Sunday 25 August 2019
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Barbara Rawlings President of Pooler Garden Club


It was a mild spring day for southeast Georgia, the kind you take
advantage of by sitting outside with a glass of sweet iced tea. Being
that spring break was in full swing, Barbara Rawlings wasn’t wasting a
moment of the time she had away from her daily bus driving
responsibilities. Seated beneath the large Live Oak in her front yard
amidst a colorful backdrop of Azalea shrubs, she fondly recalled a
lifetime of cherished memories as the oak tree’s pollen fell heavy all

Barbara Rawlings was born in 1936, just as the world was
recovering from an economic collapse. Her family had settled on
Magazine Avenue in Savannah, which is where she lived until she was
thirteen. It wasn’t until years later that she understood the
significance of the area she grew up in, though. She recalled becoming
a tour guide for Savannah, where she worked for ten years, and
discovering that her own childhood home sat at the site of a
Revolutionary War battle. Through the years she’d assumed that
Magazine Avenue was named after magazines you read, but she discovered
it was actually named for powder magazines and her family’s back yard
held a water well for soldiers. Delighted yet perplexed she questioned
her father as to why he’d never mentioned the history, and he told her
that back then they were interested in making a living, not knowing
the history.

After she married her husband, Bill Rawlings, Barbara and he were
able to secure thirty acres of land, where he built their home. She
remembered that they’d always had gardens and flowers. Her parents
always planted a row of flowers in their vegetable garden as well.
Barbara said that she found out later that was so the bees would come.
Being that she’d always been surrounded by nature and loved it, it
seemed only fitting that she would become part of the Pooler Garden
Club in the late 1980s. She joined with her sister, Dale Rickman, at
the persistent request of Bernice Hicks, the president of the club at
that time. Barbara and her sister had previously worked in the
N.O.G.S., which is a tour of hidden gardens north of Gwinnett Street
in Savannah, so they followed their interests and became members of
the club, which was little more than a club for flower arranging and
plant identification back then.

The Pooler Garden Club is now a large part of Barbara Rawlings’s
life. She is the president of the club now, though she says she tries
to convince others to take the seat every year. The history of the
club begins in the 1930s. Though World War II caused the club to
dissolve for a short time, the 1950s brought reorganization to the
Pooler Garden Club and it steadily grew from that point. “I just feel
an obligation to the people that have started before me, you know,
that see the beauty in what God’s given us. This garden that he’s
given us here on Earth to tend to,” Barbara thoughtfully said while
explaining why she remains dedicated to the club. She maintains that
she is the one who is always learning from the other members of their
club, and that she contributes little.

Barbara candidly recalled with a chuckle, “I think the first
mistake I made was at the flower show. You had to take and put flowers
into flower arrangements. I used some, what we call swamp lilies but
they’re actually beautiful Black-eyed Susans that grow up to fourteen
foot tall, and the lady at the Empire Fair Grounds said, ‘You can’t
put these in, these aren’t anything but weeds!’ But they were
beautiful so that was my first mistake.” She used this example to
express how much she learns from the ladies that make up the Pooler
Garden Club. Rawlings said that many of the ladies know the botanical
names for a lot of the local plants and flowers and that fact amazes
her because she only knows the “old-fashioned” names that people used
to use. “It’s just amazing the people that are involved,” Barbara
proudly and fondly said as she spoke of her fellow club friends.

The Pooler Garden Club has gone through quite the transformation
from its early roots, according to Barbara. They now make it a point
to travel about and make new discoveries and learn new things in any
garden or farm they’re welcomed into. They most recently met at the
Bamboo farm, but quite regularly participate in a variety of nature
related events. They participated one year in the Hidden Gardens Of
Pooler, and Barbara was simply amazed at the beauty that was found
hidden behind walls and fences. Gardens that people meticulously
tended and were very proud of could be found in surprising places.

Another of Barbara’s exciting field trips with the Pooler Garden
Club crew was just before St Patrick’s Day. They went to Bethesda
Academy Farm and Gardens where they were able to meet a young man from
Dublin, Ireland. “He was jam up and oh so knowledgeable about
everything,” Rawlings said regarding the information on organics that
the gentleman spoke with them about. She feels the club members have
learned much in the way of organic farming recently with this trip, as
well as the one they took to Heritage Organic Farms on Hwy 30. Barbara
Rawlings is using the knowledge she’s gained and passing it on too!
Her own field has been barren for seven years, coincidentally the
length of time needed to cleanse the soil of fertilizers and
impurities, but her son plans to plant a garden on it very soon. She
proudly speaks about his passion for planting and working the land and
is excited to see what he will do with it and the knowledge passed
down to him.

In addition to garden planting, spring brings a time for plant
swapping as well as festivals. Barbara Rawlings was very eager to see
what this year would hold in store for the Pooler Garden Club. She
recently visited Macon’s Cherry Tree Festival where she bought a
Cherry tree that boasts a double flower that she adores. The garden
club has planted quite a few cherry trees all over Pooler and also has
a prized “Pooler Rose” they are proud of. Rawlings said she’s looking
forward to the club’s annual picnic in June. Each year they try to do
something “different,” and last year they traveled to Charleston,
South Carolina to visit the Tea Plantation. The highlight of that trip
for Barbara was seeing the Angel Tree that grows a mile from the
plantation. With a tone of amazement and wonder Rawlings recalled,
“The branches just go out and swoop down and oh… just beautiful. I’d
never heard of it and my sister lives there!” It’s these types of
trips and experiences that have made participation in the Pooler
Garden Club such a fun and unique experience and it’s excitement she
easily conveys.

“I feel like I’m the one that’s been blessed, though. I really
have been,” said a thoughtful Rawlings as the afternoon train passed –
sounding its long whistle. Referring to the beautiful plants and trees
that surround and fill her property, Rawlings mentioned that very few
of them were bought and that has been one of the biggest blessings.
Also a blessing is how simply giving of your time and learning and
participating in the community can have a domino effect and inspire
others to continue the path. “It’s just a miracle how everything keeps
revolving around,” she said as she spoke of how doing good things as
part of this club has brought about good things in turn. Though she
humbles herself and denies much in the way of contribution, the Pooler
Garden Club would no doubt be a dull place without her lively
personality and knowledge of Savannah and Pooler’s rich history.

Story by SHANNON

Photos by MONICA

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