Those who were here in the early days of Peachtree City’s growth know that Sallie Satterthwaite is a local legend. Satterthwaite Fire Station #84 on Crabapple Lane was named in her honor, and fire personnel who know her history stand up and salute her when she walks into the room.
Sallie was born in Harrisburg, Pa. and attended Gettysburg College, where she studied English. There, she met her future husband, David, a chemistry major. They married in 1956 and moved to New Jersey, where Dave began working for Owens Corning and where their three daughters, Mary, Alice and Jean, were born.
In 1971, Dave transferred with Owens Corning to Atlanta, and the family moved to the fledgling community of Peachtree City, adding five new residents to the city’s then-population of 960.
What was it like living in Peachtree City in the early years?
There was really nothing here back in the early 70’s. I had to go to Fairburn to shop. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when you could go to church, run errands and shop all in the same place. And now look at all the growth!
Shortly after moving to Peachtree City, I started working for Dr. Henry Drake, one of the few doctors around. I was his administrative assistant — more like a “Girl Friday.” We had limited resources. He taught me how to take blood samples and use the medical equipment. At the time, we had no ambulance or rescue service.
In 1974, Dave and I became two of the first volunteers with the local fire and rescue department. Dr. Drake trained the volunteers in basic and more advanced first aid. We were called out to fires, car accidents and medical emergencies. There was no 9-1-1 number that residents could call, so they called “Miss Louise,” the sister of Fire Chief Leach. Miss Louise kept the fire department volunteers’ phone numbers on hand, and if you were on duty, she called you to respond to an emergency. We had to make decisions on care and whether to transport a victim to the hospital. We took patients to Clayton General Hospital at the time. Whatever had to be done, we all did it. It meant a lot to the people in Peachtree City that we were here, and everyone was very proud of their volunteer fire department. I volunteered as a paramedic with the department for almost 17 years.
Tell us about life with your girls during their formative years in Peachtree City.
We didn’t have many activities for kids at the time, and I tried to work with other volunteers to make sure the girls could be involved with organizations like the Girl Scouts. I was also interested in getting new services for the city, so I ran for office and was elected to the City Council. I only served one term because our middle daughter, Alice, was stricken with a rare cancer, and I wanted to be home with her. Alice died in 1977 at the age of 17 and a half. Parents never really get over the death of a child. After all these years, I still often wonder, ‘What would Alice think about this?’ Alice helped design an obelisk that is her memorial. The obelisk is covered in poems that Alice wrote. It is installed in a wooded area off of Hip Pocket Road near our first home in Peachtree City. Mary and Jean went on to graduate from Fayette County High School. Mary is now a pianist for an opera company in Germany. Jean lives in the Washington D.C. area and has given us two grandsons, Samuel, age 11, and Uriah, age 8.
You have been writing about life in Peachtree City for a long time. How did you get started in your writing career?
I started back in the 70’s writing publicity for Fire and Rescue so people would know about us. When The Citizen newspaper came to town in 1993, I sent in a story about a recent ice storm. They printed it, and soon I became a weekly columnist for the paper, which I still do to this day. Lately I have been thinking about winding down my column. I was diagnosed a few years ago with Parkinson’s disease, which is challenging to live with. Getting Parkinson’s is disappointing, but I am pretty pragmatic and don’t dwell a whole lot on what might have been. Sallie also wrote many cover stories for Fayette Woman in the early years of its publication.
How would you sum up the legacy you are leaving in Peachtree City?
While Sallie is reluctant to talk about her contributions, Dave laughed and jumped right in. “Sallie is a local celebrity. She was really a big deal at the beginning of this town. She would jump on a motorcycle when she got an emergency call and go attend to people who were hurt. She was a legend around town.”
Carolyn Cary, another long-time resident of Fayette County and Sallie’s colleague at The Citizen, agrees with David’s assessment. “Sallie and I have known each other for over 40 years, and I have always observed what a faithful volunteer she has been to Peachtree City.”
While Sallie is taking it a little more slowly these days, she still has many interests. She loves to travel, write about topics that pique her interest, attend services at Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, watch the birds and squirrels in the back yard, and enjoy her children and grandchildren.