Harold Townley, the grand marshal of this year’s Watkinsville Christmas Parade, never really retired.
In the early 2000s, he sold his last Christmas tree from a family operation that started in 1980. It was something he looked forward to every year, particularly when school children would visit the tree farm just before Thanksgiving
“We had as many as 1,000 kids come in at that time,” he recalled. “It was really enjoyable. I miss it. I still miss it. I really do.”
At 81, Townley still stays busy on the farm in Eastville.
“I’m working every day with our cows, hay and stuff like that,” he said. “I’m so thankful and blessed at my age.”
For 30 years, Townley commuted each day to Ford Motor Company in Hapeville. And for more than a decade, he never missed a Friday night football game as Oconee County High School mascot Tomacheechee.
In the late 1970s when his son Tony, a co-founder of Zaxby’s, was a freshman, Townley would slather on war paint and dress up from head to toe in Native American garb.
“When the Warriors reached the end zone, the spear was hurled into the ground and Townley’s Warrior dance circled around his projected weapon,” according to a 2016 story in The Oconee Enterprise. “When he pulled the spear out of the ground and held it above his head, the crowd went wild.”
The tradition continued after his son graduated and came to an end in the early 1990s when Hale Burnette retired from coaching. During that time, Townley was also the unofficial weight training coach.
“He was a role model to me and many others,” Jerry Knudsen, a member of the OCHS Class of 1984, wrote in a previous letter to the editor. “His work ethic rubbed off on me.”
The Watkinsville Christmas parade starts Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m., followed by the annual Tree Lighting at 6 p.m.
A Main Street market will run from 1-6 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people, and hope I can make it joyful,” he said, “because Christmas is a joyful time of year. It sure is to me.”
For more on this story, see the Nov. 23 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.