This week was marked by two bittersweet losses for us southsiders. The first was the sad news that Maggie Banks has passed. Of course the news is sad only family and friends left without her here; we all know, as one Facebook poster noted, "Heaven is a much sweeter place now that 'Miss' Maggie is there."
As outlined in the obituary in the ajc, here, Maggie Culver was a true southsider, born and raised in College Park. She married Herchel Banks in 1940 and began her career as a farm wife, for Fayette County was farm country indeed. At the top of the rise on the other side of the creek, just east of North 85 -Urbanaasphaltatropolis (Starbucks -purveyers of the most reliably strong coffee, the most reliably dry, cold, good looking, yet unpalatable cinnamon rolls-), a trip back home to College Park would have been a day's affair-just making that first hill through slick red clay would have worn the driver's nerves. One train stopped in Kenwood, but ceased service around that time, so Maggie would have had time trying to get home often. She began raising her brood; one daughter would later produce the brightest, funniest, cutest comedy writer to grace the halls of the new Fayette Elementary.
In the mean time Maggie Banks began working in the food service program for the Fayette County School system. She was responsible for years of happy schoolchildren, who could look forward to at least one aspect of the coming school day-fluffy yeast rolls and juicy fried chicken at lunch. At Fayette County High School- THE high school until 1984, Mrs Banks presided over the most heavenly vo-tech program ever created, which also resulted in a unique, and delectable Senior privlige-Senior Lunch!
Mrs. Banks trained young ladies, and gentlemen- in the art of crafting and serving wholesome delicious food with warm and welcoming smiles. On Friday, seniors were allowed to take lunch in the Vo Tech wing where they delighted in hot steak and baked potatoes and green beans -from real service with real tablecloths and napkins. High spirits aside, students generally lived up to the genteel setting, for no one wanted to dissapoint Mrs. Banks, with her warm hugs and merry eyes. Certainly not the students working in her classes, who would only see her furrowed brow and serious expression when as she emphasised how important our guests and snack bar customers were, and how crucial it was for us to get their orders right and keep their coffee refilled.
I worked in the snack bar during summer school in 1980, and I still recall that summer as one of my favorite after Linda died. Not only did I get to sample tasty snacks, but I learned the value and FUN that could BE found in work. I loved meeting the students- and the construction workers (wink!) that came in for the hot burgers and fries and cold ice filled sodas and tea- sweet or unsweet?- and I strove to meet Mrs. Banks' standards of hospitality and professionalism.
By the time I was a junior, I'd discovered Mrs. Maggie's cinnamon rolls. Never have I had any better. Yeasty, spicy, and covered with sweet icing, they were baked hot and fresh on -help me out- Thursday or Friday mornings? and you could grab one if you got in early enough, or order them early in the week and get a box full on baking day. Enterprising Barry Bacon made a small fortune off my late self; he would order a box full and resell one or two to me in Mr. Avelis' Recent Presidents class. What I wouldn't giver for one of those now. Because not only were they the most delicious, but we knew they were presided over, and baked with love.
Like all of her offerings, these cinnamon rolls were mouthwatering to look at, they smelled sooo fresh - and they were. They were just what they promised, and a little bit more, just like the lady herself. For instance, I didn't realize that's where Troup County transplant Pam Adams got her cake baking and decorating chops! She took Cake Decorating under Mrs. Banks.
How many lives have been touched by Maggie Banks and her gentle leadership? How many young growling stomachs were filled, how many of us were inspired to be out best at any task, by Maggie Banks? I hope to be discussing this with you all over one of her delicious rolls, about 40 or 50 years from now, in eternity.
In the sweet by and by...