The retracing of some of our footsteps taken down the sidewalks of Folkston, Georgia during the 1950's is a consequence having an updated list of students graduating from Charlton County Highschool-Class of 1958. Included were their phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and their present residences. That's the inspiration needed for a Sunday, October 16, 2010 project. Please let me know if you don't wish to be included, and I can write you out easily.
Other writings relating to this account are: (1)Hurricane On Chesser Island; (2)Five Points-Firetower Road, The People And Coincidence; (3)
Old Route 41-A;(4)Route 2, Golden Pond, Kentucky
Planet Earth and Southeast Georgia were into November of 1951, and so were the Fulks family. For us the move from Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was an exciting event in the lives of Rummage, Ella, Betty, and George Fulks. I, George Harold Fulks, bore the remnants of a "honey of a shiner"- a black eye rendered by Bobby Swinford. Those sharing the first schoolbus ride with me were impressed. Someone had left their mark so that I would remember them. "We do that here." That's what others will tell one.
Odum Peacocks' number four schoolbus was full of students enroute to their assigned schools in the city of Folkston. Many of Mr. Peacock's riders were noisy and excited at having a new passenger, and I was greeted enthusiastically by the driver and several of those students. Johnny Eadie Junion, a highschool junior and his brother Douglas, a fourth grader, entered that bus at Camp Cornelia with me. Folkston, Georgia and its schools were fourteen miles away.
Then Odum Peacock drove his bus one-quarter-mile to Tommy Roddenberry's boatdock on the Swanee Canal where he picked-up four of the Raddenberry girls. There were Theo, Sybil Cornelia, Marsha, and Yvonne.
Attracted to Sybil Cornelia almost immediately, her hex was that she was charming, talkative, and had a wonderful personality. What she lacked in beauty was compensated by possession of those qualities.
To my disappointment, Sybil Cornelia shared a seat with her boyfriend. Nevertheless, her boyfriend remained cordial and supportive for a time. "Everybody likes Connie," he said. Later on, that fourth grade boy and I competed in a wrestling match resulting in no great injury to either of us. Any wrestling referee would have scored our bout a "draw."
Next Odum Peacock drove five miles to Chesser Island. There boarded Ruby, Jo Lester, and Aaron Huey Chesser. Ruby was an intelligent highschool senior. Lester was a junior and Huey, a sixth grader.
Most impressive concerning Huey was that he bore a close resemblance to a native-American boy. He was small in stature, about five-feet-three; and naturally tanned with dark-black hair which he kept crew-cut. Extremely bright, cordial, and easygoing, Huey was a very natural kind of person-
calm, collected, and understanding; peaceful and never angered or combative.
To be stated with certainty is that Aaron Huey Chesser, Kenneth "Catfish" Gay, and George Harold Fulks entered into open competition for the attention and affection of Sybil Cornelia. With my skinny stature, oversized head, and standout ears, presented to Connie was a very homely image. Of the three boys, I stood the least of chances. Along with other negatives, I had green, cat-eyes, and at age seventy, I still do.
Win, Lose, Or Draw
That horrific wrestling match with Kenneth "Catfish" Gay resulted partly from a Christmas gift I gave to Sybil Cornelia Roddenberry, his girlfriend. The gift was a pink piggybank that Connie accepted in the true spirit of Christmas. Connie's boyfriend was not angered by my gift, and neither was Huey Chesser. One of those boys said it, and the other agreed in statements supporting my generousity. "That's okay. It doesn't make me mad at all. It just shows that he loves her. I won't fight anybody for caring about somebody. That's something I should have done."
My gift to Sybil Cornelia didn't win her affection , but she made use of that bank- filling it eventually with coins. As she looked at my homely face and negative physical traits, she must surely have wished that someone more handsome had given her a gift.
During that first month at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the grass at Camp Cornelia in year 1951, there was a wrestling match- Kenneth "Catfish" Gay versus George Harold Fulks. According to Catfish, the match was to toughen- me-up.
As far as wrestling matches go, the two of us rolled over and over each other. For a time, Kenneth was on top of me. Then I'd roll over on top of him for a time.
Wrestling in that manner until we had exhausted each other and were beetfaced and sweating profusely for what might have been thirty minutes as Connie and Huey watched, we wore each other out. Any referee would have ruled our bout a "draw".
To imply that Sybil Cornelia's boyfriend Kenneth "Catfish" Gay was a bully is not intended. A bully he was certainly not. Fourth and fifth graders are seem as notorious for engaging in competitive activities such as wrestling, tug-of-wars, marbles, horseshoes, boxing matches, and all kinds of ballgames such as dodgeball, baseball, and running. You name it, and they'll be involved in such activities. A few observers will stand on the sidelines hooting and hollering. In a sense, that's part of the history of mankind.
As for wrestling itself, that is not restricted to boys. Years later during 1995, this writer, during a drive-by, observed two of my former sixth grade students as they wrestled. I caught Jessica and Jennifer rolling each other over and over just as Kenneth and I had done in 1951. Their dirty but lovely faces and bedraggled hair indicated to me that the
two were angry at each other. Perhaps they were not. I drove by them without stopping. Hope they weren't quarreling over anything I had done.(For the record, Jennifer is now a U.S. Airforce officer; and Jessica- a resident of Pana, Illinois. They're nearly twenty years older. Would they still fight each other?)
Back at Gray Elementary School, Jone County, Georgia, Otha Wadford and George Clarence Green were on the ground wrestling at every recess. A point to make is that poor Otha was seldom seen on his feet. Those two boys grew stronger in that manner. Each would return to the fifth grade classroom following recess exhausted, dirty, and ruffled; but were otherwise unscarred. Leaving them in November of 1951, I wonder if they ever stopped wrestling each other.
First Day In Charlton County Schools
That November day in 1951 I entered and was enrolled in a different school. What a delightful surprise it turned-out to be! As soon aa I entered that fifth grade classroom at Charlton County Elementary School,
I spotted Mrs. Eleanor Saunders, the teacher, seated at her desk. Her face was crowned with a smile and a gentle nature. Her eyes dawned kindness and humility, and I could sense immediately that she loved children. As I glanced briefly at the other fifth graders seated at their desks, they delivered to me an important message by the manner in which they behaved. School will be a pleasant experience here. We will have no trouble accepting you. Every classmate was easygoing, humble, and relaxed. Not a one seemed to mind that another student had come to class or that he was small, skinny, and homely.
The year was still 1951, and from Brunswick Georgia came our wonderful mathematics teacher, Mrs. Vivian Wainwright. A tall, darks-haired, enthusiastic, and energetic lady, her entry into our fifth grade class provided for Mrs. Eleanor Saunders a one hour duty free plan period- a dream come true for most classroom teachers. Mrs. Wainwright was a mathematics specialist; teaching us addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division of fractions, and she taught those expertly. Somehow most of we fifth graders learned those important math skills. Usually slow in math, that subject became easier for me and many others in her group. Mrs. Wainsright's abilities to
teach and motivate were outstanding. Not long was required for her to gain our respect and admiration. The concentration required during those troublesome calculations resulted in no discipline problems. Of course, we continued to love and respect Mrs. Saunders and warmly welcomed her back after her one hour duty free planning period.
Recesses At Folkston Elementary School
Between Folkston Elementary School and A.J. Harris Junior Highschool was the playground we used during recesses. Scattered in just the right places were tropical and subtropical plants. Included were several eucalyptus trees; suggesting that someone from Folkston had visited Australia at some time. Along with swings and slides, our playground provided plenty of room for we boys to engage in our favorite game- touch football. We were small and homely, but we could play skillfully. That was a role model type of thing for reason that the Charlton County Highshool Indians
had a winning football squad during that time with Lester Chesser, Louis Davis, Freddie McClain, J.R. Jones and brother Charles, and Robert McCoy- the touchdown king. Those were our heroes during those times long ago.
Playing other games on the sidelines and paying us little attention were the fourth and fifth grade girls. Engaged in conversation, jumprope, jacks, swinging and sliding, hopscotch, and ballthrowing, their attention usually was centered on the older seventh and eighth grade boys on another playground hidden behind the A.J. Harris Junior Highschool; or perhaps some of the highschool boys they knew. That those girls paid much attention to our football games is doubtful, and we boys were much too involved to care. The end of our recesses was a disappointment. We'd all had so much fun.
Concealed from our view by the A.J. Harris Junior Highschool (We become like those whom we constantly admire.) was another playground where another fifth grade and the seventh and eighth graders were. Those fifth graders were town kids of parents who were holders of wealth and influence in Charlton County. Our fifth grade would catch only an occasional glimpse of those students. Passing fifth grade, we moved into the Junior Highschool building as sixth graders where our teacher was Mrs. Josephine Gowan. Mrs. Gowan became a morale supporter and friend of mine. Gaining her support by being attentive, good behavior, and concentrating on being a good student, I became more quiet and academically competent. Mrs. Gowan was definitely a positive assett to that school district, and she was an excellent teacher.
A.J. Harris for whom the Junior Highschool was named had been a teacher in that Charlton County School District. After his retirement, he and his wife, Mamie, continued their dedication to Folkston and were highly regarded and respected in that community. Their contributions to Folkston were very significant and deserving of merit. Without citizens such as those, culture and civilization risk regression to a state of anarchy.
As the 1951-52 school term at Folkston Elementary School ended, it had been a unique kind of experience; historically speaking. Many young men were fighting in Korea- a cold land. Harry Truman occupied The
White House, and Douglas MacArthur had resigned his U.S. Army commission. Mrs. Eleanor Saunders and her fifth grade class had listened to both on the radio. For all of us to remember were Southeastern Assembly Programs, and students in tha school district endured the wrath of C.B. Williams, the highschool principal. It was the reign of fear. Life continued despite human falacy and the challenges presented to us. It always does.(I, G Fulks, now go bye-bye!)
Have A Wonderful Reonion- reunion. Daughter, Tracy and Matthew Beckham recently
celebrated their seventh wedding University- anniversary. An Army buddy hailed from
Madatyourson, Wisconsin-Madison. My Utickle-me bill last month was $113. Utility.