Home is in your heart

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
I clearly remember when I was in high school in a small Georgia town (that is now a huge melting pot of citizens from around the globe), we often speculated on who we would be, where we would go, and what we would accomplish. The Clarkston, located in DeKalb County, Georgia, is no longer the little berg we knew and loved. Last time I was home, and took a long trip down memory lane, I hardly recognized anything I saw.

The high school looked pretty much the same. I lived across the street from that mighty fortress of my youth before moving to Pine Lake, which is now an artsy fartsy community of painters, writers, musicians, and a few old home folks. The lake is still there, but I could not align the current size of it with the huge, beautiful water of my past. The old granite rock school is gone and that made me sad. The old drug store and the big Baptist church in which we graduated has also been torn down for new development.

It was there in that pristine lake I swam the days away, taught others to swim and was American Red Cross certified to life guard, played on the sandy beaches, and danced the night away in the teen canteen under the strict supervision of the local guardian of all children and teens – Chief Purvis and his equally invested wife, Miss Mary. Trust me, if one of us got into trouble or mischief, our parents and the neighbors knew it before we got home.

Chief Purvis and Miss Mary knew each of us personally, was acutely aware of our home lives and the parenting ability, or lack of, in each home. In the fall and winter months, when the beach and lake closed for cooler weather, the Chief convinced the powers that be that busy teens got into less trouble.

And, so, the Teen Canteen expanded to the very nice women’s clubhouse, located in the cloverleaf, where five streets came together. A jukebox was installed and we danced the night away to keep us occupied and safe.

I remember the Wurlitzer representative coming out one late afternoon to change out the old records and put new ones in for our dancing pleasure. He said we were the only group on his route that had completely worn out three copies of Ray Charles’ “What’d I say?” We loved that song. “See the girl with the red dress on…”

Friendships were made and cemented during those years that are still lasting today. Ginger Bragg Doster, Gene Bennett, Benjy Johnson, Dianna Buder, Carl Mothershed, Donna Sue Melton, Butch Moore, the Doster and Dixon brothers, and so many more come to mind. Our tight group let “outsiders” come to visit and often stay.

I suppose all young people go through stages of planning, preparing, and pursuing dreams that are harbored during these formative years. One girl in our class, dubbed “the Professor,” because she was so smart, and often chosen by teachers to monitor the class or help grade papers, was adamant and verbal about her goals and plans. Millie had a plan.

She declared every opportunity she had that she hated small town living and that “she was getting out of that damned little town one way or the other” once she graduated. And she did! She broke all family tradition, angered her father, gained employment with Delta Airlines and moved to the huge city of Dallas to fly. She met and married a Yankee from Philly and lived in Texas 30 years.

But she came home to Georgia to care for her sweet mother, Polly, when she needed her most. We have often discussed those of our group that never experienced wanderlust and have lived all their lives not ten miles from where they were born and reared. It was more than enough for them, but not for others of us.

I fall into the second group by personal choice. Because of my work, I have always traveled and almost every day of my life, I have loved it. The joy comes from meeting new people, learning new things, enjoying different experiences, and for me, writing about my adventures. Choose what works for you, but don’t knock another’s choice. We are all different – thank God.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at 409 781 8788, or
[email protected] com, somewhere in this vast world of ours


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