Tag Archives: Georgia Documentary

Million Pine Car Spa, Soperton

I believe this business is closed now; this image is from the archives, circa 2013.

Richard Woods and The Woods of Fannin County

Richard Woods in Baxley, Georgia, 8 December 2022

If I told you that eight children were abandoned by their parents, left to fend for themselves in a ramshackle cabin on the side of a mountain in 1940s Fannin County, you’d probably be skeptical. If I told you that, against all odds, they not only survived but went on to become successful adults, your skepticism might turn to disbelief. But it’s a true story, woven into a heartbreaking short novel by my friend Janisse Ray. Last night, Janisse introduced readers to the real Richard Woods, one of the last surviving members of the family she brought to life in her new book, The Woods of Fannin County. A nice crowd turned out in Janisse’s hometown of Baxley for an engaging discussion about the book. Mr. Woods’s daughters, Kim Woods Miller and Kelly Johnson, along with his wife and grandchildren, were also in attendance. Though Mr. Woods now lives in North Alabama, he stated that he also considered Baxley his hometown, having spent his formative years at the local Baptist Children’s Home. More on that later.

Richard Woods, with grandson Chuck Mimbs and granddaughter Kimberlee Bryan

Richard Woods, a kind soft-spoken gentleman with no hint of bitterness about him, recounted his vague memories of the story detailed in the book, vague because he was so young at the time it happened. Almost anyone who has read the book wouldn’t fault him for being bitter. He remembers leaving the house in Morganton where the family was living by mule and wagon. He said he called his mother by her name, “Ruby”*, because she was never a mother in the regular sense of the word. He recounted his disdain for the old cabin and doesn’t remember ever sleeping inside, rather on or under the porch. He remembers stealing corn and having no food but hominy and wild berries and at least one helping of poke sallet. When asked why no one did anything about such a large family of small children being abandoned, he noted that his grandfather and other relatives had political influence in Fannin County. He was sure that the whole community knew the situation, but did nothing to help.

Richard Woods (left foreground, signing a copy of The Woods of Fannin County, with his daughter, Kim Woods Miller, in the background)

Salvation ultimately came from an old moonshiner who lived near the cabin and sought a solution from the local Baptist preacher. As a result of that intervention, the Woods children, except the oldest and the youngest, were taken in by the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home. They stayed briefly at the Hapeville Children’s Home before settling at the Baxley campus.

I was inspired by meeting Mr. Woods and hearing first hand his story, which could only be told by someone with a forgiving heart. He said as he and his siblings got on with their lives and families they kept the past in the past but they never forgot what they went through. He noted that they all dealt with it in different ways and at least one sibling never shared with their spouse their traumatic early experiences. Years after their ordeal, they all got together one Thanksgiving and began to write down what they could remember. Those memories are the basis for The Woods of Fannin County. The book is definitely worth a look. Your emotions will run the gamut from sadness to anger to redemption but you’ll be glad you read the story.

*-Many readers of the book want to know what happened to Ruby. Richard Woods’s daughter, Kim Woods Miller, has tracked down a lot of the family’s genealogy, but as of now, she hasn’t been able to track down when or where Ruby died, her death as much a mystery as her life.

Notice: This is an Amazon Affiliate post and purchases related to the discussed book will generate a small commission.

Vince Dooley, 1932-2022

Vince Dooley at the 2015 Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Ceremony, Athens

News of the death of Vince Dooley came at particularly tough time, as fans were beginning preparations for the big Georgia-Florida game weekend. Coach Dooley was revered for leading the Bulldogs to their legendary National Championship season in 1980 and transforming the program into a powerhouse, and there is plenty of information to be found about that online and in print. But he was much more than a sports personality and this a personal appreciation.

When I met him, by chance, at the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame ceremony in Athens in 2015, he was talking with some of that year’s inductees about their work. His genuine interest in arts and culture came as somewhat of a surprise to me but it was easy to see that this was just a part of who he was. Though he was often the center of attention when on the UGA campus, he came to events like this to celebrate others. He had no air of self-importance about him whatsoever. I was honored to be able to meet and photograph him.

After a tour in the Marines, while coaching at his alma mater, Auburn, Dooley obtained a master’s degree in history. This all happened before he began his storied career at Georgia, in 1964. His interest in history never wavered and in 2011 he was named a Trustee of the Georgia Historical Society, serving as chairman of the board from 2016-2018. In addition to this work, and tireless fundraising for a wide variety of causes, he found the time to be a master gardener.

He will be greatly missed but he leaves an amazing legacy.

Southern Ladies, Warrenton

These nice ladies, who were attending a fundraiser for the Knox Theatre renovation, reminded me of my grandmothers and so many Southern ladies I knew growing up, who had their hair done at the beauty shop every week and were always stylish and well-coiffed when seen in public. There aren’t many like them anymore.

Bulloch House, 1893, Warm Springs

Benjamin Bulloch House. The photos shared here were made in March 2010.

The first Bullochs came to the area of present-day Greenville, Georgia, from Edgecombe County, North Carolina, in the early 1800s and Cyprian Bulloch remained in the area and was a successful businessman . [This branch of Bullochs were not related to Archibald Bulloch, the first governor of Georgia].

The town of Bullochville was established by Cyprian’s sons, Cyprian Jr. and Benjamin Franklin. It was incorporated on December 20, 1893. Benjamin built this home on a prominent hill overlooking the town. He and Cyprian were large landowners and their other interests included a mill, gin, bank, and coffin factory. It is often stated that the town was renamed Warm Springs by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1920s, but my friend Joe Kitchens notes: My distant cousin Dr. Nepali Kitchens left a lucrative practice in Columbus and retired to Bullochville where he was elected mayor. His training was in hydrotherapy and he claimed to have been the influence behind changing the name of the village, which preceded FDR’s first visit.

Fast forward to 1990: Judy Foster and Charles & Sylvia Garrett purchased and renovated the Bulloch House and converted into a popular restaurant serving Southern favorites, done right.

As someone who never likes fried green tomatoes, I can attest that I actually loved theirs! And of course, they excelled in fried chicken.

Peter and Sandy Lampert purchased the business in 2011.

Sadly, the Bulloch House was struck by lightning and completely lost to an ensuing fire on 10 June 2015. Luckily, for fans of the restaurant, the Lamperts relocated to an historic commercial space in downtown Warm Springs and were up and running by December 2015.

The history shared here comes from their website. If you plan on visiting Warm Springs, you just have to try it. I think you’ll like it.

Watching the Stories at Maebob’s, Irwinton

When I stopped at Maebob’s Diner in 2017 [the date of this photograph], it was the first time I’d eaten there since my college days, and the food was just as good as it was in the early 1990s. I’m not sure how long the place has been open, but I’m saying it’s at least 30 years. There is nothing pretentious about the place and nothing fancy, but the homestyle Southern food does all the talking. It’s really the only gathering place in tiny Irwinton and much of Wilkinson County passes through here at one time or another. The day I was there, a soap opera was playing on the television, and one of the servers and a couple of the customers were paying attention when they could. It made me think of my grandmothers referring to soap operas as “the stories”. They watched them religiously and you knew not to call them while they were on, which, depending on the shows they watched, was anytime between 12:30 and 4PM.

Lonnie Holley Mural Dedication, Lumpkin

Ezekiel and Lonnie Holley

On 24 July 2021 I was honored to attend the dedication of a mural designed by nationally renowned artist Lonnie Holley and painted by his son Ezekiel, on the side of the Singer Hardware building on the square in Lumpkin. Mr. Holley’s work is often classified as Outsider Art, though The New York Times called him “the Insider’s Outsider”.

The work actually comprises two individual works of art. The image on the left is “Born into Color”, and the image at right is “Black in the Midst of the Red, White, and Blue”.

According to his website, Lonnie Holley began working by the time he was five years old. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950, and lived in a whiskey house, the state fairgrounds, and several foster homes. Holley notes that his early life was chaotic and he never got to experience a real childhood. Perhaps this explains why the artist has such an infectious good spirit today.

Also from Mr. Holley’s website: Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events. His work is now in collections of major museums throughout the country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.

A nice crowd turned out for the dedication and braved excessive heat for the opportunity to meet Mr. Holley.

This young man kicked off the ceremony with a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem.

Annie Moye, who organized the event and helped secure the mural, speaks at the dedication.

Mike McFalls, an Associate Professor of Art at Columbus State University and Director of Pasaquan, gave context about Mr. Holley’s place in the art world and a brief overview of his life and career.

Spontaneity was the order of the day, and Mr. Holley was quick to join the improvisational street dance and shared some good moves with the crowd.

Carlonie Holley putting the finishing touches on her chalk art

Mr. Holley also took time to visit with anyone who was so inclined and personally answered many questions from those in attendance.

He also gave a demonstration of his process to local 4-H members.

The hand of the artist

I want to personally thank Annie Moye for inviting me to document the event and to give a special thanks to Lonnie, Ezekiel, and the entire Holley family for allowing me to photograph them. They were really nice folks and I’m honored to have had the opportunity.

Hunting on St. Simons, 1925

In the early 20th century, St. Simons Island was a popular destination for hunters from all over the country. Much like Sapelo Island today, it was scarcely developed and was home to numerous Geechee-Gullah people. The island was still a wild place in the winter of 1925 when this series of real photo postcards documenting a hunting trip were made. The first image shows a local African-American guide navigating a skiff through one of the numerous tidal creeks that characterize the island landscape. I don’t recognize the location, but the boat docked at the far right of the image may have the name “Frederica”.

I’m surprised that hunters were interested in raccoons, but the sender of these cards, Mr. Walter Friedlander of Roselle, New Jersey, made special mention of their abundance when writing home to his wife.

This is one of the thousands of Raccoons on this island. May be millions…”

I was unable to reproduce the other cards in this series, but a buck and several hogs were among the other game taken on the trip.

Baiting a Crab Trap, St. Simons Island

This gentleman [known on the island as The Original Crabman] was getting his crab trap ready when I was walking out to the end of the pier to photograph the progress on the Golden Ray cleanup effort. As is typical, he was using a chicken neck and fish head as bait. After dropping his trap in the water off the pier for just a few minutes, he brought it back up with several crabs.

Saddlebag House, Hancock County

This is Anne Chamlee, who has shared so many wonderful photographs of Middle Georgia with me. She had likely just photographed this saddlebag farmhouse when she appeared on the other side of the lens, in 1990.