A TREASURE FOUND: Photograph has hidden, but special meaning

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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The high-tech world of today is amazing. Why, Don Renfroe said you can have 20 zillion pictures stored in the “Cloud.”

And, all of that is well and good, but there’s nothing like opening an old wooden trunk or a dusty, cardboard box and finding a treasure trove of photographs.

That’s exactly what Renfroe found when he received a box from his aunt in Albany, Georgia.

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“She was cleaning out and packed up a bunch of stuff that she thought my sister, Ann Barbaree, and I might want to go through,” Renfroe said. “I like old stuff and was proud to get it.”

In rummaging through the box of “stuff,” Renfroe found a photograph of his mother, the late Mildred Renfroe, who taught school and coached basketball at Banks school for many years. The young Mildred was posed behind a USA WORK PROGRAM WPA sign.

Renfroe was immediately intrigued by the photograph, first because it captured his mother in that one moment in time and, secondly, because the WPA program has significance in his hometown of Brundidge, with the We Piddle Around (WPA) Theater.

“I had never seen that photograph before and no one in the family had either,” Renfroe said. “What we figured out is that it was taken over around Columbus, Mississippi. Mama went to college at Montevallo and her roommate was from Mississippi. Evidently, they took that picture over there.”

Renfroe said there were other pictures in the box of sites along Highway 29 in the Banks area.

“So, what we think is that the photographs were part of a college project, but just how the WPA sign fit into it, we don’t know.”

But, no matter how the sign fit into it, the photograph opened the dialogue for stories that Renfroe said he had not thought of in years.

“Mama grew up during the Depression,” Renfroe said. “Her daddy, John Delma Hixon, ran a store down around Buckhorn Creek and she worked and helped him in the store. I heard Mama say many times that folks would come in the store in need and want and wouldn’t have a penny to pay.  But, she said her daddy wouldn’t let anybody leave his store without what they needed. That’s how a lot of folks survived the Great Depression. On the goodness of others.”

Renfroe said during the Depression the schools in Pike County closed but his granddaddy was high on education and he wanted to make sure his children stayed in school.

“So, he enrolled my mama and her sister in school in Bullock County,” Renfroe said. “Every morning, he would drive them to the county line above Josie where they could meet the bus. He would leave their bicycles there on the side of the road so, they got off the bus and on their bicycles and rode home to Buckhorn Creek, about five miles.”

For Don Renfroe, the photograph of his mama with the WPA sign brought back memories that he had been pushed far back in his mind. It was good to remember, he said.

There’s something very special about shuffling through a box of photos and bringing back a memory from the past, Renfroe said. But he’s not sure what rifling through the Cloud will be like.

Renfroe had the photograph of his mama and the WPA sign enlarged and donated it to the We Piddle Around Theater where it hangs for those who attend events there to see and ask, “What’s this all about?”  And, someone will say, “I’m not sure, but I remember when ….” And, the stories will begin.