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Closing the Loop: Twila Hudson

Warren Miller

Twila Hudson lives in her childhood home, a house in the Lincolnville neighborhood of St. Augustine.

Twila said, "My dad bought the house at auction. It was in a segregated neighborhood, and blacks couldn't live there. So he bought the lot in Lincolnville, put the house on a trailer and brought it here. I'd never seen a house on a trailer before!"

It was a wonderful place to grow up in, Twila says. "It was so much fun. Everywhere you looked, there was someone to play with. I played school with the little kids. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school, and I kinda wanted to be just like her."

As Twila was growing up, in the early 1960s, the world outside her was changing. "It was tension. When I was in my neighborhood, I was comfortable, but when we went outside it, you knew you weren't wanted, and you could feel that."

In 1964, the Reverend Martin Luther King came to speak at Twila's church. Her family joined his movement. "I got to march, and my brothers marched, too. They turned the fire hoses and the dogs on us. Everybody ran, and the older woman I was with grabbed me, and we ran. I made it home alright, but it was a really frightening experience."

Twila left town to go to Xavier University in New Orleans. While working in the placement, she landed  an assignment she would keep for her entire career. "I just happened to be talking to someone in the placement office, and she offered me a position. I didn't want to leave St. Augustine. I wanted to come home and be with my mother and father, but I couldn't get a job there, so that's how I ended up taking the job in Missouri."

Twila Hudson retired in 2006 from the St. Louis County school district. Within a few years, both her husband and her father died. Her son moved with her back to St. Augustine. "He came, too! Now he's a Floridian.

Her mother had passed away years earlier, and her father left Twila the family home. "He said, 'I know, Twila, you want to come back home, 'cause you always say that. I know that you'll fix up the house, and anyone in the family who needs a place to stay can come back here and stay here.'"

And they have. Twila, her son and one of her brothers all live in the house, and other family members visit regularly. Twila has renovated the house from roof to foundation.

The city she lives in is different from the St. Augustine she left more than 40 years ago. "Now, it's tourists and college kids. The people who used to live here, most of them are gone and their children have sold the homes or rent them out. But it's still home. I'm in the church where I used to be, working with children."

"I've got so many memories. Mr. Twine and Hon, who lived next door. She and I would sit on her porch and talk for hours. Sometimes, I go out walking my dog and just cry. But I'm so grateful, because that's how those people still live — in my memory."

Warren Miller is a writer and financial executive who lives near St. Augustine, Florida.