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Dave Thrift Was Postmaster At Winokur From 1924 Until 1946

By Jack Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

Okefenokee Times

October 30, 2002

In the early 1940s, the tiny community of Winokur was a busy place. World War Two had the ACL Railroad depot and telegraph tower hopping. But, the community near the Brantley County line, in the northern part of Charlton County was anchored by Mack David (Dave) Thrift, the hard-working postmaster who had the admiration of everyone.

Dave and his wife, Edna, whom he married on July 3, 1938, ran a small country store in conjunction with the post office. It was the community gathering-place. Two previous wives had died, Kizzie, daughter of Owen and Sarah Johns, in 1925 and Laura, daughter of Jobie Nazworth, in 1937.

The story of how the small grocery store began is interesting. Edna Thrift recounts that beginning. “I was miserable without something to do,” she said. “Dave suggested a small grocery store, but I told him I had no experience running a grocery store,” she argued. Nevertheless, Dave talked Edna into the venture.

“We didn’t have any money,” Edna said. “We went to Folkston and borrowed $250 to stock the store,” Edna continued. “I took that $250 and completely stocked the little old store.”

The combination grocery store and post office at Winokur soon became a popular place. People would go to the post office for their mail and find others to talk with. Sometimes the grocery buying was put off for hours, but the Thrifts didn’t mind. They enjoyed learning about everything that was happening in Winokur. The grocery store soon became profitable.

Dave was not a young man. He was born May 14, 1898 near Hickox, in Wayne County. In the early forties he was in the middle of his active life. That life included being a Baptist Minister, like his brother, Pete Thrift. His church members looked to him for advice and comfort during the dark years of World War Two. The influence of Mack David Thrift reached far beyond the confines of the Winokur area. The Riverside area residents depended on Thrift for almost daily encouragement, especially those that were worried about their relatives fighting in World War Two.

Around noon each day, the local freight and passenger train called “The Bogey” stopped at the Winokur depot, just across from Dave Thrift’s store. His family would hurry over to the depot to see if anything had been shipped to the Thrifts or their store. Usually it had been.

In the early morning hours, when Dave was putting the mail into the patron boxes, a visitor, Lonnie Wasdin, would drop by the post office. He “just wanted to chat.”

Wasdin, a former telegraph operator, would drop by the telegraph office in the depot to check on the arrival of his Savannah Morning News newspaper. Wasdin would take the telegraph key and ask the operator at Jesup if “His 89” was on time. 89 was the number of the passenger-baggage train that ran from Savannah to Jacksonville. Wasdin knew the newspaper would be thrown off that train.

The small cadre of young telegraph operators who worked at the office in the depot building depended on Dave Thrift’s store for snacks during their on-duty hours. Sometimes the store remained open until late at night.

Winokur, at that time, was a bustling small community. Many worked at the shipyards during the war; others farmed, drove school buses and worked in the pine forests. Saturday night in Winokur was alive with activity.

The road between Folkston and Winokur was unpaved, making the daily chore of the school bus driver miserable at times. Others, not school students, caught the school bus to Folkston for the day. The bus drivers and school system had no objections.

Winokur took its name from a Jewish peddler, Sam Winokur, in the earlier years, who brought his wagon into the community selling everything from snake oil to groceries. It was an annual trek and the community took his name.

Then in 1946, the post office department began a series of closings of small post offices, combining them with the larger ones. Dave Thrift had been postmaster at Winokur 22 years. Giving up his post office tugged at his heartstrings. Winokur would never be the same again without Dave Thrift’s post office.

When the office at Winokur closed, many of the mail customers were to be worked on a rural route out of the Folkston post office. Thrift would be the rural mail carrier for that route.

He ran that route for another 19 years, retiring in 1965. While serving as a rural carrier, Thrift continued his Baptist ministry, he never forgot the people that had been so much a part of his life. Upon his retirement from the Folkston post office in 1965, his wife, Edna took over the route until her retirement.

Dave and Edna Thrift had been a team since their marriage in 1938. Edna was 23 when they got married. Edna was a prominent member of her community. She was, before her marriage, Alice Edna Johns. Although troubled with cancer, Edna is still active today. Dave died on December 21, 1981 and is buried in the Dowling Cemetery near Hickox. He was 83, but active until his death.

Dave Thrift became a legend in the Winokur post office and on the rural route of the Folkston post office. There are still those today who revisit the life of Mack David (Dave) Thrift, a humble postman and Baptist preacher.

[One picture accompanied this article with the following cut line: Edna and Dave Thrift after a fishing trip. The couple, who got married in 1938, are standing in front of a home they had built together. Dave Thrift was a postmaster for Winokur and a Baptist minister.]

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