Pernell Roberts . . . This is your life!
A fascinating new series coming next on the People of One Fire
In its originally format the People of One Fire Newsletter was just a typed email, sent to a small mailing list. In 2008, I shifted to creating elaborate E-zines, which required weeks to prepare and thus only went out sporadically. A week or so after the first Ezine was sent out, I received a brief email from someone named P. Roberts. The woman asked if she could be a subscriber even though she was not a member of our organization. The only other thing she said was that like me, she was also from Waycross, GA. I didn’t give the email much thought. I assumed that this lady was a friend of one our founding members, Michael Jacobs, who was the Historic Preservation Planner for a regional agency in Waycross. Back then, it was real typical for single women to use an initial for the first name in emails, so that strangers wouldn’t know that they were females. A couple of weeks later, The Roberts Foundation (or some name like that) sent me an unsolicited donation for $100 . . . “to help out our research into the history of the Creek People.” Occasionally, P. Roberts would email short comments for articles on sites in southern Georgia. The longest one was for an article about an archaeological study of the Okefenokee Swamp, which identified 78 mounds on islands in the swamp. They were from a “lost civilization” that is still under the radar of most archaeologists.
About six weeks after I received an unexpected 3-day eviction notice on December 21, 2009, I received another email from P. Roberts. I had been cut off from direct communication with the outside world and had to journey into Robbinsville, NC to get email from a computer in the county library. However, this email was from the secretary of P. Roberts. It said, “As you know Mr. Roberts passed away on January 24. We are closing his email account. Could you please remove his name from the subscription list. He always enjoyed reading your newsletters.“
Is that not weird? Members of the occult in FannieMae, a law firm and a real estate firm rigged things so I would be evicted exactly a month before this person, who was obviously the famous actor, Pernell Roberts, died.
Then . . . around March 1st, 2010, I received a strange manila envelope that had been forwarded from my former home address to a Post Office box in Blairsville, GA . . . which I kept in order to maintain my status as a Georgia Architect. It was from a San Francisco law firm, so my first thought was that it contained loan closing papers. FannieMae had relented on their refusal to go ahead with my mitigation loan, even though they had “mistakenly” evicted me in December.
That it was not . . . There was a brief note, stating that “Our client, Mr. Pernell Roberts, wanted you to have these documents. There is no need to contact this firm any further on this matter.” It was his life story in photographs, photocopies of high school events, old letters and newspaper clippings . . . from his birth certificate to his obituaries. Geez! We were almost identical as teenagers. The parcel contained all sorts of details about his life, that no one in the media knows. Well, only someone like me would understand some of those details. Although I have no memory of meeting him in person as a child, I probably did. His father owned an insurance office that shared a party wall with a short-order restaurant owned by my birth certificate father. We were born in the same hospital, both attended Trinity Methodist Church, grew up in the same neighborhood and played in the same park with its giant chestnut tree . . . although he had moved away from Waycross, by the time I was born. When I was six months old, Pernell’s father dropped me headfirst on a concrete floor for no explicable reason. That is why I am so hard-headed nowadays. LOL
I really didn’t have time to read all of the documents and certainly did not want to expose them to the winter weather of a camp site. I quickly drove to another town, where my furniture was in storage, then hid the envelope in the drawer of a dresser.
My immediate shock, though, came when I realized that Pernell had lived a double life. Unlike Burt Reynolds, who constantly elaborated on his fictionalized Native American heritage, Pernell kept his Creek heritage a secret. However, in his privacy he gave generously to Native American causes throughout his life and put many Native American young people through college.
I found that envelope yesterday and also a box full of photographs taken by my mother in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The photos document the rural and smalltown South before the arrival of air conditioning. They also include a photo of me, standing in front of the Roberts Insurance Agency at age 3! Air conditioning sparked a boom that has never really ended . . . but it also caused people to forget a way of life that is now gone with the wind.
Most Southeastern Native Americans did not grow up in desolate western reservations or even the “nations” of Oklahoma. We grew up in a world in which being Injun was rarely discussed in public, but also in a culture, which is far-more indebted to Creek and Uchee cultural traditions than most people realized. Southern Fried Chicken, hush puppies, batter-fried catfish and grits began with the Creeks. We are going to take you back to an era, when Mixed-blood Creek Swampers rode in their mule wagons to Downtown Waycross to shop on Tebeau Street.
Readers from around the world will enjoy this journey into the past.
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