?” asked Patricia.

“Yeah, and I’m gonna play my guitar there too.”
“No way!” we all said. Every time Daddy opened his mouth, it was something else just unbelievable.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get busy practicing the Great Speckled Bird. For sure, I want to play that one…”

“Tom Story, I think you’ve been hanging out around that Tucker Coffee Club at Fountains Drug Store,” teased Mama. That’s where you’re hearing all this isn’t it? That’s where Lib Garrett heard what she knows.”

“Doc Newsom’s in on it too, Helen!” laughed Daddy. “Yep, we’re gonna build the saloon and jail on Main Street. That way if anybody gets locked up, everybody will see it.”

Tom and Clarence

Tom and Clarence

“You can’t see through walls,” I noted.

“Won’t be any walls! Just a cage, made out of two by fours.”

The days passed by, one more exciting than the next. All our Morgan Road neighbors were busy figuring out how long it would take to grow a proper beard, what to wear, exchanging dress patterns and trying to find a horse. Yes, now it was not only antique cars, but horses, buggies, wagons, mules, the Tucker High School Marching Band, cheerleaders, majorettes, and a beauty queen. Some beautiful and lucky girl would be crowned Miss Tucker. And, Daddy heard down at the Bank of Tucker, that attorney, Charles Alford, was after Horace Richardson to paint signs to advertise the celebration as an entertainment event.

And a horse the Morgan Road neighbors found! Right across the street from my house lived the Leake family. It was Jack and Frances Leake and four kids, Jackie, Becky, Mary Ann and Billy Boy, and Peggy Ann. Peggy Ann was a frisky pinto pony who lived in the Leake’s barn back behind their house. They also had a chicken pen covered in gorgeous pastel pink roses. And, they had a bull in a back lot behind the barn. The bull was too big of a challenge – we left him alone.

The Leake’s home was a miniature farm in the middle of the Morgan Road neighborhood. We tried to think of some way to incorporate the chicken family into the parade –you know dress them up in doll’s clothes – but the chickens would not cooperate. Jackie Leake took Peggy Ann out every day, and hitched her up to a wagon. We took turns riding, trying to get her used to pulling a wagon, and being around a lot of people. A lot of the kids in the neighborhood joined in to help, including Ricky and Ronnie Westbrooks, Saundra Bulloch, and the new Williams family, Larry, Laura and Laverne, and on occasion, Walker Garrett.

All was going well with the training until one afternoon – Peggy Ann got spooked and took off running – with my sister, Patricia in the wagon. The poor little brown and white spotted pony was frightened. And so was Sister. Patricia held on for dear life as Peggy Ann ran out of the Leake’s apple and plum orchard. They crossed the Williams’ yard, crossed the Westbrook’s yard, and finally made it onto the Smith-Garrett’s yard, where Peggy Ann made a wide swing around and into the road.Horsebuggy

The wild runaway pony then ran back across the Leake’s side yard in the direction of the barn. She stopped only because the wagon got hung on a steel horse shoe pole. Patricia was dumped out of the wagon and sustained a cut leg. Mr. Leake told Jackie to put Peggy Ann back in the barn. She could not participate in the Semi-Centennial. Now we were back to square one. No animals. We’d just have to make it on our own with the costumes. Larry Williams and I were the only two not worried about a costume. He was going as Davy Crockett and I, of course, the Pilgrim.

And finally Saturday came! Not just any Saturday, but the Semi-Centennial Saturday!

“We can forget driving Helen,” said Daddy, “look outside. Cars are parked all up and down the little school-house road – all the way down past our driveway.”

“That means the churches and the school parking lots are full. Where in the world did all these people come from? There’s not that many people in Tucker,” Mama said amazingly. “We can’t carry your guitar and amplifier, and hold on to the girls.”
“We’ll walk there. And then get permission to drive my car to that little side road near the saloon. We’ll figure it out,” said Daddy.

Tucker DaysAnd with that, we tied our bonnets on and struck out walking with the Williams’ family. My little sister, Barbara walked hand in hand with her new best-friend, Laura Williams. And for the first time, she left her doll, Sally, at home alone. Barbara was really growing up, and if she could have looked into a crystal ball, she would have known that she was truly becoming a Williams. Years later, she married Laura’s cousin, Lawrence Williams.

The Storys and the Williams’ walked up Lavista, and crossed the road and stopped at Thomas’ Grocery Store. Mr. Bill Thomas saw us coming and hollered, “Look here! Here come Tom and Helen with all those little boys!”

“We’re not boys! We’re girls!” all of the girls let him have it.

“Look like boys to me!” Mr. Thomas laughed, “And I see you rounded up Davy Crockett! Looks like ya’ll are gonna have a good time today!”

“Well, we’re not boys,” explained six year old Barbara.

“Tom, what’s their names again?” asked Mr. Thomas.

Daddy grinned, “Pat, Donnie and Bob.”

“See there, that’s boy’s names,” teased Mr. Thomas.

“Well, we’re girls! We’re Patricia, Diane and Barbara,” explained little Barbara.

Mama laughed, “Okay, we know you’re girls. He’s just teasing.  Come on now. We’re gonna look in on Dr. Anderson,” said Mama, “I want him to see the girls.”Horsebuggy2

“Oh, you’ll find Clyde already on Main Street, Helen. He canceled all his appointments for the day. Did you see how pretty the old courthouse looks today?”

“Yes, we did,” said Mama, “It’s all decorated with flowers, very nice.”

“Y’all have fun,” Mr. Thomas called out to us as we walked on toward Main Street.

The closer we got to Main Street Tucker, the more excited I got. About the time we reached Tucker High School, I could smell popcorn, boiled peanuts, roasting ears of corn, and barbecue. I heard a marching band, whistles and laughter. But the most exciting thing was the sound of horse hooves click clopping on pavement – not just a few – but dozens of horses! Then as the sound of the marching band faded into the distance, I heard an awesome sound – bagpipes!

The men in kilts stopped their marching, stood still, and played Going Home. Sarah Lee Turner stood behind me and sang to herself. She sang, “Going home, going home, I’m just going home.” And then again she sang, “Coming home, coming home, I’m just coming home.”

It made me think of the story Mama heard from Roy Hutchens. The story was about a Scottish man, Greenville Henderson, who fought in the Indian Wars back in the early 1800s. The Governor of Georgia honored this man by giving him a gift of approximately three thousand acres – now known as Tucker, Georgia. And whether this brave soldier was a comin’ or a goin’, surely his spirit was upon us, here today in Tucker.

When we walked down along side Main Street, I could not believe my eyes! Horses, buggies and everybody dressed from another place and time. But it was real and right here in Tucker.

A large banner followed the bagpipes. The words on the banner were: FOUNDING FAMILIES. The next banner had lots of names on it. Some of the names on the banner were: HENDERSON, BROWNING, FLOWERS, CHEWNING, GOZA, JEFFARES, LIVSEY, TALTON, FRUIT, THOMAS, ENGLAND, LEAVELL, JOHNSON, PAYTON, TUCKER,  and BURNS.

And the people! Where did all these people come from? Surely the whole state of Georgia must have turned out for the Semi-Centennial.

“Gun shots!” I exclaimed as I looked at Mama and Daddy.

“Blanks, Donnie. Don’t worry they’re not real bullets,” said Daddy, “it’s all in good fun.”

The high sheriff, Joe Reeves had him some prisoners, a few guys who did not grow a proper beard, and he was shooting up in the air to get everyone’s attention.

“Aren’t you glad you grew that beard, Tom?” laughed Mama, “I can’t believe you grew that thing. I really can’t believe you blacked out your teeth!”

I could not believe it either. My father was a fanatic when it came to his appearance. The first thing he did every morning was to shave and comb his hair. He would not let anyone see him undone. His new beard aggravated him, but he did his part to participate in the spirit of the Semi-Centennial. And, he did not want to get locked up by Joe Reeves.

Then a pretty girl walked down Main Street, alone. She was dressed in Scottish attire carrying a banner with MUIR written on it.

“Tom, do you know any Muirs in Tucker?” asked my mother.

“Moore, Helen, that’s Scottish for the Moore family…” answered Daddy.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, please focus your attention to the next phase of the parade!” called out Conrad Allgood over a microphone as he rolled by on a flatbed truck. “Stand back just a little bit so the show can begin!”

We stood back toward the store fronts as much as we could in the crowd, and the antique cars rolled by. We all waved at the Tuckerites as though we had not seen them in fifty years, and they returned the waves with enthusiasm. Gene Cofer accompanied by his father, Mr. Reid Cofer, led the parade of cars, and then circled back with another antique car, and that’s how it went for a while. Some cars were old and black, while others were shiny and colorful.AntiqueCar

Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle Cofer wore beautiful long dresses and big hats, and waved as graciously as the Queen of England as they were escorted up Main Street in Gene’s fancy cars. Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle were Cown sisters who married brothers, Kelley and Reid Cofer, the founders of Cofer Brothers, the largest store in Tucker.

And I recognized Ernest and Elizabeth Atkinson as they rode by in an antique car. Elizabeth was just beautiful – gloves and all. And every so often, Doc Newsom owner of Newsom’s Drug Store, circled around on his big tricycle in a turn of the century suit.

Daddy pointed out an old antique car and said, “Look, Helen, here comes King Whitaker! That 1920 Olds used to be owned by Judge Mathis – Justice of the Peace. He used to hold court in the old Browning District Courthouse. I believe King had the first wrecker service in Tucker.”

“Whit’s Garage and Wrecker Service?” asked Mama.

Daddy ran up to take a snap shot of the automobile, “Yeah, that’s the one. What a beauty!”

And then there came more horse drawn wagons, full of folks dressed in the old ways. Most of the women were dressed in long dresses made of calico and gingham prints. They wore bonnets or old hats with netting. The men wore everything from overalls and farm hats to fancy cowboy attire. Tucker Elementary’s principal, Mr. Conrad Allgood, dressed in a turn of the century suit topped off with a round hat called a derby. And all the while, guns were shooting and Joe Reeves was lockin’ ‘em up.

And then the moment came that we had all waited for, the winner of the beauty contest. Weeks before, gallon jars were placed in all the Main Street Tucker stores with a picture of each beauty contestant on each jar. The contestant with the most pennies won. Mary Carol Snead was crowned the very first Miss Tucker.

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well!

We ate foot long hot dogs, fried chicken, French fries, cotton candy and candied apples. We drank Coca Cola, and frozen lemonade. We laughed, socialized, and were thoroughly entertained by the events of the day. And, we had our pictures taken to a fair-thee-well!

But as the day went on, I became shadowed by the loss of my great-grandmother who passed away a little over a year ago. Since Granny passed, I had struggled with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. My heart ached for her.

“What’s going on? Where’s your smile, Diane?” asked Mama.

“Most everybody here is dressed like Granny.”

“I know. I was just thinking that myself,” she answered. “You know Tucker has been here for fifty years, and next year Tucker will be here fifty-one years. Time moves on. Granny had eighty-seven good years here, and Emma Voyles would want you to enjoy your time, just like she did.” Mama gave me a quick hug and said, “There’s Miss Collins with her easel in front of the beauty shop. Why don’t you go over there and let her draw your face. She said you could sit with her if you got tired.”

As soon as Miss Winnie Collins saw me, she said, “Well, hello there little Pilgrim girl, I brought you a chair. Come on over here and keep me company. Yes, indeed, and we can work on another drawing lesson if you want to.” She handed me a large tablet of drawing paper and a felt marker. Do you remember how to draw your egghead people?”ConradAllgood

“Yes, ‘ma’am, I do. Place the eyes half way down in the circle – even though it looks wrong, it’s the correct proportion.”

“And how do we draw the face of a baby?”

“Round circle.”

“A skinny person?”

“Almost like a carrot.”

“That’s exactly right! You are a great little artist, if I do say so myself!” she laughed.

Miss Collins was a dear sweet older woman who lived on Old Norcross and rode an old bicycle every day – not just on the Semi-Centennial. She carried a suitcase strapped onto the back of her bicycle full of her “stuff.” She gave me art lessons while I was sick with rheumatic fever. She also performed many puppet shows for me on Sunday afternoons – all with puppets she hand-knitted or crocheted.

I stayed with her and watched her exaggerate her customer’s facial features and turn them into cartoons.  She sold her five minute “masterpieces” for a dollar each, which was donated to the Semi-Centennial committee. Everybody loved it!  And they loved Miss Collins. In her younger years, she worked at the CDC in Atlanta where her father was a doctor. She was somewhat worldly and loved sharing a little bit of culture with the “good Tucker people.” Once she hired my father to paint her bathroom white – with enamel paint. Daddy tried to explain to her that enamel paint was used for trim, not sheetrock.

“Tommy, now you just watch me. I need the walls to be slick! Paint them white enamel for me,” Miss Collins told my father.

She used an artist brush to paint black on white street scenes of Paris on the bathroom walls, and it was fabulous. And today at the Semi-Centennial, she wore a 1910 Parisian dress with a large hat which featured long peacock feathers.

Miss Winnie Collins packed up her easel and retrieved her bicycle from Isabelle Johnson who agreed to keep her bicycle in the Tucker Beauty Shop during the celebration day. The day was winding down, and Miss Collins wanted to get home before dark.

Red Dog Saloon, Tom Story Center

Red Dog Saloon - Grady Willis, Fiddle Player, Tom Story, Mr. Cook & Jimmy Craft

As the sun went down, Mama took us to the Red Dog Saloon to hear Daddy play bluegrass music with his friends.

I think the most fun of the day was seeing all the grown-ups laughing and having such a good time. It was like watching normally serious grown-ups play act like children, for a day.

I was very proud of Daddy for being on stage and playing his guitar.  And Daddy looked different up there. He did not have on his “down and out” farmer clothes, nor did he have a beard. Some time or another, he went home to get his guitar and amplifier and shaved. He wore black dress pants and a white dress shirt with a black ribbon tied in a bow around his neck. And, his teeth were white again.

Doc Newsom parked his big tricycle outside the Red Dog and came in. “Drinks are on me!” shouted Doc Newsom. Everybody clapped, and sarsaparillas and popcorn were passed around by the saloon girls. The music was good, but I really don’t remember too much about it, because I fell asleep and woke up Sunday morning on my bed, still dressed as a pilgrim.

The Semi-Centennial was over, but not the talk. Every time Daddy went to Tucker to buy building materials to build cabinets for someone, he came home with the latest information.

“Yeah, everybody had a good time and it brought in the revenue. The committee wants to do it again next year. It might become an annual event. Red Cruce said that we are well on our way to having the means to build Tucker a library and recreation center.”

“Oh, Tom, a library would be wonderful!” said Mama. “The mobile library is well and good, but a real library would be splendid.”

“Daddy do you really think we will have another Semi-Centennial?” I asked.

“How can you have a Semi-Centennial two years in a row? That’s impossible, Diane,” said my older sister, Patricia. “You can only be fifty years old one time.”

“Well, what would you call it then?”More Horses and Buggies 2

Mama said, “Dewey Turner wants to call it Horse and Buggy Days. Some say, Tucker Yester-Years. And Ann Blanott said that she heard some tourists ask if Tucker was the capital of Dekalb County. I’d like to see it called Bonnet and Beard  Day. That way, Tom, you’d have to grow a beard every year!” laughed Mama. “And by the way, I think Joe Reeves went too far locking up visitors who didn’t know about the dress code.”

“He wanted to put wheels on the jail and roll it around, but Charles Alford said – Tucker doesn’t need a law suit,” laughed Daddy.

“Whatever they call it, I’ll just be glad we get to see the horses again,” I said.

This supper table conversation went on for several weeks, until one evening Daddy came home grinning. He said, “They’ve decided on a name for the Tucker birthday celebration for next year.” Then he was silent.

“Oh, come on, Tom, don’t hold the girls in suspense for so long! What is it?”

Daddy grinned and looked at Patricia, Barbara and I to make sure he had our attention. All eyes were on him. And then he said it, “They’re gonna call it – Tucker Days!”

Going Home

Going Home, gbonnetshorsesoing home

I’m just going home

Quiet light, some still day

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

Work all done, care laid by

Going to fear no more

Mother’s there expecting me

Father’s waiting, too

Lots of folks gathered there

All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I’m going home

Nothing’s lost, all’s gain

No more fret nor pain

No more stumbling on the way

No more longing for the day

Going to roam no more

Morning star lights the way

Restless dream all done

Shadows gone, break of day

Real life has begun

Sarah and Tom at the jail

Sarah Story-Graves with brother Tom Story at the jail!

 

There’s no break, there’s no end

Just a living on

Wide awake with a smile

Going on and on

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

I am going home

I’m just going home

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

Scottish Hymn – Author Unknown

Similar version of Going Home – written by William Arms Fisher and Ken Bible

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06-Going-Home.mp3

DISCLAIMER :
All Chloe Agnew – Going Home lyrics, artist names and images are copyrighted to their respective owners. All Chloe Agnew – Going Home song lyrics might be restricted for educational and personal use only.

 

CupidI walked down the school-house road from Lavista to Morgan Road. I was on the way home after school from Tucker Elementary. I stopped just before reaching my backyard. I slipped into the woods. I knew where a beautiful magnolia tree was hidden away. Of course, I was disobeying Mama. According to her, I was to go straight home from school and stay out of those woods, but today I had an emergency. Today was February 15. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I had forgotten to give my great-grandmother a valentine.

My older sister, Patricia, made Granny a valentine heart out of red construction paper with beautiful white paper lace all around it. Even my four year old sister, Barbara, colored a page in her coloring book and gave it to Granny. And so many came, Granny had more friends than anyone else I knew. They all came with gifts, flowers, boxes of candy and cards. I would have to make up my over-sight by giving her a special valentine, one that no one else had thought of.

I reached high and picked the most perfect magnolia leaf I could find. I found a patch of dried wild flowers. I used a sharp stick to punch tiny holes in the magnolia leaf. I then carefully inserted the tiny stems of the wildflowers into the leaf and twisted the stems together to hold the flowers in place. It was beautiful! Wait until Granny sees this! She will probably forget all about her other gifts. I know what pleases her and its nature, things that “get here naturally – from the good Lord.” Now I had the perfect gift and had to hurry home. Hopefully, Mama would be too busy getting supper ready to notice I was late.

I ran up the steps to my front door and immediately knew something was different today. The house was full of relatives, friends and our Morgan Road neighbors. They were busy cleaning and bringing in food and flowers. Instead of playing with me, my teenaged cousin, Rachel, was busy making note of the deliveries. Her older sister, Frances, was busy organizing the food in the kitchen. Another teenaged cousin, Pheobe, was taking notes at the phone. No one noticed me as I walked around trying to figure out what was going on. I was thankful that I was not in trouble, but at the same time a bit confused.

I knew my Granny would know, so I ran into her bedroom. She wasn’t there and neither was her bed. How strange. My older sister, Patricia, walked in to the room and was just as confused.

“Where have you been?” asked Patricia.

Before I could answer, Mama appeared and took us by the hands and walked us down the hall to her bedroom. She quietly knelt down to look into our faces. I noticed her eyes were red from crying. “Granny has gone to Heaven – to live with Jesus.”

“Why Mom, why?” asked Patricia.

“Because – she was very old and tired, Granny was eighty-seven years old. Now she can walk without a cane. Her back is no longer bent. She lived a good and full life here with us, now it’s time for her to live in Heaven.”

Patricia and I silently accepted her explanation. Mama hugged us hard, kissed the tops of our heads, and returned to her busy guests. I turned to my sister and I was outraged. “What does she mean? Granny was tired? She didn’t mind her cane. We took care of her and she liked it here! She didn’t want to go live with Jesus! Granny didn’t want to go there! I know it! I just know it.”

“You’d better be quiet! Don’t say that, especially in front of Mom or Daddy! Or you’ll be in trouble again.”

Of course, I knew better, that’s why I held my tongue in front of Mama. Even a six year old knows that. But I don’t think Mama believed her own story. I could tell by the hurt look in her eyes, and the sadness in her face. Daddy probably didn’t believe it either. His electric saws and guitar were silent today. He took the day off and it wasn’t even raining, I suppose to be near Mama.

Some people stayed all night. The next morning was eerily quiet, and every so often someone peeped out the window. Then one time, my Aunt Miriam said, “They’re here, little brother, go to Helen.” Daddy hung up the phone without saying good-bye and went to Mama. What in the world is going on?

An ambulance backed up the drive-way, and a long silver box was carefully brought into the house. They placed it gingerly on a stand up against the front living room windows. Then they placed big flower arrangements all about the room. A man dressed in a black suit opened the box. There lay my Granny. She was sleeping peacefully in a fancy lavender silk dress. She was beautiful, but lifeless. Everyone was sad, they cried quietly. I heard Mama tell my PawPaw how she found Granny.

“Daddy, it was getting late in the morning, and I checked in on her to see why she didn’t ring her bell. I thought she was sleeping late, and I didn’t want to disturb her. I peeped in and called out to her. She didn’t answer. I got a little closer and could see a smile on her face. I teased her for teasing me. But she still didn’t answer. I looked closer and – and – she was gone.” Mama cried a little bit as her father comforted her with a hug. “I’m alright, Daddy, I just have to tell you this. Granny had the most beautiful smile on her face and I wondered why. Then I looked around, and realized she was surrounded by hearts, candy, flowers – all gifts that said ‘I love you.’ She must have gone to sleep thinking about how much she was loved. I believe she was happy and at peace when the angels took her. Oh Daddy, I wish you could have seen her face.”

“She was happy here with you and Tom. Y’all were good to Mama,” answered PawPaw.

Mary Emma Jane Palmer-Voyles

Mary Emma Jane Palmer-Voyles

“And the girls, she loved those girls, and loved being in a home with so much going on,” added Aunt Irene, PawPaw’s sister.

Then I began to see magic happen. Every time someone spoke of Granny, their sad face was replaced by a smile. I even heard something I had not heard in two days, laughter.

“Hearts, candy, flowers and angels – what’s not to smile about?” mused Aunt Irene.

“Emma Voyles had all her marbles to the very end,” added Dr. Holbrook, a frequent visitor of Granny.

“She could look at a plant and tell me what the soil needed,” proudly smiled PawPaw, “and taught me how to graft plants together to get different colored blooms.”

“Wade, don’t forget your mother understood the medicinal components of herbs and plants. She was a wise woman, indeed,” said Dr. Holbrook, “I’ll miss our little talks. Yes, sir, I’ll miss Emma Voyles!”

“I miss her already,” said my PawPaw.

So many people came to the house that day, even the new neighbors who had just moved in across the road. They were Clarence and Frances Williams. Rachel asked them to come in and meet the family, but they refused. “We just want to drop off this casserole for the family,” said Frances.

“We’ll come back when we hear the guitar music again, but not today,” said
Clarence.

And the people and the flowers kept coming.

I had held on to my magnolia flower for Granny until now. I decided to take it to her bedroom and place it on her night-table, away from all the other flowers. As always, Patricia joined me. We stood together looking out Granny’s window. We didn’t say anything to each other for a good long while. As I looked down at my falling apart valentine, I realized Granny would never receive my gift. I knew I would never see Granny open her eyes, nor feel her gentle touch again. I knew she would no longer ask me to thread her needle so she could sew her quilts. I would never again hear her say, “Diane, you have keen eyes.”  I promised Patricia and myself that I would never forget again. Then it was Patricia’s turn to speak.

“Don’t ever put me in a box,” my eight year old sister said as she finally broke her silence. “When I die, put me in the top of the trees, like the Plains Indian stories Aunt Irene and Granny told us about. Put me way up – facing the clouds – so I can feel the wind on my face. Promise me Sister, promise me – never let them put me in a box.”

“I promise.”

“You won’t forget?”

“I’ll never forget.”

On many occasions – for many years – Patricia, reminded me of my promise.

“Sister, that was years ago. I was only six years old. I didn’t know about burial laws back then. I cannot put you up in a tree when you die. It’s against the law.”

“You promised, and a promise is a promise. I will not be put in a box and buried in the ground.”

“You’re being unreasonable. We are grown women now. I’ll just have to die first to get out of it.”
“Oh no, don’t ever do that! Just make sure I’m up in the trees where I can feel the sun and wind on my face – like the Plains Indians. You’ll have to find a way to keep your promise to me. You’ll think of something – you always do.”

This became a private little conversation between my sister and me, one we would have often.

“Maybe we can die together, you know, like in a car accident…”
“Oh, good heavens, no! You promised to put me up in a tree, and that’s that.”

And then on a cold January day of nineteen-ninety three, Patricia and I had this conversation.

“Di, do you remember your promise?”

“Oh dear God, please let’s not talk about that now. I can’t bear it, not today.”

“We need to talk about it today,” Patricia went on firmly, “You don’t have to put me up in a tree.”

“I don’t? Are you sure?”

She looked back toward a funeral tent. Her gaze fell on a flower covered grave, “I can be buried in a box in the ground – if I’m buried there – near my son.”

We stood there dressed in our mourning clothes and were silent for a good long while, just like on that cold February day looking out of the window in Granny’s bedroom. And again, I spoke first.

“Promise.”

“You won’t forget?”

“I’ll never forget.”

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