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.