Opinion

June 12, 2014

James Turner: Refugee from Happy Top

In the early 1940s my family moved out of the shadow of Bald Mountain to Dalton in search of work and so that I could go to school. My daddy said that he did not move because he wanted to but that “we starved out.” He went to work in Crown Cotton Mills and we settled in Happy Top. Then my daddy had to get on a bus and go back to Blairsville to be drafted into World War II, but he soon came back and said at his age and with kids he was not taken, but they got his brother Carl, who was a year older but had no kids.

So my mother did not move back with family and we began the segment of my life at Happy Top. I do not have a lot of memories, yet have one of the worst ones that life deals out. We did have running water and no longer had to walk to a mountain spring. But our water came from a spigot in the front yard by the road. We carried our water in just like in the mountains and there was no indoor plumbing, just the outhouse and Sears Roebuck catalog.

We lived in a small house with a wooden porch that was full of splinters. I guess the wood wasn’t planed. Since in those days poor kids only got one pair of shoes in the fall, we went barefoot much of the year. We remember pain, so I remember those splinters, but there was an angel who lived across the street, a very old gentleman who took pity on me. (My brother was not yet big enough to get on the porch floor.) He would come over and sit on the porch floor, trimming off the splinters with his Barlow knife.

As I said, I do not have a book of memories ... just a few. I do remember that boy probably about 2 years old who lived down behind us. The reason that I remember him is that he played with us other urchins naked. I do not know if he did not have any clothes or was just too “muley” to wear any. But as in life, we adapt, and I, this sheltered mountain boy, got used to his dress code.

I well remember the air raid alarm practices for Dalton. Every house was supposed to turn off all lights. We only had a bare bulb that hung down in the middle of each room. My mother and others around us got tired of this darkness and would rack thick quilts over the windows so that we could have one light. Speaking of light bulbs, mother had an adapter so that she could take the bulb out and plug in her new iron. This was a great step up since in the mountains the irons were heated by the fireplace or wood-burning range.

My 18-year-old uncle came down from the mountains to live with us and work with us and work in the cotton mill. Would you believe, my mother’s new iron stopped heating? My uncle, who probably had never seen an iron before coming to Happy Top, decided to take the iron apart and fix it. I was right there with my nose stuck in the middle of things. He could not find anything wrong, so he put it back together. When done, we discovered that he had left some pieces out. But, lo, the iron now worked. I think I learned a great lesson about trying that day.

Soon my uncle was drafted and went off to the big war where he was shot, got well, was put back in battle and was shot for the second time, got well and finished out his time in the Army. He now lives in Marietta, but for a brief time was a part of Happy Top. I missed my uncle’s companionship.

I guess it is funny what we remember from our very early childhood. I remember in the vacant lot next door by the blackberry patch was a small concrete pool that had no water in it. I had never seen a pool before. Someone who had lived on the vacant lot before the house was either burned down or torn down must have made it. I thought later that someone had a dream, either of a children’s pool or a goldfish pond, which I found out later was a status symbol in those days. At least someone was thinking beyond Happy Top.

Here is the sad part of my life on Happy Top. My brother died at age 2. In the big scheme of things, Dr. Dendy of First Presbyterian Church had started a mission at the foot of Happy Top. My mother took me to church there. Dr. Dendy preached my brother’s funeral at the mission. For some reason, I stood outside beside the door. I remember the cold and the loneliness. I missed my brother Dennis a lot more than my uncle. I would crawl under the covers and pray that God would send him back. But that was not in the big plan. My daddy told me a little while before his death that he would never have become a Christian if little Dennis had not died. I told him that two people had to die for him to get to heaven (one on a hill in Dalton, and one on a hill in Jerusalem).

My brother’s dying probably had a lot to do with our leaving Happy Top. Because of memories and the fact that daddy wanted me to not have to walk through the cold and mud to go to school, around the beginning of 1945, we moved to No. 1 Main Street, diagonally across the street from Crown Point School. Thus I became a refugee from Happy Top and began my life’s career in education.

James Turner is a resident of Chatsworth.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • "We’ve had a great ride"

    For 60 years, the Green Spot has been a part of Dalton. It survived long after most other locally owned grocery stores in the area had folded to competition from big chain grocery stores and to big box super stores.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charles Oliver: Traveler from a district in Columbia?

    Jim Gray was traveling out of Orlando International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration officer tried to stop him from boarding his plane.

    July 29, 2014

  • Letter: Children are not the enemy

    We recently read somewhere that our country is at war, not with another nation but with one another.

    July 29, 2014

  • Ensuring the joy of reading

    They’re little, they’re libraries, and best of all, they’re free.

    July 28, 2014

  • Move carefully, but soon

    No one intended for it to happen. No one had any bad motives.
    But during a period of 40 years or more, quite a few people didn’t do enough planning, didn’t have enough foresight to see what all of the development in Dalton would do.

    July 27, 2014

  • Local school systems must bear costs of federal immigration failure

    No word. No warning. Little help.
    That’s what Dalton Public Schools officials received from the federal government when it dropped 30 Central American students into local classrooms last school year.

    July 26, 2014

  • Sacrifices worth honoring

    Members of the Dalton City Council were recently approached by representatives of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a request to declare Dalton a Purple Heart City. Council members indicated they will approve the request.

    July 24, 2014

  • We must do better

    The numbers tell a sad tale.
    Registered voters: 36,843.
    Cards cast: 5,307.
    That means the turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs in Whitfield County was a measly 14.4 percent, according to unofficial results from the Whitfield County elections office.

    July 23, 2014

  • Letter: Control immigration

    Thousands are starting to pour into our country, and things are getting personal. Why would we end up the bad guys if we turn away children who aren’t ours? How does it make us better people to let one man steal from our children and stand by and do nothing?

    July 23, 2014

  • Helping with Book Blast betters the community

    The school test results are in, and students in Whitfield and Murray counties mostly improved from a year ago, mirroring or exceeding average scores of their peers.

    July 23, 2014