Savannah Morning News
By Polly Powers Stramm
April 19, 2009
Although it has been more than 35 years since David Coney moved out of Savannah’s oldest housing project, he still has precious memories of the years he spent as a youngster in the early 1960s at Fellwood Homes.
Located on West Bay Street, the project was built in 1939 and demolished last year to make way for sustainable Fellwood, an environmentally friendly project that already is under way.
“There was a great sense of family and community (in Fellwood),” recalled David, who called the project home from his birth in 1960 until 1972. “We knew our neighbors and would share in a time of need. Even now when I hear the word Fellwood, it takes me back to a good place and time – a time when your neighbors cared about you and your welfare.”
David received a degree in electronic engineering technology from Savannah State University and writes poetry as a hobby. He recently published a book of poetry called “You Are a Genius,” which came from a discussion he had with SSU instructor Abigail Jordan. In the book’s preface he thanks her for “igniting a fire that still burns.”
Also in the book, David includes a few memories of Fellwood, among them: Rita’s store; Food Town and manager Abe Goodman; haircuts by Mr. Griffin; milk delivered in glass bottles left on the back porch and the smell of crabs boiling.
Memories of Ms. Rita’s
David describes Fellwood as home to “many decent people.”
“I saw the mothers and fathers of Fellwood (going to work) making their way to Bay Street to catch the bus coming from Port Wentworth,” he said. “In the evening times I would see them returning home.”
David made plenty of trips to a nearby store called Ms. Rita’s. “It was located on the north side of West Street near Bay Street,” he said, adding that Ms. Rita’s was a house that had been converted to a store. “I recall countless times going through that screen door and hearing those bells jingle.”
Fellwood residents and nearby neighbors frequented her store so often that Ms. Rita knew most of them by name, David said. Customers could buy bologna, fat back bacon and ham by the slice. She also sold candy such as red hot fireballs, Mary Jane’s, bubble gum cigarettes, Rock ‘n Roll cookies (with pink icing), as well as pickles and pickled pig’s feet.
“Ms. Rita was very patient,” David said. “She would actually let you choose which pig foot you wanted out of the jar.”
A big event in the neighborhood was a visit by the public library’s bookmobile, which would arrive around 5 p.m. to accommodate working parents.
“Having books in the community was a great way to dream and explore without having to pack your bag,” David recalled. As a child, a favorite of David’s was Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Growing up, David also joined in on pickup games of football on a grassy area he and others referred to as Fellwood’s “front row,” which faced Bay Street.
“Playing sandlot football eventually led me to Richard Hall, who was our little league football coach. He has been a leader ever since I’ve known him. He is now pastor of Second Arnold Baptist Church.”
Ulysses “Puggy” Jackson coached the Whippers baseball team on which David played second base. The team was established by Clarence “Cool Blue” Grant.
“The year I played little league baseball, the city donated the uniforms, which said Rockets so that year (1971) we were known as the Rockets,” he said. A few of David’s teammates were Harry Jackson, Tim Ball, Morris Glover, Sylvester Harris, Gerald Jenkins, Tyrone Jackson, Elijah Brown, Abe Jackson, Joe Holmes, Ricky Ford, Joe Chisholm and Mack Bradham.
“We played our games at Bartow (another project) on Augusta Avenue,” he added. “We played against Woodville, Bartow and Bayview and made it all the way to the playoffs at Daffin Park where we lost.”
In the summertime, David remembers the sprinklers behind the rental office. When the neighborhood children found out the sprinklers were turned on, all of them came running, he said.
In his book, David sums up his Fellwood memories like this: “I remember shooting marbles, I remember silk and wool suits, I remember making lifelong friends.”