Grandma Edna Kent’s sister, Aunt Nell (Dilmore), moved next door in 1990 right before my sophomore year at Chipley High School.
Sheer proximity led to a lot of time spent with Nell, a spunky, free spirit unconstrained by society’s expectations.
This became evident as she enthralled me with tales of her WWII-era youth, when young ladies loved red lipstick and “the boys in uniform.” I tried to picture my petite aunt working in the shipyard in Panama City.
“They told me to weld like I crocheted,” she laughed.
Aunt Nell liked welding. But she loved dancing, painting a vivid picture of days gone by as she held me captive with her stories.
I could almost hear the jazzy sound of the band and see the swirl of smoke from the cigarette no amount of lecturing could make her put down.
“The jitterbug was a fast dance,” she explained. “Timing was everything. If you lost that, it was hard to get it back. And Lord knows, you’d better have a good partner if you were going to be tossed over a shoulder or through his legs!”
She laughed as she talked about the hits, like when she and a date won a jitterbug contest — and the misses, like the time an inept beau missed her hand, and she went crashing to the floor.
In my mind’s eye, I was there, could hear her embarrassed laughter as she got back up and patted her Rita Hayworth curls into place.
Other family members had stories to tell, but none have been as sorely missed as those of that sassy aunt, who passed away in the late 90s.
Since working at the Washington County News, I’ve truly had to use discipline when searching for a specific fact in the bound archives. Photos and stories from decades past about people I know often distract from the task at hand. Tucked between those pages are stories of the county’s earliest residents, those who helped forge both our future and identity.
We often are impatient, wanting time to pass quickly, thinking we may reach our goals faster, but what better way to get where we want to be than to consider where we’ve been? If you have a chance to listen to the stories of the older generation, please take it. The past holds our legacy, our traditions, and a thousand other hidden treasures.
And one day, it will be our turn to tell the stories.
Carol Kent Wyatt is Editor of the Washington County News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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