By Kristin Finney
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Jimmy Lyons spent a large portion of his life in the Madison area before moving to Lake City. He was born in 1951 in the Madison Hospital. Lyons lived in the same house for the entirety of his life in Lee. The house was located across from the Lee City Hall. That is where he called home until 1978 when he moved to Lake City. Growing up Lyon’s attended Lee Junior High School. He then went to Madison High School.
He remembers a time back in 1958 when an old bearded man came through Lee. Lyons was only seven years old at the time. Everyone in town called the bearded man “the goat man.” That name came from the fact that he had about a dozen goats with him while he was traveling. Lyons remembers that where the lee mini market is there used to be a billboard and the Goat Man stopped there and tied his goats up to that billboard. The Goat Man spent the weekend there in Lee a Friday through a Monday. The Goat Man told everyone in Lee that he was going to run for president in 1960 and that he had a lawyer working to get him on the ballot. He also said he was a preacher as well and would read scriptures during the day. Lyon’s said, “It was very exciting that a man was there with a heard of goats that was saying he was running for president.” He also recalled that the man had a covered wagon.
Lyons also remembers that around 1964, behind Cherry’s Feed Store, there was an old voting house. That was where the town council met. Also, there was an old two-room brick jail beside the voting house. Lyons recalled that Lee used to have a town “Night Watchman” named Arthur Williams. Williams was just like a police officer but he was very incognito. If anyone had to be locked up he was the one to take them in. The people would be locked up in the two-room city jail until they could get them to Madison. “I would play there a lot when I was little and I have been in there many times and remember seeing holes in the walls from the prisoners trying to escape,” shared Lyons.
Another memory occurred in the early 1960s where Archie’s restaurant sits today. Back then Roy Smith opened what most people believe to be was Lee’s first hamburger place. It was called Roy’s Snack Bar.
“Traffic was so heavy in Lee at Hwy 90 that I remember times when I thought I would never be able to cross the road. Also, there was an S curve in Lee. That curve was called second worst curve in the State of Florida for accidents. When it would rain, my brother and I would ride out there and watch for wrecks and there would almost always be one,” remembered Lyons.
In 1964, Tommy and Mary Ellen Greene opened the Carrier in downtown Madison. In 1968, Lyons started writing the Lee news for the Madison County Carrier. He would take a lot of pictures of wrecks and write up stories about what was happening in Lee. That was from 1969 until 1970. His column was called the Lee News.
In 1972, Lyons was the Lee fire chief. “We had no members back then though. We had a fire truck with a half tank on it. Money was so tight that when I would get called for a fire I would have to pull my truck up and jump the fire truck off. I know it is hard to imagine. But that is how it was. I am so proud of where the Lee Fire Department is now.”
Some other memories that Lyons has include, “There was an old cotton gin back beside Cherry’s Feed Store. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember it being there. Also, In 1973, there was a large flood that flooded the river. Water was all over Lee. Behind Lee School looked like an ocean. It was very scary.“
Lyons married his wife, Sharon, in 1986 and they currently have a farm in Lake City. Lyons retired from law enforcement in 2006 from the Columbia County Sheriffs Office. “But I still own the house I grew up in in Lee. To this day I go over there and sit on the porch and reminisce.“