I was born in a very interesting small town in Georgia. I knew from a very early age that the mere mention of the name brought laughter to all ages. The town was not “funny” at all. In fact, it was a former capital of Georgia. It was a typical southern town. It had a main boulevard which was gorgeous. Streets surrounding the main drag were lovely with divided lanes and enormous trees. All kinds of houses lined the streets. There were one and two story homes with wide porches and rockers. Children could walk to school if you lived in town. Many of the people who lived in town worked for the largest employer or for companies that provided services to this employer. There was a state college for women (yes-just women) and it was a well-respected college. In the “old” days, it was GSCW or Georgia State College for Women. In addition, Georgia Military College was there. So you are now saying-What is the big deal about the name?
Well, it was Milledgeville, Georgia. And the state insane asylum was located there. Yikes! As an elementary student in Marietta, I H.A.T.E.D to tell people where I was born. If I said Milledgeville, people-especially other children, would make some remark about how crazy I was. In fact, another word for insane asylum was the word Milledgeville. Period. So early on, I searched for a way to avoid mentioning my birthplace so I would not have to deal with the insults. Then I found the perfect answer. I would tell people that I was born in Baldwin County. This statement was absolutely true. But since most children and even some adults suffered from a basic knowledge of Georgia geography, I was safe! No more jokes! No more laughs!
The fact that people laughed about Milledgeville made me sad. Not angry. Just sad. It was a lovely town filled with gracious people. I had a number of relatives who lived there. They had beautiful Southern names like Mary Claire and Rosa and Ruth Ann. My Aunt Rosa was the queen of watermelon pickles. Every summertime meal had a dish of her special pickles. My parents finally limited the number of times I could ask for another one. Hydrangea and gardenia bushes surrounded their homes, There was a jug of sweet tea in the frig always. I loved to visit and listen to their conversations about various relatives and neighbors. I volunteered to dry dishes because it put me in the kitchen where the women talked about everything. They solved every problem in the world. I was always quiet so they would forget I was there. I would even dry dishes twice just to be a part of the sisterhood. It was amazing!
Since many of my relatives worked at Central State Hospital (the official name),I also got to visit there. In those days, the hospital had dorms and single nurses could live there. My Nannie had a fabulous room. Large, airy, windows looking out at ancient magnolias. Ahh, it was restful. Everyone in the three story dorm knew everyone else. They had their own community. I also visited some of the wards. That was interesting when the big metal door thunked shut. I think children are more understanding of some things-like women with mental problems. The ones that my Nannie worked with were sweet as pie. They were great gardeners and had a huge flower and vegetable garden. They loved to take my hand and show me every flower they had grown. I learned so much from them. I was never afraid.
When we would go down to pick Nannie up for a visit, she would have a shoebox with sandwiches for lunch in the car. I learned to have an appreciation for pineapple sandwiches. Yum! And her homemade pimento sandwiches were fabulous. Sometimes we would eat first on benches under the trees on the state grounds. It was so peaceful. Sometimes, she would ride the bus to Atlanta and we would go pick her up at the bus station in Atlanta. As I grew older, my parents would let me ride the Greyhound bus down to see her. It was an exciting trip for me. All alone. Traveling halfway down the state. WOW! I thought I was so grown-up!
Milledgeville still has the state hospital. The college is still there but with a new name. Many streets are still divided by trees. Antebellum homes are restored and in use. A visitor can still see the former state capital which by the way has underground tunnels for safety sake. And at Bible study a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was born in Milledgeville and one of the ladies said-“I visited the women’s section of the state hospital when I was in college”.
So I guess I am still crazy after all these years!