This is where my grandmother, her daughter, and grandson lived during World War II. It is in Varnell, Georgia. When they lived there Varnell was only a wide place in the road. As I remember there were just a few enterprises in town: a country store, a fish hatchery, a post office, and two churches.
It is located about 15 miles northeast of Dalton, Georgia, and about 6 miles southeast of Tunnel Hill, Georgia.
Just about a mile or two away from Varnell is the famous Prater’s Mill. Prater’s Mill is on a creek or river and has an old fashion working mill in the old building. There is a Prater’s Mill Arts and Crafts Festival held every year.
Gustavus Prater I think is the founder of Prater’s Mill. He married Josephine Pullen (1852-1928) on 30 March 1876. Josephine is/was my first cousin, 3 times removed.
A couple of years ago I was snooping around some graves in the area and dropped by, the little old house my grandmother, and her daughter and grandson lived in and it was still there.
Back in the mid 1940s there was an outhouse back behind the house. On the back was a back porch, beside the porch was a wooden barrel that was used to catch rain water. Why catch rain water? That was the only running water they had.
I don’t know if they drank the rainwater in a barrel or not, but I would think they surely used it for bathing, cooking, and washing dishes.
About 50 feet down on the road on the right is a spring bubbling out of the ground. It is about the size of a dinner table. That was the drinking water which my sister and I used to go down and carry up buckets full.
The spring is very clear. You can see many pebbles on the bottom. You also see many little black shelled creatures that we called periwinkles. The periwinkles kept the water clean.
The same trip I took the photograph of the house I went to the spring. It is still there with its periwinkles on the spring’s pebbled floor. While I was looking at it a family of Latinos came up in an old car and filled up several plastic gallon empty jugs.
The Spring one time made national news, many years before my grandmother and Opal moved there. Two Mormons came to Varnell and handed out brochures about their religion. The town’s men promptly took the two men down by the spring, tied them up and shot them dead. Religious tolerance? Not hardly.
Across the street from their house, about where I stood to take the picture was a country store. It is was still there, and the only difference I could see was that they added gasoline pumps. There was my first introduction to ice cream on a stick, such as hunkeys. Behind the store was a big hill or a small mountain. Back when we visited often the two roads in town were dirt. Late at night after we had gone to bed you could hear cars speed around the curve of the mountain/hill at high speeds and sliding on the dirt and gravel. My grandmother would say they were out hooting, hollering, and drinking.
I remember a small room in the house that you had to walk through to get from the living room to a bedroom. The small room had shelves with jars of homemade canned goods. The room smelled of dark cold old unfinished wood. They also had a "slop bucket" when one had the need "to go" in the middle of the night.
Every time, even to this day, that I eat meat of a chicken wing with a biscuit or roll I remember my Grandma getting me to try it, saying it tasted good. Which it did.
My grandmother had three sons in the service, two in the Navy and one in the Army. There was a war going on. All 3 made it back alive.
After the war, ever so often all her kids and their families would converge. And the little house and the little yard got crowded. In the picture see the old unpainted house next door? It belonged to the Methodist church and it was for current minister and his family to live. When it got too crowded at my grandmother’s place one time I remember visiting the minister’s family. They had a little girl about my age named Mary.
Next to the minister’s house were railway tracks going to Chattanooga or Dalton. Beside the road and the tracks was a water tower for trains. If back in the mid 1940s I could concentrate and put myself about 82 years in the past, standing in the same spot, I possibly could have seen The Great Locomotive Chase, it went up these same tracks, The General, commandeered by Fess Parker, being chased by The Texan, commandeered by Jeffrey Hunter. The Great Locomotive Chase started in Kennesaw, Georgia, then named Big Shanty, and ended in Ringgold, Georgia. Ringgold is where many of my friends in our teenage years eloped and got married. No waiting. It is also where a distant relative of mine, Alvin Ridley, a TV repairman, was arrested for locking his wife up for 20 years and starving her to death.
Mary and I started to explore. We climbed the ladder up to the top of the water tower. I think we climbed down inside, which I don’t remember. Some body from either my extended family or Mary’s family saw us go down into the water tower tank and panicked. I don’t remember them getting us down but somebody did. I think the minister’s family were not real pleased on my influence on their little Mary.
I think I was about 5 or 6 years old and she was about a year younger. I wonder if Mary remembers our water tower adventure?
This was taken in the front yard of the Varnell home. I'm the brat on the first row on the far right.