Just a simple Southern lady

Lillian Eisner Pinkerton was born in a house near College and Plant streets 100 years ago today.

If you pull up a chair and lean over to where she can hear you, she will tell stories. She will probably mention how her childhood home straddled the city limits and the county border.

That was a long time ago, before the boundaries were pushed farther out. At least now she can say she lived to see consolidation approved.

By the time she was old enough to attend grammar school, her father, Lester Eisner, moved the family to Log Cabin Drive. Those were the days when there was a dirt road with a small wooden bridge to cross Rocky Creek.

Her father hung wallpaper for a living. Lillian was the second of five children. The others were Pauline, Lester Jr., Virginia and Mary Alice.

Lillian still lives in a wooden house on Log Cabin. It is almost as old as she is and has been in her family since 1925.

From her front porch, she has watched life travel up and down the street.

The world certainly has changed. She has not.

“She has led a self-sustaining and simple life,” said her nephew, George Stefano.

That’s not to say there has never been any excitement. She has been a eyewitness to history.

She was making $12 a week working at Woolworth’s on Cherry Street when the stock market crashed Oct. 29, 1929. It was the beginning of the Great Depression. There was a run on the banks, and she remembers people crying and hollering in the streets.

On another October morning four years later, she lifted her eyes toward the heavens to watch the famous dirigible USS Macon float above the city. The 785-foot silver airship was on its journey from Lakehurst, N.J., to Sunnyvale, Calif.

But her years have mostly been solid and uneventful. She belongs to a generation that took care of their families and always had room in their hearts for others.

She and her husband, Joe Pinkerton Sr., were married for 75 years until his death on Valentine’s Day in 2007 at the age of 97. Last Friday would have been their 80th anniversary.

Folks used to say he could have passed for Clark Gable’s twin. He always planted a huge garden that wrapped almost all the way around the yard, and the Pinkertons ate what they raised.

They were well past the threshold of senior citizenry when they tasted their first McDonald’s hamburger. (They were fascinated that you could order a cheeseburger without getting out of your car in the drive-through lane.)

Lillian apparently ate all of her vegetables and put a lid on the sweets. She still has all her teeth and has had only two cavities in her lifetime.

“She has had a wonderful life and is blessed with an amazing mind,” said her great nephew, Taylor Moul­ton. “She was a strong inspiration for me when I started researching my family history. I would go over as a child and listen to her stories for hours. There wasn’t a single question she couldn’t answer within two centuries of Pinkerton family history.”

Her son, Joe Jr., was born in the house where she still lives. Her daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born in a renovated schoolhouse at Turnwold Plantation in Putnam County, where author Joel Chandler Harris attended school. Joe Sr. taught school and was an administrator before going to work in civil service at Robins Air Force Base.

Lillian sewed clothes for her children on an old pedal sewing machine. She never bought anything on credit. If she didn’t have the money, she didn’t buy it. And, if Sears didn’t have it, she figured she didn’t need it.

More than 40 family members gathered for a birthday celebration at her house last weekend. She requested another party for the “old folks,” although every one of them is younger than she is. So about two dozen friends and neighbors will show up today for a slice of birthday cake.

They will honor a simple Southern lady who has touched a lot of lives.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or