By Rob Simpson (with Marci White)
When I first moved to Boulevard, in 2005, it was a common sight to see Carolyn Reynolds (“Miss Carolyn”) and her Sheltie dog, Pretty Baby, walking up and down the sidewalk a couple times a day. Smiling, waving and chatting, she was one of the most constant presences on the street then, as she has been for the past three quarters of a century.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 5, 1928, Carolyn Joyce Brandenburg was diagnosed with infantile paralysis (polio) when she was 9 months old. After a miraculous recovery, she moved with her family to Athens in 1935. Her father worked as a car inspector for Southern Railroad on a line that traveled from South Carolina to Athens.
As an adult, she worked for years with the phone company, where she met her future husband, Doyle Reynolds. They lived for a couple of years in Atlanta until Carolyn’s parents became ill. The couple then moved into the Boulevardier Apartments (now Calais) to be near and care for her folks. After their passing, the couple moved into their house in Boulevard in the early 1970s.
Saddened by the demolition of numerous fine houses in Athens, Reynolds served several terms on the city council in an effort to preserve neighborhoods. The Reynoldses lived together until Doyle died, in the 1980s. Until recently, when she was moved to an assisted-living center, Reynolds has lived alone in her family’s house, waving from her porch at all who pass.
Reynolds agreed to speak with Marci White and myself about her life on Boulevard.
When White asked her, “What are some of your favorite memories of childhood in this house?” Reynolds responded, “Mother cooking such good food. She learned from her mother and grandparents. And her grandparents were from Germany, and they’re good cooks. She was a good cook. At Christmastime she would make four or five kinds of cakes.”
She recalled that her mother made Japanese fruit cake, pound cake, coconut cake and chocolate cake, especially at Christmas.
“Whatever we wanted.” Reynolds said her mother also made great rice (steamed, not gummy), greens and cakes, as well as biscuits. The family kept a cow and chickens for milk and eggs and had a vegetable garden. Her father “wasn’t overly fond of vegetables,” but he kept the garden for his wife and family. Reynolds’ mother did not teach her how to cook. She wanted her children to “have a good childhood,” not bogged down with chores.
Reynolds did have to rake leaves, however, and deal with the sweet-gum balls. When we talked about accents, Reynolds told a story about someone talking to her mother and asking where she was from. She said, “It was real funny. Mother said, ‘Charleston, South Carolina’ And they said, ‘Oh, I thought you were a Yankee and ashamed of it trying to disguise your voice!’”
White asked, “Was your family musical?” Reynolds said, “We sang together. At Christmas, when we were small, the lights would be off. We’d be singing Christmas carols. And then we’d hear, ‘Ho ho ho!’ and the door would open and a bag of candy would fly through the air. It was supposed to be Santa Claus, but it was Mama.”
As children, they would play baseball and football with Carl Bradford Allgood in the field on Nantahala at Seminole where the house/church is now. They were not allowed to cross the railroad tracks.
Reynolds remembers playing hopscotch in the yard and skating on the street or at the school, as well as playing on the playground at Chase Street School. There was a grocery store on Boulevard owned by the Chance family, who lived across the street from Reynolds’ home, in the brick house.
Reynolds said, “We’d get a nickel, and we’d go down there and look at the counter and decide what we wanted. . . . I could take a nickel and get a ‘three-center’ drink, two cookies and a Baby Ruth candy bar.”
When White asked if Reynolds worked or went to school and if she went to college, Reynolds said, “No. I should have, but I was so tired of going to school, and our job with the telephone company.”
White mentioned that Bradford Allgood’s family used to have big picnics and asked if Reynolds ever went to those. Reynolds said, “No. I was too small. But on Barber Street, I think it’s where the overpass goes over Barber Street, they called it Linten Springs, and people would go there and picnic.” White asked, “Do you remember when the spring was paved over? Was there a fight to keep it?” Reynolds said she didn’t think there was a fight.
“The bypass was going to come through anyway. When they decide they’re going to do it, they’re not going to pay any attention to anybody. If more houses were going to be torn down, we’d fight that. . . . The sad thing to me was seeing the old high school torn down. The gym is still there, I think. The school used to be where Barber ran into Prince. There was no cut-through street by the Bottleworks.” She added, “It was really the old courthouse at one time. It was well built and it should not have been torn down.”
White asked if there was an effort to keep it from being torn down. Reynolds said, “I think there was. The Mell Aditorium was torn down there. . . . It was one of the best buildings, and that’s where the graduation services were.”
Reynolds’ priority on the city council, on which she served several terms, was to protect old homes and the neighborhood.
She said, “We were upset about houses being torn down and apartments being put up.” She doesn’t recall how she was selected to run for election but mentioned that there was a neighborhood meeting about it. When asked what she wants her legacy to be in Boulevard and how she wants to be remembered, Reynolds said only, “That I was friendly.”