Interest in the town's history was high. Events had been planned throughout the year to culminate in December with a parade and gala. Becky told of a couple of Towne Lake residents who were in her shop admiring the afghan. One said to the other, "Towne Lake should have such an afghan." The friend replied, "What would we put on it? Dry cleaners and supermarkets?"
The point here: it takes time to have a history. With passing years, people and places and events build that necessary foundation of memories that will become history.
A prime example of this is the Dixie Inn reception/reunion of last Saturday sponsored by Preservation Woodstock Inc. and the Woodstock Visitors Center at Dean's Store. In 1947 when Dixie Inn opened, no one could look ahead for 40 years. Even in 1986 when it finally closed, its influence on the people who worked there and the customers who ate there couldn't be appreciated. But in the rearview mirror instead of the crystal ball, it becomes a treasure chest filled with friendships cherished, lessons learned, and values of honesty and integrity exemplified. As interesting as the photos and memorabilia were, the exhibit was, in and of itself, merely a tool to bring together those folks who had not seen each other in 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years, and give them an opportunity to catch up, to renew old acquaintances, to share memories.
All too often we think of history as dates and buildings. But the crux of the matter is the culture, the surroundings, the people and their lives, where they worked and worshipped and went to school... what they wore, what they ate, how they took care of themselves and their families, how they spent their leisure time. The Dixie Inn photos and related items tell that story, at least in part... photos of families in their Sunday best at long tables there, listings of "rabbit with cream gravy," barbecue and catfish on the same menu; photos (many still without identification after a month-long exhibit) of youngsters in baseball team outfits emblazoned "Old Dixie Inn," and ash trays (a no-no today).
Quite a few waitresses were in attendance on Saturday, and what a joy to see them together. Some of their stories might not bear repeating!
I was especially impressed with Johnnie Ghorley Eubanks Southern's banana split story. I had asked her about a garage and/or gas station that was said to have operated out of the north end of the original building at one time, and she confirmed that. Then she added, "Guys that worked there would come into Dixie Inn and eat. If owner Ed Mulkey was not there when they ordered a banana split, I would give them extra ice cream and bananas and lots of toppings and a huge blob of whipped cream on top." (Mr. Mulkey, the original owner, managed to make a profit in spite of Johnnie's generosity.)
Johnnie had high praise for her employer. She says, "Mr. Mulkey was kind to allow some of us teenagers to work a few hours after school and on weekends." Other workers during those early years attest to that as well.
Frances Booth Blackstock was trusted with the owner's vehicle and cargo, and has only fond memories of those years. Her ties with Dixie Inn include her mother's employment as the cook.
A photo of Ann Boling, another cook, confirms what many of us suspected. She is shown with both hands in the biscuit dough, and in the background is what appears to be a five-gallon can of Pure Lard. No wonder the biscuits were so good!
One of the highlights of the day was having owner Delmar Watkins's widow with us. Her children were so gracious in allowing the use of Delmar's country music photographs in the exhibit. His hobby was collecting such photos, and they adorned the walls of the restaurant's dining rooms during his ownership.
His collection of about 75 framed photos is a treasure within itself. Space limitations kept our display at around 30, but that was enough to keep folks busy trying to identify them. Very few old-timers and nobody of today's generation could identify the Willie Nelson of the '40s. Others, everybody knew... Dolly, Brenda Lee, Jerry Clower, Loretta Lynn. Thanks, Watkins family! It was fun.
So heads up, business owners. Save those items that seem meaningless, and keep your camera handy. You're making history.
Juanita Hughes is the retired manager of the Woodstock Public Library.