Growing up here wasn't all that exciting. Town closed down on Sunday, except for one of the four drug stores. If you needed to do any other business, you either drove to the city or it just didn't get done until Monday. To this day it's still a dry town and county (meaning you can't buy alcohol there, at least not legally).
There was no mall, no bowling alley, and no movie theater. Well there was, but it had been closed down for years. But we found things to do, we made our own trouble and our own fun. When I was little, the teenagers all cruised the town square on Saturday nights. By the time I was old enough to drive, the Winn-Dixie parking lot was the place to be.
There were five stop lights that I can remember. If you timed it just right, you could miss every one. But the four-way stop sign out at the main highway could get backed up four or five cars deep some Friday nights.
There was a little store where they would pump your gas. You could get a fresh-sliced bologna sandwich, an old bottled Coke and a Sunbeam honey bun. But if you were going, you better get there by sundown, because they closed early just like everything else. Growing up here was inconvenient at times.
Everybody I knew went to church on Sunday morning. We prayed before the high school football games and before we sat down to eat. To a lot of folks today that might seem a little backward. But I didn't think so then, and I don't think so now.
It seemed like the whole town was at the county fair. If you brought your ticket stub from the high school football game on Friday night, you got in free. They had bingo every night of the fair starting at 8. I remember for the first few years, Mom wouldn't let me play. It was too close to gambling, I guess.
Growing up here, you knew all your neighbors. They knew your business and you knew theirs. You knew the cops in town and more importantly, they knew your parents. And if you got in trouble at school, somehow your momma found out about it before you even got home.
I can't remember the first time I had a glass of sweet tea, but I sure remember my first taste of unsweet. I recall countless evenings playing out in the yard or at someone else's house in the neighborhood, and our parents calling us home when it was time eat.
We shot off fireworks in the backyard on the 4th of July, and usually the 2nd and 3rd and 5th, too. Not once did the neighbors ever complain. A lot of times they'd even come out to watch. Everybody handed out candy on Halloween, except for one lady who always handed out fruit.
Growing up here, we never locked our car doors. It's just something you never thought about. I remember my parents did neighborhood watch one summer when I was little. About the most exciting thing that ever happened was somebody's cow getting out, inside the city limits of course.
There were rocking chairs on porches, clothes out on the line, and miles and miles of cotton fields. Every so often you were bound to get behind a tractor going down the road. But not to worry, he'd eventually wave you around when it was clear.
There was a hardware store, a furniture store and two drug stores on the town square, and a barber shop with a barber shop pole. Everybody would throw up a hand when they passed you driving down the street, even when you had no idea who they were. People would bring over fresh vegetables they'd picked from their garden. And the women would cook and take food when someone got bad sick.
I don't live in that town anymore, but I never strayed very far away, either in body or soul. And when I drive by that sleepy little brick house with the blue shutters, gravel driveway, and the back screen door which seemed to squeak louder the later it was, I find myself missing so many things.
I guess growing up here wasn't all that bad.
"Erwin Nichols there with Judge Lee playin' checkers at the gin. When I dream about the Southland this is where it all begins..."