23- 1965 Dec: Post Office Fire, Encyclopedias for Sale, Star Gazing, Church Play, Christmas Parties
I am sharing entries from my diaries I kept as a young girl growing up in Southwest Georgia during the 1960's. This ‘episode’ flows from the lightheartedness and cheer of the kick off of a holiday season to the tragedy my hometown faced in dealing with a fire which did extensive damage to our town post office. My parents both worked in that local post office, so my family was heavily impacted by this event which seemed to have been arson related.
People mentioned in this story are Marty, Keith, Laurie, Diane, Wanda, and Kay, my classmates from eighth grade year in school (academic year 1965/66). Ann was a year-older schoolmate and took music lessons with the same piano teacher I had.
Mr. McKinney (Science), Mrs. Davis (History), Mrs. Lee (English), Mr. Cox (previous year Math), and Mr Clegg (Principal of the Junior High) were junior high teachers from my eighth grade year.
Ms. Ruth had been my music teacher since fourth grade.
Adie and Joe, my brothers. Rody and Angela, my nephew and niece, children of Joe.
“1 Dec 1965, Wednesday, I had a music lesson today. Marty and Keith both asked me for a school picture. Two college boys came by and tried to sell us encyclopedias. Dad has been upset about our watching too much TV. 2 Dec 1965, Mr. McKinney, Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Lee gave me school pictures of themselves. Cool. Adie and I finished a tape to Joe. I have piles of homework. I’ll finish in the morning. 3 Dec 1965, Friday, The Post Office was set on fire this morning. (my dad and mom’s workplace) We don’t know who did it. Dad is so upset tonight and VERY TIRED. He has an idea of who might have had something to do with the fire. Debris and left-behind material suggests someone set the fire. 4 Dec 1965, The Post Office is a mess as a result of that fire. We ate dinner at June’s cafe. I’ve been at Laurie’s playing basketball. Mama and Daddy are so discouraged over the fire damage.”
Swapping school pictures happened all around the country. Didn’t matter whether you hailed from Southwest GA or Northwest Oregon! One had to have several plastic frames in a wallet to hold class pictures of friends.
The door to door sale of encyclopedias is an activity which we see no longer in our current era. I think the only thing that somewhat resembles this is the occasional magazine pitch made door to door in 2017.
Parents complained about too much TV watching. Must have been similar in the age of radio, the common-place home entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s. Parents of current day tend to have similar concerns about too much time on the smartphones or laptops or internet in general.
I remember with crystal clarity the day my mom and dad’s work place burned. Fire is so devastating. Anyone who has experienced its ravages knows too well the helplessness and the extreme loss.
“5 Dec 1965, I went to Sunday School. I finished my lessons, then we went to Columbus. Shopped for Rody and Angela at Gaylord’s for some Christmas things. We ate at the S & S cafeteria. 6 Dec 1965, Ms. Cox had another baby boy. I had basketball practice and rode home with Kay. Supper was OK. 7 Dec 1965, Tuesday, I went up to the church to practice for a play to be put on Sunday. I had a piano lesson. Went to the high school basketball game tonight. Pearl Harbor anniversary.”
Christmas shopping began early for our family members who were now living overseas in Germany. My little nephew was 3 years old and my niece was 5 months old. They lived so far away. Gaylord’s was a Walmart-like department store that sprang up in the Southeast for a few years. It was replaced in later years by stores such as K-Mart and Walmart.
Junior High basketball practice occurred a couple times a week. Since we were now attending school in neighboring Richland with the consolidation of county schools, if my parents weren’t able to pick me up, I had to find a ride home to Lumpkin on those days we stayed for practice.
High School basketball games were typically on Tuesday and Friday nights. School spirit reigned high and young people looked forward to going to games to cheer for the home team and to socialize with friends as we sat together on school bleachers in the gymnasium and took breaks to go to the concession stand for snacks or step outside to chat about the latest school goings-on.
“8 Dec 1965, Wednesday, Got our Science test back; made 96. We played Georgetown in basketball in Richland and beat both games. Ate supper at Steakhouse in Richland. Mr. McKinney came into restaurant while we were eating. 9 Dec 1965 Mr. Clegg really bragged on Laurie during most of our PE class. She played fabulously yesterday. He hates me and I don’t really like him much either. So there. I went to Richland tonight for star gazing.”
As a kid, I remember how much of a treat it was to run into teachers in the “real world.” Seeing them in everyday surroundings seemed to add a spark to the day. I recall it being kind of cool just seeing them as everyday, normal folks instead of always having the mystic of being associated with school.
It’s obvious from my annotations that I really didn’t care much for our principal Mr. Clegg. I missed our previous year Math teacher and coach, Mr. Cox. I find it amusing how as a 13 year old, I was quick to just say, “He hates me and I don’t like him…either,” probably based solely on the fact that he didn’t let me play very much in basketball.
Interesting note about ‘going to Richland for stargazing.’ I truthfully do not remember that specific event. I do however recall those glorious nights during childhood of laying out in my backyard and gazing up at the night sky to catch a beautiful view of the big dipper right across my backyard sky. As I gaze up into the night skies in Colorado, fifty years later, I see the same glorious sights and that big dipper is visible quite clearly from my own CO backyard!
“10 Dec 1965, Friday, I had a music lesson. Then went to the high school basketball game and sat with Wanda. We’re taking achievement tests in school. 11 Dec 1965, I went to church and practiced the play. I’ve been sifting pecans all day long. I’m not sure about tomorrow’s play. 12 Dec 1965, We had the Christmas Play. I went to Sunday School and Church as usual. I’m so glad that play is over. Turned out fair. I got prompted for my lines once.”
“Sifting pecans,” was an activity that landed in my lap because we had two massive pecan trees in our yard. They were fabulously large and yielded loads of pecans each year. My brother and I picked up pecans and sold them to earn a little extra money each year. I think the main market place was in Weston, Georgia, another small town 15–20 miles up the road from Lumpkin.
Being in the church Christmas play carried an element of fun, since my friends had parts, too. Obviously there was some anxiety and dread associated with the honor of having a speaking part.
“13 Dec 1965, Basketball practice went ok. Plans to go home with Kay or Diane didn’t work out, so Adie came over and picked me up. Laurie was absent from school. Mom and Dad have been in Columbus most of the evening. 14 Dec 1965, I’ve been helping wrap Christmas packages. We had our Christmas party with Ms. Ruth for music students. I got a pocketbook from Ann G. 15 Dec 1965, Our junior high basketball game with Leslie was called off. After school I went to Columbus with Mom and Dad to shop for Christmas gifts. I bought things for couple friends and teachers.”
It was very cool to have an older brother who now had his driver’s license. I was quite happy when he drove to Richland occasionally to pick me up from ball practice.
Christmas season was upon us. My mom and dad were in Columbus on the 13th doing some early Christmas shopping. In my post reminiscing about Christmas 1964 posted last year, I noted many of the traditions from 50 years ago. Click here (1964 Early December Ushers in the Season)to jump back for a 5 minute read on small town Christmas traditions.
I enjoyed Christmas shopping with my parents in Columbus and remember fondly the Kirven’s department store displays of Christmas scenes in their shopping windows during that season
Mid December buzzed with the excitement of the coming holidays. Town squares displayed Christmas lights and decorations. Our music teacher was one of the first to hold a Christmas party celebration for her students. The next story brings the year to a close. Be sure to check in for next week’s post!