Joe Phillips Letters Uprooted

In March of 1952 an envelope came in the mail. Each member of Miss Elrod's third-grade class wrote me a one-page letter. They came in one thick envelope bearing nine cents postage.

In the era in which I was raised, living in small towns, people were not as mobile as today.

Except for local railroad people, who migrated with the job, people pretty well stayed “put.”

Pew Research says that four in ten have never moved from their birth place. The article continued that in the Midwest about half of the population still lives where they were born. Of those who had moved 44% moved for job requirements.

Another survey stated that younger adults will move once in five years.

As a child my father was a minister, a mobile profession. We moved three times between 1945 and 1957. His longest tenure was for twenty-two years, and then he retired as a college president in 1979.

I have only two memories of Rome, Ga. We migrated to Richland, Ga., when I was eighteen months old. That is where I became aware of the world around me.

Experts in child development tell us that prior to age four a child develops a “matrix” through which he sees the world for the remainder of his life.

Example: If a child grows up in a chaotic house with a lot of drama, fighting, and substance abuse the child grows up thinking that to be “normal.”

A child growing up in a single-parent home will think that is ideal because it is what he knew during that developing period.

Living in Richland during those formative years, I came to see the world and life in it as I saw life in Richland. It was stable, quiet, dependable. It was small town living at its best. Everyone had two parents at home.

When my father moved us to Alma, Ga., another wonderful small town, it was a massive disruption. I left friends I had known all my young life. They were like family.

My friend Ed Trotman gave me all of his comic books and cried at the corner as we pulled away. I wouldn't see him again until a fifty-year class reunion.

In March of 1952 an envelope came in the mail. Each member of Miss Elrod's third-grade class wrote me a one-page letter. They came in one thick envelope bearing nine cents postage.

The letters were written in beginning cursive, short, precious. All said they missed me and wished me well in my new home.

I made new friends, and Alma became a cherished home town.

I know where four of those classmates are today, many have died, some have dropped off the earth and I have not been able to find them.

I wish I'd had the letters when the class held their only reunion. I couldn't find them.

In the bottom of another dusty box I recently found that envelope of letters.

I read them and returned them to the envelope and put them where I could find them again.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.