Locals remember days gone by

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

This area is rich in history that never made to the history books. Fortunately we have locals who share some of their growing up memories to fill the gap.

Jimmy Johnson, who runs a barbershop, said he came of age when wages were $3 a day and people worked 16 hour days just to pay bills.

Jimmy Johnson and his family have been residents of Santa Rosa County for decades. Johnson runs a local barbershop in Milton.

“My daddy and uncles worked long days at the Bagdad Land and Lumber Company," Johnson said. "We kids got two new pairs of jeans, one pair of shoes, and two shirts every year and we had to make ‘em last the whole year. If the soles broke loose on our shoes, we got them repaired.”

Johnson also remembered local historian Martin Luther King, who was both his minister at the Milton Methodist Church and his principal at Canal Street School.

“He wrote 'The History of Santa Rosa County: A King’s Country,' one of the best books ever written about the history of this area” he said. 

Johnson recalled vividly the lumber mill company doctor, who served everyone in town by delivering babies, setting broken bones, and stitching up wounds.

Mary and Bill Kingry of Bagdad have lots of stories about the community's history.

“I tripped on the steps going to the schoolhouse once, and my mama took me to Doc Turner," he said. "She held me down on the kitchen table while he stitched up my head, no anesthesia or anything.”

Local resident Alberta Hill, who recently celebrated her 101th birthday, also remembered when Doc Turner was the only doctor in the area.

“He did everything, he even fixed teeth because there was no dentist here,” she said.

Bagdad resident Bill Kingry said his father worked as a planer at the Robinson Point Lumber Mill. He remembers when the mill commissary was both the place to buy things and hold important meetings. “I remember when Millet Comwell came to commissary and spoke to us about a new thing called ‘social security’,” he said.

Ken Broxson grew up on Garcon Point before there was a paved road serving the peninsula. His relatives hailed from across the bay near Skeevans, but the government ran them out to make way for Eglin AFB in 1940.

Ken Broxson poses for a photo in his natural habitat.

“Growing up on Garcon Point was ideal,” he said. “My dad ran a country store, and we kids roamed the area without a care in the world.  We knew everyone and they knew us, and no one bothered anyone.”

May the local lore and stories be kept alive for future generations.