By Scott Mims
In the modern world of smart phones and social networking, the word “friend” has taken on new meaning. While it’s easier than ever for people to keep in touch, it seems that human relationships are becoming less and less intimate.
For Minnie Childress of Thorsby and Bobbie Giles of Jemison, however, the word “friend” takes on its purest form—a lifelong bond that can never be broken.
Childress, 78, and Giles, 77, became friends at Isabella School in the ’40s. While there are undoubtedly other friendships that have lasted as long or longer, there is something unique about these two ladies: They have sent each other birthday cards every year since 1949.
“We kept in touch with birthday cards,” Childress said. “We have a good relationship.”
Childress’ birthday is Dec. 31, and Giles’ is Feb. 7. The birthday greetings started soon after their last year at Isabella and haven’t stopped.
“I’ve called from out of state to wish her happy birthday,” Giles said.
“It’s never been missed, no matter what,” added Childress.
Both have big families. Childress married in February 1950 and Giles followed suit in August of that year. Childress has five children, all of whom graduated from Isabella High School; Giles also has five children, all of whom are Jemison High School graduates.
The ladies refer to themselves as “Isabella hillbillies.”
“Where I was, you saw both of us,” Childress said, recalling her school days. “We just liked each other, and nothing ever separated us.”
Childress sacrificed part of her education to raise a family, but she didn’t realize Giles had also left Isabella until the two started corresponding.
Over the years, the cards have turned into deeper forms of expression. Some years, the ladies exchange two sets of cards—one humorous and the other serious (Giles does the same with her husband, Earl, on their anniversary).
“She sent me two this year,” Childress said, pointing to the illustration on one card—two old ladies driving a car.
“Where are we headed?” one asks.
“I don’t know,” replies the other.
“She says one of them is me and the other is her,” Childress laughed.
When asked their favorite birthday card, neither could pick a true favorite.
“All of them,” Giles answered. “She always sends the most beautiful cards.”
Giles also calls the local radio station and dedicates a birthday song to Childress—usually one recorded by Childress’ daughter, Amy Nelson, a local gospel singer. This year she dedicated the song “Let Her Fly,” a song about mothers.
Of course, birthdays aren’t the only times to keep in touch. The two occasionally share a meal at their favorite “hangouts,” Main Street Café or Clara’s, because the food reminds them of home cooking.
Both are also Auburn Tiger fans, although Childress is Alabama Crimson Tide “for now” because her granddaughter, Kristin, attends UA where she is a Crimsonette.
“It’s really ironic how much we are alike,” Childress said.
In an attempt to describe such a deep, lifelong friendship, one could easily become overemotional, but to Childress it’s simple:
“It feels like you’ve got somebody by your side at all times—a good friend,” she said.