The 2021-22 Guide to Richmond Hill, Georgia 2021-22 - Page 88
“ 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 .
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 .
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
deservedly well known . of tip toe around her . She had them living in fear . But — if she found out you were struggling or had just lost a family member , she was the first one to offer help — and mounds of food — and anything else you could want . I don ’ t think she ever wanted anyone to know just how truly sweet and caring she really was . Now there was a real southern woman .”
“ Well I can ’ t argue with you on that one ,” says Patrick , grinning from ear to ear . “ Judy is my sister .”
And just like that , in that special moment , all those strangers became kin . And the laughter around that table in the Harn family homestead went on for another hour .
There are places on this earth where time just seems to stand still . As the laughter echoed through the halls of the Harn / Murphy house that night , I felt like I was dining in a different era . An era of expertly crafted crown moldings , high ceilings , grand stairwells , and sweeping front lawns . An era when Ford Model A ’ s threw dust in the air and houses were built to stand ’ til the end of time . An era of charm , storytelling , and grace . An era for which the South is so
Henry Ford built the Belfast Keller house for Marvin and Virginia Harn . Marvin was the father of Cookie Harn , whose ashes rest comfortably there to this day under the towering live oak . Cookie , who was Linda ’ s husband and Jimmy and Wanda ’ s uncle , was the brother of Frieda Marie Harn , whose accident with the ashes caused the house to be built in the first place . And if the walls of that old house could talk , and they most certainly did at dinner last month , they will one day tell future generations about a rainy night in May of ’ 21 when the Harns and the Thompsons and the Hannemans all reunited at the old family homestead , and welcomed the Murphys into the clan .