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Betty Crawford touched the future

By Kay S. Pedrotti Every now and again a community loses someone whose life influenced many generations to come. Betty Smith Crawford was one of those people. Though her official career as a school teacher was short-lived, ‘Miss Betty’ never stopped teaching. Today, her grown children know how to do things they were taught virtually as pre-schoolers. Generation after generation of children, ages 4 and 5, in First Methodist Church Sunday school have absorbed wisdom, grace and determination from her. Dozens and hundreds of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts developed good attitudes, the ability to deal with any situation, inviolable courtesy and superior ways of communicating as a result of Miss Betty’s leadership. In a lengthy conversation with Betty’s children, I discovered a lot of things that I, and probably a lot of people now in Barnesville, never knew about that remarkable woman. Living her life behind the scenes, on her own terms, was a hallmark that Crawford’s children attribute to their mother. Betty Crawford was in the fourth generation of Barnesville’s ‘buggy families,’ that of Jackson G. Smith. Her father owned the Gem Theater in Barnesville where Betty worked as a teenager and sometimes when she was home from college at the University of Georgia. She was a Gordon Military School graduate who grew up Baptist in a family full of Baptist preachers but became Methodist because of a handsome young doctor. She ‘placed herself in the path’ of Dr. John B. Crawford, said Barnesville daughter Christy Crawford. Their first date followed rat-shooting together at the city dump. It seems, said Christy, that Dr. Crawford ‘had an interest in making the community healthier, and so he went out one day to shoot rats at the dump.’ Betty and her mother rode by and found out what he was doing. ’Do you want to shoot?’ Dr. Crawford asked Betty. ’Sounds like fun,’ she said, according to Christy. After that, Dr. Crawford took her to dinner at Tampa’s Cafe. He proposed to her in a cemetery, not exactly a romantic location, and they married in 1949. ’They were opposite personalities but absolutely perfect for each other,’ said Cathy Worthy, the daughter who lives in Texas. ‘Daddy was calm, straight, no-nonsense, and Mama was the one who was adventurous. She could solve almost any problem but some of her ways were a bit unusual.’ For instance, one story goes that Betty had 12 Boy Scouts enroll in the allotted time period she was registering them in Barnesville. A higher Scouting authority told her ‘the recommendation is only eight; you can’t have 12.’ Betty told the official, ‘Then you go tell four of those 8-year-old boys they can’t be Boy Scouts.’ The official kept telling her ‘you can’t,’ so Betty just kept saying, ‘you go pick the four that have to go.’ Of course, she got to keep all 12 of the boys. Their mother definitely had a ‘lead, follow or get out of my way’ personality, the daughters agreed. Son Brantley, the youngest sibling, said she micromanaged how the Scouts wore their uniforms, badges and sashes, ‘just like the military influence she got at Gordon, getting a tape measure to place each item correctly.’ Betty wrote many plays and programs the Scouts performed. Christy and Cathy remember the songs she wrote to familiar melodies. There was a play about books and libraries in which Cathy wore pajamas and was in a playpen with ‘the measles,’ and all the other children dressed as book characters and came to visit her. Betty’s ‘Go Read’ song was sung to the tune of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,’ which both girls sang snatches of during our conversation. Their mother would tell them, ‘I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.’ That quality many times as community groups realized Betty Crawford would get it done, done quickly and done right, whatever it was, said Christy. ‘She was a doer but never in it for what she could get,’ Cathy said. ’She would help you be in front. She liked people and as a result, people liked her.’ She had no use for parents who did things their children were supposed to be doing for themselves, advising one mother who lamented her child’s lack of progress, ‘Let your child grow up. She never will if you do everything for her.’ And, ‘of course, she did,’ Christy said. Betty was one of the community leaders who staged a talent show to raise money for a medical clinic in Barnesville. It stands today as a one-story dormitory on the Gordon State College campus. ’It was a small clinic with eight or 10 beds,’ Christy said. ‘Babies were born there, you could get x-rays and stitches, but the major stuff our doctors had to send somewhere else. It was a boon to the people here and I’m sure contributed to better health.’ The first long family trip for the Crawfords was the doctor’s idea. Betty let the children know she would not put up with any whining or complaining or she would find the nearest airport and put them on a plane back to Atlanta ‘and your granny and aunt can pick you up,’ Christy added. Daddy liked to travel, Christy said, and Mama liked to go, so they took many trips that covered ‘“ ‘at least driving through’ ‘“ most of the mainland states. The children were allowed any kind of pet they wanted, she added, even to wild animals like bobwhites, ducks, squirrels and rabbits. The last year of Betty’s life was not at all like her, Christy said. She did have cancer but she kept it from everyone, telling Christy ‘I don’t want people who wouldn’t come see me when I was in better health to start coming over just because of that word.’ She elected not to take any treatment, ‘which was like her, what we would have expected from her,’ said Christy. Betty was 88 when she died recently. My best remembrance of Betty was the hilarious way she described how the late Louise Jackson ‘recruited’ her as a Girl Scout leader, told at Jackson’s 100th birthday celebration. Betty told me Louise asked her to meet ‘to talk about my being a leader.’ When they met, Betty said, ‘She had all the paperwork and everything ready, this is how you register them, and so forth, and before I knew it I was a Girl Scout leader.’ Christy and Cathy agreed that the old saying about ‘a life well lived’ truly applied to their mother. I agree. When I get to feeling sorry for myself, I’ll think of Betty and then chin-up and deal with it. She really was one of a kind and we’ll miss her.

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