Stirring up memories
It’s Saturday—let’s go to town!
February 5, 2003
I stopped by Helen Lee Sanders’
house one morning to pick up some childhood photographs she wanted to
share. A most welcoming aroma swept out
the door. How else would Helen be
spending her morning? She was cooking.
particularly caught my eye. It couldn’t
be otherwise, the counter tops were full of them. Helen explained that she always keeps good, homemade snacks on
hand for her husband, J. R. Sanders.
“And we’re down to the last slice of cake.” I glanced at the cake keeper, sure enough, just one lonely slice
lay on the plate.
we enjoyed the smell of the baking cookies and the good lunch on the stovetop,
Helen shared some more memories with me.
her stepfather, Turner Burke, mostly farmed cash crops like peanuts and cotton
to keep his family going, he also raised plenty of food for them to use at
home. Corn was important, not only
because it could be cooked up and served fresh from the field as a summer treat,
but also because it provided the important cornmeal and grits for family meals
all year around.
explained that the corn was left to dry on the stalk in the field. Then Turner stored it still on the cob in
the barn. When it was time for cornmeal
and grits, one of the children went to the barn and ran the cobs through the
corn sheller. Then the fun began.
loved going into town to get the corn ground.
Turner harnessed up the two mules and the children piled into the
wagon. The family depended on the mules
and wagon for transportation well into the 1940’s.
I asked if it
didn’t take a long time to go the twelve miles into town by wagon. But Helen replied that it didn’t seem to
take long at all. Everyone was so
looking forward to being in town. Most
often this was on Saturday afternoon.
First stop would be the mill where the family dropped off the corn to be
changed into grits and meal.
the mill being near the intersection of Albany Road and Carter Street just
north of the railroad track (near Murphy’s Home and Garden Shop—I drove by, and
there’s not a trace).
The real fun came
after the stop at the mill, when the family made a special stop at the
Bainbridge courthouse square. “We all
loved to go into town and visit the shops.
That’s when we saw our friends and got the news,” Helen said. As the evening grew long, the family climbed
back into the wagon and headed home for a good night’s rest before going to
Pilgrim Rest Church on Sunday morning.
finished the seventh grade at Magnolia Elementary School, and she no longer had
to wait until Saturday afternoon to get to come to town. At that time, there was no school bus
service to Hutto High School for children who lived in the rural parts of the
county. But Helen was determined to
finish high school. She moved to town
living at first with her cousin, Bessie Williams, and later with Julia
Smiley. About this time, too, she began
to be courted by a young man she met at church, J. R. Sanders. When she graduated from Hutto High in 1951,
he thought it would be fine idea to get married.
Helen had another idea. A cousin in
Tallahassee offered to help her through Florida A&M if she helped with the
babysitting while his wife got her master’s degree at the school. Helen was off to study cosmetology at
she graduated, J. R. once again suggested getting married. No, he didn’t suggest it, Helen
laughed. He insisted. And this time, Helen said, “Yes.” They married in 1955 and are happy together
today in the house they built in Bainbridge in 1958. Through the years the
house and their family have grown. They
have four children, three daughters in Atlanta and a son in Tallahassee.
several years Helen ran her own beauty salon near the house, but as her
children grew older and needed more of her time, she closed the shop. Later she became a probation officer for the
Department of Juvenile Justice, from which she retired. But retire may not be the best word
for what Helen Lee Sanders does. For
over twenty years, she has been a member of the Decatur County Board of
Registrars, she volunteers one afternoon a week at the Memorial Hospital Gift
Shop, she is deeply involved in a youth mentor program in Grady County, and
perhaps most important, she works with the Foodsource Program through Union
Missionary Baptist Church. Foodsource
monthly provides low-cost food boxes to families. (Find out more about Foodsource at www.foodsource.org.)
of all though, count on finding Helen in the kitchen, cooking up something
Helen Sanders’ Pound Cake
1 stick butter
2 sticks margarine
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla or lemon
3 cups flour
Note: There is no milk in this recipe.
Cream together the
butter, margarine and cream cheese, then gradually add the sugar. Beat until it is fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing
thoroughly. Add the vanilla or lemon
extract. Gradually add in the flour.
for 1 hour and 45 minutes in a greased and floured tube pan.
My changes: I was
long on butter and short on margarine, so I used three sticks of butter. I wanted to take a cake to a friend and also
wanted to try it myself, so instead of
using the tube pan, I put the cake in three 8 by 3 inch loaf pans and baked
them for about an hour. They were
ahead: Linda Atkinson, when she
left off a jar of delicious chow-chow along with her recipe, reminded me that
those tomato seeds should be planted and sprouting. Hard to believe with the cold weather we’re having, but spring’s coming,
and those green tomatoes as well.
Thanks for the tip and the chow-chow, Linda.
looking for good cooks with long memories who will share their kitchen secrets
with me. And if you remember the mill
on Carter Street, please let me know.
<--Previous Column | Next Column-->
Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network