Chattahoochee Child – Bibb City


Bibb City – mid 1960’s

 Papa worked as a loom fitter at Bibb Mill. Wearing Bibb overalls and a denim shirt to work, rarely did he find the freedom or time to take a tobacco chew break. He knew the repercussions if Grammy caught him chewing tobacco; and he realized if he chewed tobacco at the mill someone would tell her. There were no secrets in Bibb City.

My grandparents lived from pay day, to pay day, thankful to have food on the table and a roof over their heads. Papa lived on a farm before meeting Grammy, planting corn, tobacco and cotton during the day. At night, he raised Hell, drinking moonshine and homemade wine. He had a reputation of trouble and fast times with the women. I’ve often wondered if his reputation was because he was considered a half-breed, because of his Indian heritage.

Perhaps that is why Papa and I never agreed on anything. He questioned every action taken by me. In retaliation, I rebelled from him and Grammy, asking questions, demanding answers. My philosophy in life was if someone asked a question, they deserved an answer. Papa said children don’t need answers; they need discipline, and a swift pat on the bottom. He had a pet name for me, calling me Little Miss Sassy Fras. I hated being called that and told him so. He simply cackled, mimicking the way I behaved.

At thirteen, I earned money by babysitting. I rushed to the drug store to buy makeup. Furious with me, Papa found the eye shadow, Maybelline mascara and eyeliner, tossing it in the trash. He said girls who wore makeup were whores. My new nickname was whore. When I told Papa a virgin could not be a whore, he slapped me hard on the face.

On weekends, Papa took Rusty fishing at the boat club. The boat club was a little fishing club, upstream from the mill, located about twenty miles from where the crow flies in Bibb City.

Although Papa could fish from the riverbanks by the mill, he chose not to. “The Chattahoochee waters are too muddy,” He said. “We think the mill dumps waste in the waters.”

The floating dead fish and garbage he saw floating along the crest of the dirty waters was a testament of the pollution.

Papa’s fishing boat was a small two-seater wooden boat structure, with a small Johnson motor. The boat was not fancy, compared to modern bass boats or ski boats. Papa’s fishing boat was painted a faded pea green color with the words ‘Gone Fishing’ painted in black.

 

 

Chattahoochee Child


PART TWO

The headlines in the newspaper caught my attention. Bibb Manufacturing Company becomes a ghost town. I stared at the caption with a tight bewildered look on my face, reading it again, picturing the desolate hope filled community of Bibb City, Georgia, the destitute textile community of my youth. Bibb City was the small cotton mill town where my footprints were imprinted within the clay riverbeds. Bibb City was the only place I had roots established. Bibb City was Home to me.

The richness of life in a mill town is disappearing now while the little town called Bibb slowly becomes extinct. Bibb Manufacturing Company abandoned the area in 1998, closing the mill, leaving a graveyard of homes, failing businesses, broken families and memories behind. The hunger for better jobs, civil rights, and the race for modern technology prevailed, leaving the Town of Bibb City devastated.

I poured another cup of coffee, reading the article again. The years of working as a reporter filled my mind with curiosities and questions about the dying communities of mill workers. I scribbled notes on a pad. My mind rushed back to my youth, playing a mental continuous loop video of memories from the small town of Bibb City, Georgia.

Why was the little town  called Bibb City distressing me? Years ago, I drove away from the Village without looking back, embarrassed to be associated with people who judged others by the colors of skin, religion, sexual preference, or political choice. Sipping a hot cup of coffee, I realized my perspective about Bibb City was changing.

Reading the article again, my body was shaking. If the mill is no longer in business, what will the residents of this precious mill village do for survival? Bibb Mill provided housing and when the Mill decided to sell those homes to mill workers, many of the hard working employees took their first steps to independence and the American dream — a home — a brick and mortar foundation where roots could remain.  My grandparents became homeowners, buying a tiny brick home on Walnut Street. Grammy  insisted on buying a home so Mom could have a place to live.

After Grammy’s death, Mom had other ideas. She sold the house, wasting away all of the money. What about the historical value of the Bibb Mill? Couldn’t the politicians see the potential for historical recording? Was everything in the corporate world about the potential for a profit? What about the families who lived in the Village?

A whirlpool of mixed emotions churned inside me. As I read the article about the abolishment of the town I knew so well, I discovered childhood feelings resurfacing. I debated my anger for a few moments, realizing I could do nothing to stop the bureaucracy of developers, who had no comprehension of the premise of life in a mill town. The one thing I could do was to write about the rise and fall of Bibb Manufacturing Company. As my grandfather reminded me, “You work for the Mill, you’ll always have a job.” Papa died before the Mill closed.

I called my editor, leaving a voice mail, expressing interest in a story about mill workers. Bibb City would be the focal point. When he returned my call, I pitched the idea.

“We have to do this story,” I said. “It isn’t just about life in a mill town. It’s a story about relationships, civil rights, bigotry, and so much more. It’s a feature, maybe even a series. We’ll start with The Rise and Fall of The Bibb Manufacturing Company.”

I waited for his response.

“Let me think about it.”

“I need a commitment now,” I pushed aggressively. “I’m packing my bags. There’s a story there and I’m going to get it,” I said. “My mother lives there. She’s had a stroke.”

“Sounds like you have some issues,” Garrett groaned.

“A few. If you’re not interested in the story, I’ll find someone else.”

Garrett laughed. “That’s what I like about you, Rebecca. You always push to the limit.”

“I’ll call you later,” Garrett breathed into the phone.

I hung up.

 

 

When I Think About Christmas…I Think of Traditions…


Dearest Readers:

Today is Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013. A day for the world to come together, to celebrate and give thanks. When I think about Christmas, I think about years past. The many, many Christmases celebrated at my maternal grandparents tiny home in the mill village of Bibb City, Georgia. I remember my grandmother’s hands, her washing them every few minutes as she prepared the traditional foods for our Christmas Day. I remember the apron she wore, and I recall the delicious, tempting aromas of pies baking in the oven. The country ham, covered with cloves, pineapples and cherries.

Although our family was not rich, we lived in a community where people looked out for one another. At Christmas time we had foods delivered to us from our neighbors. One little lady within in the community was famous for her pound cakes. Every year, she delivered a freshly made pound cake to our door. Another lady made pies, especially homemade apple pies. Grandma baked custard pies and sometimes, she made homemade lemon meringue pies. She always made her delicious, soft as a cloud and flaky homemade biscuits. Ham sandwiches tasted so much better when we used a cold biscuit.  Christmas time was truly a time to eat…and eat…and eat. Never did we worry about calories.

In later years, Grandma was too weak to bake. Breast cancer had taken its toll on her. I took over as the official Christmas cook. Never did I master Grandma’s biscuits, but I could bake fabulous pound cakes.

Our traditions as a family were simple. We exchanged gifts, most of them purchased at the family owned stores within the Bibb City community. We decorated a Christmas tree, usually just a few days before Christmas. We went to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Early in the morning of Christmas Day, we opened our gifts, rushed to church and arrived back home to finish cooking the Christmas meal. As a family, we held hands before eating, saying the family prayer of thanks.

At seventeen, our Christmas traditions changed, at least for me. I was a ‘grown, married woman,’ but my husband was away fighting a war. My mother and dad had divorced when I was fifteen. Christmas became a sad time for me. A husband away at war, my father visiting ‘just for the day.’

Quickly, the years faded away. My husband and I made our own traditions. Going to church. Attending Christmas plays and musical festivals. Sending Christmas cards to friends and family who lived away from us. We drove around, looking for Christmas lights in the more upscale communities. In 1973, we moved to Charleston. Every Christmas my dad would visit with us and together we built new traditions. Christmas dinner at our house, using the best china and lace tablecloths I owned. We opened presents, watched football, and enjoyed the company of each other.

In July, 1999, I lost my dad. Suddenly Christmas was quiet. Although we have a son, he shares his holidays with the family of his wife. Rarely do we get to see them, or our grandchild who is now 13-years-old.

Phil and I are making new traditions now. We drive to see the Christmas Festival of Lights in Charleston, along with other locations within our community. Tonight, we are going to church, to hear Christmas music. This year, Phil played DJ for me and two of my friends at the Red Hatters Christmas Luncheon. We’ve attended Christmas parties and I have noticed more people are saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

After this discovery, I contemplated in hopes that people are drifting back to the true meaning of Christmas, along with Christmas traditions. So many people are in the belief that Christmas is a time to over indulge. A time to overspend and max our credit cards. A time to over do things. For example, many people must have the most Christmas lights on their home, to show how much Christmas spirit they have. Forgive me, but placing lights on a home does nothing to indicate how much Christmas spirit one has. According to a news report this morning, Christmas was not celebrated in the USA until 1871. I was shocked to hear that statement. No, I haven’t the time today to research it, but I have always been under the impression that Christmas was ALWAYS celebrated. My grandparents shared stories of old when I was a child, how they used candles on the tree, and in the house. I suppose in my childish mind I could not understand why electricity wasn’t used. Silly me.

I lost my grandparents many years ago, but the memories I have are to be cherished.

What are your traditions at Christmas?

This year, we will celebrate Christmas Day at a friend’s home. Perhaps after dinner we will sing a bit of karaoke, and drink a bit of wine. Meanwhile, I will reminisce about my Christmas Days as a child. There were four children inside the house, all tucked in, nice and warm. We would rush to see what was under the tree. Did Santa Claus bring me that special doll? Did I get a guitar? Just what would Santa Claus bring us? As stated, our family was not rich, but Santa Claus never forgot us. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize Christmas is really not about gifts. Christmas Day is a day to reflect and give thanks that we have family and friends who will care for us and spend time with us, during the good times and the sad times. Christmas Day is the day to celebrate Christ and to share that celebration with the world.

Last year at Christmas I was sick. So sick, I didn’t have the energy to cook a Christmas meal. Phil ordered a Christmas meal from Publix. When he delivered it, I realized it needed to be heated again because it was so cold. The meal was dreadful. I told Phil never to order a Christmas meal from any grocery store again. I was so disappointed. Now that I’m well, I wonder, was the meal so bad because I didn’t prepare it, and I STILL had to cook it? Later that afternoon, we drove to some friends’ home to have Christmas dinner. Honestly, I was so ill, I don’t remember much about Christmas 2012. Illness, and a constant cough that refused to go away. May I never celebrate another Christmas Day that ill!

My wish and prayers for you, my readers, is a day of Christmas Thanks and Traditions. May you enjoy the love and caring of your family and friends while taking the time to continue with your Christmas traditions. This evening, Phil and I will be at church. Later, we will exchange gifts, in hopes that we will see our grandchild.

Merry Christmas to all of you!