Good Hope, Georgia, has a population of 274. The Harris House, completed, July, 1908, has now been turned by a loving couple into a year round Christmas house for their family and friends.
We were in Good Hope visiting Betty Lowe Bowers (lifetime resident) and her husband, Nelson Bowers. Betty was my roommate at the University of Georgia in 1963-65. I had visited her in Good Hope when we were students and our families had visited once or twice over the last fifty years. But we had seen each other only seldom. Our friendship is such, though, that no matter how much time has passed, conversation is quick and easy as if we’d seen each other yesterday. We are both graduates also of Young Harris College, at the time a junior college nestled in a North Georgia valley, and that bond lends us fodder for long spirited interchanges.
Charles and I agreed to meet Betty at her house that spring Sunday morning and go with her to the church several miles away where she is the pianist. We got out of the car laughing because, even in such a tiny town, we had gotten “lost.” I had forgotten to turn at the one store and drive up past the Harris House to arrive at the Bowers’ sweet beau-tiful home where they raised their three children.
When I called Betty to see if it was a good time for us to come I told her Charles and I would like to take her and Nelson out to eat after church. Her response was “Oh, no, we’ll eat at the Harris House if that’s all right. You know, it’s right around the corner from us, the house my daddy grew up in. Nelson and I own it now and we’ve made it into a meeting house, a guest house. I know you’ll like it.”
We went to church with Betty and Nelson, and Betty seated us close to the front on the piano side. That way I could fully enjoy the prelude music she’d picked out, I think, just for me. All old hymn favorites. It was food for my soul!
After church we rode through the countryside back to Good Hope, back to the Harris House. And there began a fantastic show. We were instantly captivated by this old house turned by a loving family into a holiday house for many to enjoy. While Betty and Nelson heated barbecue and set other scrumptious delights, like potato salad, we were free to wander through the house. Betty called out interesting facts along the way, such as “Yes, that really is my wedding dress hanging on the closet door” or “That’s the little room Nelson made cozy for his mother when she needed special care” or “That’s the room my granddaughter sleeps in when she comes for a few days.”
Betty has written a brief account of the house’s history to help us (and other visitors) absorb it. The house is affectionately referred to as “The Harris House” in memory of its original owners and occupants, Golden Charles Harris and Jimmie Robison Harris, Betty’s great uncle and aunt. “Uncle Golden,” Betty writes, “also owned The General Store in Good Hope and was Postmaster for fifty years. The house was completed in July 1908. The story is told that Aunt Jimmie said that she would not marry Uncle Golden until the house was finished! They married in July 1908! (I guess she meant what she said!)”
Betty and Nelson gained ownership of the property in 1993. “Since that time,” Betty writes, “we have been gradually attempting to restore the house to its original beauty and authenticity while, at the same time, making it a bit more comfortable with some structural changes and ‘modern’ conveniences.” Nelson is a skilled woods craftsman and can do “anything,” including making a little broom closet into the cutest little maze between kitchen and den. She adds that, though they’ve come a long way, it continues to be a loving “work in progress.”
Other family members and friends have been invaluable help. One of the ones she mentions is their daughter Christy’s husband, Justin Myers. He, it seems, is largely responsible for the Christmas decorations inside and out. Betty said that when they realized what joy the Christmas house gave for Sunday school classes, choir groups, and family gatherings, she and Nelson decided simply to leave them up all year. “It’s a lot easier that way, too,” she says with her infectious laugh.
I was fascinated by the egg tree. Yes, it’s a Christmas tree, but covered with decorations made from real eggs–ostrich eggs, chicken eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, all kinds of eggs with tiny, intricate artwork transforming them to nativity scenes, poinsettia blossoms, Santa Claus’ workshop, etc. These eggs were all created and contributed by special lifelong friends, Chet and Marye Frances Phillips Moss.
I cannot refrain from giving you just a touch of “the rest of the back story” to this house. You see, when Betty refers to Uncle Golden and Aunt Jimmie it is really a reference to her second set of paternal grandparents. When Betty’s father was born in 1915 he had a twin brother. On that same day the babies’ mother died. The mother’s sisters stepped in and took care of the babies. The babies’ father, times being very hard, could not give them the care they needed. Golden and Jimmie all but adopted little Harris, as they named him. Abiding by the wishes of his father, however, they never changed his last name so he was Harris Lowe. And Betty always knew Golden and Jimmie as “Uncle” and
Needless to add, I really enjoyed and loved getting to know “The Harris House,” having loved Betty and her family all these years. She quotes T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings at the end of her little history: “Why do we love certain houses, and why do they seem to love us? It is the warmth of our individual hearts reflected in our surroundings.”