Saturday, June 29, 2013

the Nik-Nak and the straight and narrow

Image of the Nik-Nak before the city paved the park with cement.
Noccalula Nik-Nak stood at the entrance of Noccalula Falls Park on 'the mountain' in Gadsden, Alabama.  We lived on the mountain and we frequented the Nik-Nak regularly.  For years the Noccalula parking lot was gravel.  I don't think they paved it until the mid-eighties...or until the Nik-Nak was torn down and replaced with a Jacks Hamburgers.  It just wasn't the same when the Nik-Nak was knocked down and replaced with a franchise.

Anywho, you always heard gravel crunch beneath the tires when you pulled into the old Noccalula Nik-Nak.  Finlayson's had a yen for ice-cream.  I'm pretty sure we Finlayson kids got our love for ice-cream from mother's side of the family.  My mother loves ice-cream.  My mother used to play a game when she was little, when she had a little sister growing up in the cotton mill village.  She and my Aunt Ina would be eating an ice-cream from McNair Drug Store.  My mother would say, "Let's play a game!"  Little sister, like most little sisters love to play games with big sisters.  Mom would say, "Who ever finishes their ice-cream first gets to help the other finish their ice-cream!"  Sounds like fun, but to poor Ina, she always ended up with the short end of the cone.

Anywho, Noccalula Nik-Nak was the place a mountain kid loved going.  You could get an ice-cream and then run to the playground and play for an hour or so.  I thought mom was doing it for the kids, but looking back, she was doing it for her ice-cream addiction.

Noccalula Falls was right across from where I served time at R.A. Mitchell school.  I remember looking out the windows on many occasions at the park, at the playground and at the beloved Nik-Nak.  The playground would have toddlers toddling around in the playground while moms sat overseeing nearby enjoying their ice-cream.  It was torture to see such a beautiful world outside and have to stay inside within the confines of the drab institutional green walls of elementary school.

Anywho, to go to the Nik-Nak was always a big treat.  Any baby-boomer who grew up on the mountain during it's day will have nothing but good to say about the place.  It wasn't a pretty building, but it was full of delicious treats.  A trip to park just wasn't a trip to the park unless you got to get a treat from the Nik-Nak.


I mentioned earlier that the parking lot was gravel.  My brother Brook loved gravel.  I think he still does.  He loved gravel and muddy pot holes in the road.  If you were ever in Brook's 'Chigger' (a red VW bug), he'd aim for the pot-holes or spin around in gravel.  Once I was riding shotgun in Chigger when Brooky, out of the blue,  pulled into the Noccalula Falls parking lot and spun three to four tight doughnuts.  It was a lot of fun.  Brook had a big grin on his face and I was holding onto the dash and laughing.

Brook was in the process of pulling out of the parking lot, waiting for cars to have their right of way with him when someone approached the window on Brook's side of the car.  It  was Sheriff Felton Yates himself.  He told the young doughnut-spinning whipper-snapper that he and his wife happened to have been enjoying an ice-cream together with their windows rolled down.  All that dust came wafting into their open windows.  Brooky's grin had faded.  I wasn't laughing either.

I thought for a moment we'd both end up in jail for making dusty doughnuts. 
 Instead we only received a brief rebuke.  He let us go asking us to be more considerate in the future.  He wasn't angry. His mere authoritative and sudden presence rattled us to the core...putting enough fear in our minds to drive straight from there on...at least in the Noccalula Nik-Nak parking lot.



Note: If perchance Brook and Jennifer's kids or future grand-kids have a hankering for gravel, puddles and pot-holes, It'll be from my brother's genes.
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