Friday, July 29, 2011

a good memory revisited

This is a February 9, 2007 post I pulled from my old Yadda-Yadda-Yadda blog. I made a few updates and corrections to the post in order to not confuse the reader. Some of the comments on the Welcome to Gadsden facebook group brought this past post to mind.

I ran across this old postcard today.  This is of downtown Gadsden, AL in the early to mid sixties.  I hadn't seen one of those old green city buses in ages.  This picture really takes me back.

I remember a particular trip downtown.  There was a new John Wayne movie playing at the Pitman called El Dorado.  My older brother Brooky and I would make such trips together and I always anticipated them.  We were living on Noccalula Mountain at the time.  City buses would make runs from Scenic Hwy down to town.  It was a Saturday morning and I needed money for the adventure.  Mom said I could go if I earned the money for the trip.  I quickly washed windows and vacuumed the floors that morning in order to pay for the bus fair and movie.  My movie candy of choice at that time was a Tootsie Roll.

It was a great movie and Brook and I hit all of the five & dime stores up and down Broad Street before taking the bus back up the mountain.  My favorite store was Grants. They had a huge toy section along the wall downstairs.  You'd have to walk down two flights of stairs, passing the popcorn guy (Tommy Parks) half way down.   We'd hit Murphree's and McLellans too.  Nelson's is where McLellan's  used to be.  This building today is a time machine, walking down those wooden floors with the smell of popcorn in the air.  It's a hint of what Gadsden stores used to be when I was a kid.  Go there and you'll see what I mean.  It's a treat for my oldest daughter to go to Gadsden Variety.

Brook and I never went downtown without dropping by Horace's (spelling) Hobby Shop and The Little Army Store.  I loved The Little Army store.  You could buy all kinds of cool used stuff for playing army.  Helmet's, web belts, bayonets, dummy grenades and the like.

We'd make the day of it, walking the length of each side of the street before hoping on a bus for home.  I believe that particular trip Brooky bought me a plastic yellow handled pistol (much like The Duke's) with his own money.  I took very good care of it for the longest time.  Golly gee, a six-shooter just like John Waynes!  Everytime El Dorado comes on I think of that trip downtown with my big brother.  Hmmm...1967...that would make Brook 15 years old.  Different world then than now.  No way would I send 15 and 9 year old boys on a trip to town alone together.
Little things mean a lot to kids.  Katie loves trips to downtown.  She loves for me to take the time and walk with her downtown among the city lights at night.  Last Christmas holiday I parked the van and took both my little ones for a walk and took the time to pause and look at the window decorations.
Nice looking back to yesterday, but nicer here with a wonderful family today!  Thank you God!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

lightning in a bottle

I seem to remember more lightning bugs being around as a kid.  Then again, I'm not outside in the evenings as much as I was as a kid.  We had a great yard growing up.  We had a grassy hilly yard that was fun for bikes, sleds, and cardboard - depending on the season.  Our yard was also great for chasing lightning bugs.  If a kid was chasing a lightning bug on the level ground and the bug decided to escape by gaining altitude, it was often caught because the kid could gain altitude too by chasing the bugs up a hill.

There were plenty that got away, but our evening sky was full of them.  Mother always had enough canning jars or empty mayonnaise jars around to accommodate lightning bug catching nights.  Just poke some holes in the lid and we all went hunting.  They were beautiful nights on the mountain.  Usually we'd all lay down at the top of the hill and take it all in.  There were the countless moving lights of  the lightning bugs, and the countless stars hanging in deep space above them.  The crickets from the surrounding woods gave an eerie sound-scape for the evening.  It was if all that twinkling and moving light were making that noise.  It all blended so nicely together.  I miss our little hill.  I miss having those moments.

Last year I watched Kelsey chasing after lightning bugs beneath the outdoor screen.  We were at the Sand Mountain Drive-In.   The show was about to start.  She was running this way and that trying to catch up with one.  You have to catch them quick before they get fed up and fly up.  Next time we go to the drive-in, I'll make sure I pack a jar for my girls - poke some holes in the lid.  We'll chase after lightning bugs, perchance to capture a special moment together.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Growing up on Noccalula Mountain as a kid, I remember there being HUGE black grasshoppers (also known as Romalea Microptera). Cliff Road was a dirt road that ran behind our house on Scenic Highway.  That's where they most of them seemed to congregate in our neighborhood.  The embankment and ditch of Cliff Road used to be infested with thousands of these black (red and yellow trimmed) creatures.

As a kid I was always amazed at the size of them. Perhaps these grasshoppers were somehow exposed to atomic energy and somehow found their way to our back door!  We watched A LOT of science fiction movies back in those days.  The giant grasshoppers seemed harmless enough, but the kids of the mountain found creative ways to combat the invading horde of giant black grasshoppers.  We used dirt cogs, rocks, b-b guns and firecrackers.  Firecrackers seemed to be the preferred weapon of choice.

By the mid-seventies, I don't remember seeing many of them on the mountain.  I think the kids of the mountain did more than push back the invasion.  Perhaps we went a little too far.  In a way, I kind of missed having them around.  There were after all kind of cool to look at.  Maybe they came in peace.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

jelly glasses

 I ran across a memory at a yard sale a few weeks ago.  I found a box of old jelly jar drinking glasses.  I remember our family had a cabinet full of them when I was growing up.  Years ago, before jelly and jams were sold in plastic containers, they were sold in glass jars.  The smart capitalists at the jelly factories came up with a great idea.  They started making their jelly jars attractive enough for moms everywhere to want to use the empty jars as drinking glasses.  The lids to these jars were pop-off as opposed to screw on.  The smooth rim made the jelly jars made excellent drinking glasses.

It wasn't long before the guys in marketing got around to targeting kids by using cartoon characters (Flintstones, Jetsons, Bugs Bunny, etc).  I don't recall having many of these.   Mom wasn't into buying the cool cartoon glasses.  Instead, I remember having jelly glasses like the ones pictured above.

Mother also used Armour Dried Beef jars as juice glasses.  I always remember having to drink my O.J. from those little dried beef shot-glass
es.  They make for great kid glasses, but I never got enough OJ as a kid.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

andrew's gold

Andrew Gold: 8/ 2/1951 – 06/3/2011
Years ago Brook and I took a trip down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to see a Linda Ronstadt concert.  The trip itself ended up being a venture because Brooks bug broke a belt on I-59 before we even got to Steele, AL.  I wasn't sure we were going to make it, but after hitching a ride, finding a belt, and an old high school friend - we got there in time

I had been to oodles of Jesus Music concerts by that time, but never anyone that I liked from a secular label.  This was a first concert of many for me.  I remembered asking Brook what that strange smelling smoke wafting up from a few rows down from us.  "It's pot David."  I was one innocent teenage.  "Oh?" I replied, "So that's what that $*@+ smells like."


Well, Linda came out and the audience went wild.  Brook pointed out a fellow to me.  There was this young slim redheaded musician playing lead.  He said, "That's Andrew Gold!"  It was the first time I ever heard his name.  Andrew's lead work was very unique - had a Beatle-esque feel to it.  Andrew once said that his musical influence were The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Byrds.

I have only owned a few Linda Ronstadt albums, Heart Like A Wheel and Hasten Down The Wind. As for Andrew Gold, I ended up owning a lot of his music.   He became one of my major influences.  Most people may not remember him, but they'll remember the songs 'Lonely Boy' and 'Thank You For Being A Friend'
.  The later was used as the theme for the television show Golden Girls.  The 'Final Frontier' was another song of his that was the theme of the 90's sitcom Mad About You.

Andrew Gold is a fellow that produced albums without a weak cut.  In fact, though I like Lonely Boy and Thank You For Being A Friend, they weren't necessarily my favorites from his albums.  If Lonely Boy and Thank You For Being A Friend are the only songs you're familiar with - I suggest you go pick up four albums.  Andrew Gold (75),  What's Wrong With This Picture (76)  All This And Heaven Too (78)  Whirlwind (79).  Andrew also did some great recording with  BRYNDLE  (Karla Bonoff, Kenny Edwards and Wendy Waldman).  There's a greatest hits album of Andrew's you can pick up called 'Thank You For Being A Friend', but I encourage you to go to the old recordings and pick out your own favorites.

Andrew Gold was one of the best.  You will be missed.
Andrew Gold, Singer and songwriter dies at 59

Thursday, July 7, 2011

secondary highways

People are in a hurry even on vacations.  There's a lot to see in so little time, so we better get there soon.  I remember life before freeways.  Part of the vacation was experiencing the road side sights and small towns along the way.  The old scenic highways have become forgotten byways. The blockbuster hit movie Cars (2006) reminded us of this.

I remember trips where dad would pull the Kingswood Estate wagon aside a road side fruit stand so mother could get some Georgia peaches.  Sometimes we'd stop for a warm brown bag  filled with boiled peanuts.  Riding in a packed car without air-conditioning made an ice cold bottled soda taste so good going down. 

Traveling in those days was always an adventure.  There were things to see along the way and half the fun of the vacation was getting there.  Franchised fast food restaurants were still in it's infancy in those days, so not every city looked the same.  When it came time to eat, everyone in the car kept their eyes peeled for a good place to eat in or around the county we were passing through.  A good barbeque was always a Finlayson family favorite.

Every community had an old drug store offering sandwiches, fountain drinks and ice cream.  Drug stores were one of my favorite kind of places to stop.  Even then, it was like stepping back in time.  Every city had a city diner where our large family would pack around a table and be watched by the locals as if the carnival had come to town.  They weren't far off.

Every little town offered a new experience for sojourners passing through.  We'd find somewhere to stretch our legs and do a little shopping at a flea market or the local five and dime.  Are you old enough to remember trips like that?

The freeway made it possible for families to get to their vacation destination quickly.  Nothing wrong with saving time mind you.  Even so, I feel that much of the family vacation experience got lost somewhere along the way.  Back then, half the fun was getting there.

Happy Motoring!