Panhandle author writes about her family & Jesus’ family
Apr 9, 2014
Florida Baptist Witness

FLORIDA WRITER Dolly Holden Anderson says she’s been a writer all her life. Courtesy photo
PANAMA CITY BEACH (FBW)—Dolly Holden Anderson, a member of West Bay Baptist Church near Panama City Beach, says she has been a writer all her life.

“Even when I was young, I was always writing something, keeping a record of things,” she said.

Anderson has written monthly entries in a diary since 1970, and weekly entries in another diary since 1999. English classes were her favorites in high school, where she learned to “love words,” she said. She began writing longer “stories and observations” after her retirement in 2006 from her part-time job as a pharmacy technician at Bay Medical Center.

She completed her first book in 2010, and her second book, Out of Nazareth, was published in June 2013. 

Her first book, Remembering the Boondocks, contained recollections of growing up in West Bay, about five miles north of Panama City Beach. The 42-page book was written mostly as a keepsake for her husband of 50 years, Vernon, her children and  grandchildren, although other long-time residents of the area have told her it is among their favorite books.

Anderson’s grandfather, Ellis W. Scott, moved from Panama City to West Bay in 1929, and Anderson’s parents and siblings lived “in the big house” with them. 

“As a child, there was a wonderful security in growing up around family. I loved my grandparents,” she said. “They always seemed to have people living with them in the house.”

Her grandmother’s brother, Uncle John Edwards, bought her first bicycle in 1952. He bought it in Panama City, and “rode it all the way back to the big house in West Bay,” she saidGrandfather Scott farmed, worked for Bay Railroad, and was justice of the peace in Bay County. He gave the land for West Bay Baptist in 1950, and family members were among the first members.

“You went to church every Sunday and Wednesday night if you weren’t sick, whether you wanted to or not. We were taught that when you commit to something, you stick with it,” she said.

Anderson, who is named after her grandmother, Dolly Susan Scott, has many fond memories of fishing and going to town—Panama City, “a big deal back then”—with her grandfather. Other memories are not so pleasant. Not long before her grandparents died, the family made preparations for Hurricane Alice in June 1953. When the storm became severe, the entire clan sought shelter in the “new” West Bay Elementary School, where they spent the night.

The school was also the site of communitywide Christmas celebrations. After the men and boys found the tallest cedar tree in the nearby woods, the women and girls decorated it in large colored lights, “not the dainty white lights used today.” Santa Claus distributed gifts, and community churches provided gifts for those who didn’t bring any, Anderson said.

A few years ago Anderson wrote a play about the annual event, and actors from “the three churches in town” performed it during a reunion at the school.

“It brought back precious memories of long ago,” she said.

Anderson’s love of family was an element she sought to infuse into the biblical accounts of Jesus life in her second work. She logged hundreds of hours of research into life in ancient Nazareth in preparation for Out of Nazareth.

“The Bible doesn’t give a lot of detail about daily life, so I had to use my imagination,” she said. “It was like I became a member of Jesus’ family. They became real to me, and I even gave his sisters names.”

The 128-page work adds details to the Nativity story, her favorite Bible story, from a woman’s perspective, she said. The Crucifixion was the hardest to visualize because of its “hideous details.” 

“I’ve seen it in movies, but not written down. It made me cry,” she said.

West Bay Baptist Pastor Roger Krans told Florida Baptist Witness he admired the enormous amount of time Anderson spent on research for Out of Nazareth.

“She put great effort into this book, and it should really enlighten people,” he said.

Krans, pastor of West Bay Baptist for 11 years, said Anderson has been a member of the church longer than any other member, and she remains “an integral part of our cozy little church. I call her the watchdog of the church,” he said. 

Anderson is now working on a third book that will be a “timeline of history,” she said.

“I want to make the connections between the Bible and ancient history. I’m doing the research now, and I’m discovering again that there is a lot to learn,” she said.


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