Growing up in a relatively small town in South Arkansas, I didn’t think much about the home my parents had provided for us. I was aware that it was a beautiful 2-story colonial style house on North Madison and had a large front yard very conducive to football games with neighborhood buddies. The yard could also be used for a scaled down baseball field, but it didn’t take a very long hit to travel into one of the neighbor’s yard, so from a baseball standpoint it was useful only for prolonged games of pitch and catch. I wasn’t aware of much of the details of how and when the house was built except I knew it was constructed in the mid-1930’s before I was born. Pop had said that it was a dream home for him and for Mimi, my birth mother and had taken them about 5 years in planning and building. He mentioned that the lumber for the house was a “special cut” from Anthony-Williams Lumber Company, a local and well-known company. It was completed in 1939, and they moved into it in the spring of the year I was born. The following year Mimi was diagnosed with far-advanced breast cancer and despite the best treatment options available then, she died in the spring of 1941. Pop married Athie West in 1944 and she became Mom to Bubba, Marilyn and me.
Our home was distinctive and larger than the home of all of my friends, but was not a barrier to any of those friendships. In addition to the advantages of having a large yard for ball games, there were special hiding places in the attic and basement where we could meet and plan whatever things seemed important to us at the time. Occasionally the basement was used for overnight camp-outs because of the convenience of a good fireplace.
When Pop died of heart trouble in 1966, Mom remained in the home and maintained it as well as she could. At the time Cathy and I were living in New Orleans where I was in my residency training as a general surgeon. I would complete that training in 1969 and then had a 2 year obligation in the Air Force. It was during our stint at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia that I learned more of the details of the building of our family home.
I was the only surgeon on the base which provided care for active duty personnel as well as a large population of retired military families living in the area. Alex Skoropat was a retired Air Force colonel who I got to know fairly well because he developed a malignant colon cancer requiring an extensive operation. During the course of his 6-8 weeks treatment and recovery, I discovered that during his retirement years he was working for a large lumber company in South Georgia with connections to similar companies in other states. When he discovered I was originally from El Dorado, Arkansas, he told me he had become good friends with Aubrey Anthony one of the brothers who owned Anthony-Williams Lumber Company in El Dorado. During the course of one conversation regarding his relationship with the Anthony family, he told me this; “Aubrey said there was a doctor in El Dorado who got all the lumber for his home in an interesting fashion. During the depression years of the 1930’s this doctor was the “company doctor” for Anthony-Williams, and the arrangement made with him was that for a fixed fee each month he would provide medical care for every company family. He had said for us to keep a record of all we owed him, and when he was ready to build a home, he would take his fees in lumber. When he finally decided to build, we custom cut all the lumber for his home and treated every piece with creosote, which gave life-time termite protection.” After listening to this story, I told Alex that the doctor in the story was my Dad, and the home he described was the one in which I grew up. What a divine appointment to learn about my home from a surgical patient who lived 800 miles away from that home!
Upon completion of my service time, Cathy and I moved to El Dorado to establish a private practice and build our lives there. We had no thoughts or plans to ever move into the family home. When Mom finally decided in 1972 she could no longer maintain such a large home, we placed it on the market to be sold. Cathy and I were living in a very nice rental home but were expecting our 3rd child and were thinking about buying a larger home with a larger yard. After about 6 months there had only been one offer on the home, so with much consideration and consultation with all the family members, we decided to purchase the home at the same price as the only offer made. Shortly before the birth of Ginny, our third and final child, we took possession of our new home.
Over the next 20 years we lived in that home, we used and loved it much more than I ever did as a child. Cathy and I determined early that despite the fact the house was large and beautiful, we wanted it to be child-friendly and not a show place of fashion elegance. After living in it for several years one of our son John’s friends innocently said to Cathy, “Mrs. Moore, your home is sure fancy on the outside and when you and Dr. Moore can afford it, I know you will fix up the inside too!” We did begin fixing up each room as we could afford it, and eventually it reflected all our individual personalities. We also added a swimming pool in the backyard which was a huge attraction for our children’s friends. During the summer months, it was seldom empty of swimmers.
One of my favorite poems is “It Takes A Heap O’ Livin’ In A House To Make It Home” by Edward Guest, and I believe that we did a heap of livin’ and lovin’ at 1800. When the children were grown and gone from home, Cathy and I sold the house to move to a more convenient place. There was some sadness and nostalgia in all of our hearts when the sale was finalized, but I firmly believe that Pop’s dream house had accomplished its’ purpose and provided a wonderful home for 3 generations of Moore’s!