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A Christmas bride visits Bainbridge
December 24, 2003

            Christmas morning, 1927, seventy-six years ago, dawned cold.  But the happy young bride at the Windsor Hotel in Americus, Georgia didn’t notice.  She climbed into the car beside her brand new husband and headed out on life’s adventure.

            The wedding the day before at the Vineville Methodist Church in Macon had been small, just the bride and groom, the minister, his wife and two friends.  But things were about to change.  The first day of married life was going to be anything but lonely for Linda Lee Penn and Turner Barber (Sr.).

            Turner pointed the car south and headed for Bainbridge where his family waited to meet the bride and welcome her to the family.  And what a family!  Turner, the youngest child of Joseph and Lovie Barber family was not just taking Linda home to mother but to twelve older brothers and sisters as well—not to mention all the brothers- and sisters-in-law and the nieces and nephews eagerly anticipating her visit.  Probably, some aunts, uncles and cousins would be there as well, for plenty of Barbers lived in Decatur County.  The family had been here since at least 1830. 

              All of them gathered for Christmas Dinner in the Fowlstown home of Turner’s sister and brother-in-law Annie and Reuben M. Reynolds (Sr.).  Linda remembers that dinner well—so much food, so many people.  She can’t recall every name—every one of those happy faces was new to her. But the festivities ceases too soon, for Linda and Turner both had jobs in Macon. They had to head on back.  Work began the next morning.

 

Before the next Christmas rolled around, Turner, Jr. joined the happy couple.  The three moved to Augusta in 1930 when Turner Sr.’s employer, Collins Baking Company, transferred him.  It was the tough times of the depression.  The family did not even get to move their furniture; they left it stored with Linda’s family in Monticello.  But soon things were looking up.

            Turner (Jr.) still owns and treasures the letter from Reuben Reynolds Sr. offering his brother-in-law a job as bookkeeper for R.M. Reynolds Naval Stores—a business association that continued for 44 years.  The letter states that the job will pay “$30 a month, a house, wood and water.”   The house was at the company headquarters location at the Twin Lakes turpentine operation just east to the railroad track on Whigham Road (now Martin Luther King Boulevard). 

            Linda remembers it and recalls moving in.  Water may have been provided, but it wasn’t running water.  She didn’t like this at all.

            “Why, I had to go into Kwilecki’s Hardware and ask for a tub big enough to bathe in!” 

The family later moved into town and got that running water.  They moved into the family home on Japonica Drive in time to welcome daughter Linda Lee.  

            Linda enjoys reminiscing about the days gone by, but she is also eager to talk about what’s going on right now.  She’s particularly excited about a gift she received for her ninety-seventh birthday this past October 28. 

            Yes, her ninety-seventh!  Linda Lee was born in Monticello in 1906 to Joseph Linwood and Fannie Davis Penn.  Like Turner, she came from a large family—five girls, Linda was the middle one, and two boys.  (Many folks may recall her brother Chili Penn who for many years was the coach in Mitchell County.)  After Linda graduated from Monticello High School in 1925, she headed out for the city lights of Macon where she went to Southern Business College and, later, had a job with American National Insurance. That’s about the time she met Turner and her life took a swing toward Decatur County.

            Every year, the family—two children, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren—celebrate Linda’s big day.  This year her granddaughter Marci Robinson let her know that the Robinson gift would be a few days late.  Linda didn’t worry.  She figured that she was going to get some German bread.  So she waited.

            Then one day the postman arrived at Bowerland, where Linda now lives, with an official looking box.  Very official—it didn’t even have a stamp. 

              When Linda opened the box, she found an American flag, a very special Stars and Stripes. This flag had flown over the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. on Linda Lee Penn Barber’s ninety-seventh birthday!   A certificate signed by Alan M. Hartman, the Architect of the Capitol, told the tale.  Marci and her husband, Dan, arranged this through their Congressman, Tom Davis of Virginia. 

            Surprise!  Delight!  Out of ninety-seven, Linda can’t recall a better birthday—or a more treasured memento to help her recall it.

            Linda may not remember all the names and faces of that important Christmas, seventy-six years ago, but one thing that she knows for sure is that this cake was on the menu then, and many, many times since in the Barber family.

Layer Cake for a wedding party

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs 

1 scant cup milk

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking power

1 teaspoon vanilla

            Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add well-beaten eggs.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Add to the egg mixture.  Stir in milk.

            Makes four or five layers depending on the size of the pan.

            Linda didn’t specify, but I put the oven at 350 degrees and baked each layer for about 20 minutes.  But watch carefully, the time will depend on the thickness of your layers.

Barbers’ favorite nut filling

Beat together 2 tablespoons flour, enough cold water to make a paste, 2 eggs and 2 cups sugar.  Beat this well and then add 2 cups milk and cook in a double boiler until thick.  Add one cup finely chopped nuts and one teaspoon vanilla; spread between layers.  You may cover the outside of the cake with white frosting.

            Linda remembers that on the farm and later at the turpentine still, good cooks often used what they had around the house—even the cream that had gone sour—and turned out some wonderful dishes.  All that a cook needed to make this pie was a cow and a couple of chickens.  Linda shortcuts using prepared pie shells and commercial sour cream, but this is still a wonderful pie.

Sour Cream Pie

1 tablespoon flour mixed with enough water to make a paste

1 cup sugar

yolks of 3 eggs, beaten until light-colored

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

pinch of salt

1 carton sour cream

            Mix all ingredients together, pour into a piecrust (Linda prefers Pet-Ritz) and bake at 400 degrees for the first few minutes, then lower the heat to around 300 degrees.  Cook until the custard is set, about an hour.

            Beat the egg whites until stiff; then add 2 tablespoons sugar for each egg white, spread over the pie, return to the oven and brown.  Cool and serve.

Merry Christmas to all, most especially to Linda Lee Barber on the anniversary of her wedding day!

Do you have some memories to share? 


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