Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thinking of the Past

Sometimes I see, hear or smell things that remind me of my past. Sandalwood soap happens to be one of those things that takes me back in time and immediately reminds me of a woman named Vera Bayer. It would have been difficult to have grown up in Warner Robins during the 1960s without knowing Mrs. Bayer. She and her husband founded the Warner Robins Supply Company just a few years after the town was established. When the town was not even 10 years old, a deadly tornado passed through destroying much of the small community and the Bayers helped with search, rescue, clean up and repair. They were pioneers of sorts. Mrs. Bayer was recognized for helping to establish the Warner Robins Little Theater, she organized a million talent shows and taught ballroom dancing at Westside Elementary. Why teach children ballroom dancing? Because everyone needed to know how to dance. To this day my older brother, along with many other men in Warner Robins are fine dancers because of Vera Bayer.

I came to know Mrs. Bayer as my dance teacher, but she was so much more than that to me. From second grade until seventh grade I went to the Bayer home twice a week after school. I walked from my elementary school to their house, about a mile, let myself in and made myself a snack. Times were different then. The door was never locked and I was free to help myself to whatever was is the kitchen and frankly that was more freedom than I would have ever been given in my own home! I would then change into dance clothes and have dance instruction for an hour.

After class I would have the joy and pleasure of just being a part of the Bayer household. It was there that I watched Mrs. Bayer refinish antique furniture, helped strip a horse trailer, learned about antique chamber pots, walked on cork floors and beautiful oriental carpets, listened to every kind of music one could imagine, played with magical wind-up toys (I loved the bartender mixing drinks), saw all sorts of French and Japanese items, and held a beautiful hand-carved sandalwood fan. To this day I can remember sitting in the den, in the chair that Mrs. Bayer finally gave me, waving the hand-carved fan and enjoying the exotic scent of the sandalwood. She was an amazing woman. She knew and had experienced many things far and beyond the every day life of Warner Robins and yet she happily shared her adventures with others openly and lovingly.

We lived in Elberta at the time and both our home and world was much smaller. My excursions to the Bayer's house exposed me to so many things that opened my eyes to a world that I could have hardly imagined. It was at the Bayer's house that I first witnessed the planting of a tree to mark an important occasion. The magnolia that was planted in 1966 must be enormous by now. Redecorating, upholstering furniture, sewing and making costumes was an every day occurrence at the Bayer house, as was playing the piano, painting or celebrating the arts. Thanks to Mrs. Bayer, I grew up knowing the words and music to every Rodgers & Hammerstein musical just as well as I know the hymns in the Baptist hymnal. I learned to appreciate so many things that were not necessarily a part of the household in which I lived.

When it was time to go to another dance teacher, I cried for months. While Modern Dance Academy ended up being another fantastic memory for me, the dance studio could never compare to the wonderful world I had enjoyed on North Davis Drive (285 if my memory serves me).

I hope each of you reading this post were lucky enough to have had a teacher and mentor like Vera Bayer. She died a year or so ago and though she may be gone, memories of her will remain forever in the hearts of those who grew up knowing and loving her.

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