Family Friendly Small Town Appealed to Long Time ResidentPublished 10:09pm Friday, May 27, 2011
Nolan Hills subdivision was new in Madison when Bebe and Bill Oetjen moved there in 1963.
The Oetjens had moved from Georgia for a job with Redstone Arsenal. They had two small children and were looking for a good place to raise them.
“It was difficult to find a house or apartment back then,” stated Bebe Oetjen. “We had friends who had moved to Madison and they kept their eyes open for a home for us while we rented in Huntsville.” A home became available in Nolan Hills and the family moved to Madison, remaining here for nearly fifty years.
“Madison was small then, maybe 3000 people, and the traffic was very low. The children could ride their bikes to the rock quarry near us and they would walk to the grocery store, ” Oetjen remembers.
Most of the families in Nolan Hills subdivision were young with children about the same age. It made for a close-knit community with weekend parties for children and adults alike.
The first memorable event Oetjen has of Madison was of a New Years Eve party in the neighborhood on December 31, 1963. The party was going strong when someone looked outside and saw that it was snowing. “We put a yardstick in the ground to measure how much snow we had gotten,” Oetjen said. “Then we spent about 20 minutes watching a car try to get up the hill. It finally wound up on the side of the road.”
Everyone had driven cars to the party and tried to drive them home. “We finally left the car on the side of the road with everyone else’s and walked home. I had a sitter for the children that night and she stayed the night because we couldn’t take her home,” Oetjen recalled. “The following day we all got our cars off the road and home.”
The snow that night was about a foot deep according to Oetjen’s recollection. “When we had the big storm this past winter, I was reminded of that New Year’s Eve,” Oetjen said.
The small town Oetjen knew is long gone and she misses some of the rural appeal that brought her family to Madison in 1963. Oetjen has been involved in the Madison community on a variety of levels since moving here. She was elected Madison City Commissioner in charge of Public Works in 1984 and served until 1989. She served on the Planning and Zoning Boards during a time when the building in Madison was starting to boom.