Stirring up memories
The Long Christmas Honeymoon
December 22, 2005
bride, smiling and radiant, listened as the words of the wedding song
“Because” rang through the church. The debonair groom stood with his
brothers and friends by his side watching for the love of his life. His eyes shone, maybe they even
3:00 P.M. on a sparkling Christmas afternoon, in the Mt.
Sinai Freewill Baptist Church of Douglas, Georgia, Miss Gwendolyn Eugenia
Thompson, the beloved daughter of Eula Lewis Thompson Phillips joined into matrimony
with Mr. Luther H. Conyers, Jr., the son of Ella Mae and Luther H. Conyers, Sr.
of Cyrene, Georgia.
reception followed in the home of the pastor. It was the first formal wedding held in
the Mt. Sinai Church. The young couple then departed on a
Greyhound Bus for Waycross,
where they spent the night in a boarding house and visited relatives. Then they headed for Bainbridge for a
was Christmas of 1948, 56 years ago, but both the bride and groom remember it
like it was yesterday. In fact,
when asked about his long marriage, Luther’s eyes still twinkle. “I can’t comment on
that,” he says. “ The
honeymoon isn’t over yet.”
love story began on the campus of Savannah State College where Gwen and Luther
both studied. They had lots in
common, including some very determined parents.
grew up without knowing her dad.
Eugene Thompson died when she was only three years old. Her mother Eula was determined that her
little girl would have every chance to learn and succeed. She often held two jobs, doing domestic
work in the day and working as a seamstress at night. When Gwen was very small, Eula worked in
a tailor shop. There were no such
things as babysitters, so Baby Gwen went right to work with her mother and
played under the tables as Eula stitched.
Gwen was in the fifth grade, the family moved from Waycross
to Douglas looking for a better life. While many children Gwen’s age
worked in the tobacco industry while they were in school, Eula would have none
of that. Gwen had a job—she
had two. She helped her busy mother
with the housework and did the cooking, and, her second job—she made good
grades. “NO bad
grades!” Eula told her. And
had a dream. When she graduated from
School as the valedictorian, she planned to go to a two-year
school, obtain a secretarial certificate and move to Washington D.C.
to work in a gleaming government building.
fall, she headed off to Georgia State Industrial
College (now Savannah State
University). To help meet the bills, she had a work
scholarship. Her job was cleaning a
classroom. But that job
didn’t last long. After only
a month, one of her teachers interceded, and Gwen worked in the administration
offices for the rest of her time in college, and for a while afterwards.
the end of the second year, she was ready to live her dream and move to Washington, but Eula had
other ideas. She told her daughter
to count on going back to Savannah.
She was going to graduate from college.
those days, we did what our Mamas told us,” Gwen said.
And she did. The first person in her
family to graduate from college, Gwen was an honor graduate in the Class of
But it wasn’t all work and study in
those busy Savannah
years. There was some romance,
plenty of romance as well.
in Cyrene, the
Conyers family were just as determined as Eula Thompson about children and
college. Only instead of one little
girl, the Conyers had a houseful of strapping boys. The second son, Luther, Jr. studied at Brinson Vocational High School. The agriculture teacher there mentored
him and guided him to go to Savannah
to school. Like Gwen, Luther worked
while he attended classes. Since he
was studying agricultural education, Luther’s job was on this land-grant
school’s training farm. His
first job was milking the cows.
Luther graduated he returned to Decatur
County where he taught
adult vocational agriculture for the Institutional On Farm Training
Program. Often the farmers heassisted
were many years older than the young college graduate. Sometimes, Gwen recalls, they wondered
what he was up to!
and Gwen have made their lifetime home in Decatur
County and their careers in Decatur County education. After a short stint working at Florida A&M,
Gwen took a job teaching at Mt. Moriah High School
in Decatur County. Later she taught at both Hutto High and
Bainbridge High. She’s also
taught at Bainbridge
College. Gwen studied
while she worked. She has a
Master’s Degree in Business Education from Indiana
University and an Education Specialist
Degree from the University
of Georgia. Gwen is retired from the school
system, but not from education! She
is a hard worker for the GED program through the Georgia Department of Education. She volunteers for the Red Cross and Memorial Hospital as well.
also taught, although he had a two-year stint with the Army,
serving in Korea. He received three Bronze Stars and a
Korean Service Medal. Luther has spent over fifty years working in
education—and he continues to do so as a part-time employee of the school
system. Gwen is not the only life-time learner—Luther earned his
Master’s Degree from Florida A&M.
folks don’t know Luther as an educator, but as a City Councilman. He’s served since 1978. He was the first African-American to be
elected to public office in Bainbridge and Decatur County.
Gwen and Luther have worked hard all of their lives. But it’s not the education, or the
public service that brings the most twinkles to both of their eyes. That’s when they say the names of
their two daughters Audrey Rhodes and Luthenya Wright. And even more twinkles arrive at the
mention of their grandchildren, Leslie and Eric Wright. Following in their parents’
footsteps, both daughters have careers in education. Audrey is a teacher; Luthenya is an
granddaughter Leslie is carrying on another family tradition. This fall, she became a third-generation
student at Savannah
all your Christmas greetings this week, if you should see Gwen and Luther, be
sure and wish the Christmas wedding couple a happy, happy anniversary.
asked Gwen for her favorite recipe.
She laughed and said her mother and mother-in-law spoiled her, and that
she doesn’t do much cooking.
But Luther disappeared around a corner and came back with one of his favorites. This is easy,
and there’s still time to
make it and have fruitcake on Christmas Day.
Luther Conyers’ Ice Box Fruitcake
1 pound vanilla wafers or graham
crackers (Luther uses vanilla wafers)
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened
1 box seedless white raisins
1 quart pecans
1 pound or one medium jar candied
crackers into crumbs. Mix in the
other ingredients. Pack into a 4 x
4 x 8 inch pan or pyrex dish.
(Either grease the pan or line it with waxed paper). Refrigerate.
says that you may not think it will all go in the pan, but to keep packing it
couldn’t find candied cherries so I made it with candied
cranberries. It was outstanding.
you know someone with a Christmas anniversary or birthday?
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network