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Darrell Huckaby - Saying goodbye to Sidney Carter

Sidney Carter.

His nephew, Pete, called him a Porterdale icon. I guess I would have to second that.

Sidney was born in 1927 - the same year Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic for the first time and the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. He graduated from Porterdale High School in 1948 - I know because I saw his diploma - and worked for Bibb Manufacturing Company for 36 years. I know that because our careers at Bibb overlapped, although mine was much shorter than Sidney's.

My most lasting memories of Sidney Carter, however, don't stem from his days at the Porterdale Mill, or the 15 years he spent as a loyal employee and good will ambassador at the Covington Kroger. Whenever I think of Sidney, I think of him sitting on a folding lawn chair on the top row of concrete bleachers at Baker Field, cheering on the Newton County Little Leaguers.

"You better than he are," Sidney would holler at whatever player happened to be at the plate. "You better than he are!"

Sidney died last week. On a Monday evening at "exactly 6 p.m." according to the message Pete left on my answering machine. Newton County lost a great one when we lost Sidney. The world lost a great one.

Once in a great while Sidney would call me on the phone - usually on a Saturday morning - to comment on my columns, and he would always ask me the same question as our conversations drew to an end. "When are you going to write something good about Georgia Tech?"

I don't know why Sidney Carter supported the Yellow Jackets, but he did.

My answer was always the same. "When hell freezes over," I would tell him.

But when I went to the funeral home last Wednesday, to pay my respects to him and his family, I wore a yellow shirt and a navy and gold tie. I don't think I would dress like that for another human being, with the possible exception of Ellis "Zip" Adams, who swapped lies with Sidney and Goat Man and a few other close friends over breakfast and coffee every morning, until Sidney got too sick to attend the conclave.

Have you ever been at funeral home visitation where you hated to leave? That's how it was for me last week. I hesitate to use the word "enjoy," in conjunction with such an occasion, but I truly did enjoy hearing the stories that were being told about Sidney and his life and times - and the pictures! There were some great pictures, and in every single one he was wearing that giant smile that stretched from ear to ear.

In one picture, which may have been taken when he was about 6 years old, he was sitting on a horse, or maybe it was a pony, I'm not sure. But, he was doing so without benefit of shoes. Kids who were born in Porterdale in 1927 had little use for shoes in the summertime. Neither, for that matter, did kids, like me, who were born in 1952 in Porterdale.

There was another picture of Sidney in front of Allen's Five and Ten Cents Store and another at Alcatraz and another at the Golden Gate Bridge. I don't know if Sidney was the only member of the 1948 class at Porterdale to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge, but I bet the list wasn't long.

I think my favorite photo was a recent shot of Sidney standing in front of what used to be a loading dock at the Porterdale Mill.

"I've eaten a many a banana sandwich sitting on that loading dock," he reportedly said to Pete on more than one occasion, thus providing the inspiration for that particular photo.

And so had I.

I was doing OK at the visitation/celebration until Pete started talking about the Porterdale star. That term doesn't apply to a person, understand, but to the Christmas star on the water tower that hovers above the softball field and is visible from just about any place in the village.

Pete was relating the fact that every Christmas Sidney, who didn't get out at night much, wanted to be taken down to Porterdale to see the star on the water tank. It wasn't Christmas to Sidney until he had seen that lighted star.

I don't think Pete, who was raised in Covington, fully understood that, but I did. If you were raised in Porterdale the Christmas season didn't begin until the night the star was lit and my children, who are all in or approaching their 20s, still ask to ride with me to Porterdale to see it every December, and it still isn't Christmas until we do.

I have a feeling that this year that star won't burn nearly as bright, because Sidney won't be here to see it and that will be sad for the rest of us. But think of the light where Sidney will be at Christmas! Words can't describe the light that Sidney will see this Christmas.