February 8, 2023

Santa comes early with a box of old photos


             If a picture is worth a thousand words, a box of old photos is Santa coming early.

            Here’s why:  In January, Andy O’Quinn called. He’d just visited with his aunt, Judy O’Quinn Burk, and her husband, Jack, in Fernandina. Jack and Judy had been sorting through things and came across a Flowers Jewelers box stuffed with vintage Jesup photos. Bless their hearts, Judy and Jack asked Andy to call me.

Ho, ho, ho!

It was Christmas morning on Feb. 6.

Along with dozens of photos was a two-page letter. Once upon a time, Judy was secretary of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. After she and Jack married, Judy left the Chamber. The new secretary called Judy with alarming news. The new manager was cleaning out the office by burning old photos and scrapbooks. Judy asked, “When will he be leaving the office today?” As soon as the nostalgia arsonist pulled out of the parking lot, the Burks pulled in. For 40-odd years, they have been safeguarding the treasure trove that has consumed my last hour.

Thank goodness, many of the names were scrawled on the back of the pictures. Still, I was surprised that I could recognize so many people who have been long since gone. Here’s a roll call of a sampling: Harry Mathis, Jimmy Sullivan, Logan Dent, Mrs. T.G. Ritch, Leonard Madray, Dr. and Mrs. Alvin Leaphart, Randall Walker, Stetson Bennett, Robert Warren, W.B. Rhoden, Joe Nix, Hubert Howard, Joe Thomas, Earl Colvin, Moffat Kendrick, and the 1968 Miss Wayne County court. Donna Miller was first runner-up, and Sydney Houston was second runner-up. Crowning Diane Dardar Miss Wayne County, 1968, was Sandee McRee, Miss Georgia.

Parades were big in the 1950s. Cherry Street was always packed with onlookers. And the Ritch-Leaphart Hospital stood three stories tall on the corner of Macon and Cherry streets. I remember my mother’s driving by the hospital and her pointing and saying, “You were born right up there.” For years, Alan, Emily and Eric believed I could remember the day that I was born. I would tease, “No, I really can’t. But I remember the ride home from the hospital. Big Dink was driving Harrison Funeral Home’s black Cadillac hearse/ambulance. I was in the back, resting on a pillow—covered in a smooth cotton case—inside a chocolate-brown wire basket. Mother was cooing to me.”

Enough of that.

One picture, I believe, is the CEO of Rayonier—at possibly a Chamber banquet—announcing Rayonier’s coming to the Altamaha River bluff, outside of Jesup. Check it out. See whether you agree.

In their note, Judy and Jack said, “Hope you enjoy. Write things about them. They should bring back pleasure and memories to those of us that remember.”

Yes, indeed.

Precious memories, how they linger.

Ho, ho, ho!

        Thanks, Judy and Jack, errrrrrr, Mrs. Claus and Santa.