A present from the pastRead Now
“I can’t believe those two boys built that cabin all by themselves.”
And with those words I discovered one more among us who still remembers Camp Last Resort along Salt River.
On Saturday I had the privilege of chatting at length with another of my dad’s first cousins: Jane Moore McKinney, the older sister of John Allen Moore to whom I dedicated the book. At age 96, her smile lights up the room and she demonstrates the same knack for storytelling as her two brothers. Her memories are clear and precise and she is a delightful conversationalist, even though challenged by encroaching deafness. Her grammar is impeccable, reflecting the education she received as a young girl at an Atlanta academy associated with Emory University (her father worked for the railroad at the time). For example, my editor’s ear perked up when I heard her say, “He was seven years older than I…”
She talked of our Aunt Sallie hauling heavy containers of milk from Grandpa Moore’s milking barn to the road to be picked up by a truck from the cheese factory in Lawrenceburg. She described how her future husband, stationed at a Navy facility outside Atlanta during World War II, leaned out of a passing streetcar madly calling her name as she stood along Peachtree Street. (She had met him once before. Click here to listen to her relay that scene.) She described life in 1940s boarding houses and sharing a bathroom with four other couples. I learned that before her marriage she had dated my mother’s cousin—and my father’s friend and classmate—George McWilliams, whom she spoke of repeatedly and fondly.
When I talked to her on the phone about a month earlier, using a TTY device, she assured me drolly, “I inherited the deafness: It wasn’t something stupid I did.” She wanted to be sure we knew she had been driving and attending her weekly supper parties just a couple of years ago. Spending time with her this weekend, I have no doubt she charmed everyone at those gatherings. Now, frustrated by having to rely on a wheelchair, she seems bewildered that her body has begun to bow to age.
I had met Jane briefly at a couple of family funerals. I knew she was fond of my dad. But, inexplicably, I had never made the short trip to Owensboro to get to know her or her children.
So the traveling trio of Goodletts—my cousins Sandy and Bob and I—arranged a brief visit with Jane, her daughter Jane Allen, and her son Jim. This is the legacy of publishing The Last Resort. By delving a bit into my father’s story, I have been inspired to spend time with family I hardly knew. I am getting to know John Allen’s family and Jane’s family, and I have visited their brother Joe and his wife, Jean, who rescued me when I was a lost high school student in Atlanta years ago. I have spent hours talking to two of my first cousins as we traveled across the South—two cousins who had launched their careers by the time I was a child settling back in Kentucky after my father’s death. I look for reasons to get in touch with my McWilliams cousins, my Hanks cousins, and my Birdwhistell cousins. And I am delighted by all my interactions with them.
Unexpectedly, I am finding family and family connections endlessly fascinating. I wish I had had the impetus long ago to reach out to them. As one of the youngest of my generation, I think I was mildly intimidated by all my interesting older cousins. But I’m glad I rounded up the courage to push myself into their lives in some small way. And I am deeply grateful for the opportunities to get to know them.
Jane's daughter, Jane Allen McKinney, is a nationally recognized artist. Her immense sculpture, towering over the Tennessee State University Olympic Plaza, is constructed of metals representing the actual percentage of gold, silver, and bronze medals the university's athletes have been awarded.
7/2/2019 10:09:58 pm
Another beautifully written piece. I am so glad you”rounded up the courage” to do this and understand what you mean by that. I look forward to the next adventure.
7/2/2019 11:40:06 pm
Great summary of our weekend!
7/3/2019 07:09:33 am
7/3/2019 07:28:53 am
Sallie, I'm so happy the three of you all made this trip to see Jane! The photos are so sweet. I've been trying to call her, but I'm sure you all made her year. =) She'll be talking about this for a long time. You are so right about Jane speaking with perfect grammar and being an incredible storyteller. We love her dearly.
7/3/2019 11:39:18 am
Sallie and Bob, weren’t the paintings of Mamaw and Granddad painted by someone named Jane? Would it have been Jane Allen? I love your posts, Sallie!
7/3/2019 04:29:11 pm
Teresa, I remember those portraits of Mamaw and Granddad (Mary and George McWilliams) hanging in their apartment when I was very young, so I don't think Jane Allen McKinney--who is our generation--could have been the artist. That said, we should find out who indeed did paint them. Does anyone know? By the way, they are now hanging in the Anderson County History Museum on Woodford Street, for those who might be curious.
7/3/2019 02:52:02 pm
Beautiful blog, sorry I missed the trip, I have always enjoyed listening to another generation speak, so many interesting stories. Next trip, count me in.
5/28/2021 12:44:48 pm
Sallie, such a nice piece.. and a strong and wonderful reminder that family needs to stay in touch!
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