Hope, Courage, and Joy: Our Mother’s Story

By Barbara Hicks Loggins and Joyce Hicks Martin

Our mother was born Evelyn Lucille Whitley at the home of her parents, Otis and Ida Mae Floyd Whitley, on September 2, 1915 in Chattooga County.  This was before the Trion Hospital was built.

Evelyn started to Trion School when she was six years old.  The first day of school she walked with a neighbor’s little girl, but the next day she decided to walk around town instead of going to class.  She walked to Frog Town and other parts of Trion and finally went to the Depot and sat on the steps, fanning herself with her little straw hat due to the hot weather.  Some men working on the railroad asked her if she wasn’t supposed to be in school.  She said, “No,” but a man passing by knew otherwise and walked to the mill where her daddy worked and told him where she was.

In a few minutes, Evelyn saw her father walking toward her, and ran to meet him, but instead of a hug, he whipped her all the way home.  She said she never played hooky again.

1922 trion first grade
Trion School First Grade Class in 1922.  From left to right (front row) Daughtery Chandler, Alfred Haygood, Woodrow ?, Vann Tate, Fred Williams, Aaron Buckalow, Glenn Maffett, and Donald Searles; (back row) unidentified, Ollie Mae Williams, Evelyn Whitley, Lenora Westbrook, Gaynelle Pierce, unidentified, and their teacher, Bell Agnew.

One of the teachers who had the most influence on Evelyn was Miss Ethel Simmons.  Miss Ethel had Chapel every morning and Evelyn said she learned more about the Bible during third grade than anywhere. Another teacher and principal that she favored was Mr. Bell.  She attended the Red Book singings each time Mr. Bell came to Trion to conduct this big event.

Evelyn (front row, 5th from left) and her 7th Grade classmates at Trion School, 1928-29 school year.

On May 21, 1932, the night before her Baccalaureate, Evelyn ran off to Alabama and married our father Tommie (Tom) Hicks.  She was sixteen years old and he was twenty-one.  She said she got out of the car and walked over the Alabama line so they would not be breaking the law in Georgia.  Our father came to Trion from Columbus, Georgia to work in the Trion Factory and worked in several departments.  He was on The Comrades Club Softball Team and was its pitcher.

1932 comrades softball team
The Comrades Club Softball Team in 1932 included, from left to right, (front row) Cecil McAbee, Henry Rider, Sam Cook, Clyde Parris, and Paul Steele; (back row) James Steele, Clyde Bethune, Tom Hicks, and Smock Davis.

Evelyn was valedictorian of the Trion Class of 1932 with a high school grade point average of just over 92.  Margie Lee Robinson was salutatorian.  There were twelve students that graduated that year.

1932 trion class
The Trion High School Class of 1932 included, from left to right, Margie Robinson, Robert Lee Rutherford, Mary Ruth Martin, Virginia Harwell, Tyrus Herndon, Eugene Hawkins, Lenora Westbrook, Kathleen Justice, Howard Hawkins, Harold Yancey, Evelyn Whitley, and Margaret Lewis.

She gave her valedictorian speech the next day, but didn’t tell anyone she had gotten married.  She received a scholarship to college, but was unable to accept it since she had married our dad.

The Class of 1932 had their 50th Class Reunion in 1982 in the Fellowship Hall of Trion Methodist Church with nine classmates attending this first class reunion. Our brother, Terry Hicks, escorted her. Mother said, “I guess that was about the most enjoyable time of my life.”

They had their 60th Class Reunion in 1992 at the Ivy Cottage in Lafayette.  Due to poor health or death, only five attended this reunion.

60th reunion
From left to right are Howard Hawkins, Lenora Westbrook Buice, Kathleen Justice Maddux, Evelyn Whitley Hensley, and Eugene Hawkins.

Family History

Evelyn’s grandfather and grandmother Thomas (Tom) and Mary Lowe Whitley came from Monroe-Walton County, Georgia around 1900 to work in the textile industry at the Trion Factory.  They raised ten children; eight were living at Mary’s death in 1933.  Thomas died in 1911.  Both were buried in the Summerville cemetery.

The Robert (Bob) Samuel Floyd family moved to Chattooga County from Thomas and Floyd Counties around 1900-1920.  Bob married Mary Jane Hutcheson.  They were listed in the 1900 census in Walker County.  They were also listed in the 1920 census in Chattooga County where they lived the remainder of their lives.  They raised eight children in the Summerville and Trion area.  Robert and Jane Floyd operated a boarding house in Trion.  Jane and Lucy’s father also lived with them.  He was blinded in the Civil War.

Robert died in 1934 and Jane in 1947.  Both are buried in the old Trion Cemetery.  Mary Jane Floyds’s sister, Lucy Hutcheson, married Jim Floyd, brother of Bob Floyd.

Ida Mae Floyd married Otis W. Whitley on October 14, 1914.  They worked the night shift at the Trion Factory so our mother Evelyn was raised by her grandparents, Bob and Jane Floyd, in Trion.  Otis Whitley left the Trion Factory for a period of time to work in Columbus, Georgia and later returned and became Deputy Sheriff of Chattooga County, patroling the Trion area in the early 1940s.  Ida Whitley continued working in the Trion Factory.

Later, Otis and Ida attended South Summerville Baptist Church while living in the Mountain View community.  However, they felt God leading them and others to start a church in Mountain View so a tent was erected in their yard for a revival meeting.  This was the beginning of Mountain View Baptist Church in 1939.

hicks family
From left to right, Tom Hicks, Otis Whitley, and "Daddy" Davis.  Davis, a family friend, lived in the Mountain View area of Trion and owned much of the property in that area at one time.

After Otis passed away in 1942, Ida owned and operated a grocery store in the Mountain View community for many years until she was hired by the Trion Cotton Mill where she worked in the weave room most of her life.

Tom and Evelyn

Tom and Evelyn had three children: Barbara, Joyce and Terry.  All three attended Trion School.  Terry attended the old Trion grammar school and became a member of the School Boys Patrol.  He wore a white helmet and a white buckle strap across the shoulder and around the waist, and escorted students safely across the crosswalk.

Evelyn worked the first shift at Trion, but since the family had no car and lived about three miles from work, she had to catch a ride with someone working the same shift.  Before Terry was born, Barbara and Joyce had to go to a neighbor’s home to stay while their mother worked, but to get there, they had to walk through the woods.  Evelyn would watch until they were out of sight.  She said she just always prayed that God would keep them safe until she could find someone she could trust to come and keep them at home while she worked in the Trion cotton mill.

When we children started to school you were not allowed to attend Trion School unless you or someone worked at Riegel or lived in the city limits.  We didn't have a ride to school so Mother would find us a ride to school with the mill hands.  We would leave home early in the morning.  After school we waited at the Trion Department Store or in our ride's car until they got off work from the mill.

When the report cards were sent home, if the grades were not what Mother thought we were capable of making, she sat down with each child and had them read and write outlines of their homework no matter how tired she was.  When we took Algebra, Mother made sure we knew how to work the problem.  She was a whiz when it came to any kind of math, especially Algebra.  Years later, even the grandchildren asked for her to help, especially in Math.

Every year, Mother took us to the Chattooga County Fair.  It was so much fun to see the calves and cows the kids in the 4H Club had raised, the craft tent where homemade quilts were displayed, and all the canned fruits and vegetables the ladies had worked so hard to prepare for display.

One Christmas Joyce and Barbara received a pair of skates, the kind that fits to the soles of your shoes and tightens with a key.  Since we had no car, we walked from Mountain View to the Trion plaza located between the Glove Mill, The Big Friendly Store, and the Cotton Mill, to skate on the sidewalks.  We enjoyed many hours at the park, sitting on the side of the round concrete fountains, watching the water flowing from the middle.  Kids were safe in those days without an adult nearby.

Our Grandmother Ida would take us to the beauty shop located in the big white house across from The Big Friendly.  We would watch as she got her hair curled.  The beautician connected clamps and wires to every rolled portion of hair and sometimes she left the clamps on too long and our grandmother’s hair became a frizzy mess.

In 1945, our family attended the Trion Centennial Celebration held at the Trion Golf Course.  We sat in the bleachers and enjoyed the music and beautiful pageantry.

We always went to the Christmas ticket drawing held in front of The Big Friendly Store.  The adults held their breath during the drawing and, if you were the lucky person holding the ticket, you got a new car.

Even in her later years, Mother always dyed eggs so we could have an Easter egg hunt.  At Halloween she made our costumes out of old feed sacks and sewed crepe paper to it with her Old Home treadel sewing machine which she also used to make most of our clothes.  She would buy material at The Big Friendly and sew and make our dresses.   She sewed rick rack on them to make them pretty, and different colors on each of our dresses to make them unique.  

She always prepared Sunday dinner before we left for Sunday School and Church.  We could invite any of our girlfriend to come eat.  Mother loved to cook and most of our friends and family knew they could always come to her house to eat.  Even though she didn't have a lot, Mother always welcomed anyone who was hungry.

In 1959, Mother bought out the family-owed grocery store in Lafayette, Georgia and moved from Mountain View along with her 14-year-old son Terry.  She owned and operated Hicks Grocery for twenty-five years. She provided groceries to those who could not buy food.  She delivered groceries to the ones who did not have transportation.  She also bought medications for those who could not afford their medicine.  She allowed her customers to charge their groceries and pay week to week.

Once one of her customers started painting his house, but could not finish the job.  Mother bought the paint so he could finish painting his house.  This is just how she was, always helping someone else.

After their mates died, Mother and an old boyfriend from Trion, Howard Hensley, renewed their friendship.  She had dated Howard before she met and married our father.  Howard Hensley became her husband in 1972.

Mother was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1984 and took nineteen chemotherapy treatments.  Several times she was at death’s door and before she was finished with her treatments, Howard became ill with the same type of cancer.  Although Howard was in remission for five years, he passed away in 1990.

Two years later, Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.  She made a decision not to take chemotherapy treatments again, saying “I am going to live day by day and trust God.” She said the Lord had spared her life for some reason.  “After all, I’ve had a good life. I’ve been blessed in so many ways.”  Despite her many illnesses, Mother remained her jolly self and, because she kept on "ticking," the grandchildren began calling her "Granny Timex."  This always made her smile.

She was a woman of faith.  She became a Christian at 14 years old and was baptized at 17 years old by the minister of the Trion Methodist Church in the Chattooga River at the old footbridge.  “There was never a time in my life I didn’t pray,” she said, and she set an example for her children and family.

She was faithful to the churches she attended over the years, from Mountain View Baptist Church in her early years, to becoming a charter member of Central Avenue Baptist Church in Trion and Harbor Lights Baptist Church in LaFayette.  Her favorite scripture is the 121st Psalm. She said it gave her hope when she had problems.  Her favorite song was “He Whisper Sweet Peace to Me.”

Mother had three children: Barbara Hicks Loggins, Joyce Hicks Martin, and Terry Hicks; five grandchildren: Rita, Darrall, Myra, Stacey and Patti; and six great-grandchildren: Clint, Delana, Neeley Grant, Molly and Jake.

Our mother, Evelyn Whitley Hicks Hensley, died June 13, 1996 at 80 years of age and was buried in the old Trion cemetery.

Thanks to Barbara Loggins and Joyce Martin, daughters of Evelyn Hicks, for providing the story and photographs of their mother.

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Copyright 2012 Greg W. McCollum.  All rights reserved.