Retirees in Athens these days may come from various outside communities, but there are also those who have lived here for many years and when they retire they continue to do so. This was certainly the case when Laura Collins, women’s editor of the Athens Review, profiled Ben and Nettie Taylor in the May 10, 1956 Weekly Review and in her report the reader also gets a nostalgic glimpse of life in Athens at the time.
In fact, the headline summarizes the retired life for this couple: “Athenians Enjoy Years of Leisure.”
According to Ms. Collins’ account, Mr. Taylor had retired the previous year from the telephone company, an industry he had served for over 40 years and he was anxious to do “just what he and Mrs. Taylor want to do.”
Mr. Taylor had worked in the telephone industry for many years and it began when he first came to Athens in 1910 to take his first job. “That was back in the horse and buggy days, when telephones cost $1.50 a month – business and private lines alike,” he told the writer, “There were no straight lines then and you just cranked up the phone hoping someone would answer.”
At that time in Athens the city’s switchboard was located on the second floor of a Courthouse Square building though a later fire in the office forced relocation to another nearby location. Also, at that time “the only thing a telephone directory was used for at that time was to have the list of names to send bills to as everyone knew everyone else’s number,” Ms. Collins wrote.
Ben and his wife Nettie were married in December, 1915 and then he worked with telephone companies in various Texas cities before they came back to Athens in 1941 when he retired. At that time he was given the proverbial gold watch – something he treasured.
In 1951 the Taylors moved into their own home at 601 E. Corsicana Street, which now is the location of one of the Edward Jones investment advisory offices. The house as they first it saw presented some challenges. “’We had lots of surprises with our home,’ said Mrs. Taylor, ’as we found a cement walk in front of the house we did not know we had as it was completely hidden by weeds when we bought the place and we ‘found’ a garage which came as a complete surprise..’”
The property was strewn with weeds as well as rubbish so the Taylors had some work to do to turn it into a home. And since they were avid gardeners, “they met the challenge with lots of hard works and with four ‘green thumbs’ as everything they put in the earth grows in abundance.”
Ms. Collins went on to describe how the property where “on that bit of Mother Earth surrounding it the Taylors have proved that East Texas is the ‘garden spot of the world.’” Mr. Taylor’s garden had already yielded vegetables and flowers. And it was the flowers that attracted local attention, including some locals who purposely would take a detour to drive by to enjoy the colorful beauty of the Taylors’ garden.
Another challenge came in November, 1954 when they had an unplanned visitor. Ms. Collins wrote: “But the next night they lived through the most terrifying experience of their lives when a truck loaded with heavy electrical machinery struck a parked automobile and then crashed into their home.”
The vehicle rammed into the first three rooms causing damage that would total $6500. However, Ben and Nettie had gone to bed in the back bedroom just two hours earlier though they were awake with the vehicle crashed.
“The noise sounded like a truck driving through the living room,” said Mr. Taylor, [logically] “but we waited a couple of minutes before investigating and the wait was all that saved our lives as we would have met the truck head-on in the dining room if we had gone when it first struck.”
The Taylor house was rebuilt and refurnished to restore their retirement home. And as Ms. Collins summarized: “..if one needs positive proof that life can be completely satisfying after retirement just ask this couple who will tell you that every day is better than the day before.”