I realized recently that the little town that has turned into a suburban city is still here, though sometimes hidden amongst the crazy traffic and the concert crowds, the big box stores and six-lane roads, the chain restaurants and shopping centers, and a Taj Ma-Hall where city government operates. My Woodstock memories only go back to 1965, so I know that remembrances held by natives are even more precious.
This one memory illustrates the kind of town it was. On a June day 46 years ago, we followed the truck with our belongings into the driveway behind the house on South Main Street, where Tea Leaves and Thyme is today. It was one of only two houses for rent in Woodstock at the time. Our landlady was Frances Green, famous locally as a second-grade school teacher at Woodstock Elementary School. Our girls never sat in her classroom. Our youngest would begin third grade that fall.
We soon discovered the magic that was Woodstock. Perhaps because of its size, (population under 800), perhaps because of its location (not in Atlanta, but close - not in the mountains, but close) and perhaps because of its struggle for its own identity, it soon seemed to me to be the perfect place to live. There was a feeling of power, that sense of place, but with the added element of pride in the community and its ambience. It was easy to settle in with these folks. We made the decision to put down some roots. We built the "brick ranch" so common at the time, and made plans to move from Main Street to Dobbs Road in October of 1966. There came a defining moment of confirmation that we had done the right thing.
One morning, the carpet firm from Dalton that was scheduled to lay carpet throughout the house that day called to say it would not be able to install the carpet for perhaps two weeks. I had been packing in anticipation of the immediate move. There was no stopping the tears. The girls had left for school, and the MOTH had gone to work. But life goes on, and I went uptown to pick up the mail.
This was in the good old days before a walking mailman performed his duty in the old town. The post office was busy as usual that morning. I opened our box and chatted a minute with the clerk and some other folks who were out and about, including our pastor, Clay Manley. I guess I looked and sounded rather pitiful. Not many minutes after I got home, there was a knock at the back door, and there stood Clay. He had borrowed Gid Reeves's pickup truck, and had enlisted the help of Hubert "Bo" McAfee. They had come to move as much of our stuff as possible, regardless of carpet or the lack of. We moved that day, and lived on plywood floors for a few days, a small price to pay for some peace of mind - all because of that attitude and atmosphere of genuine concern that was a part of the make-up of a small town. The pastor of the largest church in town did not find it beneath him to do a favor for someone. A deacon entrusted his beloved pickup to that pastor and a neighbor who was perhaps the most selfless person in all Woodstock considered it just another everyday happening.
Fast forward 46 years. The in-town population is almost 25,000. But the compassionate heart of Woodstock still beats, believe me. This is the latest example. In leaving my doctor's office recently, the receptionist, Phyllis, a Woodstock native, asked me to hang around a few minutes.
A mutual friend, Glenna, would be in shortly for an appointment, and Phyllis knew we would like to visit. How's that for small-town life! And she was so right. Glenna and I had a wonderful reunion. We talked about former co-workers and family and grandkids and life in general. I realized then, and at other divine appointments, that the good old days are still with us more often than we admit. I don't think I thanked Phyllis properly for her good deed. She probably didn't think anything of it. As with Bo, it was just another everyday happening. In Woodstock, it's a way of life.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock's official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.