The Watters District Council for Historical Preservation, Inc.
Memories of a Village Kid
By Margaret Kelly Flowers
From the very first memories until today, Shannon has always been very special and personal place to me. In 1927 my granddad, Timothy Joseph Kelly, came from Passiac, N.J. to become Vice President and Manager of the new Southern Brighton Mill. He had worked as an errand boy from a teenager progressing one step at a time through on the job training and some correspondence courses.
While waiting for a home to be built, now belonging to Khonnie and Steve Sluder, they resided at the Forrest Hotel. They enrolled three sons in Darlington and begin to settle in to a new life. One son had died of complications of a burst appendix just two weeks before the move. One son had finished school and one had taken what became a lifelong job with Chase Manhattan Bank NYC.
Of course my life was centered around their son, Edward G. Kelly meeting and marrying a Floyd County farmer's daughter named Grace Whatley. A lot of people have said their marriage was one made in heaven. I never doubted it. I was blessed to become their daughter in 1932. By then Daddy had begun on the bottom rung of the job ladder at the mill.
My granddad passed away in 1935. My Mother told me at the end of each shift people came to the house to pay their respects. This was a blessed and humble memory for all of my entire family.
Our first home in the village was a half of a duplex at the north end of 3rd Street. Most of my friends and playmates were boys except for Claire Houser. There just were not any girls around then who were either much older or younger than me. My closest buddies were Julius and Pat Locklear and Denison Hull. In those days we used card board boxes to slide down reservoir hill. We built houses and forts from pine straw and in summer played in sprinklers to keep cool.
Then came school. When I was in the second grade, while I was in the hospital having my tonsils out, Model School burned. All hands were on deck and places were found for school to go right on. Our class met on the top floor of what is now McGowan Jones Pharmacy. We had our recesses across the street from the store. It was surely different but so much fun. In that same second grade year we moved into our second home. It is on 2nd Street where Eddie and Joan McEarchern now live. By then I had old friends joined
by new ones. June Tolbert, Buddy and Martha Watkins, Charles and George Williams, Harry Dawson, the three Rich brothers, Marian Ford, Sandra Austin, and Jean Murdoch. These are just some. I do remember how much fun we managed to have without being electronically connected to any gadgets. We were outside and playing from daylight to dark. Anyone I have left out just call me and fuss at me so we can get reacquainted! Eighty year old minds are known to slip now and then. In 1941, My sister Rose was born. She shares and cherishes these same memories.
So many articles have been written about the Youth Club and those wonderful people that made it possible and successful for all those years. All I can really add is to say how fortunate we all are to have that environment to experience during those teen years. We had it all and didn't know it.
Another highlight of my growing up years in Shannon is my absolute obsession with The Northwest Georgia Textile League. I thought to ever miss one game was catastrophic. I love the Braves but those games back then were some of the best of baseball as far as I am concerned. This subject has been covered well through the years too.
So many friends over the years have talked about how we were everybody's kids. Wherever we happened to congregate the resident parents were in control and it was understood we would show respect or expect discipline just as we would at home. I don't ever remember any parents ever getting offended by this arrangement. It worked well.
All through these years the mill was furnishing all these wonderful opportunities for the employees and families. Who can't remember the Christmas Parties where every kid got toys and a bag of goodies? Remember the Brighton Choral Club lead by Miss Helen Dean Rhodes. We were accompanied by Dale Stone. This group performed many times at all sorts of programs and on the radio. It was a fun group too. Dale Stone later played at my wedding and threatened to play Glory, Glory To Old Georgia as I came down the
aisle. He did it at the rehearsal and I was relieved when he stuck to the program at the ceremony. We will never forget the wonderful 4th of July celebrations with all the many activities. Most of all the delicious bar-be-que with all the trimmings. We had the informative Warp & Weft Magazine with all the community news and items from all the departments in the mill. Our Girl and Boy Scout programs were among the best. We had one of the best swimming pools around which my children enjoyed years later.
Shannon had its own policeman. He was fully equipped with police car and was deputized by Floyd County. He kept us and our businesses safe and probably saved property and lives by allowing no speeding or malicious mischief in the village.
Other of the many great things I recall was the mill bringing Dr. Harry Dawson and equipping a clinic and furnishing a nurse. All those many years he gave such good care to all of us. When my Daddy had a heart attack in 1965, Dr. Dawson sat by his bed and ministered to him for 18 hours. We always felt he gave him a gift of 21 more years of life.
The first store I remember where McGowans is was Britton Brothers. They sent someone to take orders in the morning and delivered them in the afternoon. At one time or another came Kessler's and Franklin's and maybe some I don't recall. In the space where the present Post Office was A&W Superette owned by Annie Lou and Wilson Sherman. Another store was Harvey's which was at the corner of Minshew Road and Pierce Hill Rd.
We made our third move to the house where I presently reside. I left to become a freshman at UGA in the fall of 1949. The first time I came home for a weekend we had moved just across the lot from 2nd to 1st Street. One of the summers while I was at UGA I was asked to fill in for the switchboard at the mill. I loved it. During that summer people started coming and going to and from Greensboro NC. Burlington Mills was buying Brighton. Once I got to Athens it was hard to leave. My Mother felt sorry for me because I cried all the way home from graduation.
The next fall became the start of one of the really fun years of my life. I had planned to go to a small town in GA to teach school. Dr. Randall Minor called me to come by and talk to him. My Daddy told me that unless I was ready for a change in plans I had better skip that visit. I now know what Daddy knew then that Dr. Minor could talk anyone into anything and make them think it had been their own idea all along. I became a teacher at Model High School for the 1953-54 year. There were some really memorable
times that year. The best thing was Model football team were state champions. The Boosters Club was established that fall.
This is pretty much the way I recall the terrific times of being a part of being a Village Kid. I doubt if any group of children ever were a part of being brought up by a whole family of fine and caring people as we were.
As the years went by with me so they did with the mill and my Daddy's life there. He started at the bottom of the ladder and worked his way up. He worked in a lot of jobs. I don't remember him talking a lot about them. I do remember his working in the payroll department. When he retired he was Personnel Director. He loved whatever he was doing and he loved the people in Shannon. Through the years and name changes he just hung in doing all kinds of things for people. I remember one year he and Mother
decided to give his Christmas Bonus to a young couple who couldn't make the down payment for a house. So many people came by our house at night and weekends to ask for advice and talk through problems.
He had numerous offers over the years for other jobs making much more materially. He was asked to transfer within the company to other locations. His answer always was the same "I have it all. My family and friends are here, I can walk to work, I love Shannon and its people and hope to live the rest of my life here." He got his wish. To me he was the very best Christian, Husband, Daddy, Pop and loyal friend.
I hope to spend the rest of my later years in Shannon. I'm still very much "a village kid" in my heart and in priceless memories.