Stirring up memories
More tales from Taylor Homes
January 26, 2005
Imagine being far away from a California or New York or
being a young, lonely young woman with maybe a baby on the way. Imagine moving into a row of isolated
apartments on a dirt road. Imagine
being faced with the unfamiliar sight of a wood stove to cook on, and living
with other people’s left over furniture.
Imagine making the most of it.
That’s what many young women—some of them only teenagers—confronted in
Bainbridge during World War II.
I have more Zachary Taylor Homes stories to tell.
Recently, Glenn Gunsallus shared his tales of a long Christmas dinner
held at these homes near the Southern Airways School during the Korean
Conflict. Glenn’s story triggered
some earlier memories from Virginia Wilson Smith who wrote to me from her home
in Valley, Alabama after reading about Glenn’s long
Last year, Virginia shared her stories of growing up in
Wilsontown in the Pine Hill Community.
The memories ended about the time Virginia graduated from high school in
Now she recalls the war years when she worked, like many Bainbridge
residents, at the airbase.
“It was probably one of the best jobs I ever had,” Virginia recalls.
A young wife herself—her husband was serving on an LST ship in the South
Pacific—she worked in the office of
the Zachary Taylor Homes from around 1944 until they closed at the end of the
war. She recalls that the manager
of the home was Charlie Stripling.
Dolly McNease was the office manager and Thomas Josey was in charge of
There were two projects, she continues—one on the highway and one on the
The homes were a project of the Federal Housing Authority. Virginia worked in the morning at the location
on the highway, and then Thomas drove her over to the other location where she
spent the afternoon alone.
“We had (as a whole) real good tenants. They were there to support their
husbands and they put up with unusual living conditions. Can you imagine?”
She goes on tell how when the tenants came to the office for their mail
or to pay the rent, they often shared their frustrations and disgust. But in spite of all the hardships, “they
were determined to stay there as long as their ‘fly boy’ was there.”
It wasn’t all hard times. A
recreation hall sat nearby the highway location. There the residents could get together
for pot luck suppers and teas and other social functions. Once there was a big square dance and
folks from throughout the community attended.
Another gathering place was the Post Exchange. Virginia, since her husband was in the service, shopped
there right along with the Taylor Homes residents. “Just about everything was scarce; if I
saw it at the PX, I bought it.”
In those days of scarcity, frugal cooks made do with whatever they could
find—at the PX or local grocery.
This recipe dates from that era, a good cake that doesn’t use up the
1/2 cup Crisco
1 cup white corn syrup
2 eggs, well beaten
1 package (3.5 ounces) butterscotch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 /3 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Crisco and corn syrup in bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, pudding mix and
salt. Add to shortening mixture.
alternately with combined flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well and
add vanilla. Divide batter
evenly between two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake in preheated oven
30 to 35 minutes or until done. Remove from oven, cool completely then fill
and/or frost as desired.
Virginia completes her
remembering with a strange but believable story. As training slowed down, FHA closed the
housing project. “It was while we
were closing the office and securing the homes that Jordan Construction Company
came in and began paving the streets…We learned that once the contract for
paving was let, it could not be cancelled.”
Virginia concluded her
fascinating letter, “Thanks again for allowing me to reminiscence a time more
than 50 years ago when my salary for the year was $1,050.00.”
But it’s the
other way around. Virginia—now over
85—deserves our thanks for sharing her vivid and fascinating memories.
I hope she will
do it again.
A little over a year ago, Virginia gave me a great recipe. It sounds just as good today.
Praline Sweet Potatoes
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sweet milk
1/2 cup butter
Mix all ingredients together and put into a buttered 2-quart
For the topping, combine 1
cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup chopped nuts and sprinkle
over the potatoes. Bake for 30
minutes at 350 degrees.
If you have
Homes or other home front
memories, you can e-mail me.
Post-script: Glenn Gunsallus provided me with full
identifications of the picture from his 1952 Southern Airways training
class. Thanks, Glenn.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network