The Jackson Herald
March 14, 2001
Why Ed's scrapbook
Ed Thompson was born in 1935 on the other side of the tracks
and river, in east Athens.
Back then, east Athens was the mill village. It was the poor
side of town.
Ed's daddy was a part-time painter and did odd jobs for the Clarke
County Board of Education. His mother spent most of her life
in the cotton mill, Thomas Textiles.
Growing up in that situation, little Ed held out little hope
of ever making it to uptown Athens. His parents were loving and
caring, and worked hard "to keep food on the table and shoes
on our feet. About all they could afford was the bare necessities."
Ed attended Oconee Street Elementary School and went to Sunday
School and church fairly regularly, but there was little money
or time for extracurricular activities. Certainly not the kind
he had heard the west Athens boys were enjoying: organized sports,
swimming, summer camp, etc.
But when the boy was 11 and in the fifth grade, a generous civic
organization turned his life around - across the tracks and river,
toward uptown Athens. The local Optimist Club started giving
scholarships to the YMCA to sports-minded boys from the other
side of town. Ed was one of the lucky ones.
Looking back, he thinks the Optimist Club's scholarships to the
Y were a way of trying to blend (integrate) the poor side with
the wealthier side. "I met and started making friends with
boys I would never have associated with otherwise."
The club paid his dues to the Y for three years, until he reached
junior high age, and it was during this time that he came under
the influence and leadership of Cobern Kelley.
Well, Ed went to high school with his new uptown friends. He
attended old Athens High for three years, and was a member of
Clarke Central's first graduating class.
Then it was on to the University of Georgia. After one year of
college, he married his high school sweetheart, Shirley Edwards.
Almost immediately, the young couple realized they needed a few
things: a refrigerator, stove, washing machine, etc. Ed needed
to go to work.
His first full-time job was at the old downtown Varsity "where
I met some prominent folks coming in and out," and some
of these men would influence the young man's life later on.
Ed left Athens and the Varsity and became the produce manager
at the Winn-Dixie Store in Aiken, S.C. That job didn't work out,
so he came back home, to Athens.
When Ed was a little boy, Mrs. Clifford Denny was his Sunday
School teacher. Mr. Denny was a leader in the International Brotherhood
of Electrical Workers. The Dennys and Thompsons stayed in touch,
and when Ed faced this latest career choice, Mr. Denny was there
with advice. Because of his IBEW experience, it was easy for
him to steer the young man along electrical lines instead of
telephone lines. Ed had job offers from both Georgia Power and
That was in 1957. Thirty-five years later, in 1992, Ed retired
from Georgia Power and settled down to enjoy life in Jefferson
and live by the principles he learned at the Y 46 years earlier.
And today, 55 years after he learned those principles, they are
still impacting his life. He periodically pulls his YMCA scrapbook
out of the drawer one up from his sock and underwear drawer and
reviews such gems as these:
"Bad language is not used in heaven or on the way there.
"Habits are at first like cobwebs; at last like cables.
"You wouldn't fill your stomach with trash from the garbage
can. Neither should you fill your mind with trash from profanity,
vulgarity and bad language.
"The foolish and the wicked practice of profane cursing
and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense
and character detests and despises it." - George Washington.
That is the wisdom on page eight of the "good thoughts/good
thinking" scrapbook, and is just a small sample of the teachings
of Cobern Kelley, the legendary director of the Athens Y.
Kelley died of a heart attack on April 11, 1968, at the Pinetops
Y Camp on the west bank of the Middle Oconee River. He was only
54 years old.
But he lives on in the minds and memories of thousands of young
men - and some not so young now - who came under his influence.
He comes alive every time Ed Thompson pulls an old scrapbook
out of a dresser drawer and reads the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln:
"Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.
"I have many times been driven to my knees by the overwhelming
conviction that I had nowhere else to go.
"I have noticed that folks are generally about as happy
as they have made up their minds to be."
Ed flips through his scrapbook, and on page 31 he hears Kelley
"It is not by a man's purse, but by his character that he
is rich or poor."
And this: "Most of us are so busy getting something else
that we can't enjoy what we have."
Near the end of the 35-page scrapbook is this line: "These
are the principles Kelley followed during his life. Honor him
by living by them, too."
So why is Ed's Y experience of 50 years ago - and the scrapbook
that resulted from that experience - so important? See if this
It helped an 11-year-old east Athens boy move uptown where he
learned that truth of, and achieved, the YMCA's first objective:
"to develop self-confidence and self-respect and an appreciation
of your own worth."
And it is important because, five decades later, the 11-year-old
boy grown to manhood still lives by 35 pages of wisdom "one
drawer up from my sock and underwear drawer."
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
March 14, 2001
Me and my plastic worms
One time, I was young. And when I was young, I caught fish.
I use to think catching fish was a result of my great skill.
After all, I did once catch a largemouth bass weighing a little
over seven pounds. It now hangs on my wall.
But the more I think about, the more I believe that I didn't
have skill. Instead, the fish felt sorry for me.
"Look at that little fellow up there," one bass would
probably say to another. "I think I'll bite that dumb looking
plastic worm just to make him feel good today. He'll turn me
loose after he catches me anyway."
The fish's first mistake was feeling sorry for me. His second
was biting my worm. He got cooked. Then he was eaten.
Nowadays, I fish when I can. And for some reason, I can't catch
Maybe I'm holding my mouth the wrong way. Maybe I shouldn't touch
the plastic worm after I eat a Vienna sausage. Or maybe, as you
old timers would say, my beginner's luck has just run slap out.
At any rate, I get skunked every time.
I went fishing once last week during my spring break. (Please
note that I spent the other 165.43 hours at work.) As does often
happen, my grandfather shut me out, 2-0.
We started out fishing that morning with a bit of optimism and
a slight wind out of the East. (At least my grandfather said
the wind was from the East. I actually think he made that up
just to sound smart and weathery.)
I caught nothing. I got no bites. I didn't even smell any fish.
But my grandfather caught one, as usual.
As I continued to catch nothing, we decided to move to another
spot. We cranked up the boat and moved across the lake.
We settled into a nice spot midway into a cove along a bank boasting
two or three downed trees. I threw my plastic worm out amongst
the trees and proceeded to not catch any fish.
Then my grandfather got a bass on his line for a brief moment.
At nearly the same time, a bass took my bait. I set the hook,
I think, and began reeling him toward the boat. I even caught
a glimpse of him.
The fish swam up beside me and leaped out of the water.
Then, he spit out my worm and stuck out his tongue at me, as
if to say, "Ha. By royal decree from the King Loggerhead
Bass, you shall never catch another one of us again."
I wanted to curse, but restrained for my grandfather's sake.
His ears are much too old for words of that kind.
So the day continued. I caught no fish as my grandfather caught
Then we decided to head back to the boat ramp. I drove the boat
up on the trailer and we took off towards the house.
As I was driving us home, a tree feel into the road less than
10 yards ahead of us. I jerked the wheel to avoid the tree, which
I hit part of anyway. But nothing was damaged.
We finally got home and I finally had to tell everyone that I
got shutout. No one was shocked, not even me.
But I know there will be a next time and I know that same thing
will happen. I'll go. I won't catch any fish. And I'll ending
up driving home-my pride gone, my luck spent and all alone, just
me and my plastic worms.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. His e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.