Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Members, guests, and certainly I, had a wonderful time at the Senoia Area Historical Society’s meeting last Thursday night when three of the city’s dearest folk entertained and educated a standing-room-only crowd.
“Conversations among Classmates,” January’s monthly program at the Senoia Area Historical Society with octogenarian guests Jim Barnett, Callie Welden, and Ellis Crook, was nothing if not a New Year’s show stopper! The audience smiled, giggled, clapped, and laughed out loud for over an hour as the three told stories about one another, about the Senoia of times past, and about the town characters who made it such a delightful place in which to grow up.
Mr. Ellis, a born storyteller, shared tales of a number of the people who provided some very real local color to the small township of the 1940s and 1950s. These were the days when a night watchman walking his rounds was responsible for alerting the single policeman “Chief George” to any “meanness” going on in the neighborhoods. Seems, boys playing pranks or an occasional disorderly charge were among the usual complaints. A raid on the local moonshiner was big news, and the rumor that someone (who remains nameless to this day) had set fire to the then empty Brantley Institute was even bigger news. But all three agreed that Senoia was a wonderful, safe haven where every child was responsible to every adult, no matter if they were kin or not.
Miss Callie and Mr. Jim shared memories of fun times roller skating on Highway 16 where two friends posted at each end of the bridge expanse insured that the kids in the middle had ample warning if a rare car came along. A personal skating rink! Seems Callie Welden was the only girl in the Jr. Commandos of Senoia; a picture ID, now displayed at the Museum, proved she could carry a Red Ryder BB gun and patrol the neighborhood as proficiently as any of the boys. A professed tom-boy, she also learned to sip tea in white gloves and was an active Girl Scout in the local troop for years.
Though just little kids, they shared memories of the War years, of saving aluminum foil and collecting old pots and pans, and of ration cards used for the two pairs of shoes allowed each year. And they all agreed that the rationing never really seemed to affect their families who always had plenty of flour and meal and lots of home-grown vegetables.
Miss Callie, who according to her own admission was not just a good basketball player but a “great” one, went to the high school games played on a dirt court in a barn turned gym along with the entire community. Basketball was even bigger than football which was pretty big. Mr. Jim remembered playing the cornet in the band at games and readily admitted that Ellis Crook, a couple of years older, became a magnet when he got his own car and his driver’s license at 15! No one was as popular or as cool as Ellis Crook, and Jim recalled how he and Jimmy Hutchison finagled rides from their new best buddy.
Both Callie and Jim had paper routes; Callie walked hers and Jim threw papers from his bicycle. She worked in the summer at the peach packing operation which was in the basement of what is now called the Buggy Museum. Mr. Ellis was picking cotton, which Jim and Callie said they did sometimes just long enough to earn the eleven cents it cost to go to the movies. They were paid a penny a pound.
When not busy with homework or chores they spent their days running free all over the community: swimming in Lake Merrimac, playing ball, camping out with friends, and fishing. Jim Barnett described the art and sport of frog-gigging that he and a friend enjoyed, telling how one of the ladies in town would fry up the frog legs when they had enough to be worth the trouble. “Now these were little ole frogs,” Jim said. “Not your big fat bullfrogs.”
It was obvious that they weren’t telling all they knew. Sometimes you just need to keep a secret or two. Ellis Crook showed the audience a notebook full of memories he plans to ask his son to publish, but “Not until after I’m dead.” Seems he thinks too many folks might take umbrage to his work.
Mr. Jim summed up their idyllic childhood in our very special town by saying, “All we had to worry about in those days was gettin’ home in time for dinner!”
Next month members and guests can plan to enjoy another excellent program as David and Rita Brown of Longview Ranch will bring present a program entitled “Homesteading.” They will show and discuss some of the artifacts that the couple has collected over the years and which make up a large part of their “Barn Museum.” Rita has said they can’t promise to be as funny, but those who have seen the display and who know David’s very dry sense of humor, can promise it will be a show you don’t want to miss!
Finding a seat is getting harder to do, so arrive at #6 Couch Street early. March and April will showcase the history of the Senoia Raceway and of the Native American history of Coweta County. Scott Baggarly will bring his amazing collection of arrowheads; not sure what the Raceway will have to showcase. You’ll just have to come and see!