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The Times, The Towns, The Tales: Home is where your heart is

By Tonya Bockover

For Elizabethtown resident Billie Hardee, Kelly, North Carolina, will always be home. Born October 1922, Ms. Hardee spoke fondly of her quiet little community.

“We had a ball field, a school and we had floods,” said Ms. Hardee.

She remembers the flood of 1945 very vividly. On September 15th of that year, the Homestead Hurricane fell upon Southern Florida. The remnants of this hurricane reached North Carolina three days later bringing with it flash flooding along the Cape Rear River. Ms. Hardee recalled her father, Mr. Potter, lugging mattresses to the second floor of the old brick Kelly school house where flood victims took refuge. The majority of the community of Kelly was flooded that year, according to Ms. Hardee.

She and her siblings led a quiet life, as most did growing up in Kelly.  Ms. Hardee remarked that they always had plenty, partly due to her mother’s garden which the family harvested and canned annually.

Her father held the position of postmaster of Kelly, delivering the mail to the residents. He also farmed land and ran the general store which still operates today. Bartering at the store was done often by Ms. Hardee’s father. During the depression, he began a ledger for folks who were forced by hard times to start a charge account. She remembers a day, after the depression had ended, when her daddy asked her to go dig a hole. After she completed the hole, her daddy came out with that very account book filled with the debts of fellow residents. Together, they tore page after page until all that remained was a cover. The pages fell into the hole which held flames that burned up the paper. After her daddy covered the hole, which held the fire and ashes of the debts, he quietly stated, “There, all accounts are settled.”

Ms. Hardee says her father along with Mr. Roland Henry purchased the big bay. In the bay, as she fondly recalls, grew some wild blueberries which were harvested by her brother Rudolf and herself. The children were paid to pick and pack the berries into wood crates; the crates were bound for Atkinson to be transported by train to be sold in New York.

The community of Kelly still resembles that of her childhood, remarks Ms. Hardee. Though the brick school has been torn down and there is a new church building, the town remains much the same. Some of her fondest memories took place inside that brick schoolhouse and it was her love of school that prompted her to become a teacher herself.

For Ms. Hardee, Kelly is a place that holds sweet memories were she felt the comfort and security of family. She sees not only Kelly as it is now, but as it once was. In her heart, Kelly will always be her home.

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