If These Walls Could Talk
"If these walls could talk". I've always loved that expression and it is certainly applicable to this old brick building I am sitting in today writing this post. My office, the Pearson Farm retail store, commercial sales office, mail order department and most importantly, peach packing operation is housed in what was once the Zenith Consolidated School. Back in the twenties, Mr. Al's grandfather gifted the Zenith Consolidated School District land to build a school. They sold bonds to build the $15,000 brick school which operated from 1928 until the early 50's. When it closed, it came back to the Pearson family and over the years the building has served many purposes. It has been used to store boxes and baskets as well as farming equipment and even sewing machines for the Bibb Company. Before there were dryers for pecans, Mr. Al's father would place the wet pecans on the floor of the school house and turn them with rakes until they were dry enough to be bagged. But I'm sure Mr. Al and his sisters, Ann and Peggy would say their best use for the old building was turning it into their own personal play house that included a skating rink!
For many years, the Pearson Family used the Lee Pope Packing Shed located on Pearson Farm for their peach packing operation. Back then, peaches were picked and brought by wagon to the packing house. Brushes were used to knock off the peach fuzz before they were placed in baskets and loaded on box cars that would transport them to the ice house in Fort Valley. After being cooled, the baskets were then stored in refrigerated train cars and shipped to places like New York City and other towns along the east coast.
On an early spring night in 1961, after a day spent making repairs and improvements to the shed, weeks of deliveries to fill the shed to the rafters with baskets and boxes, years of peach fuzz turning into fine powder under the floors and being constructed from a century's worth of old wood, a single smoldering ember from a welding torch turned into a blazing fire that burned the Lee-Pope Packing Shed to the ground. I hear tell it was a spectacular sight to see…….but a devastating one for the Pearson Family. Thankfully, they had family and friends in the peach business who came to their assistance and from 1961 until 1974 they shared a packing shed in town with their cousins. They started looking for places to build their own shed in the early 70's and in 1974 decided to move back out to Zenith. They would convert the old school house into a modern packing facility. They knew it would be quite an endeavor but they were ready to take on the challenge and in 1975 they packed their first peach crop in the new packing house.
Even though surrounding buildings have been added and fancy computer systems run state of the art peach packing equipment, Pearson Farm still runs our peach packing operations within the same brick walls of the old school house. As I look out my window into the pecan orchard across the way, I wonder how many others have shared this same view over the years. Was it children, day dreaming of adventures far away from these walls or teachers looking for inspiration as they prepared a new lesson, or perhaps a farmer, thinking and praying for his peach and pecan crops. Oh, if only these wall could talk, what a story they would tell…..