Tim Tyler

By Victoria Register Freeman
Resident Community News

Sitting in his Historic District military gallery, Timothy Morrish Tyler remembers how the seeds of his current life were planted over 50 years ago by his grandmother Dolly Sisk. “She taught Sunday School at The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. She loved history, read constantly and shared her knowledge by telling great stories.
“This was the 1950s, a time right after the start of the Korean War and not too long after the end of World War II. My friends and I knew veterans like my dad Jean Tyler and my Uncle Hoke Sisk. A group of us played elaborate games with plastic soldiers. We dug trenches and built battlements in our yards and in nearby parks. My grandmother went to England on trips and she sent me my first lead soldiers. They were real and shiny. I was hooked.”
When Tyler and his West Riverside Elementary friends were not devising miniature military campaigns, they were zooming through their neighborhood on bikes, eating Mrs. Holland’s blackberry pies or navigating their small boats from the Fuller Warren Bridge to the Ortega River. Tyler purchased his boat from Randy Barnett and moored it at the Phillips’ dock on Seminole Avenue. He and his father split the purchase price of the boat.

“At that time the St. John’s was often clogged with water hyacinths, thick mats of them. I remember seeing a Navy launch laboring through a dense patch of hyacinths. There was a sailor on the bow of the boat lifting hyacinths with a machete and cutting them in half. I guess he thought he was killing them but of course he wasn’t.

“We learned our river smarts from each other and from our parents. My folks would often rent a skiff from a marina on Black Creek and we would spend the day fishing. If our boat got stuck in a hyacinth pack, we knew to pole it out and start our engines in open water. We respected the river in her many moods and we always wore flotation devices. They were not optional.”

Besides bikes and boats, Tyler and his sister Connie sometimes rode the city bus into town. “If we were traveling with May, who worked for our family, we all sat in the back.
Connie and I thought that was the most exciting place to sit. Downtown itself was almost too exciting, especially May-Cohens with its wonderful book

“When we walked home from the bus or the park we would hear the mellow chatter of families inside their houses. In that pre-air conditioning era, chatter and the slam of screen doors were comforting sounds. In fact our entire neighborhood was comforting because at some level we knew we were parented by all of the adults. If we veered off the’ righteous path’, the neighborhood network would report us.

“Once, while still wearing our pajamas, Connie and I slipped out of our house in the early morning carrying a jar of peanut butter and a knife. Our mom got a call from Phil Allen of Allen’s Banner foods in Avondale. He had seen us and knew something was not right, hence the call.

“We knew, too, that if we really hurt ourselves, a neighborhood doctor might come over to the house and check on us. Doctor Root, Doctor Holland, Doctor L’Engle, and Doctor Ragland were neighborhood doctors. We knew all of them. They knew us.
“I went from elementary school across the river to Bolles and then on to additional adventures at the University of North Carolina.”

Returning from college in 1972 Tyler had a career in the family beer distribution business and met his wife Meliss in the business arena. She was in advertising. Rotary, Daniel Memorial and Memorial Park have been his major civic involvements although he confesses to having donated lots of beer to good causes. After retirement from Neal Tyler and Sons, he started the military gallery Troops of Time which also has a website featuring local military figures.

“Miss” Dolly Sisk’s soldiers have multiplied many times over.

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