By: Paul Slobodzian and Madeline Schindler
You may have seen this group of women walking around Newnan High School and down Lagrange Street in the mornings, or you may even see them so often you know how late to school you are depending on where you see them.
These self-proclaimed “Street Talkers” are a part of the NHS community and have grown to be a part of the personality of the campus itself.
Mrs. Elizabeth Crain is the “founder” of the group, but she didn’t walk into the role she has now with the idea of starting a well-known morning fixture for years to come. In fact, the entire existence of this iconic group just seemed to happen one day.
“We just started walking thirteen years ago,” Mrs. Crain said. “We just picked up along the way. I guess [Mrs.] Connie [Posey] was the first to pick up walking with me. It was just a great path with no dogs, so that’s how we started. We start walking where the old hospital [new University of West Georgia campus] is now.”
The group consists of about nine to eleven off-and-on members, but they average around five or six walkers every day, always along the same path.
Mrs. Posey, Mrs. Patti Durden and Mrs. Candyce Lund commented on the how they individually got involved with the walking troupe on a daily basis.
“The way this got started,” Mrs. Posey stated, “was that my husband and I were raised in Newnan, and we lived in Douglas County for thirty years. When we retired, we returned. I started walking in January of ’90, and then I continued walking in Newnan. Elizabeth and I wound up on the street at the same time of day. From that, we became organized. It really was funny that we ended up in the street and started walking together.”
Mrs. Durden came upon the group in a bit of a different way.
“I worked at Heritage School,” Mrs. Durden commented, “and I would see these two ladies [Mrs. Crain and Posey] walking when I would drive to work. I thought, ‘I wish I could walk with them.’ I’ve always walked, and when my husband passed away I started walking with them.”
Mrs. Lund used her desire to become a more involved member of the Newnan community as a way to join the “Street Talkers.”
“I just joined in because I saw them walking when I would push a stroller in 2005,” Mrs. Lund expressed. “I would pass them on the street and thought, ‘One day, I might walk with those ladies.’ My children got to school, and I was working from home, which I tell you is wonderful for a few years, and then you start getting really lonely and you really need that dynamic of people around you. So, one day, I just ran out to the street when they were by my house, and I said, ‘Can I join your group?’ Elizabeth said, ‘Of course you can!’ I’ve been walking for three years.’”
The ladies comprising the “Street Talkers” weren’t all acquaintances before they began walking as a group, but new additions became familiar faces. People have joined together as the years have gone by, and the ladies make it a point not to exclude anyone who’s willing to hit the pavement bright and early in the morning.
They all agreed, however, that some people know from day one whether they will be returning for future walks.
“The key is to walk fast,” Mrs. Durden said. “After [new walkers] walk once, they know whether they’ll join.”
The others all agreed about the rigor of the groups’ pace, and Mrs. Posey commented that they average about a fifteen minute mile across the four-mile daily trek.
Lagrange Street and the dog-free path isn’t the only thing that hitches the women to this blossoming area. They all have their own unique connections to the Newnan community, as well.
“I graduated from NHS,” Mrs. Crain stated. “I was a bookkeeper, and then I was in retail. I’m retired now. I walked around the high school through three grandchildren graduating.”
Mrs. Posey ventured away from Newnan for a while, but she eventually found her way back.
“My husband and I grew up here,” she explained. “Then we spent thirty years in Douglas County, and we both retired in 2000. We returned in ’01. I worked for Douglas County School System as a guidance counselor, and my husband owned his own business – so he sold his business, and I retired.”
Mrs. Crain jumped in at the mention of Mrs. Posey’s job as a guidance counselor. The group laughed when she said, “Connie tries to guide, but I’m unguidable.”
As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Lund yearned for a deeper involvement within the Newnan community.
“We came from Atlanta,” she said, “and we both worked in television and commuted. Eric [husband] still commutes back to Midtown, but I started working from home because I hated the commute. Also, we really weren’t part of the community; it was like we were just sleeping here, so we really wanted to be more involved. Eventually, I became involved with the Carnegie Library, and I also have three little kids.”
Mrs. Durden, like Mrs. Posey, strayed away from Newnan due to various jobs, but she also wound up in suburban Atlanta city in the end.
“I moved here first in 1964, and I’ve moved and come back three times,” she expressed. “My husband was in construction, so that took us away sometimes, but Newnan is home. I raised my children through high school here, almost. My son ended up at Woodward. In 1994, the last time I moved back, I’ve been an assistant teacher at Elm Street and Heritage, so then I retired. I’m involved in my church and the Carnegie Library. I’ve been here a while, so you get to know people.”
Mrs. Joy Barnes is one of the original member of the “Street Talkers.” Barnes has been with the group for over eight years and says that there is “never a dull moment.”
Barnes has lived in Newnan all of her life. Barnes was born in the original hospital in downtown Newnan, where the University of West Georgia now has a location.
Barnes became a part of the Street Talkers through her friendship with Elizabeth Crain.
“I have known Elizabeth Crain since I was little,” Barnes explained. Barnes teamed up with Crain and began walking as a way to incorporate exercise into her daily routine. “I’m probably the third in the group. Elizabeth started and then Connie. [Crain] is the ring-leader. She reels me in quite often to remind me that she’s the queen.”
Aside from being just one of the many sites along the walking route, NHS holds a place in Barnes’ heart. She explained that her son attended and graduated from NHS.
“We love walking around the school and waving to the staff and kids. We kind of feel like we’re a part because the kids see us and wave,” Barnes commented.
Mrs. Linda Dees was not an original member but joined after moving to Newnan in 2005. A chance meeting with Elizabeth Crain at Atlanta Fitness developed into a friendship.
“I had seen the ladies walking, and after I met [Crain], I mentioned to her and asked if it might be possible for me to join. She said definitely, and so I started,” Dees said.
Dees is an outgoing member of the group and explained the significance of the group’s name as being more than just splitting the sidewalk with someone.
“It’s not just the walking. It’s the friendship, the laughing, the sharing,” Dees expressed.
The women in the group are never at a loss of words. They discuss what is going on in their personal lives and openly give advice to each other. “We do not need to pay for a therapist. We are one another’s therapy,” Dees explained.
Originally from Auburn, Alabama, Mrs. Jean Thomas has called Newnan home for over fifty years. Thomas joined the Street Talkers two years ago as a way to include walking and exercise into her daily routine.
Walking in the morning with the Street Talkers has presented many wonderful opportunities to meet new people, and Thomas enjoys the fellowship within the walking group. “I used to see [them] and thought that it looked like [they] were having fun,” Thomas said.
Thomas believes that everyone benefits from the age diversity within the group. Everyone is at different stages in life and can speak from her own experiences.
After leaving Mississippi, Mrs. Lisa Miles moved frequently before finally settling in Newnan. Miles is the most recent member of the Street Talkers.
“I just started in January or December. I’m the newbie,” Miles commented.
Mrs. Miles explained that she was officially initiated after a walk in the rain.
“We don’t excuse rain or cold or snow or sleet. I mean unless it’s just pouring, but if it’s just drizzling and we all can get out. We’re serious. Twenty-degrees is no problem for us.”
The daily walks past the high school bring back a feeling of nostalgia, and Miles feels like she can identify with current students at NHS.
“You see bits and pieces of who you were too at those times in high school,” Miles commented. “It’s neat to have someone acknowledge that and say ‘hey.’ I think back to when I was that age in school.”
Mrs. Crain and Mrs. Posey both graduated directly from NHS, but all the ladies have their own individual connection with the high school whether it’s familial or daily interaction with young people. The high school was an essential part of Newnan life back when they graduated, and, even today, it’s still a very important staple in the Newnan community.
“I think NHS is very important to our community,” Mrs. Crain said. “So goes Newnan High School, so goes our community. To me, when you think of our community, you think of, especially the downtown Newnan area, Newnan High School. I take great pride in the beauty of the buildings.”
Mrs. Durden and Mrs. Lund get to see the activity of Lagrange Street in the mornings and afternoons and both commented on how it makes them feel to be so close to the high school and see kids walking. Mrs. Lund said that she loves to see kids walking to school in the mornings, and Mrs. Durden added that “it’s fun because you’ll get to see a whole class walking downtown sometimes.”
All the ladies in the “Street Talkers” group love the route they take in the mornings, especially their loop around Lagrange, Waterworks, Armory and back on to Lagrange.
“The students out here aren’t mean to us even though we don’t know their names,” Mrs. Crain stated. “We know a lot of faces. It’s sort of like a little purpose in life. If we can speak and smile to them, maybe it’ll help their day, because it helps ours. I think it’s sort of a give and take. We try to give them a smile, and when they give it back to us, it just starts your day right.”
Newnan High School’s student body is very important to the ladies, and they appreciate the kind, positive attitudes they receive from various students.
“I find the student body very friendly when we’re walking around the school,” Mrs. Posey said. “We put forth an effort to speak to them, and they respond in a friendly manner.”
The “Street Talkers” can be seen keeping the sidewalks of Newnan and NHS busy every day. They love talking to people around the community, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and get to know the women who walk the walk and talk the talk. But, be prepared to keep up.