My paternal grandmother, Clemmie Middleton McGallagher, was proud of her roots and often spoke fondly of her family despite losing her home and stability at age 6 when her mother died. She was next to the youngest of 15 children, so there were plenty of older siblings to help take care of her since her father kind of gave up. One of her sisters was Pearl. Pearl married a Turner and I believe that they had 6 sons altogether. My mother had good memories of her family going up to Chatom to visit Pearl and Grandpa Charlie Middleton, Clemmie’s father. So it was really nice that a few of the cousins came down for Mama’s funeral. My aunt, cousin and I were invited up to Chatom for a birthday party honoring Pearl’s only remaining son, Clyde Turner. With all the chaos and heartache of the last few weeks, the thought of a quick trip away from the coast seemed like a nice break for us. Aunt Peggy especially needed some perking up. It was touch and go whether or not I would be able to get away since finding someone to look after Daddy is not an easy task. He needs someone he is familiar with or he gets extremely agitated. Fortunately my nephew Jesse stepped up.
So the three of us set out, Jannae, Aunt Peggy and myself. We had vague directions to the place where the party would be held, but all three of us had been to Chatom often enough we knew it was a small town and finding a party in the middle of town should be as simple as looking for a lot cars, right? As with most things in life, nothing is ever as simple as you think. We arrived in Chatom just in time for their annual Mardi Gras Parade through the center of town. What else was there to do except get out and enjoy the parade. Near the end of the parade, we began asking around if anyone knew where the place we were looking for would be. When we mentioned it was for Clyde Turner, people just laughed and told us there were hundreds of Turners around town. Of course there were, with 6 sons and who knows how many Turner cousins. And of course none of us had put a contact phone number in our phones. I ended up sending a message through FB and contacting another of the cousins to tell one of the ladies to get in touch with us. Again no address, just a lot of confusing directions. We finally got the name of the building, the Washington County Sheriff’s Training Center (I thought they had originally said the fire station, so of course we would never have found it with that info). The map app didn’t recognize that name, it kept giving me directions to the Naval Air Museum in Florida. About the time we got the right info, Jannae, who was driving, spotted a sheriff deputy’s car parked in a side road, so she pulled over to ask him for directions. Apparently word had gotten out about the three crazy ladies up from Bayou La Batre, so he told us it would be best if he just escorted us to the location. I haven’t laughed that much in ages. It was pretty ridiculous of us to go off with half enough information, but it was a fun adventure. The birthday party was very nice and I got to meet a lot of people that were actually pretty close relatives. One of the cousins had brought a book of genealogy notes and let me snap some photos of the pages. I’m looking forward to adding that info into my Ancestry.com family tree and seeing where it takes me. I’m also getting together notes that I have to mail to a few of my relatives that don’t do much online. Maybe I’ll be able to get together with some of them to compare notes and share photos soon. They did have a photo of Pearl when she was young, and it was quite an eye-opener for me. I have written another post about why a picture of Pearl Middleton Turner means so much to me.