Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 18, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
August 18, 2004

Frankly Speaking

The beauty in the old way of doing things
In 1954, my father scraped up enough money to purchase a two-acre lot on the Dogsboro Road near Hull. As he could find the money, he dug a well, had a septic tank installed purchased a blueprint from a magazine devoted to rural America, and began accumulating building supplies. Once the block foundation was completed, he needed lumber to build the frame of the house.
That was when his luck began to change. While driving to work one morning, his car was rear-ended by the owner of a lumber yard. The driver’s apology came in the form of a special price for the framing material. Next, he heard of a sawmill near Maxies that had a shed full of planks with various flaws.
He purchased the entire pile for a very low price.
I was 14 at the time, and strong enough to help load lumber. My uncle used his flatbed truck to haul the lumber to our home site. Out of that pile of rejected wood we installed the sub-floor, decking and outer walls. A covering of tar paper and plastic over the doors and windows gave us a dry shell.
Father had grown up in poorly-built rural houses where everything shook when you walked across the floor. He said he wanted a house that would not rattle the dishes every time he moved. That is what he built. He put solid block walls under the house, not pillars. He framed the house with 18-inch center and installed extra bracing in the walls and rafters. Walking across our floor feels as solid as walking on Stone Mountain.
It was only then that dad went to the bank to borrow enough money to finish the house. His banker was the legendary J. “Smiley” Wolf. He almost rejected the loan because dad was asking for too little money. Only after seeing the work that had been completed did he agree to the loan.
A plumber came in to install the kitchen and bath fixtures. A roofer installed the roof and siding and an electrician did the wiring. We did the rest. We cut and nailed sheetrock, plastered sanded and painted the walls.
We installed and finished the wood floors. A retired carpenter built the kitchen cabinets. I used my skills learned in woodworking class in school to install the interior trim.
We moved into the house in the fall of 1955, the year that Madison County High School opened. That makes the house 50 years old. Only five houses along Glenn Carey Road between Hwy. 29 and the creek at Hull are older than our house. It is still solid as a rock and will easily stand for another 50 years or more.
I tell you this story to show that with good planning, hard work and the help of family and friends, you can build a solid, long-lasting structure.
That is true of houses, businesses, schools, newspapers and governments. It is not the amount of money you spend; it is the quality of the planning and work. Some of the strongest of our institutions were built with little money and lots of sweat.
I think we need to go back to the old way of doing things.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
August 18, 2004

A Moment With Margie

Memories in a box
Looking back through old photos is like taking a trip back through your life.
How did people remember things, and when they happened, before photography?
Perhaps their lives were less cluttered than ours are today and memories were recalled by saying “Do you remember the year ‘so and so happened?’ — it was the year the creek dried up...,” or “it was the year it snowed on Christmas...”
Maybe they were more industrious than I, taking a few moments every day to jot down the things that happened and how they felt about them. I don’t know.
All I do know is that there are so many things, precious things, that would have gotten lost in the shuffle of my every day life if those old photos weren’t there to remind me.
There’s a reason photos are on my mind; I’ve been digging them out from closets, end tables, photo albums, photo boxes, desk drawers and other places I’d forgotten about over the past week or so, working on a photo album for my daughter, Miranda, for her 22nd birthday.
Just when I think I’ve found them all, more seem to surface. And it’s taken me a long time to go through them because along with all the baby pictures, birthday parties, school events, awards ceremonies, beauty pageants, vacations, graduations, reunions, etc. (Whew!) there are the other photos from my own life before I became a mother. I get lost in looking at all of it, remembering people, places and events I haven’t thought of recently, becoming forgetful of the reason I’m sorting through it all.
Some make me laugh, like my hairstyles and eyeglass frames over the years, others make me cry, like my mother’s face at my wedding, or the few pictures of my daddy, who didn’t like to be photographed, or the photos of so many other loved ones, many now no more than memories themselves.
Looking at myself in those photos I wonder if I lined them up side by side, how much of the changes in myself (other than in wrinkles and pounds) I could chronicle.
What was I thinking about at the time such and such a photo was shot? What were the pressing problems of the day?
I can remember bits and pieces of things when I look at some of them, but for others, I have no idea; time has erased the cares of that day. What seemed so important at that time, so “life or death,” is inconsequential to me today.
So, I started thinking, what can these photos teach me about life, in general, and what lesson from them could I impart to the beautiful 22 year old young woman who is my daughter?
I think one thing would be to always consider, when making big decisions, what will be important to you when the end of your life comes.
I think the photos themselves tell the story. It’s in the moments they capture — the smiles, the expressions, the joy and even the sorrow — these are the things we cherish, the things that will sum up what our life is, and maybe all it’s meant to be. I would tell her that maybe we’re measured and judged by the way we spent the time we were given.
So as I gather some of the memories of Miranda’s life, up to now, in photos in my hands, I will wish for her to use them to remember where she came from, who she is today and all she hopes for in the future.
I guess that’s why photos are the thing most of us go for first when trying to save our possessions from a tragedy. We can replace the TV, the furniture and the DVD player, but we can’t replace our box of memories.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

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