This guy, Ramsey Pridgen, was actually nice. He passed away awhile back, and whenever he crosses my mind, I think of all the Yankees who have come to Cobb County and have helped make our area what it is. More about them momentarily.
Ramsey was an engineer for Sperry Gyroscope. Ordinarily he worked on Air Force bases, and his job carried him and my sister around the country. He was smart, had that north of Little Rock-Memphis-Chattanooga accent, and kept us laughing. Not to promote smoking in any way (remember I was a kid), but I liked the way he smoked. Both lighting up and the holding of the cigarette were acts of finesse. Neither a puffer nor a chomper, he seemed to treat even a cigarette with respect.
I felt important having a Yankee brother-in-law, mainly because newspapers and magazines during the 1950s and ’60s kept telling us that Yankees were much smarter than we Southerners were.
Of course Ramsey’s bride, our sister, was no slouch. Minnie was an RN, having received her training at a Catholic hospital, another fact that made me, a Baptist kid, feel kinda … enlightened, cosmopolitan, or something along those lines. She also was chosen Most Beautiful at Harperville High School which, as all native Southerners know, is a marvelous designation. Most Beautiful has always been considered several steps higher than Miss Watermelon, Miss Pecan Grove, Livestock Show Queen and such.
Besides the accent, we knew we had a Yankee in the family when Ramsey would say “HARPER-vul” instead of “Harper-VILLE.” One thing in life this man could not grasp was that when it comes to syllables, Southerners prefer to accentuate ALL-of-THEE-um.
Anyhow, I loved this Yankee brother-in-law, one reason being that he loved life and enjoyed other people’s happiness. Before marrying my sister, he took my younger brother and me to town to the ice cream parlor. Entering the tiny store, Ramsey said to the worker, “My boys want a big cone of ice cream.” When I later told my mother that he had called us his boys, she exclaimed, “Oh, my Lord. And ya’ll were barefooted as hanks.”
As for “hanks,” though I heard it constantly, I never knew its meaning. What I did know was that an educated, Yankee brother-in-law-to-be wasn’t ashamed of his fiancé’s rag-tag, barefooted little brothers.
Another reason for Ramsey’s endearment is that shortly before I graduated from high school, he phoned to say that he had a graduation gift for me — a car — if I would go to Fort Worth and get it.
The morning after graduation, I boarded the Illinois Central and slowly experienced Vicksburg, the mighty Mississippi, a brief stop at Shreveport, small east Texas towns, and finally Dallas and Fort Worth. Two days later I returned home in a two-door, vinyl top, emerald green ’56 Mercury.
It would astonish some readers to know that post-Civil War enmity still hung thick in the air even into the 1960s, intensified, unfortunately, by the civil rights movement. The more provincial the town or county, the more askance did citizens view, say, an Ohio car tag. Laughable now, but not then. In my case, it was a gregarious Yankee brother-in-law who won my heart, stretched my mind, and helped cure my provincialism.
As for Yankees who have helped build our county, they are legion. Brian Bulthias, city manager of Acworth, is a Michigan native who has bloomed where he was planted. One of his achievements has been working with businesses to shave the kudzu away from Cobb Parkway in northwest Cobb, not to mention making downtown Acworth an attractive destination for shopping and eating out.
Linda Morrison, legendary teacher at North Cobb High School, is “a Pennsylvania girl” who has set the paths straight for many American history students. I’m glad she taught my two daughters. An authority on the United Nations, Morrison retired from Cobb County Schools and then headed up the Model U.N. program at Kennesaw State University.
Georgia’s Attorney General and former Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens is kinda a Yankee, kinda because, though born in Florida, he grew up in New Jersey. Fortunately, like the others I’ve named, he is now “completed.”
While we appreciate good Yankees and what they contribute, they pay us a compliment by the fact that they never move back North.
I’m glad the Civil War is over, but to these great Yankees I’ve named, I cannot resist that priceless refrain: “You won the war, but we whipped your tails at Bull Run!”
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher.