Remembering sawdust smells, cornbread whistle

Guest Columnist

I have a good friend who is a professional oral story-teller. If the story is untrue, Glenda begins with “Once upon a time…”.  If, however, the story is factual, she begins by saying, “Let me share a memory with you.”
At least two newspapers headlined the final sale of Temple-Inland to Georgia Pacific; several folks with whom I spoke that week echoed their hearts’ voices:
“Temple-Inland is no more, and that’s sad.”  Especially for those who have proudly named Diboll (or “Dibble” as a lot of out-of-town people pronounce it) for their hometown, change might be especially tough.  One quote I heard in Sunday school was, “Nobody really enjoys change except a baby!”
So — may I take a trip with memories and remind many of us that where we are today has been a journey of sawdust smells and a cornbread whistle, plus stops along the track that determined our life directions.
Within the last few weeks, I have visited with families who helped make Diboll much more than a sleepy East Texas town.  I spent a little time with Mrs. Hutto and her daughter, Rita Kay, as they grieved the passing of a husband and father. How well I remember living around the corner from them and knowing that the Hutto house was well kept.  Like many of the company houses we grew up in, their house was no prettier, but the pride which these and other families took with clean yards and porches always welcomed those who came; it was important then and should be now that neighbors cared for each other in remarkable ways. Perhaps it was sharing bounty from gardens, preparing food for grieving ones, teaching children respect and courage and seeing beyond the years what those children could become.
I drove  down the street named for my dad and uncle, who like so many others, kept the company afloat on sawdust salaries. When part of the mill burned on a cold winter day, did they and others call a government agency and say “Where is help?” No. Diboll men and women, including executives, fought that fire. With a fierce independence through good and bad years, they had staying power.
We hope Georgia Pacific honors that heritage!
Bob Bowman really was the people’s historian.  He not only wrote his own obituary but credited his success to educators and other adults who saw journalistic potential.  As many times as that “cornbread whistle” blew at 11:15 a.m., Bob and his wife, Doris, spread the word of places and people who rarely insisted on their few minutes of fame. They just did what everyday heroes always do;  they showed up. Diboll still has those kinds of folks who try very hard to promote pride in civic, spiritual and educational areas.
The company commissary (later to become the company offices) and the Antler Hotel lost the battle to termites and age, yet if you look carefully, you can see the drug, department and grocery stores — long before anyone ever built a mall.  While the current company offices seem a bit vacant, perhaps sometime soon, the sounds of technology will share the stage with a company that appreciates the heritage set by the Temple family — which, by the way, that “family” includes many who were not directly related but were the glue that held the town together.
From the viewpoint of one who was so blessed to know and still know dear hearts and gentle people, I say “thank you” to Diboll and wish the new owners well in their endeavors.