How well I remember this time of year, going back to the 40s and 50s ! Poplar Springs Campground ( Franklin County, Georgia ) was calling——–and the Haley family responded, settling into three ” tents “, owned by my grandfather, W.S.Haley , since the mid-30s. These ” tents ” were quite primitive, made of rough boards with cracks between them for ventilation. The floors were sawdust. No living room, just bedrooms with half-walls and no doors , so no privacy. The front porch served as the gathering place, bringing together the purest form of fellowship.
One of my remembrances of the bedrooms being so close is having teen-age friends spend nights with me. My room was next to my Aunt Marie Haley Williams and my Uncle Morgan. One night the girls and I were whispering so as not to disturb (we thought ) when Marie yelled out ” Damn, Diane, either shut up or speak up !!!!! ” . Needless to say, we promptly fell asleep……………………..
Our bathrooms were outhouses, our refrigeration was ice boxes ( even though there was electricity ), our cooks were two in number as were our handymen, and our joy was the covey of friends. There has never since been anything to equal the spirituality, camaraderie, and sheer joy of camp meeting ……………….
The tradition remains. Established and operated by the Methodist Church , it is far more than one denomination. People of all church affiliations come from far and wide in late July to spend approximately ten days to two weeks ” camping “. We all hear the pounding rhetoric of national and state politics , proclaiming unity, diversity, and loving our neighbor , but Poplar Springs doesn’t just ” talk the talk ” . It ” walks the walk ” .
Back in the day, Haley tent rules ( and perhaps the campground rules ) were that everyone who tented there must attend two of the three church services, either morning, afternoon, or evening. And no one was allowed outside the tents while services were ongoing. Christian priorities and values ruled. It was, after all , a place and time of worship, and my grandfather, Daddy Seab , never allowed us to lose sight of that.
Food was paramount : two or three meats, six or seven vegetables, two or three salads, and an assortment of pies, cakes, and cookies. Many guests came for dinner or supper ( lunch was dinner, and dinner was supper in yesterday’s world ) and there was a protocol for seating.
My grandfather, the guests , and his adult children were the first to dine. Other adults were seated second serving, and the grandchildren and their friends, last. This was constant, never changing. There was many a day that I ate at fourth table, sometimes as late as 2:00 pm on a Sunday when the preachers joined us.
And speaking of the much revered preachers , it is important to note that they were ALWAYS seated at first table. I remember my daddy recollecting his time at Young Harris College with young preacher-to-be students. His comment was that some of them ( no one we know, of course ! ) just saw the perks of the ministry instead of the spirituality ! I suppose being seated first at the Haley table was one of those perks……………….
My daddy, George Seaborn Haley, was referred to as ” Mr. Campground “. His name is on a monument in the center of the property being recognized as long-time treasurer. He was instrumental in the building of the tabernacle, bringing equipment and manual labor from the cotton warehouses and the Haley farms. He and many other tent -holders worked tirelessly to raise the tabernacle, still in use for services today.
My grandfather died in 1954 and camp meeting ended for the Haleys . Although the next generation continued to tent there for several years, I learned that it often takes a patriarch or a matriarch to make things come together. Daddy Seab was the catalyst.
I no longer attend camp meeting, nor do I have any desire to try to re-live those special times. I have been back only twice since the tents were sold in the early 60s : once when Daddy and Mother were memorialized and once when our oldest granddaughter played her flute during an evening service.
Some things simply need to be left in the past…………………