1903 was a time of growth for Cartersville, Bartow Co., Georgia. American Textile Co. had come to town and was building a mill where Horse Collars were to be made. They were also building a Mill Village, where the workers and their families could live.
Trees had been cut down, stumps dug up, and men were busy plowing the land so the houses would be on level ground. As soon as a lot was level the builders began building a house.
One of those plowers was G. W. Shepherd, my Great-Grandpa. While he was busy plowing one hot, July day, his wife Carrie was busy giving birth to their second and last child. They named their one and only son Ira. Shortly after Ira's birth Carrie died.
Ira grew up and went to work at the mill making Horse Collars. He met Mae Buford, who also worked there along with her siblings. Ira and Mae had a courtship and then married. He also played baseball on the "Atco" Team. He was always at one of his two positions-Pitcher or Catcher. He enjoyed playing ball with all the guys, especially young Rudy York. Ira signed up and was getting ready to play Semi-Pro Baseball for a team in Florida when Mae found out she was expecting their first child, so instead of going on the road playing ball he decided to stay home and continue working at the mill. This was a very wise decision because Little Geneva decided to come two and a half months early, in June, 1931! The two of them had their work cut out for them just trying to keep this tiny two-and-a-half pound baby girl alive, but they succeeded!
Geneva grew up, met, dated, and married Roland Ledford. They were wed in January, 1949. Between 1950 and 1953 they had two daughters, Shearie and Margaret.
By this time American Textile had sold out to Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., since there wasn't much need for Horse Collars. Tire fabric was needed for all the automobiles, but the Village remained "Atco".
In 1953 Floyd Ledford-Roland's Father-worked at Goodyear and got Roland a job there, so he moved his family to Atco. They lived on a couple of different streets before they moved to 16 Columbia St. in the middle of 1958.
Geneva gave birth to a third child on March 15,1959, a Beautiful baby girl-Myra Jane Ledford-yep this is me. At least Mother and Daddy thought I was beautiful! I was born on a Sunday. Daddy couldn't call anybody and tell them about my birth because The Bell Dialing System had gone into effect and he didn't know how to dial a phone. He walked from Leake St. to Atco to tell Shearie, Margaret, and the girl keeping them, Jane Stafford, that I was a girl. Jane ran up and down Columbia St. shouting "Myra Jane's born, Myra Jane's born"-I'm named after her.
I arrived home in style-Mr Owens, who owned and operated the Funeral Parlor in town, brought Mother and me home in the Hurst, which was his custom. He took pride in saying "I give them their first ride and their last ride".
My first memory of that home at 16 Columbia St. is--And I kid you not--of me getting irritated because my sisters kept putting me back on my pallet every time I crawled off-yep crawled, not old enough to walk yet. Mother didn't want my white gown to get dirty, they were tearing out down the hallway that went through the house.
I was the baby on the block for a few years so needless to say I was spoiled! Ferris Quarles built a child size Porch Swing for me when I was between two and three. Mrs. Bernice Stafford was my second Mother and Grandma. To this day I feel like her Grandchildren are my cousins.
Trips to the Atco Store were always fun, walking through the park with Mother on that well worn path. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell ran the store in the '60's. They were always nice, I don't know how many "Buddy" Bars (Nutty Bars) Mrs. Mitchell gave me! One day while Mother was in line to get our mail, I slipped away when she was talking with someone. She found me sitting on a stool at the Snack Bar eating a doughnut-the man it belonged to had ordered it and stepped away to get something. They both arrived at the same time to find me sticky-faced with half a doughnut in my hand! Mother was so embarrassed and offered to buy him another one, but he declined, saying it was worth it just seeing my face-I'm sure this was the first time I ever tasted this Wonderful Delight. Of course my behind got spanked at least half the way home, she kept saying "that is the same thing as stealing and you don't take nothing that don't belong to you!"
Later on Mother went to work at the store. She and Nellie Maude Hudgins worked in the Snack Bar. the first order she took was for a Milkshake. She made it fine and served it in the metal cup it was made in with a straw. Her second order-you've got it-another Milkshake, her response-"You'll have to wait until that man finishes with the cup". She said she thought Nellie Maude was gonna bust a gut laughing! Of course she pointed out the Milkshake Cups to Mother so this would not happen again.
By the 1960's all the houses in Atco had indoor bathrooms and gas heat. There were two things that remained in the back yards, clothes lines and wash benches.Those wash benches were used for everything: a seat for four or five kids, the ideal place to clean and gut fish, a base for hide-and-go-seek, I even saw two older kids perform open-heart surgery on a baby bird that had fallen to it's death-done with a kitchen knife, tweezers, and sewn up with a needle and thread-but the bird was still dead.
The phrase "I'm bored" was not even in our vocabulary back then because we always had something to do, and I ain't talkin' about watching television either. We had toys and games, not much store bought stuff, we used our imaginations and created things to do. We would lay coke cans on their sides, crush them and bend them to fit our feet, and see who could make the loudest "clanking" sound while walking on the sidewalk. For about 15 cents we could buy a paper kite kit and if the kite got torn we would use the sticks and tape them to newspaper and have another kite. Playing "Taxi" on bikes was always fun, and there was always a ball game going on in the park and everyone could play!
Night time in the Village was also fun. We would catch frogs and lightening bugs, play a game called "Devil-in-the-ditch"(kids would stand on both sides of the street with one in the middle. The one in the middle would say the key words and the others would run from one side to the other. The first one tagged was "It" and would get to stand in the middle of the street). Whenever we were outside-day or night-we were always being watched by one or more of the Mothers. At night Mothers and Daddies were watching us, while talking and visiting with one another--How Blessed Were We!!
We could take 26 cents and an empty coke bottle to Jackson's and buy a King-Size Coke, bag of chips, and small candy bar, but that was a lot of money for a kid to have at one time back then!
Atco had it's very own Taxi Stand-a bench next to a telephone pole which had a box with a phone in it. A one-legged man by the name of Herschel Cagle drove the Taxi.
In 1968 Daddy was in the hospital for a long time. Mother had gone to work at the mill but money was still really tight. Summer was almost over and I was about to start Fourth Grade. The Loving Ladies of Atco Baptist WMU supplied my school clothes that year. They bought material and Mrs. Bill Blankenship made my dresses-five of them, and using different patterns too, no two was made the same! With the remaining money Jane Stafford Summey took me to town, bought me shoes, socks, and un-mentionables-she even had my initials put on my loafers in gold! She also bought my school supplies and a book satchel--I was beaming with Pride on that first day of school!
By 1970 Mother and Daddy had divorced and she married Charles Black, a Supervisor at Goodyear. That year I tasted steak for the first time. It was also the first time Mother had cooked steak-I thought it was supposed to be rubbery, and it had a very good taste. My Step-Brother's knife actually bent trying to cut it! She did finally learn how to cook tender steak.
I lived in that home at 16 Columbia St. from birth until I was 23 years old, in 1982, married and moved to town. I gave birth to a son in '84 and a daughter in '85. We would visit Mother and Charles several times a week. Many times I took my little ones for walks in the Village, or go to visit with Mee-Maw (Mrs. Stafford).
Memorial Day Weekend, 1991, my family and I moved to "Trash-Pile-Hill", or that's what it used to be anyway. They had built a subdivision named "Mayflower" where we used to dump our garbage and Daddy taught me how to shoot his .22 Rifle at lined up cans when I wasn't even school age. ( I chose a house far away from the actual dump site).
Over the next few years my children had the privilege to romp and play in the streets of Atco, just as I did. Now they have their own "Atco" stories also-some of them I wish they had not shared with me when they became adults!
Goodyear got a new 3rd Shift Security Guard in 1996-Me! (I was not employed by Goodyear, but by the Agency they used). Okay, I am not a brave person, in fact CHICKEN is my second middle name, but my Mill needed a 3rd Shift Guard and I wanted to Protect Her! Doing the rounds were not hard when the mill was running, but when it was down it got pretty scary, especially when they would forget to leave security lights on in the basement. It didn't take me long to get the Shop men to show me where all the switch boxes were in all departments, then I'd turn on all lights when entering, and turn them off before I left! The night before Christmas Eve that first year I got a call from Pre-Dip telling me they had an emergency and to open the gate and direct all emergency vehicles toward them, which I did. I did not see the Media Car that passed by, but Mr. Ben Isom let me know very quickly about my mistake, and sent the car right back out! A young man met his maker during those wee hours of that morning. He was supposed to be in a meeting and when he didn't show up his co-workers went to look for him, they found him crushed in a rolling machine. The next 4 nights of rounds, with the mill being down, was really rough for me. Yellow tape blocking off where the fatal accident took place, along with all the stuff that was going through my head-things I actually don't believe, like the spirit lingers around for 3 days where the body was killed, and so on-I was just plain Spooked! Even though they made sure all lights were on I still had my two flashlights on High Beam! Just remembering this gives me goose bumps, and a sad feeling to this day because a young wife and two small children lost a husband and Father that morning.
I met a lot of people in my almost two years of security at the mill. One Truck Driver became my "Bestest Buddy", Mr. Emory Cooper, and we'll be married eleven years in May. How ironic is it that we met at the Mill just as Papa and Granny Shepherd did?
Mother sold the house on Columbia St. in 1997 because she and Charles just couldn't keep it up any longer, and she also did not feel "Safe" there. I moved to Chattanooga, TN. in '98. Emory was still doing daily runs to Goodyear-Cartersville. Goodyear closed it's doors for the last time in the later part of Sept., 2003, right at a Century after the Building was built--WHAT A LEGACY!
It's 2010 now and the building is being torn down. The Village is mostly Slums now. However, We Atco Kids Have Our Bond, Our Heritage, And Our Memories, Which No One Can Tear Down or Take Away From Us--WE WILL ALWAYS BE THE KIDS FROM ATCO, NO MATTER HOW OLD WE ARE!
By the way, I'm back in Good Ole Georgia now, and Won't Leave Her Again!