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Locals set Guinness World Record

Five local siblings will be honored for earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest five siblings in the world. Family, friends and others can congratulate the world-record setting siblings from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 10 at Beulah Baptist Church as they are presented with their official Guinness World Record certificates. They hold the record for the highest combined age of five living siblings. Helen Mae Mangham is 102 and was born on Aug. 2, 1915. Rosalee Mangham King is 101 and was born Dec. 4, 1916. Grace Mangham Ward is 99 and was born April 19, 1919. William Decatur ‘W.D.’ Mangham is 96 and was born Sept. 28, 1921. The youngest sister Essie ‘Virginia’ Brooks is 92 and was born Oct. 18, 1925. The five siblings – who now have a combined age of 490 – applied for the record in December 2016 and were only recently approved due to difficulty verifying their birth certificates since many of them did not receive the official document at birth but many decades later when required by the government. They were all born to the same parents – Essie Bankston Mangham and James ‘Bud’ William Mangham. Other than one infant child who only lived a few weeks, they were the only siblings born to their parents. Most of the siblings still live in Lifsey Springs – the area where they were raised and also where they raised their own families. W.D. Mangham is the only one to move out of Pike and he close by in Meriwether County. A lot has changed in the past 90+ years and the siblings have lived through good times and hard times, especially after their father passed away when they were all still living at home, leaving the older children to help take care of the younger ones. During an interview with the Pike County Journal Reporter, they shared their memories of the Great Depression, the arrival of electricity, paving of major highways in Pike and the reaction to the first telephones, radios and televisions. Helen will soon celebrate her 103rd birthday and having lived through the Great Depression, the siblings can’t help but compare today’s birthday celebrations to those of yesteryear. ’You didn’t celebrate birthdays much back then. Usually it was with a cake at dinner,’ said Virginia. ‘I can remember how hard it was but we didn’t know it. There were a few families who had a lot more but we all were together and happy and didn’t think anything about it.’ The siblings are the children of Essie Bankston Mangham Jones who lived to be 96 and James ‘Bud’ William Mangham who was 54 when he died of typhoid fever and kidney disease. Though four of the five siblings have broken hips and all have faced medical challenges, they are all still able to walk. The two youngest still drive their own vehicles. They all credit their faith in God for helping them through their lengthy lives. ’I’ve been through a good bit physically but the Lord healed me and I’m still able to walk. I broke both hips, got cancer, but the Lord brought me through it,’ said eldest sister Helen. ‘I live by faith in the Lord. If it wasn’t for the Lord, I wouldn’t still be here.’ Grace said she’s been saved since she was 15 and she went to church for many years before that ‘“ even as a little baby when her mom put her on a blanket in the sanctuary. Rosalee said you can go through anything if you’re already sure of your salvation. Grace worked as secretary of the Sunday school program at Beulah for around 50 years until she had to give it up a few years ago. Helen taught 6 to 8 year olds for about 40 years. Their close and extended family attended Beulah Baptist also. For much of the church’s early history they only had a Sunday service once a month when a traveling preacher came to town. When they were young, Rosalee said the family attended Sunday school each week but traveled to Fincher United Methodist Church in Meansville one Sunday each month to hear the sermon there. ’The preacher would have to come from a long ways sometimes,’ she said. ‘We would go to Beulah for Sunday school and then go over to Fincher each Sunday that they had a preacher. We had an old Model A Ford. Mama would always tell us, ‘˜Girls, hold your hats, it might blow off in the water,’ when we crossed a stream in the car. Daddy liked for all his girls to have a pretty hat to wear.’Â  All five siblings have remarkable memories of people, places and events from growing up in Lifsey Springs including the arrival of electricity and indoor plumbing.  ’They put electricity in our house in 1937,’ said W.D. ‘At first all we used it for was lights. I remember putting the milk in a can with a top and putting it down in the well to keep it cool. Then later we had an ice box. I still have an old bill that shows electricity was only $1.25 a month. Not everybody got electricity in their homes because some people were afraid of it at the time.’ They also remember who had the first telephones, radios and TVs in the community. ’Enoch Story’s store had a telephone and was about the first place to get one,’ said Grace. ‘I was one of the first ones in the area to get a radio. I was finishing school and I got a radio in 1936. I still have it. I remember I used to sit up all night and listen to gospel music.’ Rosalee said watching television was a social event when she and her husband got their first television set. ’We had the second TV in the community and we wore out two couches before somebody else got one,’ she said. ‘The whole community came over to watch it.’ Before roads were paved in the area residents were more likely to use their horses to get around town since cars had trouble getting down the rough dirt roads. ’Alton Brooks would come up to see me from Thomaston. He’d get stuck every time,’ said Virginia. ‘He’d get to Fincher hill and then he’d have to come get someone to tow his car out with a tractor.’ When Highway 109 was paved for the first time in 1954, the families helped feed and house the men who did the work. There were no hotels or restaurants in the area. ’The men couldn’t find anywhere to stay or eat so Rosalee let four men stay at her house every night and fed 12 to 15 every day until they could get the work finished,’ said Virginia. Rosalee still remembers one worker who would not leave one pea or crumb on his plate. ’We only charged them 75 cents and they’d eat about $1.75 worth of food,’ she said. They all have fond memories of the original Lifsey Springs Pool, a natural spring that was dug out with a fence built around it. Originally it was separated into two sections by a wooden wall, the men’s area and the women’s area. In the early 1900s it was a popular destination for vacationers from Atlanta and surrounding areas who rode railcars to Meansville and arrived by horse and buggy at one of many camp houses or the hotel built in Lifsey Springs for visitors. Virginia remembers her older sister Grace climbing up on top of the grandstand and diving into the pool. W.D. said he ‘had a special way of getting through the fence when the pool wasn’t open’ and all the siblings used to work there and clean up the area to earn season tickets to the pool. Some of them ‘“ including Grace and Rosalee ‘“ still have their bathing suits from when they were teenagers in the 1930s. Virginia Brooks was 4 when her father passed away and her older siblings stepped in to help their mother raise her. Rosalee said she remembers helping her daddy plant the last crop of his lifetime. ’The last year our daddy planted a crop ‘“ he died in 1925 ‘“ Grace and I helped plant the crops. I remember planting the corn. I ran the corn planter and Grace helped keep the mules in line,’ said Rosalee. ‘That was his last crop and he died that fall. The last day he was able to do anything he told us to come help him pick cotton. When we got to the fields he was so worn out, he said, ‘˜Let’s just go home.’ The winter after our daddy died we all picked cotton.’ All the siblings worked in area textile mills at different times. Virginia remembers working at Carter’s with her sister Helen when both of them made $9 a week. W.D. went into the U.S. Army and served during World War II. A few years ago, he took an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to see the WWII monument. ’It was really good to see,’ he said. ‘All the soldiers who can need to go see it.’ The siblings learned to do things on their own instead of depending on store-bought items in the early days, even into their 90s. Helen sewed and made dresses for her younger sisters and cut their hair. Grace also did people’s hair and charged a dime to roll women’s hair on Saturday so they would look good for church on Sunday. W.D. said he feels sorry for the younger generations of today. Helen said it is too easy to go to the store instead of spending time making their own jelly or preserves or planting food. ’It’s so much better to make it for yourself than to go to the store,’ she said. W.D. worked until he was 90, towing away old vehicles for scrap and fixing people’s appliances at their homes. He remembers a time when there was no minimum wage and he and his sisters would work for 30 cents a day. ’We had a little freedom when we were growing up but during the Depression the federal government went to sticking their nose into everything. At the time there wasn’t a handout from the government. People had to work for it,’ he said. ‘We worked many a day for 30 cents. One guy came down from Atlanta who was making $25 a week and we’d all be talking about how much money he was making. One thing about this country today, there’s too many millionaires.’ They all say new technology is amazing but they do not use it much. ’I still do everything with a pencil and paper but I do like my cell phone,’ said Virginia. ‘I’ve had a phone since way back in the 1950s.’ They also still remember the lessons their parents taught them. Helen said her Mama taught her to go to church and school clean, even if it meant hanging the clothes by the fire at night so they could dry. Rosalee said her Mama taught her how to keep house, clean up and make her bed every day. Virginia said she does not mind cleaning to this day and that for many years she volunteered to clean up at Beulah. They still live by other lessons as well. ’My daddy taught me every night before I went to bed and he’d read the Bible to us,’ said Grace. ‘If we had a fire we sat in front of it and listened to him. He wanted us to all get an education but he died before he got to see us do that.’ Several of the siblings have been to the battlefield in Virginia where their grandfather was injured during the Civil War. Grace said there are only a few grandchildren living today whose grandfather fought in the War Between the States. ’Our granddaddy William Decatur Mangham was wounded in Spartanburg when a musket ball went through his left arm and into his left lung,’ said W.D. ‘He was able to keep his arm and he was lucky because back then they’d usually cut them off. He wasn’t but 17 years old when he went to fight. He stayed in the hospital for several months then he was put on furlough. He left the regular Army and went into the Georgia Militia.’ Helen has one son, Norman Mangham, three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren. Rosalee has three children, Vivian Lee, Gwyn King and Geraldine Haymans; six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Grace has four children, Kenneth Ward, Harold Ward, Diane Denny and Mike Ward; nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. W.D. has one son Decatur Mangham, one grandchild and two great-grandchildren. Virginia has one son, Dennis Brooks, one grandson and three great-grandchildren.

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