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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Greatest Gift - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

As Christmas approaches, my mind turns to gifts--giving and receiving. One of my favorite imaginings involves gift-giving in the Bozeman family at Christmastime in Woodstock's distant past. The Bozeman family's turn-of-the-century holiday was not so different than yours or mine. Except in those days, an apple and orange in your stocking meant prosperity because apples were limited for a short season on the tree at the rear of your lot, and that costly, sweet-juicy orange, a rare treat, came from a place so, so far away--South Florida. With only kerosene lamps or candles to break through the night, early Woodstock townsfolk would flip at the sight of houses, today, lit like sparkling, jeweled boxes fit for yuletide celebration. Well, now that I'm thinking about it, things really have changed.  

The journal accounts at Dean's Store in Woodstock, record Mr. Bozeman making purchases for his family on December 23, 1914. It's all recorded in the store owner's penciled script. Drop by and read for yourself. Have you seen the unique, moss-green home owned by Christine and Phil Blight on Rope Mill Road? A century earlier, the Bozeman parents raised their girls there. At the time of the Christmas purchases, Dave Bozeman had a wife named Sarah and four daughters:  Bonnie, 16; Lola,12; Mildred,8; and baby Sarah,1. Mr. Bozeman earned his family's living by running a mercantile store that sold dry goods--items like overalls, textiles and notions. He also operated a cotton brokerage with a partner. The store, now gone, filled the spot where a rectangle of grass skirts our Woodstock mural at Towne Lake Parkway and Main Street. The cotton warehouse was situated behind the store. Following is a list of the patriarch's extravagant (for the era) purchases. It's fun to try to guess the intended recipient of each gift.

DOLL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 CENTS

2DOLLS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 DOLLAR

BOOK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 CENTS

PERFUME. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 CENTS

STATIONERY. . . . . . . . . . . . 45 CENTS

TOY HORN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 CENTS

BLOCKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 CENTS

It's easy to picture the family clustered around the tree on Christmas morning. They probably sang carols or read about the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. Things were simpler then, quieter and more tranquil. In olden times, the world had not yet become proficient at robbing the day of its real meaning.

For some people, this is a hard season. Heartbreak, loss, or a terrible memory has been associated with the holiday. If this is you, maybe sadness comes because the rest of the world appears full of life, while your own hands hold onto thin air or a dying dream and no one seems to care. Yet just the other side of false assumption waits the sturdy arms of a Perfect Father offering humanity the most valuable gift--his Son. Achieved at great cost to Him, this beautiful present is available to everyone. Amazingly, you cannot qualify for the gift in any way. Only believe. What an exciting but peaceful adventure life becomes when you do, although I know it sounds like a paradox. Blessings are headed your way. And if you've already received the Gift and put it away, forgotten, on a high shelf in a back bedroom closet, take the box down. Have a seat on the nearby mattress. Lift the box lid and peer inside. . . . I know what you're thinking. You've had some failures. But the Gift remains yours. No doubt, "good" living is a reward in itself and saves us from much self-imposed misery; however, there's still no measuring up for this present. No one ever has and no one ever will. So kick the idea of worthiness, or lack of the same, under the bed. Then let your hands raise your Gift from the box. Spend time thinking about the tremendous love that was willingly poured out for you, to place you in a permanent and glorious family. I guarantee your focus will stay in that happy place on Christmas Day.

The greatest gift?  Someone gave all of Himself, to love you without end.

You!  And Me!

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and author of the Woodstock novel series.

The Bozeman home, circa 1910, was included in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article (1919) that highlighted Woodstock businesses and prominent residences. The exterior style showcases the asymmetrical placement of a tower-like extension at one front corner. A wide gabled porch, sporting wooden piers with brick pedestals, frames the inviting entry. A bay window on the side of the home draws light inside. Vertical panes of glass detail the upper sash, called "ribbon windows" at the turn-of-century. Shed dormers on the roof add a touch of playfulness. Inside, four fireplaces bestow cheer when winter approaches. Mellow pine floors add to the coziness.
When Dave and wife, Sarah, moved into their home, they probably had no idea how meaningful the sturdy dwelling would become to their daughters, affectionately referred to as the Bozeman sisters by Woodstock natives. Mildred married. Bonnie, Lola, and Sarah became area schoolteachers and happily remained in the home all their lives.

Below, a view of the Bozeman home today. You may be familiar with the current owners, Christine and Phil Blight, who also own Christine's Creations in Woodstock. For many years, their shop has been the go-to place for inspired decorating assistance. No one can merge vintage, contemporary and unique like Christine who has been guiding area residents on how to express the spirit of Woodstock, which is nature, hints of the town's agricultural past and warmth of family. The result of her creative magic is charm and casual elegance. Christine and Phil completed a renovation of the Bozeman home, begun by a preceding owner. Their primary goal was to preserve the antiquity of the home while expanding and updating the residence to fit modern life. What an artistic and winsome success!
(Click to enlarge photo)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Thrill of the Train - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Why do trains still mesmerize us in a time of space travel? Maybe it's just me who feels the magnetism, but I think other people, here, are also captivated by the sight of thousands of tons of metal rolling proudly through Woodstock. You feel that weighty passage in your feet while the roar of the engine reverberates inside your chest. Today's carrier is Georgia Northeastern Railway, but since 1879, one railroading enterprise or another sent their locomotives advancing down the track with a straight, then weaving signature before heading to Canton and beyond.

Lately our town is overflowing with celebration--the train depot turned one hundred this year. First, an art show highlighted the conventional but picturesque structure that has often captured the eye of local artists and made their hands reach for a paintbrush or camera. From the perspective of everyday viewers, the building is quaint and appealing with soft gray paint, darker trim and a coral tile roof designed in simple style except for a few curved flourishes at endpoints fashioned by some master craftsman of long ago. Smack in the middle of town, right at the crossroads, the landmark isn't easily missed. For the next depot tribute a few weeks later, the third-graders at Woodstock Elementary performed a medley of railroad songs that included Woodstock of My Heart, our favorite, new ballad. We thank you, Juanita Hughes. Those nostalgic lyrics express a longing to hear, once more, the train coming through town, blowing its familiar whistle. Soon, a soiree will be held at the 1912 depot, now a restaurant, Freight Kitchen & Tap, where a caboose is stationed close by. At that special birthday event, I hope each history-lover will consider the stories loaded into the wooden walls of that place. Emotions evoked by coming home or by leaving--joy, trepidation, sadness, excitement, fear and blissful peace--swirl ghost-like throughout those rooms that once functioned as ticket procurement, waiting room and luggage area.

What little boy doesn't love a train? Mine did. I remember pulling the car off road or easing into a parking spot just so they could watch one of those powerful machines rumble by. Maybe it was all part and parcel with the dump trucks, cement mixers and tractor trailers they revered in kindergarten; you know, something big and strong, lazily flexing its energy potential. So for two boys, having a train coming through, possibly ten baseball throws past their own backyard, fit the bill. We lived inside the city limits then. Later, nearing middle-school age, one son ventured the suggestion of placing pennies on the rails, to be flattened. You can imagine the answer of this cautionary mother. Then, a school rumor about those instantly-formed, razor-sharp discs being shot from the rails, at nearby eyeballs, quelled every boy's enthusiasm for the operation. My sons' enjoyment of the L&N continued, however. I surely wasn't about to share the story of their great-grandfather who felt penned in by rural life in Chipley, GA, which led to hopping the trains to see the entire country in 1920 before settling down. And my kids certainly didn't need to know about the time in the old, old days when some young Woodstock folk pranked the unknowing police chief by chaining the rear axle of his police car to the railroad track, then racing through this formerly sleepy town to get his attention.

Looking at our trains and depot, you might say, "So what's the big deal?" Well, I honestly don't know, but somehow those compelling machines pulling car after car add interest to my town. . . . These days, my husband and I live three miles outside the city and away from that span of railroad. During a few, cool nights this fall, I've heard the train horn blowing its mournful notes, which sail in the wind over the pines and hardwoods, all the way to our home. Indefinable emotions stir me. It is a lonely, haunting sound in one regard, yet in another, those low tones speak of movement, people, life . . . and my writer's mind happily starts spinning new tales.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and author of the Woodstock novels.

Woodstock train depot, built in 1912, from track side.

The depot entrance. Tracks were laid in 1879. The earlier depot, situated in a different spot, was torn down in 1913, approximately a year after the present one was built. A man transported the timber down the road to be used in construction of TooNigh Church of God, so spelled, back then. Nothing was wasted in those days.

A caboose would be part of every little boy's dream playground. Some trespassing tykes had to be dragged off this one, I've heard.

Which of our mothers didn't warn us to stay away from the tracks? None that I know of.

Talk about an iron will !!!

Okay, now the soles of your feet seem to be jiggling and your lungs feel kind of goofy.

Bye, bye!  I didn't even get a wave.
Songwriter Juanita Hughes (second from left) standing with talented Woodstock Elementary teachers after the performance of a railroad-themed medley by the third-graders. The mural depicts an earlier Woodstock locomotive. Photo by Blake Barrows.

Monday, October 1, 2012

There's Gold in Woodstock - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Everyone knows a gold vein cuts right through this county, skimming the northern outskirts of the Woodstock area, but that shimmering hard stuff is not my reference. Our real town treasure is flesh and blood--our local teachers. Now you might accuse me of patting my own back, however, my stints in Woodstock schools were sporadic and relatively brief due to other pressing responsibilities. Each time I reentered the system, I was fresh meat and fully oxygenated. So my deep admiration goes to the career teachers who have dedicated much of their adult lives to our area children.

What brought this on? I heard a very nice man, a sportsman-celebrity, speaking on television about his plan to better prepare teachers for the classroom. Now, I really like this guy but, my goodness, is he misinformed. Teachers are eminently qualified and constantly required to update their knowledge, skills and expertise. There is always a new and higher bar to reach or an additional certification to acquire. Summers and Saturdays are often school time for our educators and they dutifully abide.

The very nice man, mentioned above, is not the only person with misconceptions. Oddly, a number of people think teachers have a short day. Oh are they wrong. An hour earlier than their required eight hours, some educators are already in the schoolroom preparing for whatever the day will throw at them. You'd be surprised at the everyday array, but whatever the unexpected challenges, the situation will require a big dose of one or more of the following: flexibility, diplomacy, an eagle eye, superior hearing, compassion, instinct, creativity, psychology, patience and maybe even courage. And don't forget energy. Afternoon meetings, parent conferences, lesson planning and dealing with the day's aftermath often require teachers to linger at the job longer than they should. In the evening hours, while many of us are doing things like taking a healthy jog or reading a book, teachers are still on the job: cogitating on how to reach a certain student or grading a mountain of papers or with much wisdom and discernment, pondering how to prevent breaches in classroom behavior so learning can go forward.

There is never a boring day being a teacher. There's no time for that. From the moment they enter the building each morning, teachers are scrambling. The expectations placed on them are very high. They are pulled in a thousand directions. And every teacher remembers his or her worst day. . . . For me, it came early. I was very young and very new at the profession. My small salary supported not only me but my husband still in college. The budget was thin as you can imagine, and I'd been needing glasses for distance vision, that season an impossible purchase. One day, a field trip made me keenly feel the lack. After guiding my students' inquiry, establishing our educational purpose and warning them of security issues, I brought my sixth grade science class all the way from Jefferson, GA to the old Atlanta zoo of decades ago (1972 to be exact). The students--some had never been to the Big Town--eagerly skittered behind me as I led them around the panorama of wild-animal pens. The two hour bus ride and a painful sinus headache had made me groggy, yet I knew something ahead was amiss. The sidewalk we traipsed sloped down a long hill. At the bottom, a trio of human slugs, lounging on a bench, leered and smirked in my direction as though a teacher's predicament was about to make their day. One wore a letter jacket, probably skipping school. Another, brimming with self-contained laughter, puffed on a cigarette. The third pretended to be Jim Morrison of the Doors; remember, this was quite a while ago. I looked beyond the group. I squinted. My poor vision and tired brain could not make sense of the animal form in the pen ahead. As we moved closer, the massive, battle-gray shape came into clarity. Two romantically engaged rhinos were oblivious to the noon sunshine and thirty-six pairs of bugged eyes about to file by. A reverse, back the way we came, would first require a sudden halt, which would have resulted in the domino effect and a third of my class flattening me. Mustering a great deal of poise, I continued the course past the snickering males and the bizarre view. My headache surged to gigantic proportions. My students, just how was I going to explain to their parents the advanced science education they had gotten that day?

So why do teachers make a long career of it, knowing they are public servants; and for that reason their pay, out of necessity, will never be commensurate to their dedicated effort and advanced degrees? They do it because their hearts call them to the profession and because they are very good at what they do. They truly are gold. I know. I've seen so many of them in action. Woodstock is blessed with an abundance of teacher-wealth. So let's appreciate our teachers and raise our children and grandchildren to value this great resource. We sure don't want to raise any human slugs!

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and author of the Woodstock novels

Woodstock Teachers Making a Difference in Children's Lives

Samantha Daugherty

Della Tucker

Jane Hancock

Pam Morgan

 Donna Rotruck

A Little Woodstock History:

Things have changed a great deal with time. This 1894 photo shows Little River Academy, once located on the grounds of today's Little River Methodist Church on Hwy 92, near Trickum Road. The original log building burned in 1887. Schooling took place primarily in winter when the children were not needed on the farm. Parents had to pay tuition. The two adult males in the photo are the teachers, Robert Rusk and William D. Rusk, ancestors of Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State in the 1960s. (CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT)   

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rollin' on the River - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

The tranquil Little River slides through the southern end of our county. The seasons make the river fluctuate. February and March cause surging water and wide banks. The length of a hot, dry summer can temporarily turn the course into an ebbing stream in certain places. According to the map, the origin is near the western county line. In my car as I pass over the river at Trickum Road, Arnold Mill Road or by the SCRA ball fields, my sight makes a quick detour from the road so I can check the flow. I like the thought of the river quietly moving through the land. For many years, though, I was somewhat oblivious to this waterway. Then one day, our city historian, Juanita Hughes, shared information about the 1843 Saye family farm covering 80 acres along and near Little River. The rich floodplain made their endeavor a success. Just a few years ago, River Ridge High School took its place at this choice bend in the course. My interest was stirred.

Moving northward and then turning west, Little River is joined by Mill Creek and Rubes Creek, a short distance before Main Street crosses overhead, north of town. The water is zipping along now. Before the river empties into Allatoona Lake near Bells Ferry Road, it passes a section called Rope Mill, famous in our town as a small settlement of grist mills and cotton mills that can be documented as early as 1842. There is speculation of prior mills. The Cherokee Indians may have taken advantage of the location earlier. In 1900, when Woodstock city population was 276, Rope Mill had about 15 employees.  These workers and their families lived in mill housing. The enterprise was certainly the largest employer in town. Hardscrabble times. The people are gone, but the foundation footprint of Rope Mill remains.

Maybe seventeen years ago, my son, a teenager on his mountain-bike, traveled the rickety remains of the old bridge at the site. He told me about the uncommon area, but I did not have a clue about the place. Since then, I've learned a lot. Eventually, Olde Rope Mill Park sprang up and, lately, a new bridge was built, taking you to walking trails. Preservation Woodstock has been busy gathering research and preparing informative signage. For a rewarding outing, put on a pair of hiking shoes and come read the signs for yourself. You will then know the true significance of Little River, and you'll be richer for it--like Jennifer and Tracy Snyder, local residents, who on one occasion gathered their adventurous kids and tubed down the lazy length of Little River. . . . Fun!

(The photos, below, show the river site and mill foundation ruins at Rope Mill Park.)

 To the left is the new bridge going to the mill site, seen from park side.
Viewed from the banks at Olde Rope Mill Park, the beautiful Little River at high level in the spring.

 A view of the mill site. No evidence is visible of former grist or cotton mills, employee homes or other structures that once dominated the landscape from the 1830s until 1949. In preparation for the building of Allatoona Lake, land along the flood plain was purchased and any buildings were destroyed or removed. The Rope Mill closed its doors on Sept.30, 1949 in accordance.

Rope Mill management, employees and their families on closing day in 1949. The official name of the company was Cherokee Cotton Mill operated by Joe and Smith Johnston, Sr. As the years passed, Woodstock natives referred to the business as the Rope Mill.

Remains of the brick foundation and the cotton chute. Cotton bales from the warehouse back on the hill were dropped into the building to begin processing into plow line and well rope.

 If you look closely, the man in a royal blue shirt at the end of the path designates the other end of the building, which was 191' in length. During 60 years time, trees and vegetation have grown over the foundation, hiding evidence of the Rope Mill.

The long raceway funneled water toward the powerhouse and turbine of Rope Mill. This water power gave the enterprise an economic advantage during WWII when they had a contract to produce tent rope for the government.

The dam constructed by John Dorn in 1925 to increase water power coming into the mill.

 Preservation Woodstock signage explaining Rope Mill history, from the park side.

Visitors have crossed the bridge to read additional signage installed by Preservation Woodstock, on the former mill side. Remains of the mill entrance (concrete steps) are nearby. Taking a right, the visitors will immediately traverse the hidden mill foundation footprint. As they continue down the path, they will see the cotton chute, powerhouse, raceway and dam.

A metal sign designates the former entrance to the Rope Mill. The concrete steps and platform, enveloped by greenery, are next to the sign.

(Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and the author of the Woodstock series.)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Different But the Same - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

The other day I was ambling, not sashaying (this is the New South), down the sidewalk in town, wearing my typical getup, nothing trendy or flashy. Being in my early sixties, I lean toward the practical side. Got a house to clean and a yard to tend! But I do love design. Maybe it's the "art of it"--color, form, texture, pattern. Anyway, surprise overwhelms me at the cute stores that constantly pop up around here, presenting well-designed wares of interest to women, like jewelry establishments, a dress shop for the young and hip, even a bridal store with new gowns and consignment pieces that are just as stunning, poised for a trip down the aisle. Anyway, I began to  ponder the subject of females and how we love to self-adorn and accessorize.
Like I said, I am what they euphemistically call a . . . mature lady. I can deal with that. But the situation turned awkward recently when I visited a department store a short distance from Woodstock. There I spied jewelry perfect for a certain outfit of mine and then discovered the maker is Fossil. Oh, no, no, no. Is this brand determined to drive away older women? Yes. They've quite nicely cornered a much younger market, an age bracket unafraid of the name. I strongly considered some earrings, but no need to irritate the younger shoppers' psyches. So I passed on the baubles.
Don't get me wrong. In the future, I'm prepared to sponsor a fiery boycott of any company with misguided marketing advice who tries to bring out a purse line called Old Bag. . . . which makes me think of Queen Elizabeth. Her purse, not her! May we all be so lovely at that age. But there is one aspect of her life that mystifies me. Has she ever gone anywhere without her pocketbook? Ever? I don't get it.  Whatever happened to Ladies-in-Waiting? You know, ready at instant notice with a hair brush, mint or tissue. Well, I'm not privy to that world, but I learned a great deal once, watching a documentary about her 2003 trip to the United States. Detail after detail was explained about the myriad preparations, hers and ours. Fascinating. My serious educational experience came to a crashing halt two hours into the program. Amid all my awe, I discovered she is like every female I know. After the drawn-out pomp and circumstance, the seating of important dignitaries and august politicians and the honorary words of welcome, it was her turn to come to the stage. The camera turned toward the Queen, anticipating her prestigious approach. Not a step. There she stood, disregarding the proceedings, head down, digging in her purse. . . . Okay, it was a search for her speech, but I couldn't stop laughing. Every woman has been forced to make that dive into the black pit and come up quickly with something momentarily essential. Females, we are all different but the same! 
(Below are photos of some of our local shops and stylish Woodstock women of every age.)


Joyful women exiting Woodstock's House and Garden Boutique.

Always sleek and lovely Lynn Patterson in her shop, House and Garden Boutique.

Stylish women having lunch at The Century House Restaurant

A young beauty enjoying the scene. 

The Bridal Exchange Boutique is overflowing with ethereal designs for a walk down the aisle. The shop is situated elegantly in the Woodstock Downtown Development.

Well-dressed local businesswomen.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and the author of the Woodstock series.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Roots That Keep Us Grounded - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Today, I  met a man. A century man. One hundred years old. Born in Woodstock in 1912, he wanted to tell me about all the changes he had seen take place in our town. Maybe he sensed I would listen. His excitement or the happy sounds of his birthday party at the City Chambers, not forgetting the distraction of others rushing in to greet him, hindered his ability to fully express what he longed to say. So he just repeated his general statement about our city's transformation, with his eyes lit up like candles on a cake.

Over the years, I had heard of longtime resident, Claud Barnes. I had even seen his long-ago photo. A purposeful young man dressed in WWII uniform, he smiled, engaged in conversation with his pretty wife as they strode along a sidewalk in a big city elsewhere. The war wasn't over yet. Earlier, they had lost their infant child, and Claud would soon face the deadly struggle on the beaches of Normandy. That optimistic photo is a picture of courage in a time of deep uncertainty. This is the vital element of which our country is made. This is the strong stuff our town birthed. I drifted away letting others visit with the guest of honor as I wondered what details and observations about Woodstock past must be nestled close to that man's heart.

Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate the place where we live. Sometimes we never do. Thirty two years have passed since my husband and I claimed our spots here. Raised on the outskirts of large cities in the South, we tried to tamp down the few reservations that might lift our barely formed roots from our little piece of Woodstock soil and let us blow away. In 1980, the city was a smaller, slower, quieter place and not so different than it was in the '50s or even earlier. We stayed. We raised our children. We found our partiality growing for a town of which we had no previous connection. That's what happens when you go about the business of living. After a time, the experience imperceptibly encourages you to invest yourself in your neighbors, in the schools and in the most central things--your home and yard. Surprised, you discover your investment in your community has intensified your affection.

I hope it's been happening to you, too, wherever you are.

Thank you, Claud Barnes, for causing us to love you. Thank you for being one of the roots that hold us to our town.   


Claud and his wife, Ruth, shortly
before he returns to the war front.

A sample of what grows on my piece of Woodstock soil.

Patti is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc. and the author of the Woodstock novels.