August 19, 2015
As promised last week, we are going to start taking a walk through Hahira in the 1960s.
If I were reading aloud, I would tell you to close your eyes and let your mind drift back to the 1960s. I would try and describe what I remember about Hahira through the eyes of a young boy. But since you are reading, you can’t close your eyes and follow the story. So please just come with me and try to take in the sights and sounds as we enter our own little time machine called the Goldleaf.
Follow me back to a time when Hahira had six grocery stores, a movie theater, three dry cleaners and was a hub of activity. We will become explorers together over the next few weeks as we try to reconstruct the people and places we all loved while growing up in our little piece of heaven.
Let’s travel from the railroad crossing to the west side of Hahira where the road curves to the right as Highway 122 and Main Street forks into a small street to the left. To the right is Highway 122 which continues to peach farms, Barney, and other points west. If you take the road on the left side of the fork, it’s still Main Street and it ends at Union Road.
In the early 1960s, Main Street did not stop at Union Road. A few years earlier, in 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act and the country prepared to start building interstate highways across America. Interstate 75 came through Hahira in the early 1960s forcing Main Street to end at Union Road. Rumor has it, that once the interstate was nearing completion, a fellow by the name of Disney secretly tried to buy the land around the interstate from North Valdosta Road to Tifton.
Before the interstate was built you could take Hahira’s “Main Street” straight to Morven, there was no I-75 to block your path. You would pass the house where Mrs. Mary Lee Hobrat and her husband E.J. lived, Frank’s Creek and Mr. Leon Miley’s house. Continue straight and you would cross Little River on your way to Morven, turn left at Mr. Miley’s and you would go to the communities of Shiloh and Snake Nation.
I know most of you remember Mr. and Mrs. Hobrat. Mr. E.J. ran the Gulf Station at the interstate for many years and Mrs. Mary Lee was loved by many folks as their favorite third-grade teacher at Hahira Elementary.
And a lot of folks remember Mr. Leon Miley, many rode his school bus to the high school every day. A short, little man with a nasal twang to his voice and a heart bigger than Lowndes County. One of his favorite expressions was, “I’ll see you tomorrow the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” His little saying invoked a lot of truths particularly since he lived on the other side of Frank’s Creek and a rising creek would prohibit him from “seeing you tomorrow.”
Further out on the Morven Highway you cross Little River. The area around the river was covered with small trails that would take you to the various fishing spots and locations around the river. Names like “Myers Bluff” and a place on the river that had a cave that “did not have a bottom.” A vortex near the cave that could swallow a “whole cow or tractor tire.” The people that grew up near the river knew these trails, sand bars, and fishing holes just as well as the folks in town knew the city streets.
During May, small shrubs and bushes around the river would start to produce in abundance a sweet little berry called a mayhaw. People from all around would go to the river to harvest these to make jelly. There is nothing more tastier than a jelly cake made with mayhaw jelly.
Now we have Little River to the west of Hahira and the Withlacoochee River to the east of town and there are creeks and ponds all around Hahira, which mean a lot of folks favorite past time was fishing. And fishing brings us back to Hahira and where we started, the fork in the road near the city limits. Sitting there at the fork, on the small street which went to Morven, was Littleton’s Bait and Tackle.
Littleton’s was a tiny block building and was packed from top to bottom with all types of fishing equipment. Lures, bugs, lead shot, cork stoppers, hooks, lines, fishing poles, rods, and reels. Outside was a minnow tank for live bait. Mr. Littleton had crickets and the necessary worms like pond worms and “red wigglers.” The one thing I remember about Littleton’s was the smell. It was an earthy smell of everything you needed to catch the big one or tell the story about the big one that got away.
My brother, Junior, bought his first reel from Mr. Littleton, a Zebco 33, which I accidentally “cast” into a pond in Arkansas ten years later. He loved the reel so much he dove in after it.
Mr. Littleton and his wife lived in a large white house next door to their store. There was a pond in back of the house and they also ran a nursery with flowers, bulbs, and trees for sale. Pam Stalvey Williams had this recollection about the Littletons on Facebook last week: “I remember when I was a little girl, I thought it was so cool that he had a great big tall pine tree next to his store he would leave his Christmas lights on it all year and just add more at Christmas. You didn’t see stuff like that around Hahira back then.”
And Dani Martin Buchanan posted this, “The Littletons had a daughter, Joann, that married my mother’s cousin, Billy Walker, who lives in Douglas Ga. Their son, Greg Walker, recently retired from batting coach for the Atlanta Braves. I used to go to The Littletons for a visit when they would come to town.”
Next week, we are going to continue our trek down Main Street.
Now please remember, this is over a half century ago, so some of the places and names I will not get one-hundred percent correct. In advance, I hope you will forgive me for any mistakes on my part. If you see something that’s not right, please let me know and we will correct it in the next column. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your corrections and suggestions.
I’m counting the days until the Honeybee Festival, I miss Hahira and pine for home.