My mother, Blanch Welch Robinson, was born in a little settlement just outside Milledgeville, Georgia in 1912. She grew up there with her parents, Warren and Ottley Welch, where her dad was a funeral director for the Joe Moore Funeral Home. Ottley was a seamstress who was always hard at work with her sewing, wearing a smile on her face and usually whistling or singing a song. I never knew my grandfather since he passed away before I was born, but I have many happy memories of Grandma Welch. As a child, I remember the long trips Mother would make with us three children to visit Grandma in Milledgeville.
Blanche Welch was fortunate to be able to attend the Georgia State College for Women, just a few blocks from home. Times were hard for people then as they struggled to cope with the Great Depression of the 1930s, but she received a college degree in Education. Shortly after graduation, Blanche responded to an advertisement she saw about a position that was available teaching first grade in the small town of Lenox in South Georgia. After responding to the ad, she was employed there and moved to Lenox where the only lodging available was with the J. D. Robinson family. She met young Roby Robinson there and the two were soon married. Blanch lived a long and happy life in Lenox rearing three children.
Mother told us many stories about growing up in Milledgeville and many involved her father working as a funeral director. Milledgeville was home to the Georgia State Hospital. Located just a short driving distance from town, it was a very large facility on a huge campus with many buildings where the mentally disturbed patients were treated and housed. It was almost a city within itself, with its own fire department, police force, and post office. Late one night the funeral home received a call from the hospital that a patient had passed away and they needed get the body ready for a funeral.
The funeral home dispatched the janitor to the hospital since no one else was on duty and it was simply a matter of picking up the body and taking it back to be embalmed the next day. After arriving at the hospital, the driver backed the hearse up to the door and the body was loaded in back. He did not immediately close the door and began to strike up a conversation with one of the pretty young hospital workers. While his attention was diverted, a drunk wandered by and decided to lay down in the back of the hearse for a few minutes. Eventually the driver, finally finished his conversation, closed the door to the hearse while still gazing at the young lady, unaware the drunk had hitched a ride in the back. As he began the ride back to town, he had to stop at a lonely part of town in the dark for one of Milledgeville’s only stop lights. When the hearse stopped, the drunk in back woke up, he rose and decided to have a smoke. He shouted loudly to the driver up front, “Hey Buddy, can you give me a light”
My granddad received a phone call a few minutes later from the police department saying he would have to go out towards the hospital to pick up the hearse, which had been abandoned in the middle of the street under the stop light with the motor still running and the driver’s door wide open. The driver never showed back up for work.