Tucked away, right outside the Village of Bagdad neighborhood is the home of a local poet. Around back, there's a doorway that leads to the past.
It's full of memorabilia that country music fans would enjoy. But it's full of memories for the curator, Stuart Pooley. He renovated the garage into a space to display decades of memorabilia, given to him by long-time friend and country music legend Hank Locklin, of McLellan, Fla.
"I'm just enjoying it," Pooley said, with a look of sincere reflection on his face. "There's memories tied to it."
Locklin was an internationally-renown, traditional country music singer with more than 70 singles on the charts, 15 million records sold and six decades in the music industry as a performer. He first got his start as a lead guitar picker in the 1940s and was eventually picked up by RCA Victor Records where he worked with producer Chet Atkins. Locklin shared the stage with Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Pooley said he met the country star through friends when he was 13. They were bird hunting on the country star's 300-acre-ranch called the "Singing L" on the north end of Santa Rosa County. They quickly learned they shared a lot in common, including hunting and sharing the same sense of humor.
"I've always enjoyed country music," Pooley said. "I started traveling with Hank to the Grand Ole Opry when I was 13."
Pooley said his father never had any big issues with the young teen's decision to hit the music circuit, traveling across the Southeast with Locklin. His mother was a little reluctant, however. He would travel during the summer as a young teen. As the years progressed, he would still travel with Locklin to performances all across the U.S.
"Some of the experiences filtered down through my life," Pooley said. "I met people from all walks of life. Fans, drivers, bankers and executives, and country stars. I applied some of the skills I learned from the road to my life."
Pooley retired from the Santa Rosa County School Board after 33 years as Coordinator of Property Control and created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1994, Pooley became a published author with a poem that was inspired by his time and friendship with the finest of country music. He said his friend Locklin pushed him to pursue his own talent. Pooley had always wanted to play an instrument, but chose the pen instead.
He said Locklin told him some things were worth waiting for, even if they blossom a little late. The now 59-year-old Pooley has more than 70 published poems, many inspired by the Irish-tenor voice he loved to hear.
Locklin died March 8, 2009 at his home in Brewton, Ala. at the age of 91. A few years before his passing, he did see the mini-museum his friend created.
"He was tickled to death about it," Pooley said, with smiling eyes. "He didn't know what to think."