Hezekiah Rugh Boggs (1928-2020), was the ninth of ten children born to Rand and Bessie Boggs of Breathitt County, Kentucky. His musical interests were developed and encouraged at an early age; he entered and won his first contest at the age of 9 and learned guitar while in his 20s. After service in the Korean War, he worked for General Motors Delco Products, playing gigs in nightclubs around Dayton, Ohio, on the side. He moved to Hahira in 1977 and married Karen Wolff Norris in 1980. Karen, an Ohioan by birth, was a classically trained pianist. By all accounts the couple made beautiful music together and loved sharing their musical gifts with the Hahira community; Rugh had a working knowledge of around 3000 songs. Around 2003, Rugh converted the old garage behind his home into a music hall, where he and Karen played three weekends a month.
I made these photographs in 2019, a few months before this structure was razed. For most of my life, it was known as C. M. Copeland’s workshop and studio. I believe it was originally a neighborhood grocery store but I can’t confirm that at this time.
C. M. Copeland (15 July 1916-4 February 2000) was a brilliant wood carver, best known for his sculptures of wildlife made with cypress knees. He was often referred to as “The Happy Wood Carver”. He was also a banjo picker and folk singer, who had a radio show on local radio station WBHB with Wimpy Fowler, The Wimpy and Jigs Show.
He was documented by folklorists for the South Georgia Folklife Project in 1977, both for his picking and his carving.
At the time of the South Georgia Folklife Project photographs, his shop was a few blocks down the road from this location. This structure was adjacent to his home and I believe he moved his operations here sometime after 1977 for the sake of convenience.
This big red plastic boot served as the sign for the Cedar Grove Opry, a community gathering place located in the old Cedar Grove School. I’m not sure if the opry is still a thing, but the sign is already a landmark.
Most of us who have grown up swimming in rivers and creeks are familiar with rope swings tied to trees that have a good reach over the waterway, and occasionally, we see impromptu ladders added to make the climb to the top easier. I shot these several years ago near the Meriwether County Landing on the Flint River and I think they had more steps than any I’ve seen.
I really didn’t know what to call them other than “diving trees”. They’re really more for jumping than diving, especially when the rivers are low. I don’t think there’s any consensus as to an official term but they’re a thing down here in southern Georgia and I thought these two were perfect examples.
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.
A friend recently reached out to let me know that I should photograph this Fitzgerald landmark because it’s about to be razed for redevelopment, as are all the other adjacent commercial structures. (Thanks, Sara Padgett). The little brick building at the corner of Merrimac Drive and the Ten Mile Stretch will always be remembered as Floyd’s Hamburger Shack, but its history goes back a bit further.
Francis Marion “Frank” Malcolm II (1874-1954) came to Fitzgerald from Waycross in 1906, and in 1910 he bought the largest single tract of land (11 acres) in the city, to which he moved a home from Alapaha Street (still standing) and built other structures over time. [A house he built across the road from his own, in 1948, is where I spent the first six years of my life]. His grandson, renowned artist David Malcolm, told me that the ‘Floyd’s’ building was built in 1930 as a cannery, which employed young women. He even related that my grandmother, Nettie Pate Brown once worked there before she married my grandfather. After the cannery shut down, it was a Venetian blind shop and later, a grocery store.
The association with Floyd’s came in 1952 when J. W. Floyd moved his popular short-order business from the Five-Story Building (Garbutt-Donovan) to this location, which was closer to the new homes and subdivisions being built on the west side of Fitzgerald.
Later owners were Wade and Myrtice Malcolm and their daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Varnell Hendley. Walter Owens and C. L. Martin also operated a barber shop in the connected space next door to the restaurant.
Hamburgers topped with grilled onions, a concoction known as Mama’s Stew, and barbecue smoked in the pit out back were required eating by generations of families in Fitzgerald. The barbecued goat was a particular favorite.
Pam Hunter, daughter of Barbara and Varnell Hendley, kindly shared the recipe for Mama’s Stew. [Mama was Pam’s grandmother, Myrtice Malcolm]. She writes: I think great recipes are made to pass down to future generations and share with friends! You will need 2 lbs. Ground pork*, 4 lbs. Ground beef and one diced onion. Brown this up in a large pot and drain off the grease. Cover all this with water and add salt and pepper to taste. Next dice 6 large baking potatoes and add to the mixture. Make sure water still covers all. Cook until potatoes are tender. Now add 2 cans of cream corn, one can of LeSueur English peas(drain), 3 cups of Heinz ketchup, and 3/4 cup Heinz 57 sauce. Do not substitute . It will not taste the same! Go easy when adding salt as the ketchup and 57 are both salty, but those taters need some salt when cooking! I hope your families enjoy this as much as mine does! Don’t forget the crackers and salad! This makes a lot, but you can freeze it and it is still good!
*Ground pork and sausage are not the same thing, if you’re wondering. You can find ground pork in most groceries and specialty meat markets.
An iconic hamburger sign was located on the side of the building and was synonymous with Floyd’s.
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.
Just around the bend from Suwannee Lake stands this simple house, typical of the utilitarian homesteads of the Okefenokee. It’s likely one of the very last standing. Restored older examples can be found at Okefenokee Swamp Park and Obediah’s Okefenok.