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You’ll never get out of Perry


This is a true story. Correction. It’s as true as it can be given it’s based on my memory. It’s about events that took place starting on Labor Day, September 1962, almost 55 years ago. To my immense sorrow, I am the only one involved who is still here to report what happened during that carefree and “what will happen next” week.

The main characters in this comedy/drama were Jerry Wilson, one of the quickest and cleverest people I’ve ever known, Jerry Horton, “Do-Tricks” to his legion of friends, whose nickname says it all, Tommie Sandefur, ultimately the CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco with great influence on Middle Georgia, and me.

Who made the suggestion? Probably Jerry Wilson since his brother, Mark “Bo” Wilson, and Bo’s wife, Sara Beth, lived in Charleston where Lt. Col. Mark Wilson, USAF, a C-130 pilot, lived.

Let’s hitchhike to Folly Beach for the week (for us, a “dead” week between summer work and school). So, that’s what we decided to do. Four young guys with luggage on the side of the road? I can remember it vividly. Eunice Scoggins Wilson, Jerry’s mother, a wonderful person, opined: “Well, you’ll never get out of Perry,” as she let us out of the 1956 Chevrolet on the side of the road in front of Mr. Robert Tuggle’s house on the Hawkinsville highway.

There we stood, with soliciting thumbs outstretched, standing in front of our luggage. Five minutes and we had a ride. He, who will go nameless, was on his way to Hawkinsville to buy liquor (Houston County was dry). Within 30 minutes, we were 20 miles down the road.

Next, it was Jim Hooks from Perry and his fiancé who picked us up and took us all the way to Jesup. So far, very good!

At Jesup, we ate at a Jaycee’s sponsored Labor Day rest stop. Several doughnuts each. Living off the land as would characterize the week.

Then a soldier took us all four, and our luggage, all the way to Savannah. We were doing good and moving fast. Eunice was wrong, wasn’t she? We did make it out of Perry.

Jerry Wilson’s Georgia Tech roommate lived in Savannah, so somehow (no cell phones) we got in touch with him (pay phone?) Lee Smith came, we spent the night in Savannah with Lee and his parents, and we ate a 10 pound ham for dinner (supper). So far, we’d spent almost no money.

The next morning, day two, Lee took us across the Savannah River into South Carolina. Things got a little dicier on day two. We had a long wait, but finally a preacher, with no hands, driving a pickup hauling eggs, picked us up (one in the front and three in the back) and took us to Two Egg, South Carolina, and let us out.

Four young men (boys?) with suitcases on the side of the road at Two Egg and the darkest cloud (like night) heading our way (later newspaper accounts told of tornadoes). What were we to do? This is almost unbelievable: A Greyhound bus driver stopped his bus and picked us up. We all paid $1 each. The dog to Charleston!

Night two with Bo and Sara Beth, a free supper, and the next morning, after breakfast, Sara Beth took us to Folly Beach. We were there! We found a house basement for rent, paid the owner $4 each, for two nights. We had shelter.

We hadn’t been there long, when we spotted her, a “robust” young lady in shorts and a halter top. Quickly, we made friends with Faye Lee, and she fed us (pimento cheese, peanut butter and jelly and mayonnaise sandwiches).

A place to stay, food (we paid a few dollars, probably less than $10 total for our share of the groceries) and Wednesday and Thursday were taken care of. Friday came. Time to go home. I think Faye Lee took us to our departure place. We were off and headed west, or were we?

We thumbed and waited. Thumbed and waited. No ride. We decided to split-up, and “drew lots.” Tommie and Do-Tricks to the bushes and Jerry and me on the roadside. The plan: Jerry and I would get a ride and after we were gone, Do-Trick’s and Tommie’s turn.

In just a few minutes, someone stopped. But, Do-Tricks and Tommie didn’t follow the plan. Out of the bushes they ran (almost scaring our to-be driver to death) and all four were together again.

Last leg, as it turned out. Some of you will remember those red linen trucks. Well, a driver of one picked us up. Tommie in the passenger seat, up front, and three in the back on the soiled linens. Said he was going to Macon, but, he liked us, so he took us all the way to Perry and let us out at the Perry High football field. We got there just before kickoff, and we strolled in, “proud as peacocks.”

Tommie spent $10 from Monday to Friday. I spent $14. Jerry $18 and Do-Tricks $38 (those pinball machines, you know).

I didn’t write of everything that happened. Space limitations? But, we did have a grand, exciting, unforgettable time. And, yes, Eunice, you were right: I never did get out of Perry.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.