Christmas memories last a long lifetime
Chicken feed was stored in the shed. The colorful, cloth sacks when emptied were placed aside. The fabric was used to make small children and girls clothes – but not all of it. Some of the material was sewn into small sacks with a draw string added to cinch and close the open end.
“I loved getting my cloth sack at Christmas,” 101-year-old Casey Medlin recalls. The bags made from the feed sacks were filled with an apple, an orange, a stem of large raisins, and a variety of nuts.
On Christmas Eve, all children, matrons and staff members at the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage gathered at the centrally located church. The floor and balcony were full. In the late 1920s, more than 500 children were in care. Medlin remembers there being 22 boys all together on the sleeping floor of his cottage.
A large freshly-cut tree with big, brightly colored lights in red, yellow, blue, and green sat center stage capturing the imaginations of every boy and girl. He fondly recounts walking up to the front of the sanctuary with the boys from his cottage and receiving a box wrapped in Christmas paper with a tag dangling with his name on it. One year there were gloves, another year a pocket knife, and then there was the time he received a flash light. But the gift he was most fond of was the pocket watch that he carried in his pocket until he wore it out and it stopped working.
As they turned to go back to their seats, each child was handed the cloth sack. Medlin says that in a lifetime as long as his, there are many wonderful Christmas memories, but it is a child’s memories that never fade.
Medlin was born August 7, 1915. He is the third of seven children. After the birth of his youngest brother, his mom passed. Unable to care for his children, Medlin’s father parceled them out to family except Casey and a younger brother who were sent to the orphanage in 1925.
“My brother ran away,” Medlin says, “but I stayed because I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to go. I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d gone with my brother.”
At 20 years old, Medlin left his sweetheart in Thomasville and joined the Navy. He and three of his brothers served during the war. He was discharged in 1940, married Thelma on August 22, and began working at a hosiery plant making socks for sailors.
Medlin and Thelma were married 56 years when she passed. The couple raised three children. His daughter and oldest child Janice passed away in 1994. His middle child A.J., Jr. is retired from Georgia Power and lives in Georgia, and his youngest Danny played pro football and now lives near Medlin.
“My first hourly wage was only 75 cents an hour,” he reminisces. “Our first home’s mortgage payment was $35. I paid it at the bank in town.”
“Things are so different today,” Medlin says. “There’s a lot of change in the world. It breaks my heart to see children being hurt.”
Medlin loves sports and is passionate about baseball. His love for baseball and children led him to become a coach.
“I’d get off at 3:00 in the afternoon and head to the baseball field,” he says. “We would practice Monday through Friday during the season, except for game days, 3:30 to 5:00.”
Medlin believes that keeping the boys off the streets and on the baseball diamond made the difference for some. “I knew if I kept them busy, they would stay out of trouble. Sports can be the best alternative to bad choices. If one boy had a chance at a better life – then it was worth every hour spent.”
His love for sports was the impetus for his involvement at the local high school. This year marked his final year as the official score keeper at the football stadium – he served 55 years. Next to his seat in the scorer’s box is a plaque commemorating his service.
Medlin says he walks daily, reads his bible, and prays. “I fall short of what I’d like to do. I pray and still it seems like I can’t pray enough – for my family, the children and the people in this world.”
A Christmas orange sits on the kitchen table. Medlin confesses, “I can’t believe that I’m 101. I can’t eat the apples or nuts any longer, but I’ll enjoy the orange and remember all the Christmas times of years past.”
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