EDITORS NOTE: The following is a column I published in the Tifton Grapevine on Christmas 2017. Even three years later, some readers still mention it to me. I hope you indulge me this reprint and that it provokes your own happy memories of Christmases past.
Tifton Grapevine
All of us have a special Christmas in our past. Oftentimes, that special memory stretches back to our childhood. My special Christmas memory was more than 50 years ago, Christmas 1967, when we had snow on the ground at my home in Norfolk, Va., and Santa left sleigh tracks on our roof. 

That year, Christmas was on a Monday. On that Saturday, Dec. 23, we awoke to snow falling. In Tidewater, Virginia, we used to get snow once or twice each winter and never at Christmastime. But snow began falling that Saturday morning and didn't let up all day.

My grandfather came over at midday, and he and my dad went out to get firewood. By evening, we had several inches of snow, and our neighborhood was truly a winter wonderland.
That night, my grandparents joined us for dinner as the fire blazed in our fireplace. After dinner, my dad put on some records and the adults danced in the dining room. I recall my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother dancing in step to Christmas music. Who knew they could dance?

The next day, Sunday, was Christmas Eve, a cloudy day. Temperatures were in the 20s, and the snow didn't melt, still covering the world in a frosty white blanket. My mom spent the day in the kitchen doing her holiday baking, filling the house with warm scents of cinnamon and gingerbread.

In our family, the kids always got to open one present on Christmas Eve before we went to bed. Invariably, that present was always pajamas, and so it was this night. I remember wearing my warm, new pajamas and looking out the living room window seeing the colored lights from our Christmas tree reflecting on the nighttime snow.

The next morning was Christmas, and my little brothers woke us all at dawn. My brothers' and my bedroom looked out over our front porch roof, which was covered with snow ... and something else; there were two parallel tracks across the roof as if they had come from a sleigh skidding across the snow.

The tracks weren't there the night before. What could possibly explain their appearance?

It was probably 20 years later when I finally discovered the answer: After we all went to sleep that night, my mom made the tracks in the snow while hanging out an upstairs window as my dad held her tight by the ankles.

Now at Christmas, a half century later, both of my parents and two of my brothers are no longer with us. But rather than being sad, I am thankful for the memory of a special Christmas when we all were young, the world was snow-covered, and there was magic in the night.
Tifton Grapevine
After its second vote in a week, Tifton City Council on Monday enacted a mandatory face-mask ordinance for public places, but only for 30 days and with no penalties for noncompliance.

The mask mandate is in response to the recent coronavirus surge in the city and county.

Council again voted 3-2 for the mask mandate, as it did during a special meeting the previous Monday. That vote was determined to be ineffective because the city charter prohibits an ordinance being passed on the same day it is first presented – unless it is done during an emergency and the emergency is stated in the ordinance, city officials said.

Councilmen Jack Folk, Johnny Terrell and M.Jay Hall voted for the mandate, and Mayor Julie B. Smith and Vice Mayor Wes Ehlers voted against it. As Smith noted before the vote, requiring face masks is a "contentious issue."

Folk proposed the mandate because, he said, "the major responsibility of council is to protect its citizens. He added that "its clear it's an emergency" and that "masks work," according to the majority of healthcare professionals.t

Requiring masks is also business-friendly, Folk said, because it will encourage some people, who are currently staying home, to feel safer going out and visiting local establishments.

"We don’t need a mandate to do the right thing," said Mayor Smith. “I cannot support a mandate by council."

Folk countered that many residents are not "doing the right thing" in wearing masks so the ordinance is necessary to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Ehlers said that people exercise a "self-governing principle" in deciding whether or not to wear masks. Rather than mandating masks, he suggested passing a resolution encouraging everyone to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines and for the city to continue educating residents about the virus and safety procedures. His proposal failed.

Several people addressed council before the vote, many opposed to a mask mandate. Among them was Devin Crosby, who asked city officials to "uphold our freedom to make our own choice. ... If we have to wear a mask, we’ve lost part of our liberty."
Jill McEntyre, a registered nurse, administers the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Southwell to Dr. Rubal Patel on Monday.
Southwell medical received 975 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Monday and administered the first dose late Monday afternoon to Dr. Rubal Patel, medical director of Tift Regional Medical Center's ICU and a physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Patel, who has dealt first-hand with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Georgia since March, said she was honored to be the first at Southwell to receive the vaccine. 

“This is a monumental moment,” she said. “We have been fighting this deadly disease for months, and as many of my colleagues in the ICU will tell you, it’s been tough. This vaccine is bringing hope.”

Patel said she knows that some people have concerns about taking the vaccine, but she wants to reassure them.

“It was quick and easy, and it is a much better alternative to the incredible suffering I have seen over the past several months,” she said. “I am looking forward to my second dose of the shot, and I encourage everyone out there to get the vaccine when they have the chance to.” 

Also receiving vaccines Monday in Tifton were Tammy Trawick from the environmental services department; James Snow, a registered nurse in the ICU; Sarah Spivey; a registered nurse in the emergency department; and Dr. Richard McCullough, an internist at Southwell Medical Clinic in Tifton.

Registered nurses Anna Vance, DeWayne Hodnett, and Jill McIntyre, administered the first shots.

“While many people’s mind immediately goes to doctors and nurses when it comes to frontline staff, there are many people behind the scenes who also risk coming into contact with the virus such as our environmental services staff and nursing assistants,” said Alex Le, chief operating officer. “It was important for us to include those people in this first round of vaccines in addition to doctors and nurses.”

While the first 975 doses are designated for Southwell’s other employees, the health system has applied to be a community distribution center once there are more vaccines available.

“We hope to know more about the status of that soon,” Le said. “We have been able to secure vaccines for our residents at Southwell Health & Rehabilitation in Adel, who are considered high risk, through coordination between state agencies, but we hope to be able to distribute the vaccine to others in the future.”
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Tifton Grapevine
Georgia hit a new record Tuesday in the number of coronavirus cases within a 24-hour period.

The state reported 6,242 cases in one day along with 52 additional deaths and 334 new hospitalizations.

“I have authorized the reopening of the Georgia World Congress Center alternate care facility with 60 new beds to assist with patient overflow,” Gov. Brian P. Kemp said during a press conference Tuesday.

“If you look at maps, you just see cases rise and ... either orange or red in just about every county, which is why we need people to really hunker down,” the governor said.

Georgia has had 518,902 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 9,503 related deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH).

As cases increase around the state, Tift County is seeing a slight improvement from recent weeks. In the past two weeks, Tift has had 230 new cases – 120 in the past week. In the latest 14-day period, Tift County’s cases translate to 563 per 100,000 population.

Tift County’s test positivity rate has improved during the past three weeks, the DPH said, going down to 14.4 percent from the previous 18 percent level.

The total cases in Tift County number 2,722 with 70 related deaths, one more since last week.
Tifton Police have arrested six people in the past week in connection to the most recent cases of auto break-ins, the city said Monday afternoon.

There are outstanding warrants on other individuals suspected of involvement, and detectives continue to follow leads, the city said in a press release. The suspects arrested and the charges they face were not released.

Police said there has been a "spike of entering-auto cases with the majority of the vehicles involved unlocked."

“We have been stressing to the public the importance of locking vehicles and removing valuables for months now," said Police Chief Steve Hyman. "We are still seeing incidents of vehicles left unlocked, often with weapons inside, that are being entered by people walking along pulling on door handles. Several of the weapons that were stolen were used in some of our recent violent crimes in the area."

Hyman added that many of the recent lockdowns at local schools have been from "gunshots being fired in the area from weapons taken from unlocked vehicles. These individuals keep coming back to your neighborhoods because of the number of people who do not secure their property. While we are ramping up control in neighborhoods, we ask you to do everything you can to make it hard for thieves to be successful.”

Anyone with information regarding thefts from autos are asked to call the Tifton Police tip line at 229-391-3991.
Tifton Grapevine
Christmas is in the air ... and on the roof ... and in the yard ... and even on the radio at one Tifton home.

Justin and Kayla Adamson are once again spreading a "Griswold kind of cheer" at their house at 806 Texas Drive. They have synched Christmas music, and even themes from the movie "Frozen," with the lights on the roof, windows and elements in the front yard. 

Families visiting the house in vehicles may tune their radios to a short-range radio station at 97.1 on the dial.

“We found a spot on the dial with static and went with it,” Adamson said of the radio transmitter sending out the music for about two blocks. The house is located off Magnolia Drive near the Eighth Street Middle School track. A sign guides listeners to tuning into the radio transmission.

The couple has been lighting their house for the Halloween and Christmas holidays for five years. Adamson is the fire inspector for the Tifton Fire Department. He said his family moved into the neighborhood in 2015 at about the same time another family with a huge Halloween and Christmas display was moving out.

Adamson’s parents describe his extensive Christmas display as similar to the Griswolds’ in the movie “Christmas Vacation,” and one of the displays has sound clips from the movie. 

“My youngest brother (Joey Adamson) and I work on it,” he said. “We can do it all in a weekend.”
Gail Gibson, Chair of the Gold Star Memorial Marker project, (left) and Connie Ewing, president of the Tifton Council of Garden Clubs, pose with the marker at Tifton's Veterans Park
Tifton Grapevine
The Tifton Council of Garden Clubs, GFWC Tifton Woman’s Club and other organizations will dedicate Tifton’s Gold Star Memorial Marker at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Tifton.
“The Gold Star Memorial Marker honors the families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price while defending our great nation in the armed forces,” said Connie Ewing, Tifton Council of Garden Clubs president.

“We want as many Gold Star families to attend as possible. They will be honorees at the event,” she said, also encouraging veterans to come, wearing their service-related attire. 

Social distancing guidelines will be followed, with masks provided and refreshments individually wrapped. Ewing expressed appreciation to the Tifton Woman’s Club, Jack Stone and the Tifton Downtown Development Authority, and the Garden Club of Georgia Inc.
In addition to Gold Star families and veterans, honored guests will include Garden Club of Georgia State President Barbara Bourque, Camellia District Chair Jan Thiese, General Federation of Women’s Clubs Georgia President Shelby Holland, and GFWC Southwest District President Janice Blanchard.
The GFWC Tifton Woman’s Club is honored to be the first Federated Woman’s Club to co-sponsor a Gold Star Memorial Marker, said Genie McCook, president of the Tifton Woman’s Club and a member of the Camellia Garden Club.

The National Garden Club adopted the Blue Star Memorial program in 1945 to honor all persons serving in the U.S. armed forces. The Gold Star Memorial Marker was started a few years ago to show appreciation to those whose loved ones died defending the United States. 
The name Gold Star came from the custom of families of service members hanging a banner – a service flag – in the window of their homes. The service flag had a star for each family member in the armed forces.

Blue Stars represented living service members while a Gold Star represented those who had lost their lives.
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DEC. 17
Ludean Bryant Griner, 86, Tifton
James T. Medders Jr., 75,
Donald Loyd During Sr., 71, Fitzgerald
John Humphries Seanor, 94, Fitzgerald
Susie Faye Wynn Law, 78,

DEC. 18
Cleveland "Cleve" George Winser, 69, Enigma
Richard "Ricky" Patton, 55, Worth County
William Christopher “Chris” Ethridge, 45, Fitzgerald
Roy Rutland, 84, Lenox
Betty Louise Bussell, 80,
Betty Joyce Weeks, 62, Norman Park

DEC. 19
Anthony Monroe, 35, Tifton
Virginia Beatrice Moore Bowers, 90, Cecil
Evelyn “Brenda” Walsh, 74, Fitzgerald
Louise O. Smith, 73,

DEC. 20
Robert Cox, 86, Adel
Milton Huggins, 90, Fitzgerald
Richard Chalmers Barr, 85,
Dallas Kenneth Bailey Sr., 82, Alapaha
DEC. 21
Cohen Jones, 96, Lenox
Jackie Gibbs, 77, Irwin County
Ruth Evelyn Riner, 85, Alapaha
Adolphus “Doc” Youghn, 92, Irwin County
G.M. Tucker, 82, Irwin County
Rita Ann Nier, 75, Fitzgerald
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