When my father was growing up, his family lived on a farm near the mill his uncles ran on the outskirts of town, but what I knew as Grandma’s house had become the family home by the time he returned from overseas service in World War II with his Welsh war bride. My parents lived there for six months before moving to Athens. My mum was shocked at the lack of indoor plumbing in Colbert, but, by the time we were visiting grandma, a modern indoor toilet was thankfully in place. There was also a telephone, although it was on a “party line” shared with other houses – a foreign concept to us city kids.
My father’s youngest brother, Larry, still lived at home when I was very young, and we always enjoyed playing with him. I remember he had a St. Louis Cardinals pennant on his bedroom wall, because the Atlanta Crackers were a farm team of the Cardinals then. Larry was only 11 years older than me, so he really was the closest I’ve ever come to having an older brother. By the early ’60s, however, he was married and living just down the street from Grandma’s house.
The food served by my widowed grandmother, who worked as a seamstress in the alterations department of the Gallant-Belk store in Athens, was classic Southern cuisine: fried chicken (cooked in lard), or maybe cooked ham in the oven, roast beef or chicken. and dumplings (the flat, dense southern variety, not the fluffy kind my British mum made).
There were the usual accompaniments found on a Southern table: butter beans, collard greens or turnip greens, slices of fresh tomatoes or corn on the cob from the garden along the dirt path. , green beans and mashed potatoes (which tasted slightly metallic). Also, creamed sweet corn, which was not to my liking, although my dad and Uncle Larry both liked it. Larry liked to spoon it over a cookie.
Sometimes there was a potato salad with mayonnaise and maybe homemade applesauce. My cousin Becky remembers Grandma showing her and her sister Colleen how to make her applesauce when they were around 9 and 10 years old. They were among my Uncle Joe’s nine children, who usually visited Grandma at different times from us, due to the large numbers.
Plus, of course, there were usually light and fluffy cookies. My cousin Bruce recalls that when Uncle Joe’s family was about to leave for their long drive to Columbus, Grandma “always gave me a little brown paper bag filled with her cookies with butter and peach jams”.
Grandma also sometimes served cornbread and there was always sweet iced tea.
Frequent dessert offerings were banana pudding and peach cobbler, both favorites of my dad and his brothers, as cousin JoAnne recalls. Or, we could have an apple pie, or a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or a strawberry shortcake made with cookies. Grandma also made fried apple turnovers, sometimes called half-moon pies because of their shape.
We ate in the dining room, but then Grandma put pretty much everything on a table in the kitchen with a tablecloth over it. My mom, a little wary of leaving food out, would come in and grab whatever she thought her sons might eat for supper and slip it into the fridge (or “Frigidaire”, as Grandma called each refrigerator).
Sometimes in the afternoon we played outside. A subject of fascination for us behind Grandma’s house was the “storm pit”, which looked like a rusty tin roof sitting on the ground, but had an earthen cellar below, to sit on the tornado warnings. My mother would not allow us to enter. There were plenty of these pits in Colbert — apparently inspired by a deadly tornado in North Georgia in the 1930s.
My brother Tim also remembers Grandma occasionally playing the piano in her living room. Most of the time, however, the afternoons at Colbert were spent visiting relatives, which for us children was boring – except when we went to see my great uncle Leon (grandmother’s twin) , whose modern brick house had a small lake, a swing in a tree, and a fallout shelter that also served as a storage place for canned goods. If my cousin Roma, Leon’s granddaughter, was visiting, we had fun playing outside with her.
My Great Aunt Jess lived in town across the freeway, and we spent a lot of time there too. Although she had indoor plumbing, Aunt Jess also had an outbuilding in the back – a two-seater!
When I was very young, we visited my grandmother’s father, Grandfather Kincaid. My mother brought him some of her pound cake, because he loved it. After his death, his widow, Miss Fannie (grandmother’s mother-in-law), sometimes joined us on Sundays.
Often we would drive further into the country to see Daddy’s Uncle Sherm and Aunt Gussie, who lived on a little farm with smelly pigs and an old Ford (a Model A or a Model T, I don’t know which ) sitting in the shed.
Once when Uncle Sherm took something that looked like a candy bar out of his pocket and cut himself a piece, I asked if I could have a piece, which made him and my father. “I don’t think you want a chaw, boy,” Uncle Sherm said. (My cousin Sharon remembers with horror that Sherm and Gussie dove and spat into old coffee cans.)
Eventually, however, my brothers and I would like to return “to Colbert”, which for us was Grandma’s house.
After supper, which was often a banana sandwich on white bread, if we didn’t have leftover fried chicken, we’d be pushing not to leave on the “long” drive back to Athens until the end of the day. Sunday night Disney program. , because grandma had one of the first color TVs and we only had black and white at home.
Yes, in many ways visiting Colbert for Sunday dinner was like a trip down memory lane, but when it came to television, Grandma was cutting edge!
Read more memories of Sundays in Colbert on Bill King’s Quick Cuts blog, billkingquickcuts.wordpress.com. He can be reached at [email protected].
Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining newsletter
Read more stories like this by like Atlanta Restaurant Scene on FacebookNext @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.