Archive for the ‘Stories From My Life’ Category

Mammaw’s One-room Schoolhouse

1 Room School House (1)

Mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse in China Grove, Alabama.

To commemorate the start of another schoolyear,  I share a photo of my mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse class.

To the naked-eye it may be difficult to find my grandmother. Eula Bae Barfoot is standing in the middle of the back row. Like everyone else in the photo, she wasn’t saying “cheese.”

Mammaw was born on February 26, 1896 to Leander and Corinthia Argin (Anderson) Barfoot.  The photo was taken while she was living in Pine Level, Alabama (in unincorporated Montgomery County) where she grew up. However, the school was in China Grove, Alabama–just 8 miles from Pine Level.

One of the unique aspects of the one-room schoolhouse was the wide range of ages in the class. How did mammaw simultaneous teach the little guy on the far left of the front row and those much older teenagers lining the back?

The exterior of the schoolhouse behind them looks a lot like many historic sites we can visit today throughout the south. Perhaps the photo was taken in the spring or fall as they appear to be dressed warmly. Even the shoeless and barelegged boy on the front row has on a coat. At least three of boys are wearing ties and two of the girls are adorned with hair bows.

The photo was taken in the 1910s as mammaw did not teach after marrying James Otto Townsend, (“Nandy” to me and my cousins), at the age of 24, on November 16, 1920. Most likely, mammaw was in her early 20s at the time of the photo.

As I was talking about the photo with my mom (Bonnie Bae Townsend Bruce) she said, “I guess that is why I liked to play ‘school.’” She continued, “Mother was always a teacher, a-teaching me or someone. She also taught Sunday School.” Today, one of her great, great granddaughters is a teacher in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

An interesting fact I discovered while learning about this photo is that Pine Level has one very notable former resident. Rosa Louise McCauley (Rosa Parks) was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. However, when her parents separated, she moved with her mom to Pine Level where she grew up with her maternal grandparents and mother. She attended “rural schools” until the age of eleven. This would have put Rosa Louise in Pine Level for several years up until 1924. Mammaw and Rosa Louise were residents of the same community at the same time. I wonder if their paths ever crossed.



Mammaw at my brother’s 2nd Birthday in 1965, shortly before her stroke which would take her life after a lengthy two-year, bed-ridden debilitation. From left to right: Mom, Mammaw, my sister, my liddle brudder, me & Aunt Colleen.

Mammaw and Nandy had four children. James Otto Townsend Jr., Harold Hugh Townsend, Gwyneth Colleen Townsend and my mom. Mammaw went to be with the Master Teacher on September 7, 1969.

If you know more about this photo or mammaw’s one-room schoolhouse, please share your thoughts in the comments below.


But That’s Not the End of this Story

Last year Julie and I had the opportunity to fulfill a 30-year unspoken dream. We were visiting our son in New York City and he booked a stay for us in the Grand Hyatt. Employed at another Hyatt property on Wall Street, Seth arranged for us to speGrand Hyatt NYCnd the night in this gorgeous hotel—not knowing that this was an unspoken dream come true for me. But that is not the end to this story. Continue reading

The Grateful Dad

GSU BrochureLittle did I know how a lunch at Dreamland BBQ would set off a series of moments that would significantly alter the life of our son. It simply started as two friends enjoying some pulled pork and ended with….well, it hasn’t ended.

Jim Barber, of M3 Companies, was the tenant representative for our insurance firm. He had brokered a great deal for our lease, and thereafter I often called on him to assist with reviewing charges from the landlord and other tenant surprises that made their way to my desk. Jim and I developed a friendship that extended beyond business. Our friendship led to occasional lunch meetings at Dreamland where we shared business, faith, family and college football; It didn’t matter he favored “War Eagle” and I, “Roll Tide.”

On this particular day as we were sharing updates on our family, I casually mentioned how my son appeared to be losing his zeal for school. As a sophomore at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, Seth had recently conveyed he was having a difficult time staying motivated in his pursuit of a major in Hospitality. He wasn’t getting much direction, wasn’t sure what classes he needed to take and was feeling lost. I “happened” to share Seth’s frustration with Jim. Who surprised me by saying, “I’ll mention it to Diana.” Diana was Jim’s wife and, unbeknown to me, “happened” to be a full-time Senior Lecturer at the School of Hospitality Administration at GSU. College—life!–would never be the same for Seth.

The Tipping Point

I remember the excitement in Seth’s voice as he phoned to tell me about his conversation with Dr. Barber. Suddenly he had a renewed interest in school and was excited about Hospitality. Dr. Barber explained which courses he needed and how to get the best out of his time at GSU. Continue reading

A High School Graduation Letter to Our Daughter

img_0018One of the purposes of this blog is to preserve a little family history. This letter to our daughter upon her graduation last year is a piece of our history. I’m not sure why I am just now getting around to posting it. Lydia will soon be leaving home for her sophomore year of college. I guess late is better than never.



Forever etched in my memory is that wide-eyed little redhead newborn staring off into the new world as you were swaddled against mom on that glorious summer day in Johnson City, TN. You exploded into this world with personality and have never looked back. Our family has been blessed with you.

Now, high school graduation! Our memory bank is full of specials moments like the numerous times we heard, “Oh, she looks like Little Orphan Annie.” The little girl who has spent hours and days casting fishing lines with me on the piers of Weiss Lake is now in line to receive a diploma from Brookwood High School. My Lilly, my Braves buddy, who could amaze me with stats about every player and bemoan the decision of Bobby Cox to send in Dan Kolb to pitch, is now getting ready to learn how to pitch education, marketing or some other marketable skill. The two-year old who once backed a car between two trees, through a fence and into the side of a neighbor’s garage is now preparing to drive off to Georgia College and State University.  I’m going to miss you.
Continue reading

A Selfish Prayer?

On my way to work this morning I asked myself a perplexing question.  It was a question anyone else would think stupid, not perplexing. The only thing you would find perplexing is that I found it perplexing. The answer is so abundantly obvious, why would anyone bother asking it. It was along the lines of, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”  Duh!  But I asked it anyway.

Because my car radio was dead, I had some additional time during my commute to think…and pray. The last few days I had been convicted of my lack of prayer for my children and, therefore, I was busy catching up on prayer along Pleasant Hill Road. Then came the question: Is it selfish to pray for MY kids?  Wait! Let me explain the question.

Is it selfish to pray for MY kids?

There are billions of children around the world. Therefore, should I care more about MY four kids than any of these other children?  Just because they are MY kids, should I Continue reading

He Was Old Enough to be My Father

I was a preteen when our family met the Julian family. We were a family of three kids; they were a family of four kids. The Bruces and the Julians were at Bible Town in Boca Raton, Florida for a music conference for church music directors. My dad was the Music Director for the Westside Alliance Church in Birmingham; David Julian was the same for the First Alliance Church in Atlanta. When my dad and David met it was an instant connection because of the denominational affiliation. What I didn’t know is that there would be another connection 30 years later.

David Julian 1938 - 2013

David Julian
1938 – 2013

I couldn’t have dreamt one of those in the Julian family would later become one of my best friends. It wasn’t one of three boys, (or Janna),—all of whom were about my same age. No, it would the oldest of the bunch—the father.

Years later I would see Dave from a distance as he was a regular pianist at the annual national meeting of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I admired his talent as a musician. In 1999 I moved to Atlanta and joined the staff of the Lilburn Alliance Church, (LAC), where Dave was the longest residing staff member. A friendship was born.

Dave passed away on Friday. Continue reading

Why Elizabethton Owes a Debt of Gratitude to Joe and Elaine Hopkins

2013 marks a momentous anniversary of “the church in the Park’s Belk building.” After a gestation period of several years the Elizabethton Alliance Church (EAC) was birthed on April 17, 1988 as 32 charter members gathered in the Old Elizabethton Bus Station to celebrate the official organization of the church with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, (C&MA). I was the pastor of the new church that day and it was a day of much rejoicing for our fledgling congregation.

Joe and Elaine Hopkins accomplished much during their first 50 years of marriage, including their key role in the formation of the Elizabehton Alliance Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Joe and Elaine Hopkins accomplished much during their first 50 years of marriage, including their key role in the formation of the Elizabehton Alliance Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Twenty-five years later it can be said Elizabethton and Carter County have been blessed by the presence and ministry of the congregation affectionately known internally as EAC. Though our family left the majestic hills of East Tennessee to move to Atlanta in 1999, my wife and I cherish the 15 years we had with the EAC family and the people of Elizabethton.

As the church marks the milestone, I thought it important for the community to know the “why” there is an Elizabethton Alliance Church. A lot of people played key roles in the development of the new church. Some will point to the pastors such as my predecessor, the Rev. Larry Fish, and me.  Others may point to Dr. Charles Shepson. Without a doubt, there would not be an Elizabethton Alliance Church without his vision for a new C&MA church in Carter County. Shepson had recently relocated Continue reading