Friday, September 4, 2020

Summers at Jackson Lake

Summer is quickly coming to an end, so I thought it was a good time to share some of my happy summer childhood memories. But knowing I don’t remember a lot from my childhood and wanting to capture as much as possible, I asked Mama (Fay Lankford), my brother Michael, and sisters Vanessa and Jennifer what they remembered so this post is based on our combined memories. As they talked, they brought back memories for me. A special thank you to Bradley Newcomer for sharing some of his personal family photos from that time in our life.

The cabin at Jackson Lake

I’ve lived in my current house 40 years and am sad to say I only know the family next door. But that wasn’t the case growing up in my old neighborhood on Macon Drive in southeast Atlanta. We knew everybody—the whole neighborhood. The house to the right of us (as you face the street) was the Davis family—Mrs. Davis, her adult daughter Elaine, and adult son Baxter. The front part of their house was Davis Grocery, a small mom and pop grocery store. I bought a lot of Cokes from that store. Mrs. Davis, Elaine, and Baxter lived in the back part of the house, but that’s another story. The house to the left of us belonged to Hazel Morgan. Hazel’s brother Charles B. Morgan (people called him CB) and his wife Thelma (Nanny) lived next door to her. Mr. Morgan’s daughter Alice Newcomer and her husband Buddy lived in the next house. Alice and Buddy originally lived in the smaller house where her parents lived, but they switched at some point. The Morgan’s sons lived across the street—Raymond, Charles, Wayne, and Gene. I can’t talk about my childhood without talking about the Morgan and Newcomer families. We played with their children, I earned spending money cutting grass for Hazel, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, and, Alice and Buddy, we went on vacations together, and we spent many a summer weekend at Jackson Lake with Alice and her family.

I don’t remember it but Mama tells me the first time we went to Jackson Lake, “one of the oldest reservoirs in Georgia, located 44 miles southeast of Atlanta” according to Wikipedia, was to go fishing. Mama parked the car in the marina parking lot and we walked past the bridge a little way to get past the rocks. Right after we dropped our poles in the water, two boys swimming in the lake saw a snake and yelled “SNAKE.” I wanted no parts of that and started reeling in my hook saying let’s go, let’s go. So, we packed up and left. Mr. Morgan and Nanny had a cabin they named “IT” on the lake so we stopped by for a visit. Mama said Mr. Morgan told her we could come to by anytime we wanted to; the key was under the door mat. Mama said we never went alone but I do remember going back with Alice and Buddy, staying a week at a time. I remember swimming in the lake at IT, riding on a pontoon boat, and lying in bed at night, still feeling the waves lapping on the shore.

Alice on the dock at Jackson Lake

Buddy on one of our Daytona Beach vacations

Eventually, Alice and Buddy and Buddy’s brother Jerry and his wife Judy built their own cabin on the lake. They, along with their mother, Mammy (Evelyn Newcomer), and their children (two for each family) graciously welcomed us to the cabin which sat at the top of a hill, lake front. There were two bedrooms with two beds each, a living room with a sofa bed, screened in porch with a cot, kitchen with a dinette seat and table, and a bathroom. And no air conditioning, just fans. The cabin had a phone with a party line. Mama believes our entire family only spent the night when Jerry and his family didn’t but if we were all there, we would have been sleeping all over the place since there would have been at least 15 people. Mama said Michael slept on the front porch but I remember sleeping there some myself. One Sunday morning, too lazy to get up, I could hear people fishing on the dock as I lay in the cot. Then I started hearing lots of snickering. Turns out Buddy was heading up the hill with a fish he had just caught. He had decided it was time I got up so he planned to surprise me with a fish on my belly. I got up quick!

Mammy and Alice on one of our Daytona Beach vacations.
You can see what fun people they were.

Sometimes my family just went for a Sunday but often, Alice and Buddy loaded all of the kids (and at times a lawn mower and their dog Hush Puppy) up in the back of their El Camino on Friday night and we headed to the lake on I-20. Can you imagine driving a truck on a highway today with a bunch of kids in the back! I don’t think so. The kids rode in the back of the truck because Buddy, Alice, and Mammy sat in the front. Country music played on the radio with Alice singing along all the way to the lake. Michael remembers Mammy always yelled “we’re coming up on Sigman Road” which meant look up because you’d get to see Stone Mountain. Mama worked Saturday nights so she drove to the lake after her store closed at 9:30, arriving about 11 p.m. If we rode with Mama, and once we were old enough, she’d let us drive once we got to the dirt road that led to the cabin. Jennifer remembers when we rode with mama, she always stopped at Potts market/service station and we got a Yoo-hoo drink and candy bar.

Hush Puppy and Michael


Stacy and Vanessa

Michael, Bradley, Stacy, Vanessa, and
probably some of the lake neighbors


We ate lots corned beef gravy on toast for breakfast. For lunch, we had chili dogs and drank Kool-Aid, a mixture of orange and cherry. Mama said she always asked Alice what she could bring and Alice told her to weenies and buns. We ate butter beans and cornbread too. Vanessa remembers the dinner menu was the same every week—homemade pizza on Friday night and steaks on Saturday night. If there was any steak leftover, we had steak and eggs for breakfast the next day. Vanessa remembers before going to the lake, Mama gave her money and she rode her bike to K-mart to buy steak. I always think of hot dogs and butter beans though when I think of Jackson Lake.

We played in the water all the time. And if that wasn’t enough, we also took our bath in the lake. The Newcomers had a boat so there were always boat rides around the lake. Sometimes we rode to the cabin IT to visit Alice’s parents or went to the marina for gas or to buy something at the store. Some of us learned to water ski while Alice drove the boat. I remember trying to ski once but gave it up after hitting the water harder than I liked. Jennifer said she was too scared to try. Of course, there was lots of fishing from the dock, including night fishing. Buddy rigged up a light to shine onto the water. The light drew the fish close to the dock and then Mama and Bradley caught lots of fish. Mama remembers Buddy cleaned the fish but Vanessa remembers Buddy setting up a table and teaching everyone to clean their own fish. Either way, all the fish went in the freezer after they were cleaned. When there was enough for the crowd, we had a big fish fry. We gathered blackberries on walks. If we gathered enough, Mammy made a cobbler. Michael remembers the guys setting up targets to shoot pistols. Vanessa remembers she and Stacy shooting the pistol too. That target shooting came in handy. We always had to watch out for snakes and if someone saw one, Buddy grabbed his pistol and shot it. And then there was snipe hunting, something I don’t remember but got a laugh out of it as Vanessa talked about it. At dusk, the kids all went outside to hunt snipes. It turns out, there’s no such thing as a snipe. The trick was to run off and leave the ones behind in the woods that didn’t know the secret. I guess I would have been left behind! On Sunday morning, the kids gathered on the front porch to hear Mammy teach Sunday School, tell Bible stories, and sing hymns. The cabin had a television but I don’t remember watching it much. Late Sunday afternoon, the kids were responsible for putting the boat away. Before the boat came out of the water, Buddy took at least one of the kids on a boat ride. When the boat got up to speed, that kid pulled the plug in the back to drain the water. Once the boat was drained, it was attached to a line on the boat driveway (or whatever it’s called) and the kids cranked it out of the water. On the way home, we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream.


Alice, me, Stacy, Jennifer, Mama, Vanessa, Mammy, and Bradley
on a Daytona Beach vacation

Jennifer commented that Alice and Buddy were the best … they treated us like we were their kids too. I second that. Happy, happy rocking chair memories.


Jackson Lake (Georgia);


  1. Thank you so much Denise for this beautiful memory. Every good memory growing up on Macon Drive has your beautiful family in it. The times we spent together at all our favorite places will forever be in our memories. We were One family always! Macon Drive forever! Love you guys dearly!

  2. Your memories and photos really bring the past back to life. You sure can't beat a lake cabin. Sounds quite idyllic.

    1. It was wonderful. My whole family has such happy memories of that time in our lives. Thanks for reading.