A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – Statham, to be exact – a young couple welcomed their second son into the world. They had married several years before, had their oldest child, set up housekeeping in a small white frame house next door to the city cemetery and embarked on a journey that would last not nearly long enough.
But on this crisp October morning, they added yet another notation on the world’s population record. For two calm, dignified Southerners who had birthed one son of similar temperament, they were completely unprepared for the genetic milkshake that would define the personality of Son #2. The calm, dignity and reserve had all been allotted to Son #1 while Son #2 was the recipient of whatever wild hairs had yet to be sewn. While both sons were unbelievably bright, Son #1 had a quick, but quiet wit while Son #2 came to be something of a smart mouth. They dreamed he would grow out of it, but some ninety years later, it has been accepted that was not to be.
They moved to Stephens Street in the heart of the county seat in 1922 when the boys were ages five and two. The parents joined the First Methodist Church around the corner on Candler and Center Streets that same year and the boys became preparatory members. They would each unite with the city’s oldest congregation as they, respectively, reached the age of nine. The boys would receive their local formal education at the Public School on the corner of Athens and Church Streets with the youngest graduating from that school before the building met its fiery fate in 1938.
Their father became the Assistant Postmaster at the post office in the middle of the block across from the Winder National Bank, Birdsey’s Flour Store, and the Gainesville-Midland depot on Broad Street. Later, the new red brick post office was constructed on the corner of Broad Street and MidlandAvenue. Today that building is the city fire department’s headquarters. The current post office was built in 1962 on the opposite corner of Broad at Stephens Street.
Two members of the family were lost way too soon. The father succumbed to leukemia in 1945 as the Second World War was ending. The doctors had attributed his supposed anemia to the stress of having both sons away in service to their country. At the time, Son #2 thought 50-year-old Kemp Arnold had lived a good long life and that it was just his time. Funny how young 50 seems now that I, myself, have passed that milestone.
Barely eighteen months later, another cancer claimed a second member of the little family as Son #1 lost his fight with Hodgkins disease. He was taken away from a loving wife and son, the latter of whom would grow up with only the faintest of memories about his father. Sells Arnold was only 30 years old when he died and was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.
The year of his father’s death, Son #2 had returned from the U.S. Navy and, with his older brother, purchased City Pharmacy in their hometown. His brother the businessman was going to run the store while the younger brother would be the pharmacist. The cancer deep-sixed that plan and Son #2 ended up as the sole owner.
Over the next 44 years, Son #2 shared his time among his wife and growing family, his mother who would fade into the shadows of what we now know was Alzheimers Disease, his church, his many friends, and his business. Depending upon the severity of the need, his attention to those areas of life did not always fall in that order. Sometimes the people seemed to be last while he dealt with the needs of the church, business and community, but he knew in his heart of hearts that if those things could be righted, his family and friends would be the beneficiaries. So he gave it his best shot and a lot of folks benefitted from his efforts.
So we fast forward to the next century and Son #2 is about to celebrate his 90th birthday and we’d love to have you join us for the party.
Won’t you come and celebrate Haase Arnold’s 90th birthday with us? Saturday, Oct. 16 from 2 – 4 p.m., Winder First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. No gifts, please; just the joy of your presence as we wish him a happy day. He’s come a long way since his Statham debut.
Helen Person is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.