AFTER CAREER AS MERCHANTS, DOYLE CANADAYS LOOK FORWARD TO RETIREMENT
By Sue Ann Brock
January 24, 1990
For as long as he can remember, Doyle Canaday has been associated with providing food items to the sleepy little community of St. George. Indeed, Doyle grew up in the family owned and operated grocery business, known as Canaday’s. But after a lifetime association, Doyle and his wife Betty, who has worked by his side during their forty year marriage, are retiring. And a third generation of Canadays, their son Keith, will take over operation of the store.
Doyle is looking forward to spending more time in the great out of doors he loves – hunting in the pine treed woods in the south end of Charlton County and fishing in the beautiful meandering St. Marys River.
Last Thursday as they were cleaning out their office, Betty and Doyle reflected back on their life and business in St. George.
Doyle was reared in the second story of the old brick front building on the main street of St. George, one of the enterprises that comprise the two block business district which includes the post office, school, community church and several other businesses.
The landmark building with the two huge window fronts served as home for the Canaday business and family and as a gathering place for locals for over four decades.
In 1928, Highway 121 was a narrow dusty unpaved road from Nassau County to Folkston when Doyle’s parents, Spencer and Lizzie, moved to St. George from the even more rural community of Moniac. Times were hard when the couple undertook the enterprise. Indeed, the dark clouds of depression which hovered over America darkened the economy of St. George as well.
But the hardworking, industrious Canadays persevered through the lean years as the community, which was largely dependant on pulpwood and turpentine companies, also struggled for its existence.
Doyle grew up helping his parents weigh beans, flour, grits and other basic staples which were a mainstay of life to most rural Georgians. He worked hard filling orders and loading groceries on the back of wagons and pick-up trucks.
He also grew up listening to community pioneers spin rich tales as they gathered at dusk round the big oak rocking chairs outside the store, or around the black pot-bellied stove when the weather was cold.
In those days men lived and worked close to nature and many good fishing and hunting yarns were swapped. Later, tales of the war and remembrances of lives lost in foreign and sometimes unheard of places were shared.
In 1950, smitten by a peach complexioned woman from Worth County, Doyle married the lovely Betty Hatchcock, who was at that time teaching fourth grade in the community school across the street. The young couple moved upstairs over the store, where Doyle and his sister Sarah had been raised, and began a family of their own. The older Canadays had moved into a big white clapboard house on Main Street two blocks away.
In 1954, the little store was renovated with new self-serve shelves and two years later Spencer and Lizzie retired. Doyle and Betty took over the full operation of the store.
At that time the sawmills and turpentine camps which had flourished for decades were gone, thinning substantially the already small population of St. George.
And it was during the decline in St. George’s economy in the early fifties and sixties that Betty and Doyle reared their three children, Keith, Joan and Kay. “It was slower pace then. You weren’t rushed or pressured,” Betty remembers.
Only one small general store, which closed in the late sixties, offered “friendly competition” across the street.
Betty spent many leisurely days in the store visiting with customers while the children played together.
During those days community activities revolved around school activities. Nearly everyone in the area attended school functions and basketball games. An occasional country music show featuring the Stanley Brothers was always a big event.
In the late sixties and early seventies St. George’s low-key rural environment began attracting city dwellers who were tired of traffic and pollution. And Doyle and Betty saw a need for a more complete store. In April 1971, in a new building, they opened a full-line grocery store with self-serve meat.
At that time, Keith returned from college and began working full-time in the family business. Keith later married Kathy Dority and their three children have grown up in the new store. Twelve year old John pumps gas, bags and carries groceries, and whatever odd jobs are needed. Becky Lynn, 9, and Colleen, 5, bag potatoes, “against their will,” their grandmother said.
“But they’ll grow up working in here just like mine did,” Betty said with grandmother’s pride.
St. George and the Big Bend area continued to feel the gradual impact of new settlement. The seventies and eighties have reflected a new generation of people coming into the store. Betty said “We used to think about the ‘old timers’.” Doyle said. “But we’re getting to be the old timers now.”
Betty’s looking forward to retirement. She said the business has evolved from a slow paced country store to one that demanded an enormous amount of time. She intends to spend more time visiting family – Joan and Kay live close by with their families – and sewing and cooking,
For over six decades in the little community of St. George Canaday’s has been synonymous with groceries. With Keith as the new owner and John already assisting, that tradition will probably continue well into the 21st century.