Tag Archives: Childhood Memories

The Outskirts of Town

13 Nov

We have a community magazine called Wilson Living, and the folks over there asked me to write an article about anything I wanted. A lot of topics went through my mind, and I settled on writing about growing up on the outskirts of town. If you would be interested in reading it, then you can get to it by clinking this link.

Let me know what you think.

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A Sad Day in Bedrock

7 Sep

It is interesting to hear people talk about how they love the beach. They talk about how it relaxes them and provides them with an escape from real life. As I listen, I find myself understanding because I feel the same way about the American West. The mountains. The desserts. The prairies. I love it all.

I love riding the back roads of Kansas and seeing the grain silos in the distance.

I love walking through the dunes of White Sands.

I love exploring old frontier forts.

The list could go on forever and include a variety of places. However, they all have one thing in common. They relax me and provide me with an escape from real life.

I have been thinking about this because one of my favorite places is in danger of going away. It is not a forest or a majestic mountain. It is not an endangered animal being protected in Yellowstone National Park. Instead, it is a cheesy tourist attraction that could be found in any part of the United States.Bedrock

A few days ago, the Associated Press reported that the Flintstones Bedrock City Theme Park and Camping Resort, which has operated in Custer, South Dakota since 1972, is closing. Apparently, the property has been sold to another party, but the future of the park is in doubt.

I cannot remember how old I was when I first saw the park. It was on a trip with my family and could not have been long after it opened. We were in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore and came upon Bedrock. The houses. The cars. Everything look just like the drawings in the cartoon.

Years later, I returned to Bedrock as an adult. I had already been to Mount Rushmore and the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial and was on the way to Deadwood, South Dakota, the notorious mining camp where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise. However, there was one other stop to make.

No one else was in the park. I walked through the grounds and passed buildings that were meant to contain concession stands and magic shows. As I made my way through, I wondered if I arrived ahead of the summer crowds, but I felt that the park was on its last legs. A sadness came over me as I sat in a car that was supposed to be powered by feet. It was a place that I wanted to be open forever, but I doubted that would happen. Now, I read that this may be its last day.

I hope that it is a good day with a lot of kids. I hope the concession stands are open and the magic shows are, well, magical. As the theme song says, I hope everyone is having “a gay old time.”

Breaking Writer’s Block With Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

23 Aug

Man, an oil slick like writer’s block has oozed its way over my brain. There is absolutely nothing in my mind that can be transferred onto the screen. It could be because school is about to start, and there is a lot to think about. It could be because I am operating three Twitter accounts. It could be because the blogging part of my brain has shut down.

How do I break out of it? Just throw some stuff out there and see what happens.

Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, a documentary about the careers of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, is on television. I have seen it a bunch of times, but it never gets old. In those days, I was a fan of the Boston Celtics and lived and died with their games.Celtics

We did not have professional teams in Tennessee, and, like a lot of other people without a home team, I had to pick a favorite from somewhere else. In the NBA, people chose between the Lakers and the Celtics. A friend of mine wanted to be different and picked the Philadelphia 76er’s.

The same thing happened with the NFL. Those of us in the hinterland without teams had to choose. This time, it was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. Although, that same friend went with the Miami Dolphins. The Dallas Cowboys were my choice, and, like with the Celtics, I lived and died with their games.Cowboys

One year, my dad took me to see the Cowboys play the Chicago Bears. I can still remember walking into Texas Stadium and seeing the cheerleaders dance onto the field. There was Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Walter Payton ran all over the place for the Bears, but the Cowboys came from behind to win.

I never saw Larry Bird and the Celtics, but, ironically, I got the chance to see Magic Johnson and the Lakers. It was the late 1980s, and they were playing against the Detroit Pistons. My dad did business with the owner of the Pistons, and we got to sit in his box. We also got to sit courtside for a while.

We stayed at the same hotel as the Lakers, which was also cool. We had breakfast at the table next to Pat Riley, the Lakers coach, and we were standing outside while the team boarded their bus. The players were huge.

Those were great experiences, but things change. I no longer watch the Celtics, but part of me still keeps up with them in the standings.

Nashville has an NFL team, and we have season tickets for the Tennessee Titans. I have watched them in the Super Bowl, and I have watched them through the depths of losing seasons. They are my team. However, I still keep an eye on the Cowboys in the standings.

Oh yeah, I still do not like the Lakers, and I still do not like the Steelers.

Childhood Memories – The Walking Man

6 Aug

I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of town. It was not a farm with crops and stuff. It was more of a gentleman’s farm with some cows grazing in the fields. I write that to let you know that there was quite a bit of land.

There was a grove of trees a good distance behind the house, and, in that grove of trees, sat a pavilion where we had family gatherings.image-48

When I was a kid, we hosted a Halloween party in that building that has gone down in family lore. When Halloween arrives, I will need to tell you about that. However, that Halloween party is not what I remember most about the building.

We had just finished supper when someone appeared at our front door. I do not remember what he looked like, but I remember what he was doing. He was walking across the country and needed somewhere to stay for the night.

My parents invited him in and served leftovers to him from our meal. I distinctly remember my mom apologizing because all of the meat was gone. Only the vegetables were left. He was appreciative and talked about his journey while he ate.

He had met many nice people along the road. These people offered shelter and food. When his walk was done, he was going to write a book about his adventures. I do not remember if he was walking toward the east or toward the west. One way would have meant that his journey was just beginning, and the other would have meant that it was coming to an end.

My parents did not mind him eating in our house, but they were uncomfortable with him staying there. Instead, they offered him shelter in the pavilion behind the house. I remember being there when they showed it to him, and he acted like it would work.

I probably saw him the next morning, but that is another memory that has faded away. However, I think he said that he would send a copy of the book when it was finished. We never got that book.

I have often wondered what happened to him.

Did he make it across the country?

Did he run into someone who was not as friendly?

Did he write that book?

Does he remember stopping at our house?

I also think about how the world has changed in the past 40 years.

If the same thing happened today would we let him in?

Would he be taking as big a risk by going to the doors of strangers?

I cannot remember his name, but I remember the night that the Walking Man came along and spent the night in the pavilion in the grove of trees behind the house.

The Boys of Summer

3 Apr

When people think of slow pitch softball, they probably envision a bunch of non-athletic people in a park drinking beer. However, there is a completely different type of slow pitch softball. It involves athletes who travel around the country playing in tournaments. They are sponsored by sporting goods companies that capitalize on their home run hitting abilities to sell bats.

It is not a game played in church leagues or on sandlots. It is played in baseball stadiums.

I write those words because my dad sponsored one of those teams, the Le-Al-Co Storms. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was one of the best teams in the country. The men on the team played for the love of competition and a bigger love of winning.

Like all kids, I knew that springtime brought the end of school, but it also brought a summer full of adventure. Every weekend, we drove or flew to a different city to bring together my second family – the softball team.

When I say second family, I really mean that. The players were my crazy uncles who taught me the ways of life. Of course, a lot of those things were probably not good for a kid to hear. They helped me grow up and become who I am.

They also made me part of the gang. At school, I was a nerdy kid who did not fit in with everyone. On summer weekends, I was cool because I hung around these guys. When they walked into a park, everyone knew who they were. As a result, they knew me, too.

The games were fun, but I mostly remember the other parts. The long drives. Hanging out in the hotels. Eating at a restaurant and cleaning out the buffet.

I cannot imagine growing up any other way.

Last week, Tommy Everette, one of those players, passed away. We went to the funeral and heard a lot of people say a lot of great things about him. It was interesting to listen to people who knew him from his life outside of softball. He was a principal and a valued member of the educational community. In my world, he was one of the greatest home run hitters who ever picked up a bat. He hit balls that no one ever saw come down.

There were several team members at the service, and we all gathered to take a picture.image-28

From left to right:

Allan – manager, general manager, recruiter, uniform designer. He did it all.

My dad – sponsor of the team and the softball version of George Steinbrenner.

Me – batboy, bookkeeper and a kid who learned more than he should have.

Sam – great hitter who was the only local guy to make the move to the big time.

Jimmy – suffered a gruesome injury at the state tournament in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Eddie – played with us in the summer and with the Los Angeles Rams in the fall.

Kenny – could hit a ball a country mile.

Brian – another kid who grew up in the world of softball. Tommy Everette was his dad.

Mac – the only player to be on all of our championship teams.

It was great to have some of them together again. Old stories were told, and there were handshakes and hugs all around. However, I realized something. I am older now than they were in those days. That is a strange feeling because I looked up to them, and it is hard for me to realize where I am in my life.

When we were together, I still felt like that kid in the dugout watching them beat some team. We are all getting older, but, in my heart, they will always be the boys of summer. And, I will always be part of that team.

Childhood Memories – Snowing in Memphis

4 Nov

In my younger days, I attended McClain Elementary school, the oldest and best school in town. Its faculty educated three generations of my family, and it closed after my final year. Obviously, they realized that they could have no better student than me and decided to shut the doors.

McClain was an old building with no air conditioning and plenty of asbestos. I can remember the staircases, the coat rooms, the cafeteria that doubled as the theater and the playground. There was also a huge field behind the school that was used for field day and other outdoor activities.McClain

It makes me feel old to say that it was a simpler time, but, when it came to elementary education, that is the truth. We had no computers, no iPhones, no Internet. Heck, we did not even have televisions in the rooms. We had teachers who took pieces of chalk and wrote on blackboards. We even had those old-timey desks that had holes for ink bottles. That is the definition of simple.

That is also the definition of being cut off from the rest of the world. We did not have information at our fingertips, and McClain felt like its own world. While the teachers may have known what was going on out there, we students had to make educated guesses. This was really difficult during that time of year when it was cold enough to snow and everyone wanted to be out of school.

That is when the rumors would begin. It would start simply enough. Some kid would say that he heard the teachers talking about the weather. According to them, it was snowing in Memphis. As every little kid knew, weather always hit Memphis before it hit here.

Before you knew it, the word was spreading, and everyone was hearing that it was snowing in Memphis. It was only a matter of time. It would start snowing, and we would be getting out of school. However, there was a fundamental problem. When word got out that it was snowing in Memphis, we never got out of school.

Obviously, skullduggery was afoot. Something was wrong. It took many years for me to figure out exactly what happened. First, it was probably not snowing in Memphis. Second, if it was snowing in Memphis, then it would never get here fast enough to get us out of school.

We got plenty of snow days, but the old “snowing in Memphis” rumor never did work out.

Childhood Memories – French Fries and Jukeboxes

28 Oct

It is interesting to watch our surroundings change. As time passes, places come and go. Looking back at my town, I can think of places that used to be. There were stores, restaurants and other popular places. They were locations where you could find people who you knew. They were places that helped define the community. It is sad to think that younger folks and newcomers do not know where and what those places were.

For me, the places from my childhood pop into my mind on occasion. I might be riding by where they used to be and remember being there. I could be listening to a song and have the memory of a place come to my mind. In fact, there is one song that always brings a certain place into focus.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. I have no idea why I liked it, but it still brings a smile to my face when I hear it. The tune is great. The words are great. When I was a kid, I could sing the entire thing.

As an adult, I realize that the song is all mixed up. It is about West Virginia, but the words describe Virginia. It does not matter because I can look past all of that. Instead, this song makes me look back at a restaurant that is long gone.

El Rancho sat on the outskirts of town and specialized in barbecue. For me, it was always an adventure to eat at El Rancho. through the eyes of a child, it was like going on a long journey to a far away place. In fact, it was only a few miles away. I think that it being on the other side of town made it seem further.

There was also the food. I cannot tell you if the barbecue was good, but they always made the best french fries. What kid does not like french fries? On top of that, these were the best french fries ever cooked. I can still see them, smell them and taste them. They were awesome.Jukebox

You are probably asking yourself a question. What does a song about one of the Virginia’s have to do with a barbecue restaurant in Tennessee? the answer brings me to the other adventurous part of the restaurant. The booths had tabletop jukeboxes, and they were the coolest things I had ever seen. I could pick the music in the restaurant by dropping a nickel in the slot and flipping through the pages. Just push a letter and a number and the song would play.

I always picked “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I would have played it over and over if my parents had let me. After all, who does not want to hear the same song multiple times?

I do not remember when El Rancho closed, and I do not remember the last time we ate there. However, I still remember the french fries, and I still remember playing that song on the jukebox.