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Remember When: Sneaking into the boys club house

This is an ongoing feature taking a look back at life in Rockdale County in the past. If you have a "Remember When" memory you would like to submit, call 678-750-5037 or e-mail

Life-long Conyers resident Betsy Cowan Turner said she treasures her childhood growing up in a "close, wonderful community."

"You just didn't know just your immediate neighbors, but everyone in town. You were welcome to stop in any house for a drink or refreshment." Of course, in 1956 when Mrs. Turner graduated from Conyers High School, the county's population was just at 10,500.
Back then, members of the football team used to play in the band as well during half-time. "Everyone would play all sports and be involved in everything." Even though Mrs. Turner claims she couldn't play the piccolo, that didn't stop her from making a "grand majorette" as her band mate, Ann Star, noted in her yearbook signature. Participating in sports and other activities wasn't as competitive and costly as it is now.

Though kids will always be kids and there were the occasional shenanigans, in Mrs. Turner's day discipline discouraged the worst excesses. "If you acted up at school, by the time you got home your parents already knew about it. There were no excuses for bad behavior."

Turner's father, Rufus Cowan, was the sheriff and one of two police officers on the force. When kids got in trouble, he would give the offenders "a good talking to and then take them home to their mama and daddy."

She also remembers how her father would meet the new monks coming out to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit - then just a 100 year old barn - at the train station. That was when the trains coming through town still carried passengers. He would cook a steak dinner for the monks before delivering them to their new home.

Outside of the Olde Town area, the county was still almost entirely rural. The bustling Ga. Highway 138 was still a dirt road. On Saturdays, everyone would come to town to shop at Gailey's, a department store that sold everything, clothes and dry goods, and the other shops. There would be weekly drawings and occasionally there were street dances complete with cake walks.

One day, she recalls attempting to invade the boys' clubhouse down the street where her older brother, Ted, and his friends congregated. She was chased out and down the street by Charles Walker, who later became the Conyers mayor, shooting at her with a BB gun - a claim Walker adamantly denies ("It was her brother who was shooting the BB gun," he said.)

Mrs. Turner is the wife of the late Ray Turner and proud mother of two and grandmother of five. After her husband's death, she served on the school board and went on to work at the tax commissioner's office for 23 years.

Editor's note: Mrs. Turner passed away on Dec. 9, at the age of 71. She is survived by son, Monty and Elizabeth Turner, Conyers; daughter, Jackie Upchurch, Conyers; 5 grandchildren, Ray, Katie, Michelle, Ellis and Peyton. Graveside services will be held Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 2 p.m. at Eastview Cemetery with Rev. Mike Morgan officiating. The family will receive friends Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Scot Ward's Harry White Chapel. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 2200 Lake Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30319. Scot Ward Funeral Services - Harry White Chapel, 1299 Milstead Ave., Conyers, GA 30012, 770-483-7216.