No place like College Street

Published 7:06 pm Friday, April 9, 2010

Evidently, John M. “Bubba” Trotman misinterpreted the scripture, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” to read, “Be bold and stand at the door and knock.”

Because there he stood, boldly knocking at the door as Ed and Carla Telfair were busily unpacking and moving into their new home at 308 W. College Street in Troy in 2006.

Trotman asked to come in. He wanted to come back home.

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Bubba Trotman was born in the “back room” of the house at 308 W. College Street. And, although he is physically apart from the grand ol’ house, his heart is still “at home” there.

So, there he was knocking to come in “once more” and there were the Telfairs as busy as beavers moving “back home” from Washington D.C. where she had worked with the CIA and he with the Maritime Administration.

Carla Telfair is a “Troy girl.” She was born to beloved Troy physician J.O. Colley and “Miss Lummie.” Her granddad, “Daddy Emory Folmar,” lived on W. College Street, as did many other relatives. She has fond memories of “Daddy Emory” walking her down College Street.

“He would always say, ‘There’s no place to live like College Street,’” Carla Telfair said.

Her husband, a “Yankee” in the eyes of folks from the rural South, is an Ohio native, but he had fallen as much in love with Troy and College Street as his wife.

“Our plan was to retire to Pensacola,” Carla said. “But we stayed here in Troy a while to be with mother. Our daughter came down from Washington at Christmas and fell in love with a Troy boy so we had a wedding to do – a big wedding at First Baptist Church on the same day that her dad and I got married, September 2.”

Carla said people came “out of the woodwork” to help with the wedding.

Everyone was so helpful and the Telfairs felt such a part of the community that Ed asked his wife, ‘Why are we leaving? We’re too old to start over. Let’s just make Troy our home.”

Corley Chapman Jr. heard the Telfairs were staying in Troy and called them.

“Brother told us that the Trotman house was coming on the market, so ‘Buy it,’” Carla said. “As soon as we walked in the front door, Ed said, ‘I want it’ and that was it.”

Because of Carla and Ed Telfair’s love affair with Troy, College Street and the house numbered 308, they fully understood why the man knocking at their door wanted to come in.

“We were busy unpacking the first time Bubba came to the door and we invited him to take a peek at the house,” Carla said.

Trotman has poked his head in the house several other times, but this week was the first time he has had the “run of the house.”

Trotman brought along a photo album and a lifetime of fond memories of the house where he grew up. He sat in a chair in the same location where he had seen his dad, John Trotman, sit so many times and sifted through the memories of his childhood.

“This is the house where my life began,” a thoughtful Trotman said. “I have so many wonderful memories here. There were huge oak trees that made a canopy over the street, a dirt street. I could ride my bicycle from one end of the street to the other during a rainstorm and not get wet. The canopy was that thick.

“Back then, we walked everywhere and from College Street, it was a short walk to church, to school and to town. Everybody on College Street was family or like family.”

Trotman’s dad had four sisters who lived “up the street.” One was Lucy Nall, who owned and operated a boarding house that is legendary in Troy.

A preacher next door had a German police dog named Yoyo and young Trotman had a Shetland pony named Frances.

“When I was about four years old, I was riding Frances, and she ran away with me and went out through a ticket of thorns and I got all scratched up,” Trotman said. “That’s my first vivid memory of life on College Street. I was hurt but I still loved my pony.”

Frances was taken away by the bankers when his dad hit rock bottom during the dark days of the Great Depression and Trotman never saw her again.

Trotman walked to the window and looked out at the street that holds so many memories of his childhood.

“I can remember looking out this window and watching Lummie (Colley) ride her horse up and down the street,” Trotman said. “So many memories from here.”

Trotman was a gridiron star at Troy High School and was recruited in a peanut field to play for Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn).

“Back then, we played both ways,” Trotman said. “That was in 1944. I left college to go into the Merchant Marines until I found out more about it and decided college was where I need to be.”

After his sophomore year at API, Trotman was drafted into the Army and was in Kilmer, N. Y. waiting to be shipped overseas when the war ended.

“I came back home and worked with my dad and had five good years with him before he died,” Trotman said. “I was only 23 years old but I’d learned a lot about the livestock business from my dad. He only had an eighth grade education, but he had a PhD in agriculture. I learned more from him than I’d learned at Auburn.”

Trotman’s dad has been a horse and mule dealer. He had livestock and hogs and worked sharecroppers on his farm. He had expanded his business interest to include a cattle company in Montgomery County and the young Trotman moved the company headquarters there in 1955. There he carved out a reputation as one of America’s leading cattlemen. His long list of accomplishments includes not only the cattle industry but banking and his community as well.

Of all the things that he has accomplished in life, Trotman still holds the years he spent on College Street as among his most cherished.

“Being here in the house where I grew up brings it all back to me,” he said. “There is no place in the world like College Street.”

Trotman will be back “home” again because, even as gracious at the Telfairs have been, Carla still has not permitted him to go upstairs yet.

She laughingly said, “Bubba’s old room is not ready for him.”

“My sister, Lib, had a room upstairs along with mine,” he said. “We also had a room with a pool table. I got to be a rather good pool player and wanted to go shoot at Vernon Qualls’ pool hall up town but you had to be 18 years old. I wasn’t but about 13.”

Trotman’s mother finally wrote a note giving him permission to shoot pool at Qualls’ pool hall.

Trotman paused at the bottom of the stairs of his former home in anticipation of the day he will go up and spend some time alone in his room.

There, he will probably reflect on his life on College Street and the blessings that have come his way since leaving the home place.

He and his late wife, Ellen Rogers, have four sons.

And four generations of John McNeiil Trotmans live on the Trotman Cattle Company farm in Montgomery County.

“The Lord has been good to me,” Trotman said. “Things have fallen into place, and I pray that the Lord will hold His hand over us and continue to bless our lives and continue to be our Creator.”

Trotman left Troy this week, knowing that novelist Thomas Wolfe was wrong. “You can’t go home again.” He has been home again.