Mamie Howard Fletcher was born Aug. 24, 1890, to Judge John A. and Miriam Zorn Howard and grew up in the Elim and Walthourville communities. She had one sister and five brothers. On Nov. 11, 1911, she married Edward H. Fletcher from Kershaw, S.C. He was the depot agent in Walthourville for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
They had four children: Edwina F. McLamb, Adeene Deal, Frances Smiley and C. Hilliard Fletcher. They lived in a house right beside the railroad. It still is there now and is located behind the Walthourville Fire Department. It’s turned around and faces Busbee Road instead of the railroad tracks. It now is the Walthourville City Hall.
The following story was told to me by two of the grandchildren, Nancy Deal and Barbara Busby, and from daughter Adeene’s journal.
Mama Fletcher always kept boarders as Papa had two operators at the depot who boarded with them. When the highway between Savannah and Waycross was being built, the highway workers boarded there as well.
Papa was a trustee of and helped build the Walthourville Baptist Church, along with Jim Hall and Mr. Herbert.
Mama Fletcher, Essie Hall and Lena Herbert made homemade ice cream. They stood by the side of the road and sold it to help raise money to build the church. Not many who lived in Walthourville had an ice cream churn, so Mama and Papa gladly shared theirs.
One Sunday, a man who lived across the railroad from them borrowed their churn. Later, he came running back with a beautiful glass dish filled with the most delicious fresh peach ice cream.
Nancy found her mother Adeene’s journal and these are some of her memories:
We had no electricity; therefore, we had to use a hand pump for water. We had no bathroom, just an outdoor “johnny” (a two-holer). For tissue, we used a Sears Roebuck catalog.
In warm weather, Mamie put a washtub of water in the yard to warm by the sun. In the winter, she brought the tub in, heated water on the stove or fireplace and we bathed in front of the fireplace. At least we always were clean!
According to today’s standards, we were poor, but everybody was the same way and we didn’t know we were poor.
Papa’s health began to fail in 1928, and he had to give up his job. Later, when he became bedridden, Mamie cooked for her boarders, took care of the home and cared for her husband and four children.
When Papa died in August 1932, she had only a little bit of insurance money. She decided to open a grocery store/gas station on the highway in Walthourville.
When she told her family and friends her plans, she received absolutely no encouragement at all.
Dr. Gibson and Judge Hodges said, “Mamie, a woman just doesn’t run a business!” She said, “Judge, it’s an honest living and I have four children to raise.”
On Feb. 22, 1933, she moved her family into their new home — with a grocery store/gas station in front and their living area in the back. She had the only gas station between Ludowici and Hinesville.
Mamie got up early each morning, put on a white starched apron and dusted and swept the store. She greeted everyone with a warm smile. She never complained about anything or anyone. She rocked, read and sang to the children in between customers. As they grew older, she played Chinese checkers with them.
The years passed quickly and Mamie Fletcher retired in 1955. She and her daughter Edwina built a home on Busbee Road. Her daughter Frances (Mrs. Russell Smiley) and then her brother George Howard ran the store until the late 1950s.
Lyndol Anderson bought the store and ran it until 1963, when she built a new store across the street, where it remains today.
Mamie Fletcher still is remembered by the older people in the area as a great lady who one could depend on in a time of need. Her children and grandchildren learned from her that with determination, willpower and faith in our Lord, they could meet any of life’s challenges. And add a lot of elbow grease.
She was a woman of firsts — the first one to have a grocery store/gas station in Walthourville, the first one to have indoor plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen, the first one to have a refrigerator and the first one to have a telephone.