While browsing through the reference section of our local Live Oak Public Library, I saw a small book entitled “The Riceboro Poems, A Biography of Place.”
Curious, I pulled it, sat in a chair and read the whole thing. The book was written by Charles E. Brady. Reading the fly page, I discovered Charles had lived in the Riceboro area and Allenhurst.
The next day, I was sorting through the mail to the Liberty County Historical Society and opened a letter from Charles Brady of San Francisco, Calif. He was renewing his membership and had enclosed a letter.
Ironic? I had not realized that he was on our mailing list. (This was in 2004.)
The following are excerpts from his letter and emails.
“When I lived at and all around Riceboro in the 1940s (three different times at five different houses and at Crossroads and on Dunlevie Road between the Trohas and McGowans in Allenhurst), I was not even aware of the LeConte family and their history. I don’t know why that was so. However, I did fish and hunt those lands and could swear that I picked peaches and pears from abandoned orchards. I know that I ran across abandoned farmlands and wild fruit trees during my many solo journeys on hunting trips.
“My father was an itinerant logger and, consequently, we moved frequently.
“In 1948 and 1949, I attended Bradwell Institute and played on the basketball team. Jimmy Hall (6-foot-5) and I (6-foot-2) were the tall guys on the team.
“Frank Bagley had just recently come to Hinesville from Georgia Teachers College and was a teacher and a coach. I don’t know if he remembers how kind he was to me, especially in driving me home in his old car after basketball games all the way to Riceboro near the sawmill and later at the Crossroads.
“I recall Mrs. Bagley as being a young wife and parent. Sidney Flowers and Franklin Phillips (my ‘best’ Riceboro friend) were in my graduating class at Bradwell in 1949.
“Shortly after, I joined the U.S. Army and have been away except for regular visits to family members ever since. Cordella Jones Browning of Riceboro was a great friend of mine, and I attended her 90th birthday celebration.”
Brady taught English and creative writing at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco and was there for more than 20 years. He also has taught creative writing at universities in California. His wife of 52 years, Lee Burnett Brady, is a playwright and drama critic.
His lifelong love of writing began at Bradwell, where he earned an A-plus in English literature under the eyes of Faye Dorsey. His latest book is “The Burning and Other Poems.”
Lately, he revised some of his poetry books and sent one to Bradwell Institute Principal Scott Carrier. He invited Brady to speak at the school when he was back in Liberty County. For the past 10 years, the four schools in his area have held the annual Charles Brady Poetry Festival in April.
He retired from full-time teaching in 2005, but still teaches creative writing. Two years ago, Charles had open-heart bypass surgery and became revitalized. His life and home may be in California, but his heart comes back to Liberty County.
Franklin’s General Store at Crossroads, Georgia, by Charles Brady
Now we walk beneath tunneling live oaks to Crossroad,
A patterned shadow world, emerging and retreating, not
Quite magic, since yesterday we were here and young.
With my eyes closed, I could walk this road to Riceboro.
Franklin stayed when I flew off, and he pumped gas and
Sold white bread and sardines to logcutting lumbermen,
And his life and his times have flowed parallel to mine.
He and Reba gave credit to those who would never pay.
And they kept their books for the IRS and they never fled.
When they nailed up the doors and hauled away pumps,
The churches and schools on the other three corners
Were of brick and antiseptic asphalt, separate and equal.
Today we walk beneath the same ancient oaks and talk of
All day singing in the old wood church on Sundays, taste
Again those sardines and thick bologna slices on white bread.
We remember pumping and watching bright red gasoline
Rise to its mark on the glass and fall of itself by gravity
Into black cars and pulpwood trucks bound for Savannah.
Where my house sat by the store is a neat gray bungalow
And wire fenced fields where the white faced cattle are grazing.
A quick summer shower strikes before we reach the car
For the return to Riceboro and Reba’s cold fried chicken.
As we walk back to the highway, Black men on porches
Wave and nod to us. They recognize Franklin, but not me.