Pearl Robison : a restless spirit looking for what’s down the road

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Pearl Robison comes from a fractured family line going back before the Civil War.  And her life resembles a jagged line.  She is related through her father, Jason Jones Robison (1946- ) to Ruby Robison (1843-1933), who was the sister of Marcus Walsh Robison (1936-1897) Pearl’s great-great-great-grandfather.  Ruby was a prostitute in Shreveport who gave birth to a Civil War soldier’s child, the first Pearl Robison.

In 1973 our Pearl was born in Conyers, Georgia but we meet Pearl when she is managing a dollar store in Macon.  One January day, sitting in her car before going opening up she decides to just leave town and head west on U.S. 80.

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She ends up in Shreveport, Louisiana, when she stops at an all night diner and Jake McLemore enters her life.  They live together for five years before Pearl’s wanderlust overtakes her again and she leaves again, this time heading for Dallas.  She does not know at the time that she is pregnant, but when she does discover this fact, she does not intend to tell Jake that he is going to be a father.

She gives birth in 2015 to a baby girl whom she names Ruby Robison, after her aunt but also looking back to her prior Shreveport relative, Ruby Robison and Fannin Street.

Place : Conyers, Georgia

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Conyers is the only city in Rockdale County, Georgia. The city is twenty-four miles east of Atlanta. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 15,195.

Between 1816 and 1821, the area known as Rockdale was open for settlement. John Holcomb, a blacksmith, was the first settler in what is now Conyers. He settled where the current Rockdale County Courthouse is located, in the middle of Conyers on Main Street.

Eventually, there was pressure for a railroad to cross Georgia; the railroad was intended to run from Augusta, through neighboring Covington to Marthasville (now known as Atlanta). John Holcomb was against the railroad and refused to sell his land, and threatened to shoot anyone from the railroad who came onto his property.

Dr. W. D. Conyers, a banker from Covington, eventually persuaded John Holcomb into selling his land for $700. Dr. Conyers then sold the land to the Georgia Railroad. What is now Conyers began as a watering post along this line, named after Dr. Conyers. By 1845, the railroad was in full operation. By 1854, nearly 400 residents lived around the watering post, and Conyers was incorporated.

Conyers has been nearly destroyed several times by fire. It is said that it survived Sherman’s March to the Sea thanks to a friend of Sherman’s who lived in the area between Conyers and Covington. The story goes that the houses were spared because Sherman was uncertain where his friend lived.

Mildred Motts Hooper (1944-2014)

Mildred Hooper

Mildred Motts Hooper was born in Tallulah, Louisiana in 1944, the half sister of Maggie Motts Raney. Mildred married Leon Hooper and had one son, Levi Hooper, and passed away in 2014 at the age of 69 just before her 70th birthday.

Mildred liked to cook and crochet and was happy as a homemaker.  One of her favorite dishes to prepare was baked cheese grits which she would serve with breaded pork chops and homemade rolls.

She and Leon were married in 1963 shortly before Leon was shipped off to Vietnam.  When Leon returned from his tour of service they settled down in Jackson, Mississippi where Leon worked as a welder and they raised their only son, Levi, who was born in 1973.

However, Leon only lived another two years, dying in 1975, and Levi had no memories of his father.  To help make ends meet Mildred began to sell items from her home, establishing a thrift store at her residence.

Mildred passed away in 2014 after suffering a stroke.

Leon Hooper (1933-1975)

Leon HooperLeon Hooper made a good living as a welder and hardly spoke of his war years.  However, he was quietly proud of his Marine service, first in the infantry in Korea later in a support unit in Vietnam, and kept in touch with his buddies from the war.  Leon did not drink hard liquor as a rule, but on those occasions when he got together with his Marine buddies, mostly those who were with him in Korea, he would have a few shots of  bourbon and turn a bright shade of red if the talk became bawdy.

Leon was born in Jackson, Mississippi and lived his entire life there with his wife, Mildred, and son, Levi.  He did not see Levi grow up, however, because Leon died in 1975 just two years after Levi was born.

Leon would repair bicycles and give them to the neighborhood kids and he also created steam powered folk art which he would roll out and run on the Fourth of July each year.

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Place: Tallulah, Louisiana

Tallulah

Tallulah is a small city in and the parish seat of Madison Parish in northeastern Louisiana, United States. The 2010 population was 7,335, a decrease of 1,854, or 20.2 percent, from the 9,189 tabulation at the 2000 census.

During the American Civil War, Union gunboats in Lake Providence headed south to Tallulah, where they burned the Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Texas Railroad’s depot and captured Confederate supplies awaiting shipment to Indian Territory. The Confederates in Tallulah offered no resistance. Numerous potential Confederate troops in the area were turned down for enlistment because of a lack of weapons.

On July 20th, 1899, citizens of Tallulah showed their level of anti-Italianism : five Sicilians from Cefalù were lynched by a mob, and two other Italians who lived in nearby Milliken’s Bend had to flee. The five Sicilians were doing a good business in fruit, vegetables and poultry, having four small stores in the town, and all save one were relatives. The lynchers completely evaded punishment.

Tallulah was the first U.S. city to offer shoppers an indoor shopping mall. A businessman built Bloom’s Arcade in 1925, in the style of European arcades. It was one hall with stores on either side much like the ones today. The hall opened into the street on both ends. This landmark is still in Tallulah on U.S. Route 80 on the historical registry. As of late 2013, it has been restored to its original character and functions as an apartment complex.[8] Madison Parish claims the title of birthplace of Delta Air Lines, and the original airport building, Scott’s Field, still stands near Tallulah, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Place : Opelika, Alabama

Opelika, Alabama

Opelika is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635.

The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as “Opelika.” This word taken from the Muskogee language means “large swamp”. Settlement was sporadic until the late 1840s, when the railroad reached the town. This stimulated development of Opelika as a commercial center.

In 1848, the Montgomery & West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama to Opelika, and in 1851 completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery & West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.

Soon after the end of the Civil War, the Alabama state legislature created a new county out of parts of Macon, Russell, Chambers, and Tallapoosa counties to be named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee. In 1866, citizens of the new “Lee County” voted Opelika as the county seat. The town was technically unincorporated after having its charter revoked for abetting the rebellion against the United States.

After Opelika received a new charter the town nearly doubled in size between 1870 and 1900. During this time, Opelika began to gain a reputation as a wild, lawless town. Soon after receiving the new charter, city officials attempted to scam outside investors by issuing fake railroad bonds. For this, the town’s charter was revoked again in 1872, and the town was administered as a police district by the state legislature for the following year.

Opelika’s downtown was packed with saloons catering to railroad workers and other men. Frequent gunfire in the street by intoxicated patrons resulted in railroads directing their passengers to duck beneath the windows when their trains passed through the town.

In 1882, two factions claimed to rule the city government, one known as the “Bar room” headed by Mayor Dunbar, a saloon keeper, and another known as the “Citizens”. There was a riot in late November–December of that year, in which a dozen men were wounded. In the end a couple were killed. The Citizens had claimed control of the city via the elections, but Dunbar refused to give up. After continued violence, the state legislature revoked the city’s charter and the governor sent in the militia to restore order. The legislature appointed five commissioners to manage the city, a situation that continued until 1899. That year the legislature restored the city’s charter.

In 1900, local investors founded the Opelika Cotton Mill as the first textile plant in the city, employing 125. The city was located on the Fall Line of the Piedmont, where factories were established to take advantage of water power. Attempts to expand the textile industry in Opelika continued for the next three decades. In 1925 city officials used a $62,500 bribe to induce executives of the Pepperell Manufacturing Co. (now WestPoint Home) to construct a large mill just outside the city limits.  From 1930 to 1970, Opelika continued industrialization, becoming a regional economic powerhouse.

Between the late 1970s and 2005, non-agricultural employment in the Auburn-Opelika,  grew at a slow and steady pace. Of the goods-producing industries, the metropolitan area has experienced the most change in manufacturing, which peaked in employment in the late 1980s. As many jobs moved offshore, employment declined. But this trend appears to be changing, as the number of manufacturing jobs has risen steadily since 2002.

Place : Vivian, Louisiana

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Vivian is a town in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, United States and is home to the Red Bud Festival. The population was 3,671 at the 2010 census, down from 4,031 in 2000.

Vivian is fifty miles from Texarkana, and that was about as close as you could get and still be in Louisiana. Vivian [is] surrounded by the smaller towns of Rodessa, Ida, Oil City, Belcher, Gilliam, and Hosston. Vivian was the ‘urban center’ where citizens from the smaller towns came to shop, go to the movies, join in the excitement of city life as it was. For local residents, Vivian was the hub of the universe. At least it was the ‘Heart of the ArkLaTex,’ as folks down there liked to claim.