With particulars of a history book, Alabama-born Yarbrough, who turns 96 on Wednesday, details happenings in her life against the backdrop of events spanning nearly a century, such as the Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement, as well as technological innovations such as the automobile and airplane. Through her observations, she portrays what Atlanta "used to be like."
During an interview, part of which can be viewed online at www.mdjonline.com, the delightful storyteller spoke of many "firsts," such as the first time she heard a radio at age 6 at the home of a neighbor.
"That (radio) was the scratchiest thing. That thing just squeaked and squawked. I never heard a word that I understood," Yarbrough said chuckling.
The next to the youngest of nine children, Yarbrough spent much of her youth with relatives because her father was ill. At 10, when her father died leaving the family with nothing, life handed Yarbrough responsibilities of an adult.
"Our faith in the Lord took care of us," the resident of Winwood Independent Living said.
Yarbrough spoke of her first brush with life's challenges that occurred shortly after her father's death. While visiting her sister at age 11, Yarbrough was sent to check on her sister's baby, only to find him dead. "That was the first calamity I ever had to face," Yarbrough said. "I had many more later on."
In 1927, "She Came From Alabama" when her mother moved the family to the Grant Park area of Atlanta to be close to her brothers. One of Yarbrough's most enjoyable Atlanta firsts was her recollection of the first performance at the Fox Theatre on a snowy Christmas Day in 1929. "We sat in the balcony so we could see the stars. It was just like you were outside with those stars twinkling up there and seeing that for the first time," she said.
Armed with a junior high school education, Yarbrough took her first job at Kress 5 & 10 store across from Rich's in downtown Atlanta to help support her family. By age 17, she was manager of Kress' soda fountain making $9 a week.
Yarbrough later opened Yarbrough's Restaurant with her husband, the late James Warren Yarbrough, whom she met at a boarding house on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The restaurant, located at 929 Peachtree St. near the intersection of Peachtree and 10th streets, catered to hundreds daily. After they retired, Yarbrough moved to Florida where she lived independently until 2000 when she moved to Marietta to be near family.
Yarbrough attributes her full life to her faith. Her faith helped her remain positive and thriving and to overcome personal crises such as deaths in her childhood to having emergency brain surgery at age 89.
"I've always put Christ in my life from the time I was 10 years old. I've always tried to do the right thing. I've always tried to be helpful to people, to take care of every situation that came up," she said.
"Throughout her life, (my mother) went through so much and saw so many things happen but she always had the time to be a friend to someone," said her daughter, Patty Yarbrough Conley of Smyrna.
Conley also co-authored the memoir. "(She Came From Alabama is) a very inspirational story."