Memories often take on a life of their own and go where they will. This one leads me down memory lane to helping my grandfather, Floyd W. Anger, mayor of Lilydale from 1959 to 1970, move his essentials to higher ground every year that Lilydale’s lowlands flooded where Water Street becomes Lilydale Road.
In 1965 he lost his home to the river; one day it was off its foundation, the next day it was down the road, having slammed into a telephone pole, and the day after it was gone— pictures, treasures, and lots of essentials.
In one newspaper article, my grandfather was quoted as saying, “They [the residents] say they won’t come back—but they do,” and so did he and his wife, Evelyn. After the 1965 flood, he built a home at 944 Lilydale Road, down the road and across the street from his lost home.
Not only did they go back after every flood, but Grandpa would often pay his friends who helped him by giving them a lot of land. At one time, he owned a considerable amount of land in Lilydale.
I lived down there for a year in the mid-1950s just past the “new” road for the Lilydale Boat Ramp, and on a recent drive (I hadn’t been down there for thirty years) with my dad, Floyd’s son, I was shocked (because memories freeze things in time) that the only sign of where our house used to be is the pine tree that stood between our house and Grandpa Floyd’s. There are no houses down there anymore.
Life in Lilydale was idyllic; the closest I can come to a description is that it was sort of a Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer kind of life—everybody knew everybody. Lilydale was little more than a wide spot in the road, and the road itself was so narrow in a few places that one car would have to pull off the road to let the oncoming car pass. There were no speeders or hot-rodders; Lilydale was a peaceful, family-oriented community, and as a child I never realized the river could be such a threat.
Grandpa drove the school bus for Lilydale. He was always in a good mood and loved to joke, but when he said to do something, you just knew he meant it. I don’t think he ever met a person he didn’t like, or if he did, he kept it to himself. It was fun going to his house because he loved his ice cream and he always treated us to a huge bowl of it covered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
He played in a band at local taverns, too, and I’ve often thought that was why he was always tapping his foot; even while he was sitting, he seemed to be tapping a beat. He played drums in the band but he could play any instrument—piano, sax, accordion, banjo, viola—just anything. He’d pick up or sit at the instrument and just know how to play it.
Grandpa is dead now and all of Lilydale’s homes are gone—bought by the government and razed for future park use. I wonder what Grandpa would think of all this—the changes to his “kingdom”—and every year I wonder what the Mighty Mississippi has in store for us.