The Beach Boys

I went several decades without attending a concert of any well-known singer or group.  I broke that streak in November of 2018 to go see Willie Nelson in Macon.  In January of 2019 I added another name to the list when Jane and I saw The Beach Boys in Tifton.  At this rate I’ll soon run out of bands I’m interested in hearing.  Neil Diamond quit touring and there haven’t been any authenticated sightings of Elvis lately.

We were in Tifton with two other couples, Mike and Kris Chason, and Don and Ramona Giles.  Mike and I have been friends since the fall of 1970 when we began college at Valdosta State.  Don and I go all the way back to fourth grade in Unadilla.

I was seated on one end of our delegation.  Next to me was a nice lady from Turner County who was there with her jovial husband.  It’s easy getting to know folks at a Beach Boys concert.  Everybody I saw that night was friendly.  The people in the audience were laughing and having a good time as they visited with those seated around them.

I have a theory that grouchy people don’t attend Beach Boys concerts.  Grouchy people don’t like songs with lines like, “Fun, fun, fun, ‘til her daddy takes the T-bird away.”  They don’t like to sing along or clap in time with the music, nor be surrounded with people that seem suspiciously happy.

The Conference Center has 2000 cushioned seats and somebody was in every one of them.  Most of the crowd had Medicare cards.  Before the show began I thought about asking everyone who had a stent to raise their hand.  The microphone, however, was just out of reach on the elevated stage.  Jane shook her head with a non-negotiable look I have seen before.

There was a giddy-in-love young couple seated just ahead of us.  I turned to the lady from Turner County and said, “It’s great to see these kids here, isn’t it?”  She and her husband smiled and nodded as the duo turned around.  “I’m 53,” he said with a big grin, “and she’s 52.”

“Wow!” I said.  “It’s amazing what clean living will do for you.”

The Beach Boys are all grown up now.  Mike Love, their lead singer, is 78 and wears a cap.  It may be his way of hiding a tangled mass of unruly hair, but I don’t think so.  I began wishing I had worn a cap myself, wondering if those bright lights were bouncing off the shiny streak on the top of my head.  Sometimes when I get out of the shower it looks like Moses parted my hair.

Mike Love did a 360-degree spin while balancing on one foot.  It wasn’t fast but I was impressed he made it all the way around with a single push.  I tried it later at home without success.  He must have a trick shoe with a secret spinner in the sole.  I said to the lady from Turner County, “If he keeps showing off, he’s going to break something.”  I guess Mike overheard me because he didn’t spin again.

The Beach Boys paused briefly after a rapid-fire high-energy song set.  The quality of their music was good but was more than a tad too loud for me.  I’m a proponent of ample volume.  Our neighbors always know what we’re watching on TV.  But I turned again to the lady from Turner County.  “Somebody must have told them I’m hard of hearing.” I said, speaking more loudly than I intended.

“I’m sorry you can’t hear them,” she shouted back.  She pointed to her husband.  “He doesn’t hear very well either.  Maybe we can motion for them to turn it up a notch.”

The concert was excellent and I’m glad that we went.  But it was the pre-concert activities that I enjoyed the most.  Six friends and a chihuahua named Posey sat around a kitchen table having key lime cake and coffee.  We told ancient tales where humor has largely displaced the facts.  Even Posey, though skeptical of some details, laughed a few times.

I don’t know if I’ll go to any more concerts or not.  I wouldn’t mind hearing Alan Jackson sing those hymns that he recorded for his mother a few years back.  But the thing I would want to make sure of is that we allow for plenty of table time.  There are few things in life that are as pleasant as sharing old stories with good friends.  The walks down memory lane grow sweeter by the day.

I hope I don’t throw my back out but there’s something I feel I must do.  I’m going to try that 360 full circle spin move again.  This time I think it will happen.  I’m feeling some good vibrations.

Posted in 2018 | 3 Comments

A Caved In Church

In the Oakfield Community on Highway 300 there’s an old church building that’s almost completely caved in.  Mt. Zion Baptist Church has been vacant for a long time but had stayed mostly intact until recently.  It was probably Hurricane Michael in October of 2018 that speeded up its slow demise.

I’ve ridden by the place numerous times over multiple decades.  It’s been somewhat of a landmark on those trips, not the kind of place you stop to visit, but somewhere you wish you knew a little more about.  I don’t know when the doors first opened, when they last closed, or anything that may have happened in between.  It’s possible the congregation was so vibrant they moved to a bigger place.  It’s more likely that shrinking numbers led to its closure.

Jane and I passed by the church on January 3, 2019, heading to her hometown of Thomasville.  We were surprised to see it had collapsed in the middle, caved in beyond any semblance of a place with a purpose.  There was a time when it could have been restored, but the demand for old church buildings is rather weak.

In our quick views from the road the church didn’t seem to change much over the years.  It was obviously abandoned, but the flaking white paint kept stubbornly clinging to the old wooden boards.  We didn’t see the leaks in the roof, or the decaying rafters hidden beneath.  It’s apparent now that the long-neglected building has no structural integrity.  That’s been the case for a while, but it happened so slowly it was almost undetectable.

I expect there are plenty of places to worship in the Oakfield area.  I doubt the collapse of an old church building will impact the spiritual welfare of anyone.  But as I looked at those crumbling walls it reminded me of a bigger problem that affects every community.  It’s the issue of the church that is caving in spiritually, the church that has lost much of its spiritual integrity.

I’m not talking about any one congregation or denomination.  We can all point fingers in almost any direction including toward ourselves.  I’m talking about the church as a whole, the church as the body of Christ, the church as a group of born-again believers, the church that seems to have caved in to the pressures and alluring temptations of society.

Today’s church often seems more intent on offering a smooth ride rather than following the straight and narrow path.  Our mantra could be “Ruffle No Feathers.”  We avoid those issues where taking a stand is awkward or costly.  We’ve almost quit talking about sin because that can easily become offensive.  We’ve grown accustomed to the murders of unborn babies under the guise of women’s rights.  We accept the glamorization of immorality through our remote controls.  We let our children spend their allowances to elevate indecent behavior to rock star status.  We choose to get along rather than stand alone.  The Apostle Paul would not be welcome in many of our pulpits.

I’m not saying we’re all guilty of all those things.  I’m saying too many of us are guilty of some of those things.  I don’t have the answers to a myriad of problems, but I know what God told Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV).  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  God gave Solomon a four-tiered plan that can still work today.  The prayer part is easy to embrace, but the rest of that scripture is problematic.  It requires an inconvenient level of commitment.

The collapse of an old building in Oakfield is not very important, but it reminded me of something that is.  A caved in church is just an accumulation of caved in individuals.  God won’t hold me solely responsible for a caved in church, but He won’t excuse me for a half-hearted effort to shore up some sagging rafters.  I’m going to try to do better on that.  If you feel there’s a need, then maybe we can be partners in the effort.

Posted in 2018 | 6 Comments

INCIDENTS

My column last week was about The Wonder Five basketball team from Vienna High School, a group of boys who gained national attention in the 1925 to 1930 era.  The team’s success has been largely credited to their coach, J. H. Jenkins.  In doing some research for that column, I borrowed a book from Charlotte Hardegree Mixon, a long-time friend and former coworker of mine.  “INCIDENTS” is a collection of short stories that were written by Mr. Jenkins and which Charlotte typed for him.

Charlotte had loaned me the book before, knowing that I would enjoy it.  That fading memory from years ago had thankfully survived a long passing of time.  Reading it again was somewhat like the unexpected joy of finding an old friend after a long separation.

“INCIDENTS” was sponsored by The Vienna Kiwanis Club and published in 1972.  In the preface Mr. Jenkins says it was, “written at the request of several friends and with the hope that perchance some youth might read it and be inspired to adopt a more wholesome philosophy of life and that others may enjoy two hours or more of pleasant reading.”  I’ve long passed the stage of youthfulness, but we’re never too old to embrace a more wholesome philosophy of life.  And the two hours of reading were far more than just pleasant.  I expect Mr. Jenkins knew they would be.

Over many decades I’ve heard J. H. Jenkins referred to as Colonel Jenkins.  I think that was because of his role as President of Georgia Military College.  He has always been mentioned with respect and admiration, as a man with an exemplary lifestyle and extraordinary leadership ability.  I’ll call him Colonel for the rest of this column.  The title seems to fit him well.

I only have room to share a few things from “INCIDENTS.”  My hope is that someone will read this column and be inspired to publish a second edition.

Col. Jenkins shared some things that were quite serious.  He wrote about a revival meeting at North Georgia Baptist Convention in Morganton where the church was filled for every service.  Every student except one made a public profession of faith.  The revival preacher asked Col. Jenkins to go to that student’s room and encourage him to make a decision.

The young man referred Col. Jenkins to the 18th chapter of I Kings.  He asked him if he believed the story of Elijah calling down fire that consumed a bull that had been sacrificed and drenched with water.  Col. Jenkins confirmed his belief.  The young man then told Col. Jenkins, “If you will pile up a pile of wood and set it on fire that way, I will join the church.”  Col. Jenkins somberly noted, “I didn’t have enough faith to try.”   It’s an honest admission that all of us can appreciate.  His story reminds me that God doesn’t expect us to perform miracles.  He does, however, expect us to be witnesses.

Col. Jenkins wrote tenderly of the Sunday morning his wife died. “It was the darkest day of my life.”  He mentions a few other specific times of grief, including the loss of a young daughter.  Then he ends the segment without fanfare.  “There were other rainy days that are common.”

The Colonel also had a flare for capturing lighthearted moments, like the time a lizard ran up a lady’s dress in church.  “She screamed and jumped straight up.  Her dress ballooned, revealing pink pantalets.  Reverend Smith never regained the attention of the congregation.”

His subtle approach to humor is evident in stories like the one about two young women.  They lived with their parents when Colonel Jenkins boarded there as a young man.  “I guess by the way they acted that each of them would have liked to get married and that they would not be too choosey.”

I can’t do Col. Jenkins’ charming little book justice in a short column.  My hope is that I’ve written well enough to spark some interest in making it available once more.  Charlotte will let me borrow her first edition again, but a second printing would allow it to be enjoyed by many others.

“INCIDENTS” is a book worth reading by a man worth remembering.  Time, however, has a way of quietly erasing memories as well as opportunity.  That may eventually be the fate of Col. Jenkins and his delightful musings, but I hope it doesn’t happen now.  Now is not the time.  Now is far too soon.

Posted in 2019 | 3 Comments

Vienna’s “Wonder Five” Basketball Team

Author:  John Bonner, 1915-2004

“Basketball Mania” came to Vienna in 1925 and lasted until 1930.  It was brought about largely by the efforts of one very talented man, Joseph H. Jenkins, who was superintendent of the city schools and coach of the boys’ basketball team.  To grasp the picture of the “Wonder Five” one would have to come to know a great deal about “Professor Jenkins,” yet he is hard to describe in mere words.

Mr. Jenkins was an ordained Baptist minister and a man of the highest morals and ethics.  He was a graduate of Mercer University and a great lover of athletics.  He had played football at Mercer in the early days of that sport and was a very powerful man physically.  Stories of his great strength were legendary.  He was a great baseball player, usually playing catcher.  He was a strong hitter and in great demand to play on local teams.

One of the most remarkable things about Mr. Jenkins was that he had “charisma.”  Wherever he was he attracted attention.  When he walked about the school campus, a crowd of children of all ages followed him just to see what he would do and hear what he would say.  He was a strict disciplinarian, but he had a great sense of humor and the children loved him, even those who were chastised with his ever-present wide, heavy belt.  Mr. Jenkins seemed to have an especial liking for big, good-natured, mischievous, country boys and he developed many good athletes out of these.

It is not surprising that Supt. Jenkins was able in 1925 to arouse enough interest among Vienna citizens to build a gymnasium, really only an indoor basketball court, the only one of its kind over a large area.  The older and larger boys of the school helped in its building.  This was the beginning of basketball fever in Vienna.

The gym was finished in time for Vienna High School to host the Third District basketball tournament in 1925.  VHS entered a good team in the tourney but did not win it.  The final game was between Montezuma and Fort Valley, with Montezuma the winner by only one point.  The game was so exciting that a large part of Vienna was “hooked” on basketball.

The next year “Coach” Jenkins put together a team that was soon to become the famous “Wonder Five.”  It was made up of forward, James “Peggy” Campbell, guards Thomas Witcher and “Gus” Walters.  The other forward was Bascom Walters, brother of Gus, and only 5’9” tall.  The only tall member of the team was the center, Theo “Ted” Raines, at about 6’3”.  Raines had the jumping ability of a kangaroo and few centers ever were able to get a tip-off over him.  In those days the ball was returned to center jump after each score.  Also, each tie ball called for a jump.  Raines gave Vienna a great advantage with his great jumping and tipping ability and Coach Jenkins built his team around it.  The team used many ingenious plays devised by Coach Jenkins and Raines gave the signal for each play with his hands and his fingers.

This team attracted attention very quickly and began to win every tournament.  The “Wonder Five” won the Third District Championship in 1927, 1928, and 1929.  The team took the Peach State Championship several times and the Cotton States Championship played in Alabama several times.  Athletic clubs over a wide area sought games with the team and Vienna seldom lost.  The fans became so accustomed to winning that when the team lost, the whole town went into mourning.  Vienna once defeated a high school team 126-6.  Sports writers wrote many columns about the team and a Macon Telegraph writer gave it the name, “The Wonder Five.”

High schools were not classified according to size as they are now.  Vienna High, with a student body of perhaps 450, played Lanier of Macon, Tech High of Atlanta, Athens High, Savannah High, and many others with a high school enrollment of many hundreds.  These teams often came to Vienna to play and the whole town attended, cowbells, horns, whistles, and all.  Very often Vienna defeated these giant schools.  When the team played out of town, fans jammed the movie theatre because as soon as the game was over someone phoned the theatre and the film was stopped while someone gave the score and details of the game.

There was a large case full of trophies of all descriptions in the hall of Vienna High School and the walls were full of banners from the championships the team had won.  All these were destroyed when fire swept the school during Christmas holidays in 1934.

Perhaps the most exciting thing the team experienced was being invited to the National High School Championship in Chicago.  The team went in both 1928 and 1929.  The Vienna boys won wide acclaim for their play both years and won many games but were not able to bring home the championship, losing in the semi-finals each time.

In one of those years the team lost by one point to Cicero High School of Chicago – 27-26.  The Vienna boys had never played against a team that practiced “freezing the ball” before and had not learned to cope with this style of play.  There was no shot clock in those days and the Vienna offense was frustrated.  Vienna played for third place the next night and again lost due to disappointment and weariness.  The team was awarded a large bronze trophy for fourth place.  It was not highly prized but, looking back, to have the fourth best high school basketball team in the entire U.S. is not bad for a little school of four hundred students in a town of less than twenty-five hundred total population.

In 1925 “Peggy Campbell” was chosen on the All-American team.  He graduated that year and was replaced at forward by Wendell Horne.  In 1929 both Theo Raines and Wendell Horne were chosen All-American.  Campbell went on to play basketball at Mercer.  Raines went on to play at Georgia Tech and Horne to Duke University, where he later became president of the student body at that great institution.  The Walters brothers went to the University of Georgia.  To have three All American players in two years surely is a most outstanding accomplishment for any team.

When Witcher graduated, he was replaced by John R. Bearden and Raines was replaced by Harold “Bunker” Hill.  The team continued to win most of the tournaments around until 1930, when almost all of the players graduated.  In his final year at Vienna, Coach had a good team of rather small boys but they failed to win the state championship, losing to Savannah High in the finals.  Mr. Jenkins left Vienna the next year to become president of GMC at Milledgeville.  The era of The Wonder Five and “basketball mania” was over, but it was great while it lasted.

Supplemental Information:  This account by Mr. John Bonner was originally hand-written around 1940 per columnist-author Billy Powell.  After publication of this column I learned that Mr. Powell had written a well-researched story that was published in The News Observer on June 30, 2005.  He has included information about this notable team in a book he authored, “Pride of the Panthers,” and has provided substantial information and photographs to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.  He also made me aware of an article by Carmen Lindsey that appeared in the May 30, 2007, issue of The Cordele Dispatch.   I think there’s enough information for a good movie!  NJ

Posted in 2019 | 3 Comments

The Wonder Five

Pete and Beverly Dail are Florida transplants who moved to Vienna a few years ago.  They have painstakingly restored a home on Union Street that was in severe disrepair.  It’s now a charming bed and breakfast known as The Jewell of Vienna, named after a daughter of the original owners.

James Pleasant Powell married Frances Caroline Lane Powell in 1866.  They had 12 children, including a daughter named Jewel.  One of the Powell descendants gave Pete and Beverly an antique photo that now hangs on their wall.  The picture is on a tin plate that’s mounted on a wooden plaque.  The inscription reads: “PRIDE OF VIENNA – Vienna’s Famous Invincible Basket Ball Quintet – 1927 Middle Georgia, Peach Belt, Georgia State and Southern State Champions.”  Beneath the picture is an ad for “SNELL’S TIRE SERVICE STATION.”

The photo shows ten unidentified boys in basketball jerseys standing with their coach.  Pete had heard about Vienna’s small-town team that made big-time news many years ago.  He figured this picture had to be those boys, a team that was appropriately dubbed “The Wonder Five.”

I was born in 1952, long after the heyday of their exceptional accomplishments.  But I grew up hearing about The Wonder Five because of Mr. Thomas Witcher.  Mr. Witcher was an affable fellow who worked at a family owned dry cleaners in Vienna.  He made regular trips to our home in his delivery van and would usually visit for a few minutes.  My parents often mentioned, with obvious admiration, that Mr. Witcher was one of The Wonder Five.

When our triplets were in the eighth grade, their teacher, Mary Jo Jeter, assigned them a Georgia History Scrapbook project.  Our son, Seth, decided to include a story about The Wonder Five.  He asked our friend and fellow church member Mr. John Bonner for some information.  Mr. John was born in 1915.  He was a child of the Wonder Five era, a teenager during the team’s most notable years.  His hand-written six-page account is where this overview and excerpts are from.

Mr. John said, “Basketball Mania came to Vienna in 1925 and lasted until 1930.  It was brought about largely by the efforts of one very talented man, Joseph H. Jenkins, who was superintendent of the city schools and coach of the boys basketball team.”  Mr. Jenkins, an ordained Baptist minister, was, “a man of the highest morals and ethics.”  He also credits Mr. Jenkins as being an exceptional athlete who was blessed with charisma.

In 1925 Mr. Jenkins aroused enough interest around Vienna to build a gymnasium.  The emerging game of basketball was enthusiastically embraced by the students and townspeople.  The next year Coach Jenkins put together a team that would become known as The Wonder Five.  Mr. John described their center, Ted Raines, as having the jumping ability of a kangaroo.  He said that Coach Jenkins built his team around Raines’ jumping and tipping ability.

Coach Jenkin’s teams were heavily solicited to play in tournaments, and they seldom lost.  They were the topic of many columns by a variety of sports writers.  A reporter for The Macon Telegraph dubbed them The Wonder Five, a name which was readily and widely embraced.

They competed successfully against teams from much larger schools like Macon, Savannah, and Athens.  In 1928 and 1929 the team was invited to the National High School Championship in Chicago.  They didn’t bring home the first-place trophy either year, but they garnered national attention and respect.  The folks in Chicago would long remember the boys from a little town in South Georgia.

Mr. John noted there were some outstanding athletes on those teams.  It’s amazing how much talent came from such a small body of students.  What I find most inspiring, however, is the example of their mentor, Mr. J. H. Jenkins.  It reminds me that one man can make a difference.

Mr. Jenkins didn’t choose the easy path.  He built a gym from the ground up.  Then he harnessed the raw talents of young boys and molded them into a team whose accomplishments might best be described as miraculous.

The easy path is always inviting.  It lures us to choose that which is comfortable and requires little effort.  It is, however, in the challenges along the road less travelled where we find true wonders.  J. H. Jenkins found at least five of them.  There’s no doubt he would tell us to keep looking for more.

(I plan to post Mr. John Bonner’s more detailed account.  The title will be the one that he gave it, Vienna’s “Wonder Five” Basketball Team.)

Posted in 2019 | 6 Comments

Triplets – Coming Home

On January 23, 1979, we brought Erin and Carrie home for the second time.  Jane had stayed in the hospital room with them around the clock for 13 days.  She was exhausted but never complained.  At home she kept a constant vigil of watchful care.  Like all of us, she was afraid to leave them alone even briefly.  Their lives had consisted of four weeks of uncertainty, an uncertainty which lingered menacingly in our thoughts.

The bitter January cold was warmed by some good news.  On January 30th Jane and I brought Seth home.  At 39 days old, he only weighed four pounds twelve and a half ounces, but Dr. Harvey thought home was the best place for him.  Dr. Harvey was right.

Bringing Seth home was the beginning of a challenging but rewarding first year.  There were some amusing moments which came by our being thrice blessed.  Jane and I often enjoyed recounting the questions we were asked.  The most frequent was, “Do they all look just alike?”

We’d explain that they didn’t all look alike, but the follow up question would often be, “How do you tell them apart?”  I told one lady that we notched their ears.  I enjoyed watching her befuddled reaction, but Jane asked me not to use that line again.  As she has said many times through the decades we’ve been married, “Not everyone knows when you’re kidding.”

We were blessed to have a lot of family support at home.  My mother was a tremendous help.  My cousin-in-law, Marian Bowen, was in the regular rotation and was quickly elevated to aunt status.  Jane’s parents came up from Thomasville on weekends as Mr. Horne put his Saturday fishing trips on hold.  A memory from one of their much-appreciated visits especially stands out.

The triplets were in their second month home when Jane’s parents came to Vienna that Friday night.  All three children were asleep as we ate supper in a rare time of serenity.  Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Horne, and I were seated at the table quietly enjoying our meal.

“Jane and I have something to tell you,” I said in a very serious tone.  The silence in the room was sudden and absolute.  Jane’s mother was moving her lips but not making any audible sound.  Her father looked as if he wanted to ask something but was not sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“Jane is pregnant,” I said.  It took a few moments for that to fully sink in.  I was afraid to laugh but more afraid not to.

“That’s not funny!” said Mrs. Horne matter of factly.  Jane assured her that I was teasing, but she still found no humor in my jesting.

Mr. Horne never ate a big plate of anything at mealtimes, but he loved desserts. He had dessert twice a day every day.  For the first time in the six plus years I had known him, he excused himself early from the table.  Watching a dessert addict lose his taste for sweets was sort of painful.  Jane, a completely innocent bystander, didn’t think it was very funny either, a position she has maintained for forty years.

The early months were filled with surprises.  There were little moments that were special, like the first time they rolled over by themselves, the first time they began feeling the texture of things, or curiously touching our faces.

In January of 1979 I began keeping a diary.  Some days I would write only a line or two or not write at all.  At other times I would try to catch up and make sure I hadn’t left out anything significant.  One of those early notations remains among my favorites, “God’s greatest gift to parents is a baby’s smile.”

I suppose there are many gifts that are arguably better or at least just as good.  But there were times when we were tired and frazzled and still had things to do.  It’s amazing how much joy and energy and inspiration a baby’s smile can evoke.

At 40 years old Erin, Seth, and Carrie still have warm and ready smiles.  That never grows old for a parent.  Maybe God’s greatest gift to parents isn’t smiling babies after all.  Maybe His greatest gift is smiling babies who grow up to be smiling adults.

Posted in 2019 | 6 Comments

Triplets – Names and Pneumonia

The young reporter asked if we had thought of any names.

“Erin Margaret, Seth Neil, and Carrie Ellen,” I replied.

Mama was shaking her head and talking to Daddy.  “I can’t believe he’s over there making up names to put in the paper.  Somebody ought to tell her not to print that.”

The names, however, were no gag, only a well-kept secret.  Jane and I had spent the early months of her pregnancy sifting through books, looking for one favorite name for each gender.  None seemed sufficiently captivating to describe the perfect child we anticipated.

When we learned we were having a threesome the selection process became less tedious.  We needed three possibilities for girls, boys, and any combination thereof.  The decision process gained momentum.  Henry Ford would have called it the efficiencies of mass production.

During my short visit with Jane in the delivery room, I had confirmed our choices.  Those were the names I now shared with the reporter.

A few weeks later Mrs. Ward Cannon, one of our regular customers at Rooney Bowen Chevrolet, came by my workplace.  She was a delightful old-timey God-fearing woman who called everyone Mister.  She made biscuits from scratch and wore bonnets that she sewed by hand.  She asked about the children’s names, then responded with notable enthusiasm, “Seth!  That’s a wonderful name!  I know you chose it from the Bible.  It’s in the book of Genesis.”

“Oh, no ma’am,” interjected Rooney.  “He didn’t get it from the Bible.  He got if off his watch.”  He pointed to the Seth Thomas timepiece on my left arm.

Mrs. Cannon searched Rooney’s face for a telling smile.  He didn’t flinch.

“Well, Mr. Joiner,” she said, “regardless of where it came from, it’s still a wonderful namesake.”

“And timely too,” said Rooney, as he smiled and again pointed to my watch.  “Very timely.”

As 1978 drew to a close Erin and Carrie were progressing fairly well.  Seth, however, had lost weight and his lungs were still underdeveloped.  His breathing remained very labored.  Dr. Manning thankfully kept Jane in the hospital for a full week.  She needed to be there for herself as well as for the children.  She came home before the new year began, but most of her time was spent in Warner Robins.  On January 6, 1979, we were delighted to hear Dr. Harvey say we could take the girls home.

Seth would have to remain in the hospital.  It was sad leaving him, but even taking two of our children home seemed a blessing after seeing them that first day.  The girls were almost five pounds, big enough to go to Dooly County.  It was a time of rejoicing, but the joy was only temporary.

January 10th made the fourth day that Erin and Carrie had been with us.  I rushed home as usual after work that day, but what I found was not what I expected.  Jane was crying and speaking frantically into our phone.  The flashing orange lights of an ambulance penetrated our front windows before she could attempt to explain.

Jane had checked on the girls and found Carrie motionless.  She had already turned a dusky blue.  Jane’s mother was staying with us and had been a nurse much earlier in life.  She picked Carrie up by her feet and patted her on the back.  Carrie began breathing again.

Carrie’s airways had been clogged by congestion from pneumonia.  Erin had pneumonia as well.  The dual oxygen tents in Room 236 dried the air and made breathing uncomfortable.  Jane astonished everyone with her devotion and stamina.  She stayed with them constantly despite offers from family and friends to relieve her.  A mother’s love is far beyond my ability to understand or adequately describe.  It is, I believe, the most perfect example of love this side of heaven.

Seth developed pneumonia while still in the hospital.  After an already harried three weeks, he remained listless and frail.  A January 16th diary entry is a sad reminder that, “None of them have smiled in days.”  It was a difficult and precarious beginning, but better times were not far away.

Posted in 2019 | 1 Comment