Man’s memoirs describe life in Bainbridge 100 years ago

Published 12:23 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

A century may seem like a long time ago, but many things remain the same today in Bainbridge then as they do now. The proof is in a journal recently found in Monroe, Louisiana, belonging to Bainbridge native Frederick Floyd.

The 89-page handwritten memoir details Floyd’s upbringing in Bainbridge from when he was born in 1911 onward, and describes every facet of his life during his most formative years.

Floyd’s nephew, John Montgomery, discovered the memoir in a box of old family photos he had borrowed from his cousins in Monroe, where his mother (Floyd’s sister) lived and died.

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“Fred’s recollections of his life and times in Bainbridge are very detailed and document a bygone era,” Montgomery said. “I immediately knew that people back in Bainbridge would enjoy reading and relating to his story even though they likely never knew Fred or perhaps not even his family. Fred would be so proud to know that he is remembered through his recollections of Bainbridge, a town that he obviously loved and cherished very much.”

Floyd’s memoir is broken into several chapters, each exploring different times of his boyhood in Bainbridge.

“My town was a beautiful place in which to live, but I was not to realize this until I had dwelled many years later,” Floyd’s memoir reads. “It was known as the Oak City, its sandy streets lined with spreading, moss-drape evergreen oaks, many I remember having branches spanning a hundred feet across and with trunks at least eighteen feet around.”

Floyd explained that the horse and buggy were still the prevalent means of transportation when he arrived on the scene. Willis Park was the epicenter of the city, much like it is today, and businesses sprawled off the four streets adjacent to the square.

“Evergreen oaks and magnolias covered the square,” Floyd wrote. “Today, on rare occasion, when I encounter the sweet scent of magnolia, a fleeting glimpse of the Sunday afternoon concerts held in the park and a mingling of the aroma of sweet magnolia, and the pungent odor of sulfur mixes with the sound of martial music returns, and momentarily I am a carefree boy again playing in the park.”

Floyd uses the following pages to describe the layout of downtown and where the important buildings were. The Courthouse remains where it is today, on the northwest corner of West and Water streets. Floyd describes its red brick spire as the tallest thing he had ever seen.

He also described the clock and its bell.

“The town revolved around the clock, day and night, and the hour was known if not by sight, then by sound, even on the outer edges of town,” Floyd wrote. “The tone of the bells seemed to change as if to reflect the mood of the day or night.”

“Across Water Street from the Courthouse stood City Hall, housing also the fire station, city calaboose and the public library. It was a two-story structure and unlike the courthouse was of brown colored brick. Knowing there was a jail within its confines, it took on a foreboding significance, but this was dissipated quickly by the sight of bright-red fire trucks glimpsed through the wide open doors of the station.”

Floyd continued on to describe the rest of the city, mentioning the churches, homes and schools throughout Bainbridge.

For recreation, Floyd wrote that two lakes a couple of miles outside of town were the location of endless entertainment—Twin Lake and Lake Douglas.

“The lakes were quiet and did not present as many dangers as did the river and they provided us with most of our recreational needs,” Floyd wrote. “They were meant for fishing and boating and swimming and camping and just plain enjoying, and claimed many hours and days of my boyhood.”

More of Floyd’s memoirs detailing life in Bainbridge during the early 20th century will be printed next issue.