I wish, for one day, I could go home. I would walk up the front steps, and the look through the long glass panel in the door.
|1017 Meridian (Metro Assessor, thanks to Tim Walker)|
I open the door and step into the living room Too early for Mama to be cooking, but I wonder what she has planned. Maybe it will be fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread and fresh brewed tea. I walk into the next room, which doubles as a den and my bedroom. I find Mama singing along with a Doris Day song that is playing on the radio. I sing the words with her, Que Sera, Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be.... It is so hot, on this late summer day. Window fans are running in the den and in the kitchen, mostly just stirring the warm moist air. Time for Mama's show, "As the World Turns."
I go out back and stand in the shade of a huge old hackberry tree. My cousins, Linda and Eleanor and I played so many times under this tree. We would play baseball with my cousin Jerry and Marty White and other kids in the neighborhood, the Martins, the Crouches or the Cunninghams. Sometimes instead of baseball we played freeze tag, hide and seek, or some game that we made up. We were always outside. With no air conditioning, inside was not an option. For our baseball games, the sewer grate, in the middle of the alley, was home plate. First base was in my yard, second was in the alley, and third was in Mrs. Charlton's backyard. I wish I could go running through my old neighborhood and visit my friends.
Daddy comes driving up the alley and turns into the back yard. He takes his lunch box and big coffee thermos out of the back seat and heads into the house.
I wish I could walk down the alley and go into my grandmother's house. She was Mama Oeser to all of her grandchildren and every child in the neighborhood. She would have fresh baked cookies or cake or pie waiting. She had a window air conditioning unit in her den and we, Linda, Eleanor and I, would sometimes go there to cool off. My cousins Janice and Cheryl would be there. They stayed with Mama Oeser while their parents worked. We were never inside long. Out in the back yard, Mama Oeser had a wonderful flower garden, with a pond, filled with big gold fish, with water lilies growing on top. In the winter the top would freeze over. My grandfather would break up the ice. The goldfish stayed low and survived the cold weather. Mama Oeser loved roses and had them everywhere, lots of varieties and colors.
Her house was fun. She had so many things to touch and look at. Her front bedroom was painted pink. The furniture was painted white with rose decals. There was a bed and a dresser and a wardrobe. Also a little dressing table with a mirror and a bench. The furniture was sort of dainty looking. Mama Oeser and Papa bought the bedroom suit when they first got married. There was a vanity set on the dresser and Avon powder and cologne, "To A Wild Rose."
If Mama gave me a quarter, I would go out back and up the alley to Red Cross Drugs to spend it. As I walked, I would see Mrs. White out back hanging laundry on the clothes line. Mrs. Hargis might be looking out her back door. All along the alley, at the back of the houses, were old garages and storage buildings. Several houses still had a trash pit at the alley where residents would burn trash before there was city trash pickup. Sometimes when I got near the corner, I would see a box turtle in the alley. Mrs. Sharpe (I thought her name was Mrs. Shark when I was little) lived on the corner and she had turtles in her back yard. I don't know why, just remember they came from there. Her yard was sort of overgrown as I remember. A couple of times I carried one home but Daddy made me take it back.
I had to cross Vaughn St. to continue. It was not a busy street and usually there were no cars in sight. There were houses on the Meridian St. side of the alley for most of the block until I came to Meridian Street Methodist Church. The red brick church had some sort of bays at the back that were open and there were always pigeons roosting in there. Their cooing made a weird echoing sound, and the slapping sound of their wings was loud and I was always afraid and ran until I was past the church to Cleveland St. I crossed Cleveland which was a little busier than Vaughn St. and go on up to the end of alley and the drugstore on Wilburn Street.
|Metro Assessor Office (thanks to Tim Walker)|
A quarter would buy a comic book, a candy bar and a coke. Next to the Red Cross drugstore was Jacobs. It was a dry goods store and sometimes I would go in and look around. If I had extra money, I would sometimes buy something. I remember getting flip flops there. Just across the alley from Red Cross was the old Roxy Theater building. It was closed by the time I was old enough to walk that far from home. (Except for the time when I was about 4 and I took my cousins, without permission, on an adventure to find Mickey Mouse.) There was a coin laundry in the lobby area and a church was using the theater auditorium.
How much fun it would be to walk through Glenn Elementary School and stop in each classroom and watch the teacher and the children as they go about their day. I would stop by the library, where there were so many books, I wanted to stay forever. The wide hallways with beautiful wood floors always seemed warm and safe. Down to the cafeteria, vegetable soup and hot dog day, always smelled so good. Out to the school yard and the swings where we all tried to swing higher than anyone else, pumping our little legs and soaring through the air.
Most kids I knew got new clothes for school every year. Mama and I would go to town on the bus and shop at Harvey's and sometimes Castner's or Cain-Sloan. I usually got three maybe four new dresses. Girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. I don't think I was the only girl at school who had to come home and change before going out to play so the dress could be worn another time before it was washed. I would get a new pair of shoes, sometimes two pair if I needed dress shoes. One year my Uncle Jimmy and his wife Doris bought me a new coat. Financially, times were difficult at our house. My daddy had lost his long time job because the company closed. It was a long time before he found a decent job again and it did not compare with the one lost. He always worked but it was often for little money. To be honest, I really didn't know then, how bad things were. I did appreciate that new coat, though.
Washing clothes! Oh if kids today only knew. At our house wash day started early, as soon as Mama got Daddy off to work and out of the house. We had a wringer washer and she had to use the bath tub as a rinse tub.
Mama would pull the washer near the bathroom door and fill it with hot water and add powdered tide. White clothes always went first. If there were a lot clothes the water would be changed but usually one tub of water did all the clothes. Load the clothes into the hot water, let the machine agitate for awhile. Then run each piece of clothing through the wringer and place it in the tub. The machine I remember most was electric but the older ones had to be agitated by hand and the wringer had a handle that was turned to wring the clothes. Ours had a motor that turned the wringers as clothing was fed through. After the clothing was rinsed in the clean water, it went back through the wringer again and into a basket. Then out to the clothes lines. We had five or six lines strung between metal "T" poles that had been secured into the ground with concrete, so the weight of the wet clothes would not pull them down.
Once I was tall enough I helped hang the clothes. Mama wouldn't let me use the wringer. She got her hand caught in one and was afraid I would get hurt. We had a lot of people in our house at times and a lot clothes. By the time enough had been washed that all the lines were full, usually the first clothes hung, had dried and were taken down to make room for the next load. In the summer my sister Ann and I were always home to help but once school started Mama was on her own. It was an all day job and Mama washed the clothes and hung them out year round. Rainy days would delay wash day and in the winter she sometimes had to wait for the warmer days. I do remember when clothes froze on the lines, but they seemed to dry anyway. When I was about 10, I think, an automatic coin laundry opened in the old Roxy theater. By then my sister was married and she would bring her laundry and we would take Mama's and go there to wash clothes in bad weather. Mama still washed and hung the clothes in good weather until she moved from Meridian in 1972. And next came ironing day!
I wish I could visit the neighborhood pharmacy, grocery, diner, cafe, dime store, these places of my youth. But I am getting old and the children I knew are growing old as well. Most of the adults in my life back then, are gone. The houses and buildings are gone or changed. I have lived many more years away from that old neighborhood than in it. For most of us, our childhood was our "good old days," even when sometimes things were not so good. We never had much money, and I really didn't know anyone who did. Most of us have happy memories of childhood. Even hard times are not so bad through the eyes of a child. Lyrics to "In the Eyes of a Child."
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