Crisp County resident Gayla Gay sent a nice email in February saying she and her mother enjoy my weekly musings. In a later exchange I learned her mother occasionally gets together with two cousins for food and fellowship. Always in search of a story that comes with a free meal, I slyly wrangled an invitation to The 90’s Club.
Gayla’s mom, Tommie Jean Beacham, hosted the March 2nd luncheon in her country home near Cordele. Three days earlier she had celebrated her 94th birthday, so this was her second party of the week with another in the making.
Eula Faye Culverhouse was already there when Jane and I arrived. At 93 she’s the youngest club member. Her 96 year-old sister, Marjorie Claire Dowdy, soon pulled into the driveway. Margie pumps her own gas, enjoys yardwork, and sings in the choir at Penia Baptist Church.
Music is a big part of this family’s heritage. Years ago Major Ellis started The Ellis Quartet, a popular gospel group which had a long-running radio program on WMJM. Most of the talent was supplied by the Dorough family, the lineage shared by these three ladies.
Margie sang with the group and Tommie played piano. Tommie was also church organist at Third Street Baptist in Cordele for over 50 years. In addition to their quartet involvement, those two helped marry and bury countless folks over multiple decades.
When Tommie invited me to play her piano before lunch, I pounded out “Down Yonder” with a verse of “Bill Bailey” in the middle. She followed with “Amazing Grace” and “Oh What a Savior.” How sweet was the sound. I was glad I’d gone first.
I forgot to ask if Faye inherited the musical talent common to their gene pool. She left home at 16 to study nursing in Macon and stayed in that area. Hospital work and distance would have likely prevented her from making their Saturday night practices.
It’s probably been a while since any of the trio has warranted a spanking, but a childhood memory still brings laughter. Instead of going to Sunday School, they stayed outside and played in the car one morning. After church Tommie’s aunt, Mrs. Eula Dorough, invited her to go home with Margie and Faye. She gladly went, unaware Aunt Eula would dispense a licking before passing the chicken.
Kermit and Bill Dorough, brothers of Margie and Faye, also sang with The Ellis Quartet plus Bill served as spokesman. Kermit’s daughter, Karen, was at the recent luncheon. She and her husband were on a road trip which began at their Indiana home.
When someone commented on the small servings on her plate, Karen quoted her father. “If you don’t watch your figure, nobody else will.” I was told she inherited Kermit’s sense of humor. She was probably saving space for Gayla’s pound cake, fresh strawberries, and real whipped cream.
Karen and her three siblings own the old Dorough homestead. Located across the road from Tommie’s property, it’s been completely renovated. After lunch we walked through and gleaned bits of family history.
The house was built by Karen’s great-great-grandfather in the 1890s. Like many dwellings of that era, the ceilings had been lowered and floors covered with carpet. The ceilings are now back to their original heights and carpets removed. Wide cedar floorboards, some as long as 25 feet, are beautifully refinished.
Furnishings include cherished heirlooms plus other period appropriate pieces. It’s a lovely place, but the most compelling feature is its purpose. Family gatherings have long been a priority, so it’s arranged to seat over forty people.
As Jane and I were about to leave, we learned a broken wrist had prevented Margie from doing push-ups for a short time. After it healed she adopted a modified version on her knees, but is about ready to resume the extended form.
My rambling thoughts can’t fully capture the loving bonds of kinship and friendship those ladies have shared since childhood. Nor can I adequately convey how charmingly they embrace life at such a challenging stage. I’m just thankful to have had a closeup glimpse.
I was searching for a story and found one that’s still being written. Spending time with The 90’s Club was a blessing and inspiration. After some much-needed piano practice I may attempt a push-up or two, for I’ve been given a timely lesson. The life we live when our hair turns gray, quite often depends how we live today.
Good morning Neil….I love this very meaningful story….with you permission I would like to share it with dear friend Michael Babb….I will explain more later.
These ladies are a real inspiration! Thank you for telling us about them!
I still read all of your columns. I enjoyed this one especially; our ages are close! Thank you for mailing me the Rick Reed comments. It makes me happy when people remember Charlie. He will have been with the Lord for eight years on July 19th and I still miss him every day! Thank you for going to the extra trouble of letting me know. My correct email is below. I don’t know how I’m getting the columns if your email address for me is wrong, but I am, and enjoy every week.