October 11, 2013 10:31:06 AM
Green Oaks is a subdivision in Starkville that has been around for a generation or two -- more accurately since the late 1950's. I know because my father developed it and my maternal grandfather who was a carpenter by trade built not only the first house but several houses on those first few streets.
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, most times after the football game was over, my father would get in his truck and ask me if I wanted to go for a drive. I always teased him that we were watching the grass grow in whatever project he had going at the time because so often nothing significant could have happened since our last such outing. My first memories of those rides were of driving the streets that were part of that subdivision. The fondness I feel for Green Oaks is no doubt attributable to that time I spent there with my dad. It makes me think about a recent country song by Trace Adkins, "Just Fishin'." I guess I thought we were "just ridin'" but it turned out to be so much more.
I got to be involved in various aspects of Green Oaks over the years. When he was first developing the subdivision layout one of the things he had to do was chose names for the streets. I didn't know it at the time, but developers have to submit street names to the city or county and the post office to make sure that there are no duplicate names that would create problems for public safety or mail carriers in locating addresses.
One day he came home from work and presented me with a small book about trees. It was one of those pocket guides put out by Peterson or maybe Audubon. We started studying the book to find names of trees that might grow in the South and that hadn't already been taken by the neighboring Longmeadow Subdivision. Since the first one we chose was Aspen, I don't guess we were too committed to using ones that grew in the South. From there it was Maple and Pin Oak and Cottonwood, Locust and Hickory.
When Green Oaks first became a project for my father, it was not in the city limits. The banks were hesitant to make loans there because it was too far out of town. In fact, it didn't get annexed into Starkville until 1963. By that time there were already several sections in existence. As the streets were built and the lots had houses built on them, the other sections of the subdivision would begin to be prepared for construction. There were no sidewalks and the streets were narrower than you see in subdivisions now.
I can recall the very first house that went up on what was the first street, Aspen. It sat at the corner of Aspen and Locust. It seemed large to me then, but I was around 7 so everything was oversized. It is a size and style that is typical of that generation of construction. I remember that smell of fresh turned earth and cut lumber. To this day I still enjoy watching projects under construction with all the sounds and smells of what will one day become a major part of someone's life and memories.
As time went on and the construction of homes steadily continued, the back area of the subdivision needed its own access to allow further development. Cottonwood Drive became the front door to Douglas MacArthur Drive, which then opened all the streets like Mangrove Palm and Plum and Dogwood.
Our weekend drives continued, and later, when I was in high school and out for summer vacation, I got to work on the construction of the roads in the final sections of Green Oaks then under development. I worked on various pieces of heavy construction equipment from a front-end loader moving dirt to pulling a sheepsfoot, packing red clay gravel for the new streets.
In retrospect, Green Oaks played a significant role in my formative years. It played a huge role in my father's life. He found his calling in developing that subdivision. He learned he had an aptitude for basic engineering and planning a subdivision layout. Even better he learned that he loved driving the heavy construction equipment. He found that he relished being outside doing that so much more than he ever enjoyed his profession of accounting.
By example, he taught his daughter that old Confucius saying: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Green Oaks is the manifestation of my father's search and discovery of what made him happy and by extension my own journey of discovery for doing what you love to do as both your vocation and avocation.
1. Mississippi Voices: Cochran's tea party challenger NATIONAL COLUMNS
2. Birthday baubles or knuckle-busters LOCAL COLUMNS