Newnan native Joe W. Strickland loves his hometown and has watched Coweta grow from a small town to a developed and growing town, often sharing his memories in the Weekend Edition’s “Remembering When” column. -end of the Newnan Times-Herald.
Strickland was born on February 8, 1941. He said as a child he and his parents, Earl and Sara Strickland, along with his sister Earline, lived on Greenville Street until his family bought a cattle farm in off Lower Fayetteville Road. He and his sister attended Atkinson Elementary School. He said he worked on his parents’ farm.
“Growing up on the farm, I learned to drive driving my dad’s jeep in World War II, and I learned to drive that jeep in the pasture,” Strickland said. “He told me to learn to drive, but not to hit my cows.”
Strickland said Lower Fayetteville Road hasn’t always been busy and lined with homes and businesses. He still lives in the area today.
“At the time, in the 1950s, Lower Fayetteville had virtually no traffic,” he said. “It was the whole country here with peach orchards and farms. I liked to fish and I had a horse that I liked to ride. I also enjoyed my dogs.
Strickland said a typical weekend in Newnan in the 1950s consisted of picnics, a trip to Tanner Beach in Carrollton, or a trip to the beach at Callaway Gardens.
“We would also go up to Pine Mountain,” Strickland said. “During the summer, we made homemade ice cream. Families gathered for a good visit on Sunday afternoon. If you had a date, you’d end up at the drive-in on Highway 29. We’d go swimming. We had a lot of fun during the summer.
Strickland and his sister both graduated from Newnan High School. He graduated with the class of 1960. Both worked at their parents’ grocery store, Strickland Market, located in downtown Newnan. Immediately after high school, Strickland went to the Air Force and was stationed in the Air Force in England and France.
After four years in the Air Force, Strickland returned home in 1964 and served another two years in the reserves. He said he saw his wife, Linda Bledsoe at the time, as he opened an account at C&S Bank opposite the Newnan town center post office.
“We went to school together from freshman year to graduation and we never dated,” he said. “I looked at her finger and saw she didn’t have a ring on, so I asked her out on a date. The rest is history.
The couple have been married for 58 years and have one daughter, Angie Dolan.
After being released from reserve in 1966, Strickland worked at the Economy Auto store in Newnan. He then worked as a supervisor at the Playtex factory in Newnan and retired from Avern Dennison in Peachtree City.
He even pastored a church in Newnan at one time, the Spiritual Renewal Center, which was located on Jefferson Street near Oak Hill Cemetery.
small village boy
Strickland definitely loves Newnan and is happy with his growth, but he said what he missed the most was the courthouse square in downtown Newnan.
“It was my favorite thing (court square downtown),” Strickland said. “Everything was centered around the court square. Growing up in my youth, there were pharmacies, grocery stores, and clothing stores to buy any clothes you needed. You could do everything you needed to do downtown. There were also barbershops everywhere.
Strickland said it lacked the old soda fountains, grills, and banana splits you could find in Court Square.
“I miss the small town atmosphere back then,” he said. “Everyone knew everyone. For example, when you walk into Johnson Hardware, they call you by name. I miss that. At Lowe’s or Home Depot, they don’t know me.
Strickland said having mom and pop stores is what changed a lot in Newnan.
“My wife was buying a dress and they charged it to her account,” he said. “It was an advantage for a small town. We’ve had Mansours in downtown Newnan for decades. I miss mom and pop stores. There are so many big chain stores now.
Many buildings in Newnan Town Center and Court Square were built in the 180s, according to www.mainstreetnewnan.com.
Fast forward to today, several decades later, Strickland said he still thinks of himself as a little city boy.
“I like the small town atmosphere,” Strickland said. “Newnan is growing up, but I still remember the good old days and think a lot about growing up in Newnan.”
Strickland is an avid reader and always stays busy, which contributes to his many stories he has to tell. He replaces teachers in the Coweta County school system, primarily at Newnan High School, Evans Middle School, and the Central Education Center. He said a student asked him if he had met his wife on the internet.
“I laughed and told him no,” he said. “When I met my wife, the internet didn’t exist.”
Strickland likes to stay active and works part-time at McKoon’s Funeral Home in downtown Newnan. He helps with the visit in the evening.
“The key is to stay active for as long as you can,” he said.
Strickland said he enjoys sharing his memories with NTH readers. As a two-time cancer survivor, he said he was grateful to be here.
“Growing up in the 1950s in Newnan – life was good,” he said.