Thinking way back to the time when I got out of the Army and went to barber college in Florida.
I came home and opened a barber shop. I was young, strong and broke financially but I had energy to spare.
Someone told me the Alabama Power Company would let you have a waterfront lot on Lake Martin to build a cabin on. I talked this over with my friend Aubrey Sellers who had some lots on the lake he had bought. There is a man who has an Alabama Power Company lot and he is moving. It is a beautiful lot and he may let you have it, he said.
This man stopped by for a haircut and we talked and agreed if it was OK with the power company it would be my lot. They agreed and the lot was mine on a rental basis of $120 per year and the right to buy if they ever sold.
I figured out on Wednesdays and weekends I would build me a cabin. I told you I was broke but I had energy to spare so I got started. I'm not going to tell you of all of my struggles but of something that has happened recently that carried me back to those days of 1960 or ’61 when all of this started.
One day shortly after I got this property, I was there when a nice old man came walking around the lake’s edge. He first asked my papa if he was Ronald Brantley. Papa said no and pointed me out. I was busy with a swing blade cutting the undergrowth around the many pine trees on the property. Mr. Walls introduced himself and asked permission to walk around the bank of my property on occasion. I will look after your property in exchange for this privilege. I told him sure and being young my curiosity was getting the best of me. He told me this story. It was June of 1934 on a Sunday afternoon after church and lunch his young family wanted something to do so they rode down to the lake. There were no cabins in the area but the land I had acquired is where the locals put their boats in and it also served as a swimming place. Mr. Walls had a son who was married and his bride had a sister and he had a brother. The four of them decided to go wading and I imagine they were laughing and having fun.
Over the years when the water was down and it rained heavy it had washed out a big ditch in the middle of the neck. As they waded one of them stepped into the ditch and he thought it may have been one of the girls. Of course one of the boys went after her and he also got into trouble. The other one then the last one tried to help and as a result all of them drowned. They were buried in Mt. Gillean Cemetery which is in the Red Hill area. This shocked the area to the bone because at the time Lake Martin was a new lake and had not yet been developed. The water had been backed up only 10 years before the tragic accident happened.
To make it even closer to me the accident happened in 1934 only 13 days after I was born. I've told you the story; now why would all of this pop up in my life almost 60 years after I got the property and met Mr. Walls and heard the story of his children that had happened in 1934, 26 years before I became involved?
I have been interested in the CCCs of Alabama. This was a program to work young men, send most of their wages home to their families and kept a lot of people from starving. A member of the Walls family who didn't know the story I just told you brought me a list of CCC members that served with his father in Chunchula back in 1930s. In the files of papers was a Western Union message that said to Aubrey Walls and he wrote down the following, on June 24, 1934 the saddest message I've ever heard came to me. The words were something like this.
“Sad news ole boy. Your brother and sister is dead.”
They were drowned late in the evening of June 23. I learned later my brother’s wife and sister went down in the same place and at the same time four of my beloved family met death in a watery grave. End of message.
I am grateful for the list of CCCs and I will do a story on them someday. By a strange coincidence this story came back almost 60 years later.