KING COLUMN: Shocco Springs Sure Makes Me Smile

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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They say you can’t go home again. Well, maybe not, but you can go back to Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center. Jean and I have been going back there for one-half century now. I have been back so many times, and for so many different events, that I can’t even begin to remember them all. While Shocco Springs may not be home, it certainly feels like home and it brings me smiles every time!

In case you don’t know, Shocco Springs is a retreat center/conference center just outside of Talladega, Alabama. There you will find a beautiful lake where you can fish or canoe, woods, trails, ropes courses, putt-putt, basketball, volleyball, paintball, a firepit, cabins, motel type rooms, a chapel, dining hall, meeting rooms, and much more located on over 800 acres of beautiful land not too far from the tallest mountain in the state.

I had an opportunity to attend Royal Ambassadors camp there as a boy once, but Mama thought it was too far and snaky. Since then, I’ve gone to Shocco Springs from near and far, but I’ve never seen one single snake there! Finally, in the fall of 1974, Jean and I went there for the first time. We were students at Northeast Alabama Junior College when we attended a Baptist Student Union retreat there. We were in love with one another and fell in love with Shocco…and yes, we had separate quarters! Honestly, I don’t remember much about that retreat, but I do remember the green-eyed girl with the long blonde hair that I married the following summer.

I’ve been back to attend conferences as a student and lead conferences as a teacher. I’ve taken church and associational groups there for all kinds of retreats and conferences. I was trained and was certified for Disaster Relief work there in chainsaw and as a chaplain.

My alter ego, Bro. Billy Bob Bohannon, has even appeared at Shocco.  In 2007, shortly after we moved back to Alabama after a decade in Mississippi, I was invited to bring my Billy Bob character to Shocco to bring smiles at the statewide Senior Adult Retreat. Billy Bob has been back dozens of times since to tell tales and sing.

Last weekend, 50 years after that first time there with Jean, we went back again. This time it was for the Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association’s Minister’s and Wive’s Retreat. I had the privilege of leading that association for 15 years, before I retired at the end of 2021. Thank you, Wayne and Jean Ivey, for inviting us back. It is always a joy and honor to do something for a group you’ve led in the past. Jean led the women’s sessions and Billy Bob showed out in concert on the opening night. This year’s retreat was somewhat bittersweet, because it was the last one for this group. They haven’t all been held at Shocco, but many have been. I was at the first one, held on Lake Martin 17 years ago, and each one since.

This time we shared the Shocco campus with a group who came for the DWG. When I saw those letters, I thought they were a group of Georgia Bulldog fans, but then I realized the letters weren’t DAWG but DWG. It stood for Deaf Women’s Gathering. Over 150 deaf ladies came together from all over the nation. To see them all signing and smiling to one another put a big smile on our faces! For more than 70 years now, the happenings at Shocco Springs have put smiles on the faces of multitudes of guests, including 50 years now for this guest!