17:07 PM

Telling Our Stories in 6 Words: Caroline Williamson

Caroline Williamson worked for Jackson EMC for 36 years. She recently retired as senior communications coordinator at Oakwood E&O Center. Her six-word story is “learning to drive on icy roads.” Here, she shares how working for JEMC helped her learn how to drive in icy conditions:

I lived 23 years in North Hall County near Clermont and, for the last 13, have lived in Braselton. I worked for seven years at the Gainesville office before my move to Oakwood. Many of my years of service with Jackson EMC were before we had a centrally located dispatch center. Each district handled its own outage calls, and everyone was expected to report to work when phoned—day or night. This was before everyone had cellphones.

At the start of my career, Vivian Chapman and I drove ourselves to work, but the sleet turned to ice during the day. One day, Vivian left just ahead of me, and when she pulled out onto Dawsonville Highway, she did a 180-degree turn in her brand new Cutlass in the middle of the road. I slowed down as I pulled out onto the road, stayed back from the other vehicles, and drove home 16 miles with my hands clenched to the steering wheel.

I said “never again,” but that proved to be false. Over the years, I’ve driven on ice and in snow multiple times. As a mother, I never wanted my child in the car with me during those times; often daycare or school was closed, which meant my husband stayed at home or took our son to work with him.

Ice is ice, and you will slide. Snow can become compacted and turn to ice. Once it was so bad that Benny Bagwell phoned me and asked if I could open the Gainesville office, transfer the phone queue to Oakwood, and stay there until an employee from Gainesville could get to the office. Back then all the phone equipment was located at Gainesville. My husband had just had surgery and was recuperating at home; he told me if I started to slide to remain calm. Those of you who know me know that is impossible, but I did heed his advice and put it to good use on the drive in. I didn’t hit the brakes hard and somehow managed to recover after making a gentle turn. I was scared to death, but I made it to work.

Living in Braselton, I often encounter black ice on Highway 124 on my drive in to Oakwood. I have seen many cars sliding in all directions due to black ice conditions. I take it slowly and leave plenty of room between mine and other cars. I think experience more than anything else helps me remain calm.

My six-word story is “Learning to drive on icy roads.” Whenever there’s ice, my four-word story to anyone who doesn’t work for a utility or as an emergency responder is: “Stay off the road.”