‘Precious memories, how they linger’

Published 8:07 pm Friday, July 14, 2023

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Carola Norman Jeter is not a writer. She is a rememberer.

The morning sun drifted into where Carola sat comfortably at the kitchen table in her home in Goshen and remembered.

“No, I’m not a writer and I would never have tried to be if it had not been for my lifelong friend Joan Wood Beard,” Carola said. “If it had not been for Joan, I would never have written our memories of so long ago.

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“Joan started encouraging me to write our memories the five of us Goshen girls have shared – Joan, Myrna McHenry, Jackie Langford, June Thomas and me. I consider us best friends and lifelong friends and I love them all dearly.”

Carola said Joan Beard continued to encourage her to write the memories the five friends shared. She resisted.

On December 4, 2020, Joan Beard lost her fight with COVID.

The five friends were suddenly four but only physically.

“The memories that Joan had encouraged me to write just filled by heart,” Carola said. “One day, I took paper and a pen and went in the quietness of my bedroom and the memories just began to flow. I started writing I just kept writing. One memory brought another.”

Carola wrote until one pen after another ran out of ink. Boxes and boxes of ink pens were no match for the memories.

The memories that she and her friends shared there in the small town of Goshen are of a close-knit community where adult was a mama or daddy to the free-range children of the times.

Carola wrote of the warmth and safety that came with living in a wide spot in the road.  Most of all she remembered the love and caring.

Carola Jeter’s “I Hope You Smile” is a memory book of times seemingly not-so-long ago for those who lived them.

“We don’t ever think we get old, just older,” Carola said, laughing. “Those who are around my age and grew up in a small town will share some of the same memories. I think, I know, that I grew up in the best and most wonderful times ever. We were close-knit, caring and loving people. We were community.”

Carola laughed as she remembered hanging out at the Coke machine in downtown Goshen.

The drink machine was our gathering place,” she said. “It was in front of the stores downtown.

“Cars would be lined up and the radios would be on – playing “Heart Break Hotel,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” The Great Pretender” and “Only You.”

And Carola said she knew who was the only one for her, Wallis Jeter.

With a smile, she explained that she “dearly loved” a garden-fresh tomato, and Wallis was the only one in the world to whom she would concede the center slice of a tomato. “It had to be love,” she said, laughing.

Carola’s shared memories include AEA holidays and doing the “Bop” at Hang Out at Panama City Beach.

“All the schools in Alabama got out the same time and going to the Hang Out was the highlight of our beach trip,” Carola said.

She shared memories of homecoming dances, one where she wore beautiful black, velveteen dress, another when she asked, unknowingly her daddy’s opponent in the school board race, to vote for her daddy. She remembers wrecking her daddy’s car by going “way” too fast and the pain and agony of the Homecoming night when the Goshen gin blew up killing two people

“The Homecoming game had to be played because the team was already there,” Carola said. “That was a terrible time for our town, for all of us.”

However, “I Hope You Smile” is reason to smile, for those who remember Randy’s Record Shop from Gatlin, Tennessee, drive-in picture shows, skating rinks, starched crinoline petticoats, The Platters and the Great Pretender … and Fats Domino and Elvis.

And for good measure, Carola, the owner of Me-Me’s that was a favorite dining and gathering place in downtown Goshen, spiced her memories book with her recipes including tomato gravy, oyster stew, teacakes and her world-famous egg custard.

Through all the remembering, through all the pens and paper, even through the tears, there were always smiles.

“You can’t remember those you love without smiling,” Carola Jeter said, with a smile. The book of remembrances is dedicated to Joan Wood Beard. She insisted I write. I resisted. The book is the result of her confidence and encouragement. Friendships. What a blessing friends are.”