J. Everett Moore Jr. can tell a great story.
The Georgetown attorney is more than proud of his rural roots. Now, he wants others to experience what life was like growing up in Sussex County 50 years ago, a special time, he says, before instant communication and rapid transportation.
His book, “Growin' up County: Rural Life in the 1950s and 1960s,” is a labor of love that almost didn't happen. In 2010, as he neared the final stages of compiling all of the information for the book, he hit a setback. Out of the blue, he suffered eye retina detachments in both eyes, which required six surgeries. He credits doctors at Sussex Eye Center, Delmarva Retina Associates and Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins for saving his eyesight.
Moore has never strayed far from his home. He lives on the farm – Wall's Homestead – adjacent to the farm where he grew up and also owns several other farms in the area.
Moore said the idea for a book came from colleagues, friends and clients who urged him to put down the stories he told them on paper before the stories were lost to time. “The '50s and '60s is where our lore, is and it's being forgotten,” he said.
He said many newcomers to the area have no idea what life was like just a few decades ago. “Newcomers always ask me where my accent comes from,” he laughed.
Education: Georgetown High School; Delaware Tech parallel program and University of Delaware, political science and history; Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary.
Politics: State Republican Party chairman, 2001-2003; Sussex County Republican Party chairman, 1985-1993. Delegate to two national conventions and numerous state conventions.
Honors: University of Delaware Hall of Fame; Delaware Tech Walk of Success.
Currently, serves as lead attorney for Sussex County. Moore has four grown children and two granddaughters.
Life revolves around family and church
Born in 1950, Moore grew up in a small area east of Georgetown often referred to as St. John's neighborhood, named for the church that was built there in 1852.
Moore looks back on his formative years with fondness. It was a time when children felt free to roam the neighborhood. It was a time when people still went to town Saturday night to do their “dealing.” Nearly everyone went to church and nearly everyone in his neighborhood was involved with farming.
It was a time when farm children had plenty of chores to keep them busy. “Many times I spent the whole day on the tractor,” Moore said. But there was always time to get out and play in the fields and woods in the neighborhood.
It was a time when people did not lock their homes or cars. A treat to Moore and his siblings was a trip to Tastee Freeze where the family bought five hamburgers for $1.
It was a time when television did not take up much family time.
“It was a simpler, easier-going time when everybody had time for everyone else,” Moore said.
It was also a time of great accomplishments starting with Sputnik and ending with man landing on the moon.
Church and family were the centers of Moore's childhood. He lived on a dirt road – Deep Branch Road – that had nine homes on it. Today, there are nearly 90 homes along the road.
Growing up country
Moore's book considers facets of rural life including church, transportation, recreation, school, holidays, gardens, meals, medicine and communication.
One chapter is devoted to country stores where people shared stories and caught up on news. Moore still starts each working day at a store near his home, Wilson's Country Store, off Gravel Hill Road. It's been moved several times, served as a schoolhouse, has changed names, served gas and even was a place to purchase individual bullets. The current owner, Jim Wilson, purchased the store from his father in 1970 and added a grill in 1974. It's probably the only store in the area where the owner sports a revolver on his hip as he mans the cash register. “The store is thriving and is the only place I know where you can get your meal, have documents notarized and buy a gun,” Moore wrote.
The book overflows with little-known facts about people and places in Sussex County. Most people are not aware the inventor of Noxzema had a strong Sussex connection as did the author of “The Little Engine That Could.”
Sussex roots run deep
Moore lives next to the family farm where he grew up outside Georgetown. After graduation from University of Delaware and Wythe School of Law at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., he returned home to practice law, hanging out his shingle in 1976. He's been a practicing attorney for more than three decades.
He has also practiced at nearly every court, from Justice of the Peace courts to Superior Court and Court of Chancery. He now serves as lead attorney for Sussex County. In that position he attends all county council meetings conducting public hearings and coordinating all legal work for the county.
Moore has been active in Republican politics most of his life, serving as state chairman and county chairman. There was no doubt he would sit on the sidelines, serving as president of the Student Government Association in his second year at Delaware Tech.
Moore said he and his law partner, David Rutt, a Democrat, made a pact long ago they would not discuss politics.
Keeping to his rural roots, Moore is an avid outdoorsman who loves spending as much time outside as possible. He is a former president of Buckmasters of Delaware and serves on the board of Sportsmen Against Hunger.
Over the years, he has served on the Indian River School Board and as chairman of the Delaware Tech foundation.
Growing up on the farm, Moore had his mind set on farming, but his father would not hear of it: he had to attend college like his siblings. Moore decided he would major in physical education so he could become a teacher allowing him time to farm in the summer. His life changed his second year of college at the Delaware Tech parallel program when he became president of the Student Government Association and his interests changed to politics and the law.
'Growin' up Country' available at Sussex locations
The book is available for $24.95 at Moore's law firm at 122 West Market St. in Georgetown, about a block from the historic Circle, as well as Georgetown Historical Society, Bailey's Seafood in Frankford and Wilson's Country Store –where, he says, people can get a scrapple and egg sandwich, a longtime Sussex culinary favorite.
A book signing will take place at St. John's Church at Springfield Crossroads, east of Georgetown, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. Part of the proceeds of books sold that evening will benefit church youth programs.
For more information, contact Moore at 302-856-9568.