The Old Oak Table

The Dennis Driskell home used to be on Oglethorpe Road in Athens, Georgia. I spent many childhood days there during the hot, Georgia summers. In fact there are enough memories in this home for me to write several journal entries!

I can still “see” the old oak table in the front room. It had originally been in the Driskell homestead in Forsyth County. When the family moved to Athens, the table was piled in the wagon with all the family’s possessions. It measured about three feet square and had four sturdy, round pedestal legs. The oak grain was beautiful but parts of the table were scarred black by fire. I loved to sit on the floor by the old piece of furniture and listen to my mother tell a childhood memory.

My mother was about four years old on a day that could have been marred by tragedy. My grandmother had gone next door to borrow a cup of flour from the neighbor. Little Doyce was playing in the front room near the table which was covered by a square linen cloth. Long cotton fringe threads hung down from the fabric. The precocious child began to wonder what would happen if she took a broom straw, lit it in the fire and then touch it to the long fringe.

Of course you know what happened! But can you imagine the terror my mother felt as the entire cloth and table immediately were consumed in flames. She went screaming outside. My grandmother and the neighbor managed to get the fire out before the whole room burned.

Their neighbor began to scold my grandmother about burning hickory wood in the fireplace. “Don’t you know how hot sparks can fly out. No wonder your cloth caught on fire!”

Even at five, my mother was a smart little girl! She kept her mouth closed and she was an adult before she told her mother the truth about the old scarred oak table!

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14 Responses to The Old Oak Table

  1. Ruth,
    What a great story! First, I am so glad the story had a happy ending but 2ndly, the story talks to the curiosity and experimentation of a child that, given the right circumstance did something she would not have normally done. As busy as our lives today are, those of us who have children or grandchildren need to be reminded every once in awhile that there are a lot of questions in those little heads just waiting to be answered and we need to take the time to listen and answer them.
    Sherry

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      You are so right, Sherry! I am always amazed at what my pre-K class comes up with…such imaginations! My mother’s natural inquisitive spirit continued throughout her 85 years!

      Check out on another other blog how my mother instilled that curiosity in me!

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  2. Wonderful story! My mother has some great stories about growing up in Forsyth County too when my granddad was sheriff, the whole family lived in the jail. You might want to consider doing what I did if it is available where you are – I interviewed her for Story Corps – http://storycorps.org/ – and was able to have a verbal remembrance of the stores.

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      I wish I had recorded more of my mother’s stories! At least I have the bits and pieces of papers she wrote and the memories of what she told me.

      What years did your grandfather serve as sheriff? I have a picture of my grandfather’s cousin who was a sheriff 100 miles away in SC. The newspaper pic shows him helping to pour out whiskey during prohibition. During this time my grandfather was running moonshine in Forsyth Co.

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      • They may have crossed paths – my mom says she was “around the third grade for 3 years” – so I think it may have been around 1939 – 42. And – he busted ALOT of moonshine stills. Mom said people would come from all around and try to catch it when they poured out in the front yard! In fact, a moonshiner spoke at his funeral and told the story of standing and talking to my granddad while he was in the car with $20,000 cash on the windshield to just try to bribe my granddad to look the other way while they transported it through Forsyth county to Atlanta! That’s what I remember, maybe is was $2000 – but I swear I’ve heard that story more than once. He – of course – wouldn’t do it. My mom’s family name is Wheeler, in case you know anybody still around there – wheeler’s and Corn’s/

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      • Ruth Packard says:

        Oh my goodness, Vicki! My grandmother was Mary Ezzie Wheeler. She married Charlie V. Driskell. And my great aunt Addie Corn was married to my favorite Uncle, Julius B. Driskell!

        Small world!

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      • i’m going to ask my mother if she knows them – I don’t know any Driskells – but mom might!

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  3. Your mother was so lucky. A very nice story handed down and now on the Internet. More stories will be saved this way, hopefully.

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      While I was recording this story, it dawned on me that my cousin who now has the table most likely does not know it’s history.

      My mother was fortunate to have been spared. And I am fortunate to have been the daughter of a woman with an incredible memory! She lived until she was 85.

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  4. What a wonderful story Ruth! And I’m so glad you’re a story-keeper and share them gems on your blog.

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Deborah! I wish now I had asked many more questions, especially from my father. I could have acted like a preschooler, throwing myself to the ground, kicking and screaming until they told me more names, dates, and places!!

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  5. I enjoy your family stories so much. It inspires me to make sure to tell ours and keep them alive, too. My grandmother had some classics about her childhood that we learned as well as any fairytale.

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  6. Ruth Packard says:

    Thanks, Kate. I’m a firm believer that our stories can give children a real sense of belonging and identity. I wish story telling was of more importance in our culture.

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