Berry gals

The Berry College gals: My mom is third from left. Standing to her right is Martha Young, her closest friend.

Most photographs of my parents show them as adults, after their marriage. But I have a few taken when they were young.

There are pictures of my father as an infant, then of him dressed up in an Indian outfit. The family was more prosperous that year with a good cotton crop. I still have the shirt.

The next photo was taken when he was teen-aged fiddle player in a local string band and from then on images are plentiful.

There are pictures of my mother as an infant, then they jump to her teen years.

I have pictures of mom as a student at Berry College with her clutch of gal pals. They were classmates wearing identical uniforms during a carefree day at Victory Lake.

With a glass I looked more closely and wonder what sort of lives these girls had.

Most were born around 1915 and in the college class of 1935.

They were children of the Great Depression and profoundly affected by WWII. Most, I assume, became teachers.

The names of the girls are in my oldest vocabulary: Doris Mann, Margaret Weaver, Tommie Ellerbee, Viola Stanford, Velma Cannon, Mildred Blake, Martha Young. In each image she was positioned beside Martha Young, her closest friend.

Today these women would be over 100 years old. Still I wonder about their lives, successes and families.

I recall Christmas cards, visits, reunions, names repeated in conversations, family news as if we were relatives. I didn’t feel the connection nor the tug of curiosity at the time.

In two pictures my mom stood companionably near Harvey Roberts. I remember his name.

In the 1940 draft he was employed at Berry College and served as an Army officer. He earned a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, returned to Berry and taught journalism. Other members of his family also attended Berry.

Harvey never married, returned to Montezuma, Ga., and died in 1990.

While writing this I’m pawing through a box of clippings of wedding and birth announcements, ephemera and obituaries, looking for hints. Not yet.

In the academic year of 1941 my mother taught at Coosa School, west of Rome, Ga.

The school photo clearly shows the remarkable alikeness she would share with her grand-daughter, Joanna.

I spread out the dozen images beside the last taken of my mom in 1979, the year she died. The last five years of her life saw a deep physical decline and a personal wound that sapped her emotionally.

I’m still looking for the gals.

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

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