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Life by the letters

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

By a quirk of fate, I’ve come upon a cache of letters that tell the story of moving our family from Haddon Heights, New Jersey, to Peachtree City, Georgia.
Payoff for finally cleaning up my office?

For years I have shrugged off the memories of that time as no big deal, thinking that everybody else who moved here had the same experience, and wouldn’t be interested in ours. That may be true, but the time frame has changed a lot since 1971, and people being what they are, I imagine we all have memories of our first pilgrimage to Peachtree City, no two stories exactly the same.

It depends upon a lot of things: our age, the makeup of our family members, how much they had moved before, whether or not there is a commonality among the tales.
So. Our roots were in eastern-southern Pennsylvania and we’d been living in New Jersey until Dave accepted a transfer to help open the new Owens Corning Fiberglas plant south of Fairburn.

It was sort of a compromise to move here. Dave grew up in Florida and yearned to relive his adolescence in the milder climate around the Gulf coast. Begging him not to drag us to the crowded communities that have obliterated the beaches and palm trees stamped on his memory, I pushed hard for finding a place where the kids would get a good education and we could live in some little village where it snows from December to February, when Springtime blushes and skies are blue. Camelot.

The détente was cemented in place when OCF announced it was opening a new plant in Fairburn and Dave got the position of analytical lab supervisor. Trying like mad not to bankrupt the company’s transfer benefits, we came, we saw, we lived in motels while our house was under construction.

We worried, of course, about changing the girls’ lives so much, from suburban school systems to music lessons to church at one end of the spectrum, to racial unrest and learning about the culture – or lack thereof – in the troubled South. Ironically, Mary’s high school in New Jersey made national news one day because demonstrations and threats forced several snow days called to let things cool off a little. No such news came out of Fayette County.

On our first exploratory visit to Peachtree City June, 1971, we drove down Georgia Hwy. 74, with city yielding rather quickly to a rural landscape. We paused when we came to the SR54 intersection, then two lanes each, and “controlled” by two stop signs. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard other newcomers react as we did.

It goes like this: A couple stops at the intersection and the husband says, “Well, we’re there.” Wife says, “There? Where’s there?”

We were a party of six, including daughters Mary, Alice, Jean, and Grandma Dimmick. The goal was to get the house livable by the time school started so we could legally enroll the girls in grades 9, 7, and 3.

We met a builder, by chance in the sales office of the developer, told him we were really looking for a lived-in residence in an established neighborhood. He drove us around the neighborhoods of HipPocket Road and Golfview. That’s all there was. But he persuaded us that we could build a brand-new home in a brand-new city for about the same that we had budgeted for an older one.

That way we could pick out our own paint, floor coverings, and appliances. The girls really excited about having their very own bedrooms.

Dave was pretty much settled at the Stargo Motel south of Fairburn, busy installing his process lab so the plant could start making product, then driving to Peachtree City to see if there was any progress to report from Pebblestump Point.

Looking back from 2012, I think the biggest difference between then and now was communication. Obviously, we didn’t have email, or a cell phone or a phone of any kind yet, and couldn’t shake off worrying about long distance phone bills anyway. We had to write letters, address them, buy stamps to snail-mail them, and then find a mailbox.

Forgive me for not sharing any letters yet, but I’ve run out of space. Next week I’ll let the letters do the talking…..

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