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The "Lettle Man" was Eating Catfish

By Leo Aikman
 
The following is reprinted from an old undated Atlanta Constitution newspaper clipping  and was contributed by City Clerk Marilyn Brady.
 
    When I first saw Linton Stephens Cobb, he was a lawyer for the defendant in a Cobb County court and I was a juror.  I had know him long before that by correspondence, as "Catfish Charlie Cobb, the Flint River philosopher".
 
   The appellation suggest a south Georgia Scattergood Baines, which picture is not too far off except "Charlie" is not as stout, as bald or as barefoot as the bucolic character in old Saturday Evening Post fiction.
 
     Born at Fitzgerald, L. S. Cobb grew up at Tifton and Adel. During the Depression he pulled cabbage plants at Omega for $.75 a thousand.  Between hamburgers, he studied law at home and passed the bar before he went to John Marshall Law School.  He worked for awhile for the state at Bainbridge.
 
     He was counsel in the first case in the new Cook County courthouse in Adel and likewise at the new courthouse in Marietta, where he has lived for 13 years, he and his wife, the former Carmen Thorton of Hahira.
 
     Years ago, before he started reducing, as he was on his third plate of catfish at Rio Vista, a woman from up North stared at him in wonder and exclaimed to her husband, "Look at the lettle man eat catfish, Charlie!"
 
   L. S. liked what he heard and adopted the pseudonym "Catfish Charlie"
 
    His hobby is voice 'sponding, by tape with pals all over the country.  Recent mention here of Hahira turned him from tape to the typewriter and he wrote:
 
     "Hahira was my stomping grounds when I went courting Mr. Henry Thorton's daughter.  Henry was the local barber and in his shop you could hear the latest good news about everybody. Barber shops in the 30s were better than gossip columns.  And believe it or not, 38 years later, I still have that little ole pie-face blonde staying around as my wife."
 
     "Hahira?.  Yep, I do remember a redheaded boy named Scruggs, could have been Carrol "Scoop" Scruggs. This was about the time of the big tobacco festivals in Hahira. Bobby Passmore, I believe his name was, was winning bicycle races.  Hahira was a hotbed for good boxing--Dummy Stutts, Earl Dixon, Charlie "Kid" Baisden, Joe Knight, the great light-heavy-weight, Whit "Pick" Webb, Baby Wright.  Hahira put on the same card of fighters as Washington, Jacksonville, and Charleston.  And don't forget Rambling Rufus Miles of Savannah, the winning welterweight of those days."
 
     "Hahira, pop.987, home of W.W. Webb daddy of good legislation on old age benefits in Georgia, and Mr. Sankey Booth, who could take a bunch of five and six-year-olds and teach them to read and spell as well as 8th graders.  He appeared with his students all over the country and on WSB several times."
 
    "Hahira, home of tobacco warehouses, was the location of a cigarette factory back in those days.  It packed H.D's, Happy Days Cigarettes, sold for a nickel a pack."
 
    "At the edge of town was Lloyd Fry's Place, where you could cool your thirst with a Coke and hear Chicken Cornelius and other town locals tell some mighty good hunting and fishing tales and other remarkable stories."
 
   "And, Cuz if you haven't tried real whole hog country sausage from the Hahira Ice Plant, man, you've been missing a real treat."
 
    "Yep, Leo, when you talk about Hahira, You're talking about a part of Gawjan I loves to visit and sit a spell while I'm eating and visiting."
 
     "Hahira! If you blink your eyes when you are coming out of Valdosta on the old road, you're liable to miss it, and if you do, you have missed and bypassed some of the finest, friendliest folks in Georgia and the world."
 
     I'd like to tell you more about "Catfish Charlie" Cobb once Nubbin' Cobb of the Renfro Valley Show, a judge at the first National Hollerin' Contest, father of two fine daughters and an equally fine son.
 
     For now the case for "Catfish" and Hahira rests.

Important Dates In Our History

The following are important dates in Hahira history.  If you can supply us with months and dates that are missing, find an error or know of an event that should be included please notify us. 
 
May 7, 1852 -  Mr. Berry Folsom named first Postmaster.
             1885 -  Georgia Southern and Florida Rail Road constructed.
             1888 -  Georgia Florida and Southern Rail Road Depot constructed.
             1888 -  Moore and Tillman  build first saw mill.
             1888 -  Tally Lawson, first baby born in Hahira.
             1890 -  First Baptist Church founded.   Reverend Reeves, first pastor.
             1890 -  First School established.   Today it's the Wally Fields house.
Oct.  2, 1891 -  Hahira Charter approved by General Assembly.
Nov. 1, 1891 -  Briggs Lawson elected first Mayor.
             1891 -  Hahira Methodist Church founded.  Reverend Hendry, first pastor.
             1905 -  The Hahira Cornet Band formed.
             1906 -  Bank of Hahira opens.
Dec.13,1906 -   Newspaper, Hahira dispatch begins.
             1908 -  First Hahira High School.
             1911 -  Hahira, Ga,  becomes know as The Town  noted for its pretty girls.
Feb.  1, 1913 -  Hahira Electric Light Company founded.
             19?? -  First cotton gin built in Hahira.
             19?? -  First turpentine still built in Hahira.
             1915 -  Hahira Hardware Company begins,  first is customer Tally Lawson.
             1915 -  Newspaper, Hahira Progress begins.
             1913 -  Puett Company formed. ?
             1920 -  Hahira becomes know as the Gold Leaf City.
                  ?  -  Newspaper, The Hahira Gold Leaf begins.
             1920 -  First package of queen bees shipped. ? 
             1926 -  Hahira City Hall constructed. 
             1926 -  Cigarette Factory constructed.
             1926 -  The Gold Leaf Cigarette and Tobacco Company formed.
             1926 -  Hahira Court House constructed.
             1929 -  Hahira Banking Company established.
             1932 -  Hahira High School on North Nelson Street constructed.
             1937 -  Commercial Banking Company established.
Oct. 17,1937 -  Citizens Bank established.
             1941 -  Park Theater opens.
             1943 -  Smith Hospital opens.
             1946 -  Lions Club building and swimming pool constructed.  Now location of Randall     Street Community center.
             194? -  American Legion Post 218 constructed.  Now Landrum home.
             19?? -  Hahira Middle School on South Nelson Street constructed.
Apr.  ?, 1955 -  Hahira Masonic Lodge constructed.
             1962 -  I-75 construction begins.   Terminates at Hahira's exit 7 in 1964 for short time.
             1980 -  First Great Hahira Pick-in in Hahira Pick-in Park.
             1982 -  First Honey Bee Festival.
             198? -  Hahira gym burns.
             198? -  New gym constructed.
Mar. 2, 1989 -   Salter Memorial Library opens.
             1991 -  Celebrates centennial.
             1994 -  Hahira Elementary School on Claudia Drive constructed.
Jul. 11, 1996 -   Olympic Torch Run comes thru Hahira.
Dec. 1, 1996 -   New sidewalk construction completed on West Park and E. Grace Streets and competition of repairs to sidewalks on East Park, South Nelson and Church Street.
Aug. 15,1998 -  Construction begins on new Hahira Middle School.
Jan. 5, 2001 -   Hahira Middle School Students begin 2001 school year in new facility.
Jul.  ?, 2001 -    Demolition of old cigarette factory building begins.   

Hahira Postmasters

On the USPS website at http://webpmt.usps.gov/pmt002.cfm the following list is provided.
 
HAHIRA POST OFFICE LOWNDES COUNTY, GEORGIA
Name Title Date Appointed
 
Berry J. Folsom Postmaster 05/07/1852
Randal Folsom Postmaster 06/25/1858
Discontinued on June 27, 1866
Reestablished on October 10, 1873
Ivey Lawson Postmaster 10/10/1873
Irvin Lawson Postmaster 11/26/1879
William W. Webb Postmaster 01/30/1891
Robert E. Barfield Acting Postmaster 07/06/1918
Robert E. Barfield Postmaster 12/06/1918
Hugh C. Register Acting Postmaster 06/16/1919
Benjamin L. Cumbus Postmaster 02/20/1920
Hugh C. Register Acting Postmaster 05/13/1921
Hugh C. Register Postmaster 11/23/1921
Marion Lott Postmaster 02/19/1935
Hugh C. Register Postmaster 08/04/1939
Norwood H. Miley Acting Postmaster 04/01/1943
Willie H. Massey Postmaster 02/17/1944
Mrs. Luella Daniels Acting Postmaster 05/01/1945
Norwood W. Miley Acting Postmaster 05/31/1948
Norwood W. Miley Postmaster 03/03/1949
James B. Rainey Jr. Officer-In-Charge 07/09/1982
James E. Barber Postmaster 10/30/1982
Gwendolyn C. Passmore Officer-In-Charge 10/01/1992
Arlton R. Bracewell Postmaster 01/23/1993
Clyde Jackson Officer-In-Charge 11/14/1995
Donald J. Bryan Officer-In-Charge 06/05/1996
Gwendolyn C. (King) Couch Postmaster 01/04/1997
Gwendolyn C. King's name changed to Gwendolyn C. Couch
by marriage on March 14, 1997.
Katrina C. Burk Officer-In-Charge 10/28/2002
Stanley E. Carr Postmaster 02/08/2003
Rusty Griner Officer-In-Charge 12/09/2004
Wayne F. Stewart Postmaster 01/22/2005
John B. Rowley Officer-In-Charge 06/22/2006
Sharon R. Davis Postmaster 02/03/2007

S. S. HAHIRA

S.S. Hahira photographed, February 1, 1942
 
This photograph was obtained from the STEAMSHIP HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA archives at the University Of Baltimore Library 1420 Maryland Avenue,  Baltimore, Maryland 21201-5770
 
SS Hahira
Owner: Atlantic Refining Co. Philadelphia, PA. (Atlantic Richfield Corp.)
Home Port: Philadelphia, PA
Built: 1920 Sparrows Point, MD
Dimensions:
Length............ 436'
Beam.................56'
Maximun draft..34'
Gross Tons: 6855
Torpedoed and sunk: November 3, 1942 by German Submarine U-521
(Bargsten) Crew of 38 Merchant seaman and 18 Naval Personel aboard.
Two crew members and one Naval guard lost in explosion
Master: James B. Elliott
 
S.S. Hahira WW II
 
Question posted by Cindy F. Patterson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) on Monday, September 13 at 10:25 AM EDT
 
Question:
 
I would like to contact survivors of the SS Hahira which was torpedoed on Nov 3 1942 in the north Atlantic. My father, Preston Fontenot and his three cousins, Lee and Howard Fontenot and Ed Chapman, were all on this vessel. Lee was lost at sea. The last they saw of him he was still clinging to a piece of debris. I have read the account in Capt. Moore's book etc, but he does not list Lee as a casualty. If anyone has any info on this I would appreciate contact. I cannot understand why he is not listed. Where can I get an official list of the casualties and also a list of those who served?  I know he was not a Navy gaurd -- he joined the merchant marines around Sept 1942 through Port Arthur TX. Thanks for any info. Cindy P.
 
From: John F. Adams [SMTP:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 1999 5:02 PM
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject: S.S. Hahira
 
Hi Cindy,
 
Just ran across your posting requesting information about the S.S. Hahira . Any information you have about the vessel I would appreciate if you would share it.  There is a picture of the vessel and what information I have been able to obtain on the Hahira web site at http://www.hahira.ga.us/SS_HAHIRA.htm  I'm looking forward to your reply.  With your permission I would like to add your request for information to our site.
 
Regards,
John F. Adams
Mayor
From: Cindy Patterson [SMTP:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: Monday, November 15, 1999 8:47 AM
To: 'This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'
Subject: RE: S.S. Hahira
 
Hello John,
 
Thank you for responding to my post. I have found most of what I was searching for.   Matty Loughran of the North Atlantic Chapter of the MM helped me out. He sent me excerpts from the book by Capt. Arthur R. Moore: "A Careless Word, A Needless Sinking". It lists the ships and the casualties and bits of info. I believe there is also copies from another book "US Merchant Vessel War Casualties of WW II" by Robert Browning Jr.  Not sure what more I could tell you.  I know that some of the survivors of the Hahira were picked up by the Parismina, which was struck 11/18/42 and 3 of the casualties of THAT sinking were actually survivors of the Hahira sinking.
 
As for my story, well, I got some of it straight. My father and his 3 cousins went off together and were all assigned to the Hahira. Well they got into a barroom brawl the night before they were due to leave, and two of them were moved to the Winkler. It was on that ship that cousin Lee did not survive. He was lost at sea. However the time line from the records does not agree with what my surviving cousin (and the family story) state.  The Winkler did not go down until Feb of '43 and according to my other cousin, Lee was lost at sea about 2 weeks after the sinking of the Hahira, in about the same area. I thought maybe he had been on the Parismina but he is listed as on the Winkler. Anyway, I found out most of the story and  sort of left it at that. (In case you are confused, my dad and one cousin were aboard the Hahira; the other 2 cousins were on the Winkler . Both ships ended up being torpedoed and sunk. I wonder if ANY of them were not (hit?)
I don't think I have much more to offer.  As for documents, all I have are the two letters my mother received when my dad was missing for a time --- one from Atlantic Refining Co and one from the Coast Gaurd. They do not mention the ship's names --- I found that on an old allotment note I found in some old papers.
 
I checked out your site. I'm really glad you have a picture of the Hahira --- I can print a copy of it and it will add much to my research.  If I can help you with more info, just let me know.
 
Cindy Patterson
 
http://archives.ubalt.edu/steamship/table.htm
http://archives.ubalt.edu/index.htm
http://www.usmm.org/shipsunkdamaged.html#anchor15852
http://www.armed-guard.com/sunk.html

Blaze destroys old Hahira school; arson suspected

By Kay Harris VDT
 
HAHIRA -- A suspicious fire broke out in the auditorium of the former Hahira Middle School on Main Street after midnight Saturday, destroying the entire structure.
 
"All indications are it was arson," said Hahira Mayor Myron Crowe. "There was no power
running into the building. It is almost impossible that it could have just started by itself."
 
More than 20 fire trucks responded to the blaze, which could be seen for miles.
 
Volunteers from Barrets, Shiloh and North Lowndes fire departments joined dozens of firefighters from Hahira and Valdosta to battle the flames for more than five hours. Crews had to return to the scene on Sunday afternoon to extinguish hot spots which had again flared up. Only a few brick walls were still standing as the entire structure was completely gutted by the blaze.
 
A large crowd of Hahirans gathered in the wee hours of Sunday morning, watching in disbelief as the fire spread quickly through the brick and wood structure, engulfing the historic school that was built in the 1920s.
 
It closed in December 2001 when the county built the new Hahira Middle School directly across Main Street.
 
Former City Councilman Wayne Bullard, currently running for re-
 
  election, stated that the city was  closing negotiations with the Lowndes County Board of Education this month to take possession of the former school and renovate it into office space.
Watching as firefighters fought to contain the blaze as it spread from one building to the next of the horse shoe shaped structure, Bullard commented, "All of our plans just went up in smoke."
 
Crowe confirmed that the city was negotiating with the Board and had
 
just completed a preliminary walk through of the school last week. "Structurally, it was in excellent shape. We intended to move the fire department in first, on one side of the main wing, followed by the police department and then the administrative offices. We were really excited about saving the 300-seat auditorium."
 
Crowe said the city had also discussed the potential of using part of the building to house a variety of community services, including a community center, and intended to talk to Valdosta Technical College about the possibility of adding a satellite center there.
 
 "The building was so large, we could do everything we needed to do in it," he said.
 
The Hahira school initially served grades one through 12 before becoming a middle school in the mid-
 
1960s. It was open until Christmas break of December 2001, when the students and equipment were transferred across the street into a new, state-of-the-art building. The Board had a portion of the old school demolished to make way for a parking lot, but the historic original portion of the structure was left standing as the Board and the city tried to find a way to save it and best utilize it.
"We had already worked out a deal. We even had a timeframe for the renovations. We didn't want it to just sit there -- we wanted to to use it for the good of the community," Crowe said.
 
According to the mayor, the state fire inspector was called in and was conducting an investigation Sunday to determine the exact cause of the fire and to see if it was indeed deliberately set.
 
Crowe, who stayed on site until 3:30 a.m. Sunday, said Hahira Fire Chief Dwight Bennett was extremely upset that the fire crews were unable to save the historic building. "There was a tremendous amount of wood in it. It just flared up and spread too quick. About all they could do was contain it to keep it from spreading to the neighborhood.
 
"We had so many dreams and aspirations for the building. It was a very sad night for the city."
 
To contact Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.
 
Other Stories
 
Hahira blaze ruled arson
By Tanya B. O'Berry VDT 02-17-04
 
Three arrested in Hahira blaze
By Kay Harris VDT 02-18-04

Hahira landmark burns during early hours of Sunday February 15, 2004
Photo provided by Hubby Brooks

Raging inferno consumes 73 year old structure
Photo provided by Hubby Brooks

Flames leap into the air as school burns
Photo provided by Hubby Brooks

Hahira landmark engulfed in flames
Photo provided by Hubby Brooks

Hahira High School in 2003, soon to be only a memory