Thursday, October 15, 2009

Growing up here

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..."


  1. I'm torn between finding this kind of place relaxing or irritating due to everything being closed on Sunday or early evening. I do miss Coke in a glass bottle and I don't miss sweetened tea. Did/Does anyone deliver pizza?

  2. Reminds me of my version of the big city but I don't think it had that many stoplights. As for the town I grew up south of, it was in a county that didn't have a single stoplight or a fastfood restaurant and made history ten years ago by being the first county in the US to arrest cows and put them in jail. Yeehaw!

  3. This could very well have been my hometown you were describing, save for the sweet tea and stoplights. There isn't a single stop light in the sleepy town of under 1000 I grew up in: the only town in the entire county that has stoplights would be the countyseat.

    Oh and those cows that got out? It would have been my Grandpa's more than likely. I can't tell you how many times that happened :)

    What a wonderful post, Bone. You reminded me how much better our hometowns seem when we're adults.

  4. With Halloween coming up, I've been kind of nostalgic too for the way things were when I was young. I was just telling my daughter about how when I was a kid so many people would create mini haunted houses in their yards or garages for trick or treat. And we'd stay out as long as possible, until people turned off their lights when they ran out of candy. Very different than today.

  5. I grew up for a part of my childhood in this kind of place too. Only we had just one stop light and the only thing that ever got "backed up" was when a train came through.
    I've googled my old town and so much has has gotten much smaller.

    The town I'm in now is a bit bigger (no, Not Denver...where I actually live) and folks are struggling to keep that small town feel while the city and county are drooling over the tax income from all the big box stores they let come in here...only to watch them leave cuz we don't want them here. So now we have a bunch of empty storefronts. sigh!

  6. You had to know I would love this except for the fresh-sliced bologna sandwich part. Yuck.

    Many people try to evoke the feeling of their hometown. You're one of the few people who totally succeed.

    i guess I do a fairly good job with NY which of course is the opposite of a small town

    I guess North Myrtle can't be called a small town, but it's comprised of four distinct villages and I think mine is except that Main Street about a third of a mile above the ocean is all strip malls. But I have gotten to know a lot of the store owners and workers and find it comforting which is what I think people have a nostalgia for even if we never had it

  7. Murf - What, I don't get a "beautiful and pensive" this time? :)

    Nope. We had to go to the "big" city for pizza when I was little. Pizza Hut finally opened up the Pizza Hut trailer shortly after I got out of high school, I think. You couldn't eat in and they didn't deliver. You just had to call it in and go pick it up.

    Ed - Cows in jail? lol Wow. What did these wayward bovine do?

    We didn't have a lot of fast food places. When I was very little, I think all we had was a Sonic and another drive-in type place. Then Jack's opened up and was followed a few years later, when I was in high school, by Hardee's. We thought we were big time then.

    TC - Oh and those cows that got out? It would have been my Grandpa's more than likely.

    Haha. Yeah, it was a pretty common problem, I think. If you didn't know whose they were, you usually just called the cops and they'd know.


    Susan - Yes! There were usually a couple of houses that had spooky music playing and you'd have to walk inside to get your candy. I had forgotten all about that until reading your comment.

    Renee - There's definintely a lot to be said for locally-owned stores and businesses.

    Empty storefronts? Well, maybe if you hadn't suggested that the Dream Cafe changed its menu to all-Pakistani, they would still be in business :)

    Pia - Well, I hoped you would :) Thanks.

    I think you always do a splendid job of describing New York. I was always struck by how each neighborhood seemed to be its own small town in a way--always running into people you know--which I never realized until I read your blog.

    And yes, it is comforting.

  8. Strange how I never knew you when you obviously grew up in my hometown. I go back very rarely now (it is in another country, after all ;) and while it appears to be the same town in which I grew's not. It's changed and I've changed. You can never go back.

  9. i love this story Bone. i can remember cruising the plaza in Paintsville, KY and Wal- Mart was the place to hang or sometimes even Arby's. i can remember those days like it was yesterday. i miss them. we lived in a log cabin with a screen door and if i listen closely i can hear its squeakiness too. i can remember fireworks at the 4th of July fair booming across the sky in great arches of color. i can remember those small out of the way country stores and the wax candy i'd always get- the kind with colored juice inside. i'd chew for hours on that wax until all the flavor was drained. well, you get the picture. thanks for the trip down memory lane. have a great day.

  10. I love all these vivid memory posts. They make me feel nostalgic about things that didn't even happen to me! I love the little details like the lady who gave fruit at Halloween and praying before meals. Things like that remind me of little bits of my own memories... perhaps that's where my nostalgia's coming from.

  11. The wayward bovines escaped their enclosure onto the highway one too many times. The were "arrested" to another farm and the owner had to post "bail" to get them out. It made the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw when it happened.

  12. Thank you for this! This makes me think so much about my childhood. My dad's favorite holiday was Halloween and his birthday would have been on the 25th, so I've already been pondering these thoughts for most of this month. I can remember him loading up all 6 of us kids with our home made costumes and take us trick or treating for what seemed like 10 hours. He loved to see the smiles on our faces when we got our favorite candy! GOD I MISS HIM!!!
    But, because of him, I have carried on the tradition with my own children. Hope to see you on Halloween! :)

  13. Blogtober so far has been impressive. the only thing missing was the General Lee and some Duke's racing the sheriff down a dirt road!

    Home is the place were we got all we needed, your hometown did that for you. Very nice memories.

  14. Capn John - I dunno, sometimes I think I would like to be known as the guy who actually went back. Where's Christopher Lloyd?

    Michelle Johnson - Thank you! Ooo, we never had an Arby's. I always wanted one.

    Seems like each comment is making me remember new things. Your mention of plaza made me remember the little shopping center that had a drug store, a dollar store that changed names several times, and a Bargain Town USA.

    J Adamthwaite - I think you just summed a lot about personal blogging. Realizing how many people can relate to your experiences, and vice versa. Yet at the same time, reading about things that you've never experienced and aren't familiar with.

    Ed - Oh wow. That's good stuff. Yeah, if our town ever wound up on national news, it'd be for something like that.

    Mrs. R - Aww, well you're welcome. Yeah, it seemed like some years we would come home and empty our bags, then go back out for more trick-or-treating.

    I'll definitely have to see the godson in his costume. What's he gonna be?

    Daily Panic -Haha. Well, I did always beg Mom to get one of those Dixie horns for her car. For some reason, she never did.

    Thanks. I think Blogtober's been good for me, too.

  15. I'm never going to live that down.

  16. sounds like you grew up in my town (the one I grew up in). perfect.

  17. Wow you are small town Southern. Pretty close to small town Northern. We didn't have any stop lights, and the houses were to far apart to Trick-or-Treat so the local volunteer fire department sponsored a Halloween party every year.

    Sweet tea had never heard of it before I moved South. The "sweet" tea up North is not real "sweet" tea.

    Wonderful post Bone.

  18. Sounds nice. Ever have a fried bolonga sandwich?

  19. It all harkens back to simpler times.

    You mentioned not having a movie theater etc, and were still able to find stuff to do.

    In a larger sense, I think that a lot of problems with kids/teens today is, technology. They think they need it to have fun. They depend on it.

    Sad in a way that as a society we've become so connected... facebook, twitter, blogs etc.. that we don't hardly take the time to enjoy life... really.

    now, back to surfing.

  20. I think you might have been my neighbor!

  21. Murf - Well, not as long as we both have blogs, at least :)

    Shelby - Yeah, I always relate to your small-town stories, too.

    PennyCandy - Well likewise, I wasn't aware they didn't have sweet tea everywhere until I traveled out of the South.

    Thank you.

    Sage - Of course! I used to fix one at least a couple of times a week. It's the best way to eat bologna.

    Java Boo Boo - Good point. Now when are you going to invite me over to play Wii again?

    Mama Zen - Well, if yours was the hosue who always set out the bowl of Halloween candy with the sign reading "Please only take one" then I apologize. :)