That house, known to old-timers as the Dawson House, now is home to Tea Leaves & Thyme. I was 30 years old, not old enough to appreciate the history of the house or the history of the town. Now that I have decades of memories to draw from, I realize how precious are the memories of generations before me.
Like everyone else, I wish I had listened more and talked less. But we are fortunate in Woodstock and in all of Cherokee County to have many memories in writing, preserved for future generations to see and feel and understand how our ancestors lived, their lifestyles, the landscape and the personalities.
When the city celebrated its centennial in 1997, a written history, “Georgia’s Woodstock,” was published. My favorite section of the book featured memories from different generations in chronological order, a sort of first-person oral history in print. The book is out of print, which means there are many, many Woodstock residents who have probably not read it.
Today I want you to meet one of the Woodstock natives who shared her story with the author, Felicia Whitmore. Alice Dean Felton was born in Woodstock on March 19, 1921, to Linton and Alice Wellons Dean. She lived with her parents and older sister, Elizabeth, in a house which stood near the intersection of Elm and Main streets.
She speaks to us today from the pages of “Georgia’s Woodstock,” and if you’re lucky, you might catch her on some Saturday in the springtime at Dean’s Store where she visits occasionally just to spend some time in those surroundings that fill her mind and heart with precious reminiscences.
Her entry in the history book gives detailed descriptions of her growing-up years, the 1920s and ’30s, in her beloved hometown. She includes her friends often in her narrative … Sara Frances Ramsay nee Dial (who just had her own birthday), Marie Kemp, “Evie” Whitmire — known to most of us as Evelyn Chambers, Woodstock’s first female mayor — and others.
She says, “Our bunch … could have a good time just playing ‘doodle bug, doodle bug, your house’s on fire’ or hopscotch, or ‘kitty wants a corner’ or just swinging on someone’s front porch, giggling and singing, or playing with paper dolls cut from catalogs, playing croquet or badminton. As teenagers, we would walk on a moonlit night down the middle of the road (Main Street) to Bullock’s Barn, exactly one mile from the center of town — just for fun.”
She walks us through town. “We’d drop in at Dr. VanSant’s office (to weigh and measure our height) … at the milliner’s shop … Mr. Whitmire’s store … Uncle Posey’s … Mr. Faucett’s cobbler shop on the Perkinson-McAfee store balcony … Mr. Barnett’s barber shop … the ‘weenie joint’ (that always smelled of onions)… Johnston’s Store. There Miss Emma Barnes and Miss Mag Rusk sold piece goods and patterns and spools of beautiful colored thread, and I can just see Mr. Bozeman (Haney-Bozeman General Mercantile) measuring and cutting pie-shaped pieces of cheese and neatly wrapping them in brown paper.”
One of her escapades could have come straight from a Western movie. “Just like slow motion, I can remember one afternoon looking up and seeing runaway horses heading toward us as Evie and I stumbled along, playing dress-up in high-heeled shoes and long dresses. A neighbor reported that ‘two drunk women were seen trying to get into the Whitmires’ house.’ George Kellogg was able to control his team just before running into Clarence Kemp, who sat in front of the stores in his wheelchair.”
Alice talks of her daddy’s store — where few women other than Dean family members ever ventured. She describes the roll-top desk, the coal heater, the old chairs, new and old calendars, the mirrored soda fountain and the men, always the men, “whetting pocket knives, whittling, cutting slices from plug tobacco, rolling cigarettes, playing checkers and discussing politics, crops and the news.”
She doesn’t tell the reader the whole story. It could fill volumes.
She omits the fact that she inherited the store when her father died in 1981. Those old chairs remain, and the calendars still adorn the walls. The retired gentlemen still occupy the chairs, although the whittling and whetting have stopped.
There’s no tobacco, and the checkerboard rests idly nearby. But the discussions go on. Today they can talk about Alice on her 93rd birthday. We all love you, Alice. Happy Birthday. Hope to see you soon.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.