Miriam Maddox recalls her life with husband G. I. Maddox from their arrival in Murray County in 1934 until the 1950s
Note: The following narrative was excerpted from Miriam Maddox's book, Our Journey Together, G. I. And Miriam, 56 Years, copyrighted in 1992. Immediately following Miriam's death in 2009, her family granted the museum permission to extract selected portions that dealt with the couple's early days in Murray County. The excerpted material is from the years 1934 to 1957.
We arrived in Chatsworth December 29, 1934 after a week in the Carolina's and Atlanta. We went directly to our home which was in the Rock Building at the high school. Guess who was there to greet us when we arrived? The Tom Gregory's and the Charlie Pannell's. We have spent our entire married life in Chatsworth among our wonderful friends and neighbors. We lived in the Rock Building for 23 years and have spent 33 years at our present address, 911 Cordell Street which is still our home. We had so many nice people to call and welcome us to Chatsworth and Murray County when we first arrived. The next day after we arrived Mrs. Florine Jones and Mrs. Mary Kitchens were our first visitors. We had such a good time together that by the time they left I felt like I had known them for a long time.
After establishing a regular routine and settling down in our home, we were beginning to feel like ole married folks. We had one problem, no electricity for six months. Some of the people along Green Road would not let the power lines run across their property. For light at night we had one kerosene oil lamp which was given to us by Mrs. Alvin Jones of the old DeSoto Hotel in Chatsworth. By the way, G. I. had boarded at the Hotel with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. L. N. Foster and Mr. and Mrs. J. Trammell when he first came to Chatsworth. Lasting friendships were formed with these nice people. With no electricity and not wanting to buy a refrigerator hoping for electricity one day, we were forced to do something about our perishable foods. G. I. bought a large zinc tub and each morning he went to Mr. Parks Adams Ice House and bought a 25 Ib. block of ice. Milk and other perishables were placed around the ice and covered. These were in good shape until the next day.
The day "Piggy" Hix climbed the power pole in the field across from the Rock Building and threw the switch which brought electricity into our little apartment was one happy day! We were so thankful for the nice place to live. Our apartment consisted of a large living room, dining room, two small bedrooms, and kitchen. On the other side of our apartment was the Home Economics Department. Mrs. Jack Greeson was the first Home ec teacher, followed by Miss Doris Steed, Mrs. Charlie Pannell, Miss Lois Westfield, Miss Winters, Miss Edna Jo Butler, Mrs. Nell Ruth Loughridge and Mrs. Janice Durocher. We were all good friends and neighbors. There were several that when we first came to Chatsworth were so helpful and attentive to us that we became close friends. Jack Greeson and G. I. taught together and Irene Greeson and I, next door to each other all day, naturally became very close. Jack and Irene had an apartment in the DeSoto Hotel and we enjoyed many good meals with them. They shared many meals with us in our home, but I felt a little inferior to Irene since she was a Home ec major and a great cook.
Mrs. Ruth Ann Pannell was such a help to me for she was teaching when Tom and Ila Ann were small. If we had any emergencies to arise, she would look in to see if the babysitter with the children needed help. Many times if G. I. had to attend meetings out of town, I would take Tom and Ila Ann and spend the night with her and Charlie. Friendships like these have lasted through the years and have been very important to us.
I well remember our earlier days in Chatsworth and what hard times we had getting from our home in the Rock Building to Chatsworth in our car. Green Road was not paved and when the hard rains fell, the road was almost impassable. Two or three times I was stuck in the mud trying to get to town. It was not too far in the future before the road was paved. How we rejoiced!
Some of the couples I remember calling on us soon after we came to Chatsworth were the Elswick Keith's, Julian Keith's, William Keith's, Herbert Rogers, and Royal West's. It wasn't long before we were sharing many good times together. We have such fond memories of these lasting friendships with our friends.
One thing had been on my heart for many years. G. I. had never accepted Jesus Christ publicly as his Personal Savior, even though he was faithful in attending church and Sunday School and other activities of the church. I gave my heart to Christ at the age of 11 and have served Him for many years.
Our first Sunday in Chatsworth, we found our way to the First Baptist Church which was located on Highway 411 where the present Home Folks Restaurant is located. At the end of the service, I moved my letter from the First Baptist Church at Carrollton. No one could understand why G. I. didn't bring his also. I had the sad task of explaining but it was just a short time from this that he accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.
I had prayed for G. I. and talked to him but to no avail. He always told me "when I have that feeling, I will take that step." I finally told him, "I will continue praying for you, but I will not nag you." When the church members found out he was not a Christian, they prayed and talked with him constantly. One Sunday, out of the clear sky, down THE AISLE HE WALKED. How I thanked and praised God for helping him make this important decision! There were shouting and praises to God for his decision.
We dedicated our home to God and made Him the center of our lives. We knew for sure that God would bless us in all our undertakings. We have been blessed more than we ever deserved.
One of the most rewarding and pleasant experiences we encountered when we first came to Chatsworth was meeting the "Short Dog" each evening at 6 p.m. "The Short Dog" brought the mail in at this time and everyone from far and near in Murray County and Chatsworth came to get their mail and visit with everyone. No matter what you were doing, gardening, working in the yards or eating your evening meal, you dropped it and came to meet your friends and neighbors and pick up your mail at the post office. This continued for many years and it was truly a sad occasion when this service was discontinued. This meant that we would miss seeing many of our friends for a long time. The evening train that came through Chatsworth at 6 p.m. was known as the "Short Dog." We had been married a short time when we got this telephone call from Carrollton. It was the gang that we ran around with while G. I. was teaching at A & M. They (the entire group~8) wanted to come and spend the day with us. I nearly flipped, for saying I couldn't cook was putting it mild. Since graduating from business school and working from 8-5, my mother had not required me to help with the cooking. With G. I.'s help, by the time our guests arrived, we had a pretty good meal put together.
It was good seeing all the ole gang and visiting with them. I then went to the kitchen to finish up my meal. I had just finished making my biscuits and put them in the oven (oil stove, no electricity) when one of them starting telling something that had happened recently in Carrollton. It sounded so interesting, I left the kitchen and joined them. I was all ears and when I thought of my biscuits, they looked like a pan of charcoal.
I had about all the kidding I wanted from my guests, for they all came in teasing me about G. I. looking so pale and thin and how they sympathized with him for they knew I couldn't "boil water without scorching it." I grabbed my pan of charcoal biscuits, ran to my garden, dug a deep hole and buried them. I didn't want anymore of their teasing. I made another batch in record time and was rolling them out when one of the male guests came in to tell me he was starving. "What's the trouble, I saw you putting them in the oven thirty minutes ago?" I said, "You are so hungry, you are imagining things." When I finally got this batch in the oven, you better believe I stood right by the oven until they were cooked.
I got everything on the table and yelled, "Soup's on" and that pack of hungry wolves came to the table in record time.
We had a great day together reminiscing and talking of our new home. They must have liked our meal for there was hardly a scrap left.
The day was over too soon and the group was heading back to Carrollton. To this day, no one ever knew of my "biscuit funeral."
We stayed busy and the days were turning into months. Time has a way of marching on. G. I. was well into his job as Teacher of Vocational Agriculture at Murray County High School. Under his leadership, a cannery had been started at the school. He left each morning around 8 a.m., came to lunch around noon and, when school was out at 3 p.m., he went out into the county to visit his FFA boys. He usually arrived home around 6 p.m. I was staying busy. I had joined the Woman's Club and was active in my church. Even though we had a regular schedule, we were finding time to visit parents and friends, attend the Georgia football games and have many happy times together.
Two years had passed and this was such a sad time for us. G. I.'s father passed away after a short illness. G. I. had gone often to Winder to be with his father and to help the family care for him. We continued to visit his family in Winder and it was always so much fun to be together and enjoy all the good food! "Papa Seaborn," you will be greatly missed!
We kept boarders a while before the children were born. Some that stayed with us and became very dear friends were Miss Alwayne Bowers, Miss Rosine King and Miss Sadie Cline.
Miss Bowers was living with us when she and Mr. Hill Jones were married. They were married in the Baptist Church at Eton. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding.
We had a female boarder that stayed with us about three months. She came to teach at Murray High and Mr. Keith (Principal) was unable to find her a place to live, so we gave her a room until she could find one. She was a very nice person, slim and trim but she had a very annoying habit. She never put her heels down when she walked, she tiptoed every step she took. I cautioned her many times that she might get embarrassed if she didn't lower her heels so we could tell she was around.
One day I was in the kitchen, very busy with supper and I heard this shrill cry. I dropped everything and ran to the living room to see what was happening. I met the star boarder and she was saying over and over, "I didn't mean to do it, I didn't mean to do it!" "Do what?" I said. She had opened the bathroom door and G. I. was in the bath tub in his birthday suit. From that moment on, her heels hit the floor and we knew she was around.
We only kept one male boarder. He was young and a very nice fellow. One night G. I. smelled smoke. He was running all over the house trying to find where it was coming from. Finally he opened the door to the boarder's room and there he was asleep, snoring away with his bed on fire. He had fallen asleep smoking! G. I. got him out of bed and put the fire out.
I remember coming to Chatsworth and not knowing anyone. I had lived all my life in Carrollton, knowing everybody. I was a little tense. This feeling didn't last long for my close neighbors, Miss Mary Ruth Davis and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Davis, Mrs. Tom Davis and Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Edmondson and Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Charles and family soon made this feeling leave me. They visited us real often and we remained friends a long time.
We just knew no one could be as happy as we were but we soon found out we did not realize the true meaning of happiness until Thomas Emmett Maddox came to be a part of our family. He was born December 3, 1938. He was truly the joy of our lives and brought us so much happiness. We promised God we would raise him just as He would have us to and when only a few months old we carried him to Sunday School and church.
It was a happy reunion when my parents, G. I. 's mother, and all the aunts and uncles came to see our new son. We were so proud to show him off to the family.
My time was all used in the care of Tom. He was so precious to us and such a joy. The days were passing too fast.
When Tom was nine months old, I entered him in a "Baby Contest" at Davidsons in Atlanta. Two weeks later they called me and said he had won "HONORABLE MENTION." You would have thought he had won a million dollars, the way I carried on. Further, they said his picture would be in their show window for one week, in case I wanted to come and view it. DID I WANT TO COME? I was on the early train next morning and on my way to Atlanta. When I reached there and made my way to the store, I stayed there most of the day, admiring our son. At the end of the day, I made my way back to the depot to catch my train home, full of excitement and an account of our son in the window for G. I.
I bought a baby carriage and weekly I pushed Tom to town, visiting my neighbors along Green Road, proudly showing him off. Ton wjs now walking and getting into everything and following his Daddy everywhere he went when he was at home.
By this time we were raising most all of our vegetables and meat, which really kept us busy.
Every spring we would get fifty baby chicks, raise them and then put them in the freezer locker. On one particular occasion, G. I. was in the back yard dressing his fryers with "his little helper" right at his elbow wanting to help in every move G. I. made. Finally finishing the job with all his good help, he was feeling everything was in tip-top shape, but he was sadly mistaken.
The next day I began to detect a foul odor in the house. I looked and looked and could find nothing. When G. I. came in from school he said, "What is that I smell?" "I've been hunting it all day and I can't find it," I said. He went on out in the county as usual and told me he would help me when he got home. When he got home around 6 p.m., the odor was much stronger. He thought it might be a dead dog or cat under the house. He immediately found a young boy to crawl under the house to see what he could find. He searched and searched and there was absolutely nothing. G. I. said, "Let's go in the house and start moving the furniture." We started in the living room and when we moved the piano, the odor nearly knocked us over. We spotted a small brown paper bag about two feet under the piano. "The Little Helper" was right at G. I.'s heels. G. I. picked up the bag and there was about two cups of chicken insides in it. He turned to Tom and said, "Do you know anything about this?" "Yes Sir, they are mine," he said. "When we were cleaning the chickens, I got some for my dog and I didn't want anyone bothering them, so I hid them."
It took a bit of spraying and cleaning but at least we found the source of the odor. You better believe there was no more dressing chickens unless Tom was taking his nap.
Another sad time came in our lives when G. I.'s mother passed away in 1939 after a long illness. Oh, how we wanted her to share our joy with her grandchildren. She was greatly missed by all of us. I had learned to love her like my own mother. I knew she loved me because she was so good to me, but I wanted to hear her tell me that. One weekend we were visiting them and she and I were alone on their back porch, rocking away. She said, "Miriam have I ever told you how much I love you? I'm glad you're in our family. You're going to make Gordon a good wife." I said, "Say that again, please." She repeated it. I said, "I heard you the first time but I've been working so hard for over a year so I could hear you tell me you loved me and how I rated with you as your daughter-in-law. You have made me very happy."
A year passed and we were expecting the arrival of Ila Ann. Our happiness knew no bounds for we so wanted a little baby daughter. She was born November 9, 1940. She, like her brother, would be raised in the church.
What had we ever done to deserve so much happiness? A handsome and healthy little son and a beautiful and healthy little daughter! We had so much fun living and watching them grow. Birthday parties, Christmas and the holidays were so special to us and we had such great tunes sharing everything together. We just thought everything was too good to be true! We just knew this was a little bit of Heaven here on earth until "tragedy" struck.
We were called to the bedside of G. I.'s sister, Pauline, who was critically ill in St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, Georgia. We were going approximately 60 miles an hour for the call had said, "She is not expected to live." I turned to Tom who was standing in the back seat between us and said, "Do not go near the doors, stand right where you are." The next thing we knew the car was swerving. I said, "Oh no, not a flat tire when time is so precious." G. I. turned to see about Tom and he said, "It is not a flat tire, our son is gone; he has fallen out of the car." My mind went blank. I was holding Ila Ann who was only a few months old. When I jumped out of the car, I just dumped her into the ditch and went running to Tom. I remember G. I. saying, "We have probably killed our son, let's not kill our daughter." Hours later, when we reached the hospital, how these words rang in my ears. Of course, G. I. realized I did not know what I was doing when I pitched Ila Ann in the ditch. He ran immediately to her and soon had her crying stopped.
By the time I reached Tom, he had gotten up. I said, "Thank you God, he is alive!" I started examining him and from outward appearances, he seemed all right. We rushed him on to the hospital and told the doctor and nurses what had happened. They let us know immediately that we were very lucky and blessed that Tom was alive, that most children didn't survive such an accident. He was kept in the emergency room of the hospital for some time with extensive examining. They could find nothing wrong with him, no broken bones or internal injuries. I could not believe this after going through such an ordeal. The doctor then said, "A Higher Power has looked after your son today." We thought it best that he stay in the hospital overnight in case something did show up. I then went to the home of a relative with Ila Ann and G. I. stayed with Tom in the hospital. By daylight I was back at the hospital. The doctor again reassured me a "Higher Power" had protected our son.
We left the hospital that morning with him none the worse from this ordeal but it was a new experience for Tom with all the attention from the doctor and nurses.
In the meantime, Pauline, the sick sister, had passed the crisis and was somewhat improved.
Our instructions were to keep Tom under the doctor's care for six months in case anything internally showed up. You may well know how closely I watched him for anything different in his actions during the next few months. At the end of the six months, we made our way back to the doctor in Athens for his final checkup. The examination showed that Tom was in perfect health and that we were one in a million that had experienced such an ordeal and the child survived it. Pauline survived her serious illness and isalive today with a beautiful family. We constantly thanked God for protecting us.
Time was slipping by and the children were growing like two little weeds. Of course, we had to take time out for the usual childhood diseases. Tom even had to have his tonsils removed.
Before the children started to school, I was at home with them all the time and I decided I wanted to do something for a little extra spending money and still stay in the home with them. I came up with the idea of feeding the teachers and principal their lunch each day, since there was no lunchroom. This event lasted several years and we had so much fun visiting with them each day. Many lasting friendships were formed here.
When the lunchroom opened in 1946, the teachers discontinued their lunches with me.
G. I. loved the outdoors and every available spot was made into gardens. He grew watermelons, cantaloupes, all kinds of vegetables, potatoes, peanuts and corn. You name it, he raised it. There was no way we could use all of this. How he did enjoy sharing with his neighbors!
It was now 1944 and another great day came into our lives, Tom's first day at school at Chatsworth Elementary. Pictures were made of him and sent to grandparents and aunts and uncles.
G. I. was staying busy in his work, teaching and running the cannery. Every year he carried members of the FFA Chapter to the Atlanta Fat Cattle Show. He had started the boys working on their Georgia Planter Degrees by now. Another important event was making plans to attend the National FFA Convention in Kansas City.
With his efforts and the cooperation of other organizations, he was successful in getting 160 acres donated to the FFA Chapter and Murray County High by Mr. V. C. Picketing in 1940. It was the FFA boys and others like them that Mr. Pickering had in mind when he gave the farm to the FFA Chapter and high school. It was formerly the Tom Davis farm. Mr. Picketing died in 1947 without seeing the farm developed to its maximum productivity.
On this same location, "Face Lifting Day" was held August 2, 1952 with labor and materials estimated at a value of $45,000. With a secured donation from Cohutta Banking Company and with money from the local Chapter, $1500.00 was used to start a herd of registered Hereford heifers.
No one could have been happier on "Face Lifting Day" than G. I. What the 600 workers or more, all volunteers, did on this day would have taken G. I. and his boys some ten years to do, it was estimated. Hundreds of machines driven by men from Murray, Whitfield, Gordon, Cherokee and other surrounding counties turned the school farm into any Ag Teacher's dream. All of the major projects planned for the day were finished or almost completed. The fish pond and a large modern barn, plus the baseball field, were completed in a short time.
From a local bachelor, Mr. Sam Carter, $3000.00 was left to the FFA Chapter to start a scholarship. This was to be given to a worthy boy to be used to further his college education.
It is now 1945 and another important event in our lives. Ila Ann started to school in the fall of '45 at Chatsworth Elementary. It was a happy time and also a sad one, for I knew it would be no time before they would be going away to college.
We were enjoying the children so much but since they were in school, we had to plan the picnics and recreation on the weekends. Many good times were shared with Arnold and Frankie Hufstetler and family and the S. D. Rogers family.
With both children in school, I was ready to go back to work. It had been several years since I had been in public work. I still wanted to see them off to school every morning and be there when they came in, in the afternoon. I went to work in the High School Lunchroom in 1946 and this job fit into my schedule with Tom and Ila Ann real good. I worked there off and on for 25 years. The school where I worked so long is now Bagley Middle School and the cafeteria was named in my honor, Miriam Maddox Cafeteria, in 1989. School was passing quickly, even more than we wanted to admit. They always had time to do things with us, though.
The years were approaching that I had dreaded, when to say no or yes to the children and the need to practice more discipline with them. They were both very active and regular in their church and we didn't want to press matters to reverse this situation. Tom had been begging us to sit in the balcony during church and so far we had won. We had been having trouble with some of our boys and girls talking and misbehaving to the point that the Preacher had to call them down.
This particular Sunday when we were all leaving for Sunday School and church, Tom said again, "Can I sit in the balcony today?" We looked at each other and his daddy said, "Yes, if you haven't learned how to act in God's House by now, you never will." He was 12years old. "We know you will behave," G. I. said. As he went out the door, I said, "Tom, if the Preacher does call you down for anything today, I will be in a dead faint but when I come to and we get home, you will wish you could faint again." G. 1. and I sat where we could "kinda" keep an eye on him. He was real good and from then on, he went to the balcony. When he came in from church, we told him we were very proud of him for there was plenty of talking around him. That night when he started to bed and came to tell us "goodnight" he said, "I told you I would behave in church today if I sat in the balcony."
Both were very active in the activities at First Baptist Church. Ila Ann give her heart to Christ when she was nine years old, was baptized and was a very faithful member to her church. She was very active in Training Union Sword Drills, and G.A.'s. Her Senior year in high school, she won 2nd place in the Sword Drills at Ridge Crest, North Carolina. This same year, she was also elected Homecoming Queen at Murray County High School. Also, she was very active in FHA, being elected State FHA Secretary during her Senior year in high school.
Tom, like Ila Ann, was very active in the activities at First Baptist Church. At the age of eleven, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Personal Savior and was baptized and has continued being very active in the church.
In high school, he played football, was a member of the FFA, Tri-Hi-Y Club and Beta Club. He won many prizes carrying his calves to the Fat Cattle Show in Atlanta.
We had many close friends with the faculty at Murray County High School and one such friend was Silas Morgan, Jr. who taught Algebra. He was a frequent visitor to our home and a great help to Tom and Ila Ann now that they were in school. Silas later was married to Miss Sara Broome of Dalton.
I was very active in the Woman's Club, Homemakers Club, and my church at this tune. For many years Thelma Wilbanks and I were co-hostess to the Philathea Class of the church. We had a large class and at our meetings we always had good programs and plenty of food.
In the Woman's Club, Kate Vining and I were joint hostesses for many, many years. We always had so much fun planning our refreshments when our time rolled around to serve.
The Atlanta Fat Cattle Show was a family affair. Every April, Ila Ann and I joined G. I. and Tom for three or four days of fun in Atlanta. G. I. went to chaperone the FFA boys and Tom carried his calves for competition in the Show. He won many prizes. It was an annual affair with all of us for many years.
We also had many family outings each year to the Ag Teachers 10 Year Club Meetings at Rabun Gap School.
G. I. was never too busy to help with community suppers, fish or chicken, fried or barbecue. He was also very active in Polio, Heart, Red Cross and Cancer Drives. These things the public knew G. I. for but to his immediate family he was a "doting" father to his children, Tom, Betty, Ila Ann and Charles and later grandchildren, David, Dianna, Amy and Dan, as well as a faithful and devoted husband.
G. I.'s greatest contribution to society has been his many, many hours working with young people. When he wasn't teaching them in the classroom, he was teaching them on the farm how to make a good living. He took time out to teach many of his students to play the guitar and mandolin. He always had a String Band in the FFA Chapter. Many awards were won in District and State Competition.
The time passed much too fast and it was time for Tom to graduate from Murray High in May 1957. It was a joyous occasion but still sad, for it meant he would be leaving home.
A year later, May, 1958, Ila Ann followed in his footsteps, graduating from Murray High. You can imagine mine and G. I.'s feelings having to give up our most "prized possessions."
G. I. was also nominated to the Georgia Teachers Hall of Fame. Out of 100 entrants, he placed in the top 15.
The Murray County High School Annual was dedicated twice to him during his teaching career and he was appointed to serve on the Georgia Agrirama Advisory Council at Tifton, Georgia. G. I. also served as Senator Sam Nunn's Campaign Manager for Murray County for one year.
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