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Monday, December 31, 2018

Prescience, She's Got It - Juanita Hughes

November 8 - Juanita Hughes Day in Woodstock

 An introduction - You haven't been in Woodstock long if you haven't heard of Juanita Hughes, latest recipient of the key to our city. She's a prescient lady where Woodstock is concerned. Early on, she realized the need to preserve our town story. For many years, she has been unraveling, recording and highlighting the earlier people and events of this place. Regularly, area schoolchildren learn of the former things from her, the changes in their environs and a way of life that has passed away. At Juanita's introduction, here in 1965, I think she must have foreseen hamlet-sized Woodstock transforming into the spread-out, bustling city it has become.

Preteen Juanita, looking to the future.
Developing her talents before marriage and motherhood. She later had several careers: bookkeeper to a medical practice, library employee, and docent at historic Dean's Store.

Saving History - When I think of an old photo I took in my childhood, I like to think I have a smidgen of Juanita's foresight to capture reality before it's lost. Living in west Miami of the 1950s, I used my Kodak Brownie camera to take a photo beyond my fence, across the canal, to the vast plant-and-tree shrouded land on the other side. That edge of the Everglades abounded with animals. We could hear the blubbery-sounding shwoosh of manatees exhaling as their nostrils rose from the canal water to take air; the cry of fox, raccoon and rare Florida panther; the calls of countless birds. Seminoles lived in their un-walled huts a few miles away. Then one morning, machinery scoured the landscape as the 1958 Palmetto Expressway came into being, obliterating the old view forever. I am thankful for that impromptu image on paper. 

High school graduation photo.

Her Backstory - Unknowingly, Juanita prepared herself for the role of town historian long before Woodstock gained regional importance. Although fun-loving and social, she has held to a work ethic inherited from her joyful mother and her more commanding grandmother. Her grandfather, a valued shipping clerk in Dalton's Crown Cotton Mills, was also a positive influence on Juanita's life. Earlier, after a divorce, her mother and three-year-old Juanita had come to live in his household where they remained for Juanita's growing-up years. The adults under that roof encouraged young Juanita to study, and they conversed freely with her about the topics of the day. 
         After her education at Dalton High School, Juanita continued to develop her vibrant mind by reading words that mattered. She mastered writing so well that The Cherokee Tribune has published her columns for decades. I once viewed a scrapbook that had belonged to her academic-minded father, a much older man that she hardly got to know. The collection contains fascinating notations, puzzles, cogent expressions, scientific drawings, newspaper articles and personal musings. This family relic reveals Juanita's strong genetic component for intellectual curiosity.

The future - Juanita, a young octogenarian, is in good health. Years of faith and humor and regular exercise are probably the reasons for her hardiness. Woodstock continues to be her passion. Thank goodness. She constantly gifts us by chronicling, compiling and preserving the tale of Woodstock. She will insist that the organization Preservation Woodstock, formerly The Centennial Commission, has been the overriding vehicle and that's true. But our archives are full because of her. We possess several Woodstock history books due to her urging and support. Landmarks have been historically interpreted and marked with signage. Intriguing questions about olden times in South Cherokee County have been answered. Serendipitous discoveries have been made. Most important, Woodstock citizens appreciate their locale more dearly. As though holding a treasured old photo, they can visualize layers of times past that are now gone forever.

May constantly changing Woodstock blossom ever more beautifully, just as Juanita does each year.

Patti Brady's new Woodstock novel, In the Land of Courage, will arrive in late 2019.