Reflections Summer Issue | Volume 17, Number 3 - Page 54

Frieda Harn ’ s son and daughter , Jimmy

Thompson and Wanda Hanneman were there ; Linda Harn , wife of Cookie Harn was there ; Jimmy ’ s wife Glenda , Richmond Hill historian Christy Sherman , and the aforementioned Paige Glazer were there . And , of course , there was me , a newly minted southerner from the hills of Vermont . None of the Harn family kids — or Linda — had seen the inside of the old house since the renovation . Jimmy hadn ’ t eaten a meal there since he was just a few weeks old . But they were all clearly thrilled and honored to have been invited home . So there we were , nine strangers seated around the table . But as I waited for the conversation to turn to plaster and floorboards and paint , it went in a decidedly different direction .
“ I remember this place well ,” says Jimmy Thompson in his textbook southern drawl . “‘ Course we all left back in 1943 . My mamma got married and we moved to Savannah , but we ’ d come back around to these parts from time to time to check on the place . There wasn ’ t much out here back then . There was Carpenter ’ s store and a few farms , and this old house . Back then , the kitchen was out back , and just about every other room was a bedroom . My mamma was one of eleven kids you know . My uncle Bobby Harn used to say that every time Affie — she was a midwife who lived a ways back in the woods behind the house — every time Affie came to the house carrying a basket another Harn child was born . We also had a pipe-smoking housekeeper — Phyllis was her name . At one point or another , I think Phyllis must have lived with all of us .”
“ Oh , I remember Phyllis !” shares Linda Harn , with a distant but soft look in her eyes . “ Cookie just loved Phyllis . He wasn ’ t much of a talker , my husband , but he spent a whole lot of his time down in Phyllis ’ s room keeping her company . I reckon he just about drove her crazy . Anyway , Cookie and I went out looking for Phyllis ’ s grave one day . For some reason , he wanted to know where she was buried . Well let me tell you , we searched everywhere , up and down every
52 RichmondHillRef lections . com
Top to bottom : Jimmy Thompson and Wanda Hanneman , children of Freida Marie Harn ; Linda , wife of the late Cookie Harn sharing stories and photos ; Jone Bremer and Patrick Murphy standing on the lawn of their storied home .
row in the cemetery . But no luck . Finally , in the old Baptist cemetery out on the Neck , we noticed a big old pine tree that was growing out of someone ’ s grave . I went over to see who it was , and wouldn ’ t you know … it was Phyllis . But then we had to pay $ 500 to get that tree off of her grave . No way Cookie was gonna let a pine tree set on top of Phyllis for eternity .”
“ Didn ’ t Massey or Maxwell live out here for a time ,” asks Wanda , who ’ s laugh , mannerisms , and warmth make her feel like a friend you ’ ve known for years . “ And what was the name of that crazy neighbor who moved the top half of some house all the way from Richmond Hill just to plop it out here ? What ever happened to him ?”
“ You remember him ?” Patrick asks with a laugh . “ All I remember was he didn ’ t quite know where his property line was , and he had a hole in the ground over there that was so wet you could lose a Volkswagen in it .”
And everybody laughed . And then everybody laughed some more . And for the next 90 minutes , story after story of the old days . And then came the name dropping — Miner , Parker , Harden , Kicklighter . Families who ’ ve inhabited these parts since the original King ’ s grant . But not a single story about the molding or the beautifully bleached and sanded floors or the hand-painted wall murals or the seamlessly wallpapered kitchen ceiling . It was as if these strangers had known each other all of their lives . Each one remembering and embellishing on the stories of the others .

But it wasn ’ t until Wanda — who , true to

Charles Kuralt ’ s observation that a real southern storyteller would never use two or three words when ten or more would do — shared a story about Frank Paris ’ s restaurant that drew laughter from everyone and brought Davenport ’ s quote home for me . “ Southerners ,” he wrote , “ can claim kin with anybody . It ' s one of our most dextrous talents .”
“ So there used to be this dining room manager out at Frank Paris ’ s restaurant on the river over in Thunderbolt ,” Wanda says , “ and everyone was a little afraid of her . Judy was her name , and dear Lord you just wanted to stay on her good side . I was doing the books back then , and I used to watch the waitresses kind of tip toe around her . She had them living in fear . But — if she found