Saturday, August 31, 2013

say 'cheezy'

a different time
Most of us have them ~ those little black and white photo strips we had made in a photo-booth all those years ago.  Most of us were crammed in there with a friend or two or three...or four.  We went in there to capture a moment, capture our friendship.  We usually ventured in there on a lark.

The only old photo-booth I recall in my hometown was at the front of McClellan's variety on Broad Street in downtown Gadsden.  It was still there in the 1980's when the business changed hands and became Nelson's.  It has been around for some time now.  Whenever I go in the store, I always notice it missing.  It should be standing over there ~ but it's long gone.

Photo-booths are still around today, only they are very different from the ones we had in our day.  You can now get your photos in color and in a larger format.  You can also get your photos to look as if the images were sketched or painted.  Some of these new photo-booth images seem suitable for framing.  Even so ~ nothing compares to those old ill lit black and white photos we had taken of ourselves a long time ago.  There's just something special about them.

Do you have an old photo strip?  Who were you with in the photos?  Do you remember where your photo booth was located in your home town?  Come your favorite shot at Boomerville USA on facebook.

Monday, August 26, 2013

those guys that fixed shoes

By now most of you know my dad had polio.  I've written about him here enough.  He lived almost his entire life with braces on both legs.  Dad wore mostly Windsor shoes.  They had to be made to attach to his steel braces.  For a long time the braces were strapped to his legs with little belt-like straps.  In later years the braces were secured with Velcro rather than those little belt buckles.  They were quicker to get on.  He always had to have help getting them on and off and the beginning and end of each day.

If the braces had to be repaired, Dad would often make an overnight trip to Chattanooga where a company there would repair them while dad, mother and myself would kick around town until the repairs were made.  Dad would wear his old back-up leg braces when his good ones were in the shop.  The area dad liked going to shop was a flat area where we didn't have much trouble manipulating his manual wheelchair.  We all enjoyed those trips.  We'd make sure we'd eat at Sportsman's Barbeque and the Baskin Robbins while on Brainerd every trip up there.  It was a trip mind you, so if the trip could be avoided by getting certain repairs locally ~ dad would opt for local.

Every now and then his shoe(s) would need attention.  We'd head to a  local cobbler for that.  There were two in town that I remember in the 1960's and 70's.  There was a little storefront on Wall Street in Alabama City.  There was also Reynold's shoe repair shop on Hoke Street in East Gadsden.  Back then both places looked very much alike.  I don't remember the names of either place, or where they were located exactly.

When I learned to drive I became the family errand boy.  I remember being sent to the shoe shop on Wall Street on several occasions.  Each time I was instructed to deliver the shoe(s) and wait for the repair. Each time my mother had called ahead to tell the repairmen the trouble with Dad's sole.  I can't think of those places without remembering the wonderful thick smell.  Both places were one and the same to me.  Both smelled of leather and glue.  Both establishments were filled with cool old tools that seemed ancient, with interesting machinery that I had no idea how they were operated.  I rarely just sat there.  I would stand and look at those skilled old craftsmen apply their trade.  Those old gents had a young audience with me.

Today I have a good many shoes.  If a pair wears out, I go to a store and buy a new pair. I've never had a need to have a shoe repaired.  If anything ever happened to my nice Windsors, I don't know of anywhere in these parts that I could take them.  I know there are shops around somewhere.   I personally haven't seen one in decades.  Then again, I haven't been looking. 

I'd like to go in one again, watch someone work who knows what he's doing.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

hasten down the wind

When I heard the news about her, my mind couldn't quit thinking about her.  Linda left the spotlight today.  She said that Parkinson's Disease has taken her voice away. She'd been singing professionally since she was fourteen.  She was with the Stone Poneys when she was 18. She went on to rule the airwaves in the seventies.  She had a long, successful run, making millions upon millions.  She proved herself a long time ago that she is the greatest female voice of our generation.  All that aside, my heart goes out to her because she's an artist that can no longer sing.  Her beautiful voice is gone.

About this time ten yen years ago Warren Zevon, a songwriter who wrote some of Linda's greatest hits was dying of cancer.  Toward the end, as his life was running out of steam, he spent his fading energy and last breaths expressing one final record with the help of friends.  The Wind was released just two weeks before his death.

Years ago I sat in Arnie's small apartment.  He didn't like me dropping by without my guitar.  He would always have his guitar available, even when he could no longer play it.  M.S. had not yet taken away his ability to play guitar, or scribble down lyrics at that point.  It was getting progressively harder for him to sing those lyrics.  He labored at each word he sang.  We sat in his living room playing and singing together, sharing songs and talking about music.  At that point in his life, he was still clinging onto his music and his guitar by his fingertips.  Songs were always in him, but there came a day he could no longer jot his lryics down or sing his songs.  It soon left him.  I carry on his music along with mine because I love his songs and I still love him.

I don't want to take my life or gifts for granted.  As each day passes, we will all eventually lose our voices ~ our abilities.  Earth is a temporary place.  Our bodies are temporary vessles with dates of expiration that only God knows.   We each only have only so many days to sing while here.

Sing while you can.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

i wanted to ride

Steve McQueen, Peter Fonda and Evel Knievel, they rode.  I wanted to ride too man. In sixth grade some of my classmates were riding around on mini-bikes.  They'd make ramps and spin in mud, drove in woods, all kinds of fun.  By junior high I was left in the dust as most of my friends had been given motorcycles for birthdays or Christmas'.  The mountain got smaller and their world expanded.  The mountain for me stayed the same size because all I had were two feet and my old bicycle.  No one wanted to ride bikes anymore.  They had a faster mode of transportation.

I had wanted a dirt bike.  Seems like a lot of my mountain friends were enjoying paths and old logging roads to explore with their bikes.  I wanted so bad to join them.  I once asked my dad if I could have one.  Dad said no.  At the time all my friend's bikes were motorized and I was stuck with my pumping my pedals to get where I wanted to go.  Bikes were no longer cool, a motorcycle was the way to go.

Dad gave me a speech after I asked.  As a lawyer, he said that he'd witnessed too many young boys permanently maimed and paralyzed from riding motorcycles.  I understood his concern and so I never asked him again.  It meant that I could not go where my friends went, nor hang out where they hung.  Childhood friends were no longer home, somewhere away, or no longer interested in playing boyhood games.  They wanted to ride.  I did too.

I forgot about those years until today.  When I finally learned to drive, my world finally expanded.  I was no longer a child. My boyhood friends had already grown distant. I always kind of felt that my childhood friendships had faded during that time they could ride and I couldn't.  For me, that was a time when I became distant because I couldn't keep up.

I see old photos of my wife when she was a young girl riding her motorcycle.  She was the age I was when I was sparse on friends.  Her dad let her drive around Glencoe, but there were rules.  She had been firmly instructed to stay off of certain roads, within certain boundaries, and only in good weather.  She once strayed from her instruction, seen by her father and got a bad whupping for it.  She never strayed again.  Even so ~ she still reminisces how much fun she had riding around as a kid.  Mostly in the Summer it was to the pool and back.  I envy her a little.  I wanted to ride.

About fifteen years ago my father in-law had a motorcycle parked in his yard in Hokes Bluff.  Walter asked if I'd like to take a spin around the house.  There I was at forty-something being taught how to start, stop and change gears on one.  I took it around his house a bunch of times, having a great moment, laughing all the way.  I knew as I road it up and down the small embankments that I would've loved doing this even more as a teenager.  I would've loved to have taken it up those trails and logging roads.  I would loved going where the friends of my youth went.  I laughed and Walter smiled every time I passed by him.  It was brief but so much fun.    I had known all along that I had missed something in my youth.

Friday, August 23, 2013

they were everywhere

Who's closest to the phone book?  I need you to look up a number.

It wasn't that long ago that telephone booths were everywhere.  The more people got cell phones, the more telephone booths disappeared.  Though I know they are needed as much as they used to be, I kind of miss seeing them around.  We turned off our home phone because there's no sense paying for a land-line when everyone in the household has their own cell phone.  The world is ever changing.  I don't miss the home phone that much, but I do kind of miss the old public phone booths.  They are going-going-gone because they are no longer a need to have around.

There's this guy I know, Clark Kent, has been at a loss as of late because he used to use phone-booths for his quick change.  Metropolis, like most American towns, have done away with them all together.  
It would be nice to have a phone booth, maybe re-purpose them for another use...maybe a book case, aquarium, shower stall or a time out room for a misbehaving child.


Monday, August 5, 2013

riding without restraint

Best seat in the car.
I have a ten year old that can't sit in the front seat.  I often wish my youngest could join me up there.  I often feel like a taxi driver or chauffeur, having to communicate to my young one while glancing at her via the rear-view mirror.

When we were kids we could sit in the front seat with grown-ups.   Riding shotgun gave a kid the idea that he was really somebody.  You had full access to the radio, glove compartment and ash tray.   I don't remember wearing seat belts as a young'n.  Seat belts came later.  I remember always having the freedom to move about freely in the cabin if I had the inclination  If I ever got tired, I could just climb over into the back of our station-wagon and lay down.

Air Conditioning wasn't in the family cars we were hauled around in as a children.  We all just had to roll down the windows and try to appreciate the hot Summer breeze.  Maybe that's why folks were advertising their sodas, hotel rooms, and restaurants as ICE COLD!  Long trips could get pretty hot and sticky without A/C.  We lived without it in our transportation back then.  It's a creature comfort that I'd rather not do without these days.

 Not having a seat belt allowed children to stick most of our bodies outside the windows.  I wasn't one for grabbing for tree limbs and leaves that were within arm's reach outside the movie car.  I did like to stick my head out there and get that satisfying feeling of wind hitting my face.  Every now and then I'd get whacked by a passing bug.  Sticking appendages too far outside the window of a moving vehicle was something that would get a kid scolded.  Enjoy it until you are yanked inside.

One of my earliest members as a child was having my very own car seat with a steering wheel.  I remember sitting in the 'safety' chair and being able to turn the little steering wheel just like grown-ups.  There was also a little horn in the wheel that worked.  It didn't actually honk. It squeaked.  I remember when I got too big for it and not being able to play with it anymore.  My little sister Cindy got it after I did.  I remember feeling a little jealous of her because she could sit up there in my old driver's seat and drive the car.  

Strange what odd memory fragments we still have clinging to our brain.

So how safe is is this old child safety seat?

Saturday, August 3, 2013


From Free House to Christian Brothers to Skylight.  We started calling the coffeehouse Skylight after we moved into our final location on Broad Street.  When we got the building in the early '80's, it had been divided down the middle with two fronts.  Walls had to come down and the suspended ceiling had to go.  It might have been Don that discovered what was hidden above the drop ceiling in the main hall...tin-type ceiling and a huge skylight.  Yep, that drop ceiling had to go for sure.

The skylight had long since been boarded over, but it was still something to behold.   Christian Brother's Association moved in and renovated as we could afford to do so.  There was always work to be done on the building.  One entrance was used as the main entrance that we made for the record store.  Visitors would have to pass through the record section to get to the coffeehouse seating area.  It wasn't long before rough barn wood was nailed up along the walls on up to the ceiling.  That's still there today.  Wood plank floors were then installed, which also included an carpeted audience pit and a stage.

I wasn't as involved in Christian Brothers at this time but I did suggest the name that was adopted.  I dropped by one day while David Asbury was in the building.  David told me that the CBA board was trying to come up with a name.  I thought it was obvious.  I pointed over our heads and said, "Why not SKYLIGHT?"  The skylight in the main room is the most unique architectural feature about the building.  Besides...the theological implications alone were astounding.

Like I said, Christian Brothers worked renovating the building as we had funds to do so. The skylight didn't actually see the light of day for quite sometime to come.  During the initial renovation of the main room, florescent lighting was installed in the skylight frame.  The original skylight glass had been leaning against the wall in the back of the building, but Christian Brothers never got to see the blue sky in the 16 years we were there.

It wasn't until Christian Brother Association ended our ministry and gave the building to the church that had been leasing from us to use as a church on Sundays.  Christian Brothers helped to facilitate many small ministries down through the years.  Even while Vineyard was leasing from us, they were helping with the ongoing renovation project.  After CBA ended,  it was the Vineyard fellowship that continued with the renovation and the skylight was made to let that beautiful natural sunlight finally fill the room.
Gadsden Vineyard has been in the building ever since.

The sign above was made in 1993 when Christian Brothers finished with the front facade.  I was living in Bowling Green, KY at the time and contracted a sign maker friend of mine, Troy Williams, to make it.  I remember driving it down to Alabama one weekend. Jim Thompson was still living and I'm sure he's the guy that hung it.

The sign is still around, but not on the front anymore.  It's now hanging on the a wall upstairs in the old Hagedorn building that Vineyard purchased next door.  The church now meets in what was the old Hagedorn building because it facilitates a larger congregation. The space next door is called the Skylight Room.

Last night The Guise played in The Skylight Room and being on that old stage took me back a couple of decades.  I love that old room, that old stage.   A lot of great music played beneath that skylight, many enduring relationships were found there.   Christian Brother's SKYLIGHT provided a wonderful intimate setting for music and friendship.

 ON STAGE @ SKYLIGHT70's Reunion in the 90's
Faith and Don Peters, Barry Goss, Brook and David Finlayson

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's F.R.E.E.

My dad made this sign for FREE House in the 1970's before we became Christian Brothers.   I don't remember if he was asked to make it or not.  He probably just went out to his shop on Saturday afternoon and made it out of unrequested kindness, wood scraps and left over paint.

I only recall this sign hanging outside at our small College Street location across from the Gadsden Public Library.  The little house served as our fellowship house for about a year after Emory Boggs had been killed.  There's a vacant lot where our little house once stood.

Emory called it FREE House
when we opened the doors at our first store front location on South 5th Street. There's an acronym involved, F.R.E.E stood for Free Relationship Eternally Enduring.   Emory had a large quantity of color flyers  printed as well as some large buttons with 'One Way or The Other' art on it to advertise God's FREE VACATION.

We had called our our fellowship Free House for a long time.  Even when we became Christian Brother's Association and the coffeehouse was renamed Christian Brother's Coffee House... I remained to call it 'Free House'.  It wasn't until we moved into our final location on Broad Street that we all got on the same page and call it 'SKYLIGHT'.

FREE House Flyer Emory had printed