Monday, May 21, 2018

Della's Garden

My grandmother, Della Jane Wood Coker, bought her first house as a 59 year old widow. She had always done a remarkable job providing for her family. She and my grandfather, Charlie Coker, had six boys and two girls. Della was 51 and Charlie was 52 when they literally loaded up the truck and moved from Rockmart to Powder Springs. The world had been at war for two years. Their four oldest boys were all serving in the military and sharecropping in Polk County was a lot harder with two young boys and the two girls left to do all of the physical work. The move to Powder Springs would mean that Charlie could still farm and both girls landed jobs with the busy Coats and Clark Mill in Clarkdale, just a few miles away.

Della and Charlie rented a house on New Macland Road and Charlie developed a knack for growing cantaloupes. The crop made a little money, but the Cokers would give away most of the bounty and Charlie would do work for households in the community to take up the slack. He spent a lot of time in downtown Powder Springs and ended up working on houses, barns and even commercial buildings. He had experience in concrete and bricklaying from his days with Georgia Power and that experience really paid off for the family during this time. When Charlie was out on a job, Della would be out in the fields, weeding and tending to the crops.

One afternoon, Della and Charlie were both in the field there on New Macland Road. The younger boys were doing chores closer to the farmhouse, but they saw the black car pull over to the side of what is now known as Macedonia Road. It was late in the summer of 1944 and the news was as dreadful as the July fly’s attempt to sing.

Losing a son in the war was crippling for the already crippled family. Charlie never recovered from his grief and his broken heart led to his death just three years later.

My grandmother lost her son and her father within a month in that hot summer of 1944. She buried her husband in 1947. The war was over for the world, but it was just beginning for Della Coker. The boys started coming home and getting jobs. The rented farm was not productive without the help of Charlie and the boys.

One of the boys, still living at home, was painting signs for a busy real estate agent in Powder Springs. The agent’s name was W.R. Tapp. Mr. Tapp dropped by and asked the son to paint a sign for a farm house and forty acres just a few blocks up New Macland Road. As soon as Tapp drove away, the son told Della about the farm. “Mr. Tapp said the owner would finance it.” He told her.

Della put every dime she had down on the estate. She had gotten five hundred when her son was killed in France and another five hundred when Charlie died. Over the next four years, Della would pay the balance off by selling off acreage. By 1953, her farm was paid for. She kept a garden up until 1972 and she slipped away in May of 1973.

Decades later, I would end up attending a school named after the real estate agent, W.R. Tapp, but I learned a lot more from the independent woman who bought her first home at 59.

Today, like Tapp, I am trying to make my living with real estate. I wish his sign painter was still around. I never learned to paint like my dad, but as I write, I can see a thriving garden out here on Della’s farm. The house she bought in 1949 sits on the hill overlooking the garden. Later this evening, I’ll take her old hoe out there and take care of some weeds. But for now, I am going to focus on my real estate career. I’ve just finished my designation course to become a Senior Real Estate Specialist, and my focus will be the over-fifty clientele.  I wonder what inspired me to take this path.

Monday, April 16, 2018

“Underneath that metal, there is a building made of oak.” Said Mr. Woods. He was talking to the buyer of his home on Austell Powder Springs Road. He spoke of how he acquired the place in parcels, over time. “The lady that built that shopping center had some land left over and she asked me if I wanted it. It was zoned commercial, but I lived there. My family lived there.”

Mr. Woods was a TV repairman. That’s not something you hear of these days, but in the sixties and seventies, you had to maintain your TV. Not everyone could afford to go out and buy a new one. We’d bang on the top, turn the vertical hold, move the rabbit ears, jiggle the buttons and finally call Mr. Woods. He would come to the house with his doctor’s bag and go to work.

Back then,Mr. Woods was tall and lean with black hair and a dark complexion. His eyes were deep-set and serious. He’d smile, but he was focused on his work and within minutes of walking in the house, he’d be focused on our TV. He’d ease it out from the wall and take the back off. He had been trained and certified on the most complex sets of those days. He was the only certified GE repairman for miles. We sat and talked about his TV days a couple of weeks ago.

“People would go to Sears and buy a new TV and I sold the same TV at my place.” He said, “Something would go wrong with the TV and Sears would send them to me so I was servicing the sets even though they drove right past me to buy one. I didn’t mind. I was paid by GE.”
Gene Woods made work look easy. He was one of those guys who could do anything. He seemed to approach everything in the most unconventional way, but the end result seemed to be better than if he’d followed the rules.

“The TVs in those days,” he said, “Were made here and there and one place would do something different than another place. I figured out how one set had a bad place on the board. It was always soldered when it should have been left open. After a while, this would cause a problem with that particular set. When I figured it out, I was fixing them all the time and GE wanted to know how I was fixing them because the other repairmen couldn’t figure it out. They were just replacing the sets. I started buying the sets, fixing the solder and then selling them used. They were better than new. I finally told GE how to fix it.”

As you can imagine, the days of repairing TVs began to fade like a black and white picture tube. Mr. Woods was not ready to retire and he still had the buildings. He would buy and sell used trucks. I’d look at every truck he had. I stopped by in my 1969 Camaro one day. It was in prime and, like every teenager in those days, I was committed to painting it whenever I could make enough money. In the meantime, it was solid, red primer. “When are you going to paint that thing?” asked Mr. Woods.

“I can’t afford it right now. But maybe this summer.” I said.

“Go get the paint and hardener,” he said, “and we’ll paint it here.”

At that time, he had an awning out on the right side of his building. We spent one Saturday taping up the Camaro and Mr. Woods painted it bright red. He always wore coveralls. He didn’t get over-spray on the house, the awning, the bushes or his blue coveralls. I never entered the Camaro in a car show, but the bright red looked a lot nicer than the red primer.

“How much do I owe you Mr. Woods?” I asked him after we finished.

“Aw don’t worry about it.” He said.

Not long after that, he opened the garage building as CG Muffler Repair. That’s the thing about Mr. Woods, he really could do just about anything. There didn’t seem to be a learning curve for him. He just started doing exhaust systems and he was doing it right. I started selling cars and I took all of my exhaust work to Gene Woods for as long as he had the muffler shop.
Years later, Mr. Woods sold one of his buildings and rented the other one out to a church. “I guess you could say I started that church.” He said.

He retired to his childhood home place on the outskirts of Powder Springs. His father had built the place. In the past few weeks, I’ve gone out to see Mr. Woods several times. We talked about the old days. “The Cherokees camped right here,” He said, “It’s not written in the history books, but they camped out right on this spot when they were removed from this area and were forced to go to Oklahoma.”

On the colder days, you could count on a fire in his wood stove. The house would be warm no matter how cold it was outside. “I could put another log on there and it would run you out of here.” He’d say.

I had called Rodney Woods a few weeks earlier. He and I went to school together and he was the middle son of Mr. Woods. “What’s your dad going to do with the old place?” I asked.
“It’s funny you should ask,” said Rodney, “He wants me to have it. I think I’d probably sell it.”
That’s how I ended up listing the old Woods place.

“Yeah,” said Mr. Woods when I called him, “I want to do that for Rodney. I’ve already done something for the others and that’s all I’ve got left to do.”

We spent many evenings discussing the details of the property, sitting around the big dining room table. “We all still eat around the table.” Said Mr. Woods. “Everybody always sits in the same place and this is where we say grace and eat like a family should.”

I’ll forever cherish those visits.

We sold the property in 33 days and closed on April 4, 2018. We stood out in the parking lot at Hallmark, Bowman and Hallmark and Mr. Woods was all smiles.
“Well,” he said, “That’s it. That’s all I had left to do.”

I didn’t think a lot about it then, but I’ve thought a lot about it since.
I went by the place and got my sign. I picked up a white rock and wrote Mr. Woods on it with a Sharpie. I reflected on the years I’ve known Mr. Woods. I thought about the TV clinic, the trucks, the muffler shop and the metal covering the old house.
He had finished his work here. At the closing, he said, “I am glad it is going to be a church. Looks like I started another one.”

Rodney told me that he’d thanked his dad for what he’d done for him. “I told him I loved him.” Said Rodney.

No one could have know that Mr. Woods would suddenly pass away four days later. Sometimes we talk about the time in which it takes us to sell a property; if we do it quickly, we may even brag about it. I sold Mr. Woods' property in 33 days, but I am reminded of one of my wife's favorite sayings, "It's the dash that counts." In this case, it's really about the time I enjoyed with Mr. Woods and his family during that 33 day period. 

For Carol Gene Woods, his "dash" fell between October 12, 1934 and April 8, 2018.

Mr. Woods, you made your dash count. We will never forget you. 
Photo taken at the closing. Photo by Adanna Nwaneri.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Housing Demand in Paulding County

This morning, I saw 6 houses in Paulding County, all between 130,000 and 150,000 and under contract. What do they have in common? All were listed in March. There are only 32 houses available in this price range and about 20% of those are under contract within two weeks of the listings. That is what I call a seller’s market! If you have a house in Paulding, Douglas or Cobb and you have been thinking about selling, now is the time. Call me at 678-223-5483