When Joan White took her niece Ginger Miller and Miller's sons out to Cracker Barrel for lunch on Christmas Eve, the Miller family thought it was an ordinary holiday meal. But when Ginger was surprised in the parking lot with a 2009 Toyota Sienna van being presented to her by a few local friends, she knew her family's Christmas was anything but normal.
Ginger Miller, a native of Calhoun and a graduate of Calhoun High School, always wanted to leave Calhoun when she was younger. But when she had her three sons, she realized that Calhoun was her home and decided to stay close to family.
But staying in the area has had its own set of challenges. Her oldest son, Will Miller, 23, has cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis, and their doctors are in Chattanooga, which requires a bit of a commute. And as of recently, their old van had been having problems, making transportation difficult and often unsafe.
Throughout Will's life, Ginger's father Randall Woody had been a source of support with taking care of Will, lifting him and helping out in ways he could. However, Woody suffered from a few health issues this year and was no longer able to help out Ginger in the ways he used to.
White said after Woody's health problems, Ginger quit her job to take care of Will fulltime. And as a single parent, this decision left the family in a tight financial situation, though Ginger was doing the best she could.
Though many are born in small towns, it's becoming rare that children born and raised in such places stay there when they grow up. The Calhoun Times recently sat down with three individuals who were born and raised in Calhoun during the 1930s-1950s.
Mignon Ballard, Jane Powers Weldon and James "Jim" Lay were all born within four years of each other, and grew up when Calhoun was a bit different than it is today. Throughout their lives, they have been able to experience Calhoun through what it was and what it is now, observing the many changes that have taken place over time.
While Ballard, Powers Weldon and Lay each have detailed histories with Calhoun, these natives were not the first in their families to be born in the area. All three of them were preceded by ancestors who moved to the town long before they were born.
"My kin folks got here in 1832, and my Aunt Bea Hall started the Calhoun School system in 1902," said Lay, pointing to a wall in his house that displayed years of family photographs. "One of her nephews, Jim Hall, was one of the editors of the Calhoun Times."
Lay, who was born in the house he still lives in, the Stoneleigh House on Fain Street, has an endless amount of stories regarding his parents, grandparents and extended family members living in Calhoun. One of his favorite stories to tell is about his Great-Great Aunt Mary who was living in Calhoun when the Yankees marched through town following the Civil War.
The funny thing about Terry Knight, the man so many Gordon Countians recognize as an institution in art education, is that he never really intended to teach. But when Knight tells his story, it's clear that his assertion that God had other plans for him must be true.
Knight spent 30 years in the public education system bringing a creative outlet to young people as he taught them to sculpt, paint and sketch. He retired from the schools a few years ago but continued to welcome adults and children for classes at his Terry Knight Studios, which he opened 18 years ago just a stone's throw from the Harris Art Center on Wall Street in downtown Calhoun. Now, he's retiring from life at the studio, but he'll stay true to his artistic roots with plans to set up a booth at art festivals in the tri-state area from spring to fall where he'll market his own art pieces.
"I do everything from non-representational to expressionism, impressionism and realism all the way to photorealism," he says.
The walls of the studio are lined with Knight's examples of these styles.
'I'm going to run this place'
Knight graduated from Berry College in 1976 with a major in art and a minor in education. This combination seems ripe for facilitating the teaching career he eventually chose, but he didn't go that direction at first. Instead, he went to work for Georgia Power after graduation. When he interviewed at a steam plant with the company, he remembers saying, "I'm going to run this place one day."
He quickly found success in that line work, and he did end up running the plant on Lake Sinclair as a boiler turbine operator. But he wasn't content.
"It was kind of like party time and having fun, and I made so much money I didn't know what to do with it, but I wasn't happy with it," he recalls. "Sometimes I just get teary-eyed going into work."
He eventually switched career paths and went to work at Clark Memorials back in his hometown of Macon as a stone carver. One of his mentors there was from Italy, and it was there that he learned to sculpt marble and granite. It was a profession he was already familiar with, as his family also owned a stone memorial business.
The Calhoun Times is looking to feature student artwork in our Young Artists section. Pictures of artwork can be emailed to Managing Editor Spencer Lahr at SLahr@CalhounTimes.com. Please keep photos in their original format and do not alter them. Also, be sure to include the name of student, their grade and the school they attend.