Thursday, January 30, 2014

a moveable feast

Christian Brothers Association group photo (late 70's).
There's a bunch of people who are absent and wish were represented here
(David A, David B, and David C to name a few).

Our old coffeehouse ministry had various locations as well as various names.  What started out as a prayer meeting of high school and college kids ended up a small coffee house starting as FREE House which was located at 212 South 5th Street downtown Gadsden.

Around the time of Emory Bogg's death, we had moved to a small house on 253 College Street across from the Gadsden Public Library.  The little house is no longer there.  The place was simply too cramped from which to have room to fellowship, let alone sell books and records.  I was a junior in high school at the time and a member of Central United Methodist church on 11th Street.  Many of FREE house members were also members of Central too.  I started inviting friends to the Youth House at 1123 Christopher Street which was owned by Central UMC, located right behind the church.  I have a lot of good memories of our meetings of having FREE house.

There was a point where the ministry started growing.  It was about that time that Christian Brothers Association was formed.  We moved our activities to a larger location at 235 South 6th Street.  The back 2/3rds of the building was used by a daycare.   The entire front of the building was perfect for our book and record store and coffeehouse meetings.  Many people still referred to our meetings at FREE house, but most were calling it Christian Brother's Coffeehouse.  Christian Brother's Association had a lot going on by that time.  Our primary function was the coffeehouse fellowship.  There was a big demand for Jesus Music and we were the place to plug into the music with Christian Brothers' Books & Records.  By 1977 we had our first 'No Jive Jesus Is Alive Falls Festival' at Noccalula Falls Park & Campgrounds.  We amassed a rather large sound system for the festival and ended up going on the road with it with Christian Brother's Rent-A-Sound.  CBA rented out systems for both small and large events.  Even though we grew into doing many things, the coffeehouse, that little fellowship remained the core ministry.

In the early 1980's Christian Brothers Association moved to it's final location at 421 Broad Street where Gadsden Vineyard Church resides today.  The building had a nice old skylight and we appreciated the spiritual implication and named the coffeehouse SKYLIGHT. Christian Brothers continued ministry until 1998.  Upon dissolving the non-profit organization, we gave the building to the church that had been renting from us for their Sunday services - giving the church a permanent home.  You can still find see a small number of old Christian Brother Association members (and their descendents) amid that congregation today.

People came and went down through the years.  We moved multiple times and went by various names.  We had a twenty five years run and it was a great experience.
  Though the coffeehouse is gone, the friendships I made there down through the years are forever.  No matter where we are now, we share a common past and good memories. We will always love each other, remember each other as Christian brothers and sisters.

God bless each of you in your ministry today.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

two wheeled memories

I was ten years old and really wanted my own bike.  I didn't just want any bike.  I wanted one of those new cool looking bikes with high handlebars and a banana seat.  I didn't get a new bike for my birthday.  Dad bought an old bike from a buy and sell show that would come on every Saturday on a local radio station.  It was a worn and rusty bike some guy had under the eave of his house with some other worn and rusty old bikes.  Dad seemed to be very pleased with the bargain, but I was beginning to think I was getting the short end of the deal.  The rusty old bargain was loaded into the back of our Ford Fairlane station wagon and brought home.

Dad got Brook to help me sand the rust off that Saturday afternoon.  Afterward, a coat of silver paint was sprayed onto it.  It was starting to look alright.  Dad picked up some nice fat-knobby tires and a new chain from the Otasco at the Agricola Shopping Center.  Otasco didn't carry those new fangled high handlebars or banana seats.  No one carried them in town.

Dad asked around and found out he could order the items through J.C. Penney on Broad Street.  The order pick-up department was at the back of the store and there was parking lot and entrance in the back which made it quicker to access.  I had to wait about two weeks for my high handlebar and banana seat.  To me, it felt like an eternity.

I remember the day they came and opening the boxes.  Wow!  I started getting excited about the old bargain bike.  I had to wait till the following weekend until Dad and Brook could put on all the new parts.  When I say dad - I mean that dad oversaw Brook.  He was good at giving instructions from the sideline.

My bike never looked brand new, but that didn't matter to me.  My bike was unique and it was MY bike.
It wasn't a pretty bike, but it was durable and custom made for me.  I rode that bike all over the mountain.  I rode it on roads and off, up and down steep hills, shortcuts through people's yards, through bumpy trails in woods.  I road my bike throughout the rest of my childhood, through every season of each passing year.  I rode it until it could carry me no long.  It served me well.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

maybe just my memory alone

As I've mentioned a gazillion times here within this blog ~ I grew up on the mountain on Scenic Highway.  As a kid, like most of the kids I knew, I stomped all over Lookout Mountain neighborhoods. 

I'm thinking of one road in particular today ~ Agricola Drive.  Most of it was a long stretch of dirt road back then that I'd walk or ride my bike down countless times forth and back.  Agricola wasn't a high traffic road, usually if I walked with pals, we could stroll right down the middle side by side without having to move to the shoulder in single file.

Agricola Road was a nice walk from my front door.  To take the long way, I'd just travel up Scenic Hwy until I reached Tuckahoe Golf Course and then take a horseshoe right turn onto Agricola Drive.  It was a little longer with a few uphills on the way.  When starting on Agricola Drive from the top, the golf course would be on the left.  My mind still sees the road as it runs by a little dump site right at the edge of the golf course.  Every now and then I'd go dump diving with a friend.

The dump was at the end of Hazel Drive.  That was where my shortcut would come out if I wanted to get to Agricola Drive quicker. There were no uphills to Agricola Drive, a really quick fun trip if on a bike.  I could zip and zig-zap my way to Agricola in no time.  I'd pedal down the hill in my front yard, on across Scenic Hwy, onto and across my neighbor's yard.  I really didn't have to pedal much.  We had some nice steep hills in my old neighborhood.   I'd cross over onto Red Oak Road and ride down to where the Condra's lived.  I'd take a sharp left up the Reese's driveway and pedal on through their flat backyard which took me to Hilltop Road.  I'd connect with Hazel Drive then to Agricola (close to the little dump).

Once on Agricola Drive, it was downhill all the way.  From the dump I remember the sharp curve in the road that ran by an old farm house.  Classmates, Karen and Rusty Morgan used to live there for a short time.  They had a sour apple tree in their backyard.  I never was invited in when on a visit, but was invited to play in their yard and partake of the fruit thereof.  The Morgans moved before we graduated elementary school.  It's been a long time but I still remember them.

After the sharp curve the Agricola straightened out for the rest of the way to Fairview Road.  There was a little cottage on the right where a little lady always seemed to be outside in her straw hat and apron working in her garden.  It was a small tract of land but she made use of every inch of it with flowers here and vegetables there.  It was very quaint.  It was about there that I could see the rear of Pearly and Ben's Store in the far distance.  Pearly and Ben's was my usual destination.

Almost immediately to the left of the little lady's cottage was a large pasture on the left that extended along down Agricola to Fairview Road. Pine trees lined the boundary of the pasture, dense vines and weeds covered the rusty fencing.  Sometimes cows could be seen scattered in the field.  Most of the time the field was vacant of cattle and full of weeds.

This was the eerie area of Agricola, because in the overgrown field was an old two story abandoned house.  The boards were rotten and dark.  The windows were vacant and black.  If ever there was a real haunted house, it was that house on Agricola.  If I were afoot, I'd quicken my pace.  If I were on my bike I would tighten my grip on the handlebar pedal a little faster.  I would never coast by that place.

I liked Agricola Drive except for that old house.  Anytime I walked by it, my heart would find it's way into my throat.  Once or twice I ended up making the return trip home a little too late for my liking.  I was on foot and did not like walking the way back up that road at dusk.  The house seemed to have moved even closer to the road.  It seemed to have a spirit about it, the blackness within the windows even blacker.

I had dreams of that place countless times as a young boy.  In the dream there was only one street lamp and the light from the street lamp offered the only safety for me.  Dusk would quickly turn to night and I had to run, run and run up that dirt road into the night if I ever wanted to make it home again.  There was no quick way, no safe way, no light for my feet.  I had to pass that old house and hope that I woke nothing that dwelt in it.  I ran as fast and as quietly without sobbing - only silent tears.  It was a horrific dream for a 10 year old.

The road now is paved.  Pearly and Ben's Store is gone.  The old house no longer in the field or in my dreams.  It's all very different there, but the memory is still very vivid.

Monday, January 13, 2014

not your average joe

Joe Piscopo is a multi-talented and funny fellow.  I used to look forward to his skits on Saturday Night Live, especially the ones with Eddie Murphy.  Those two guys made a great comedic duo.  Eddie quickly found his place on the big screen when he left SNL, but Joe didn't seem to catch hold of his shooting star.  Joe was one of the most talented cast members to come from the show.  Was sketch comedy and stand up all he wanted to do?  Maybe he never got the right vehicle for a career on the big screen.  Maybe he doesn't really care for acting.  Did his bout with cancer in the early eighties change his direction?  I always wanted to see Joe Piscopo do some more acting.

He did a great job playing opposite Michael Keaton in Johnny Dangerously (1984).  I remember going to see Joe in Dead Heat (1988) in which flat-lined.  In 1986 Joe also starred in a Brian de Palma comedy with Danny DeVito in Wise Guys.  Other than Johnny Dangerously, most of the films Joe starred in are forgettable.  Other very talented SNL alumni, for some unexplainable reason, didn't make a successful move to movies as did previous alumni.  I'm a fan of Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey, Victoria Jackson and John Lovitz...those guys can made me laugh.  They just didn't translate to the big screen as much as I had hoped.  Phil did go on to play a wonderful role that suited him in the sitcom Radio News.  Lovitz has done some good supporting rolls ~ but not much playing the lead.

The thing is, I still like Joe.  I don't see him much anymore.  Truth is, Joe does his own thing.  He never cared for the Hollywood game. He likes doing stand-up and grateful for all that did come his way.  I don't think he ever saw himself as a movie star, but enjoyed just being a part, he loves those supporting character rolls.  He's a guy that doesn't have to have all the limelight~ he just enjoys being in the cast ~ a part of the team. 

I'd still like to see him in a good roll.  I know he's big screen worthy.  I've seen what he's got ~ more than a lot of other joes up there on the screen.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Please can I can I?

My dad would be at the wheel of our the Kingswood Estate station-wagon as we made our annual trips to Columbia, South Carolina to visit with kinfolk.  Whenever dad needed to pull over for a fill-up, I'd ask him stop at a Gulf Service Station.  There was a time when Gulf handed out a free Wonderful World of Disney magazine to children of their patrons.  I loved these magazines because I loved anything Walt Disney.  The publication was chock full of colorful photos, illustrations, articles and activities to keep my mind occupied on a long road trip.  Most of the time, if convenient, dad would comply and pull over at a Gulf.  I was terribly disappointed several times when dad would pull over only to find out the station had run out of their supply.  There was a time when Gulf started selling them and dad and mom weren't about to spring the money for it.  It was fun while it lasted.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

identity crisis

I never told anyone this before, but there was a brief time my life I didn't like my name.  As a kid, the name 'David'  just didn't seem to have much pizazz to it.  I know it's the name my mom and dad gave me right after the doctor slapped me around, but it just didn't seem to fit.

I discovered my love for drawing about the time I was in second grade.  I couldn't get enough of it.  I remember practicing drawing characters from 'Peanuts' over and over again until I got pretty good at it.  Charlie Brown was the first character to master because his head was round.  I could draw round real good.  Snoopy was the next on my list.  That nose of his sure was a challenge.

Throughout elementary school I became known as the kid that could draw real good.  My parents didn't know when I was born that I was going to be the kid that could draw real good.  I often thought to myself that my name should reflect my special ability.  David just didn't cut it.

I once read a Peanuts strip in the Sunday funnies where Charlie Brown mentioned to his  friends that he didn't want to be called by his name, but by a name with more pizazz. The gang started coaxing him into revealing the moniker he preferred. He finally opened up and said it, "
FLASH!" All the kids started laughing at him.  Poor Charlie Brown.

I knew the name I wanted.  I didn't want it to be just a nickname.  I wanted it to be my real name.  I wanted people to know me as
'ART'.  I knew deep down though that that would never happen.  I was a David and there was nothing I could do about it.

As time went by the desire faded.  Every time I looked in the mirror with each passing year I looked more and more like a David.  I don't think I could've been anyone else but a David.  Even when I look in the mirror today I look like a David.  My mom and dad knew what they were doing all along.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Death Mall 2000

I've mentioned umpteen times in my blogs that Gina and I lived in Bowling Green, KY right after we got married.  We lived up there for six years.  We didn't have much money due to bills that needed to be paid, just starting out.

For entertainment we'd checkout VHS movies at the Warren County Public Library or rent a VHS tapes at one of many local movie rental places around Bowling Green.  Movie rental businesses were almost on every street corners at that time.  We went out to movies when we had the money and rented when we didn't.  Sometimes we just couldn't afford to do anything we'd go to one of many parks in Warren County.

Not long after moving there we found out about this dollar cinema, Martin Twin (Carmike) that was in this old dying mall on Nashville Road.  The real name of the mall was the 'Bowling Green Mall' but I preferred to call it 'DEATH MALL 2000' because it was pretty much vacant inside.  Gina and I would often shop at the Big Lots and Kroger there - both stores had direct access to the parking lot.  You had to actually venture into the bowels of Death Mall 2000 to get to The Martin Twin.  I remember the feeling I had going in, walking past, through and under ancient mid-century decorations and fixtures.  It was like a time capsule. The fountain in the middle of the mall looked like something out of an old Star Trek movie ~ futuristic in a campy, tacky sort of way. Everything in that mall was so outdated.  Walking through Death Mall 2000 gave me the feeling that I wasn't supposed to be there...because most of the lights were off in the giant facility.  We moved to BG in 1990 and left in 1996.  I remember WKU purchased the building toward the end of our stay.  The theater was still there when we left seventeen years ago.

I enjoyed going to that theater.  The movies were just a buck and the walk through the Death Mall 2000 coming and going was always interesting.  The people that did walk the dead mall were interesting characters and I'd always pack heat when I went.  I never had any trouble, but I'm a good Boy Scout.

Of course at the dollar cinema you got what you paid for - the films were second run and the quality left much to be desired.  I remember gong to see Memphis Belle and the film kept stopping.  We got about half way through the feature when the room went dark for the last time.  Someone came to the door and said that the show had to be canceled and that our money would be refunded.  I was disappointed.  I had to wait till the movie was released on VHS the next year to see the rest of the show.

Anywho, I enjoyed going to the Martin Twin in those days.  I often went alone after Gina went to bed.  Gina would sometimes ask me where I went the night before and I told her that I had gone to the dollar theater at Death Mall 2000.

P.S. The old Bowling Green Mall was resurrected by Western Kentucky University and is now home of WKU Center for Research and Development.  What do you know...they kept the fountain!


Friday, January 3, 2014

dopes use dope

Fresh out of R.A. Mitchell elementary school I was transferred to serve three years (71-74) of my public education sentence at General Forrest Junior High School.  Junior high was a traumatic difference from being a little kid in elementary school.  It was living in the seventies and I was no longer in my Leave It To Beaver world I knew on Lookout Mountain.  Sure my school experience wasn't great at Mitchell, but someone had turned the Hades heat up to 11 during the time I arrived at Forrest.

The world was no longer an innocent place.  The junior high world was determined that I not leave that place an innocent.  It was Junior High school that I learned that the world wasn't a safe place.  Down the mountain most teachers didn't seem to care if a student passed or failed.  In junior high students were expected and treated as the herd we were supposed to be.

We were also herded through the time of Desegregation and a lot of blacks were pretty vicious toward whites in our school.  There were a lot of whites that didn't like blacks.  There were fights and rumors of fights.  We heard stories that the tension was worse in the high schools (Emma Sansom and Gadsden High) at that time.  There were reports of racial fights - stabbings and such.  Knowing that gave me something to look forward to.  Crazy times.

Another thing that seemed strange was all the talk of drugs.  I heard that there were people in our town that got something called 'high' on drugs.  I remember from time to time being herded into dark classrooms to be shown old movies from the 60's about the dangers of drugs.  The educational films were supposed to scare the heck out of youngsters like myself.  Most of these films had lots of hippies and funky rock music.  I don't know if those films scared kids or made us more curious about the subject.

Usually the anti-dope film would be hosted on screen by a clean cut square looking guy who would point out all the different kinds of drugs, uppers, downers and in between - details regarding shapes and colors names and the various slang street names of all the dope.  Almost every film had dramatizations with young people getting high and always doing something really stupid in the end like walking off a high rise saying something like, "Look at me baby, I can fly!"  After the inevitable shocking senseless death scene at end of each film,  it would cut back to the host who would say something somber to the viewers about how foolish, pointless and dangerous it is to do dope.

I don't know where they shot those films.  I could only guess that they were produced in California in the land of the hippies.  I couldn't relate to the whole scene man.  Even by that time, the rags those hippie dudes were wearing were way-outdated.  I grew up in Alabama and we didn't have many hippies in our neck of the woods even in the 60's.  When I did see a hippie, it was a rarity.  The films seemed to be directed to another audiences - another time and another place.

I only saw drugs passing hands once and that was in high art class.  I knew the smell of pot from going to concerts on into the seventies.  It smells like somebody learned how to burn poop.  I guess it's where they got the name.  Most of the kids that I knew who got into drugs in their formative years lived through their stupidity.  I can hear Jack Webb reply in the back of my mind, "Yeah, and you know some that didn't!"  That's right Jack. That's right.

To this day I don't know if those old propaganda films helped or hurt my generation.  I imagine that those films unintentionally introduce many innocents into that culture.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

the houses had ears

This old baby-boomer remembers a time before satellite dishes and before cable.  I remember our household able to only get thirteen channels ~ and not all of those stations very clear.  With hopes of getting what channels we could get and get them clearer, we had to install an UHF/VHF antenna.  Ours ran from the ground and attached to the eve of the house.  I think my brother Brook installed it back in the early seventies.  I'm thinking our old antenna was purchased from Radio Shack.

Though we get more channels and can see almost everything in High Def these days - most of what is shown isn't worth viewing.  Out of all the hundreds of channels we have access to today - I'd be satisfied to have just five or ten of them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

the big square

My dad liked Dragnet.  Having polio, dad would often ask me to massage his atrophied legs with rubbing alcohol on a Sunday evening as we watched FBI (IN COLOR!) or Dragnet.  Dragnet was for squares.  My dad was a square and Jack Webb was a square.  I sat there on the edge of his bed and watched it with him. 

You know what?
I guess that made me a square too.

Jack Webb played Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet. You could tell that Jack was a man of convictions just like the character he portrayed.  The bad guy was always apprehended on Dragnet and you could bet that Friday would have the last word.  Friday shot from the hip and didn't mince words.  You could always count on the perpetrator to be on the receiving end of one of Friday's righteous diatribes.  You tell'm Joe!

I haven't watched a Dragnet in decades.  I've been watching them back to back on Netflix the past few weeks.  Each Dragnet episode was a drama with little to no humor added.  Each episode was a sermon about law and order and crime and punishment.  Jack Webb's straight and narrow sermons were black and white and wrong and right.

The world has changed a great deal since Dragnet 1967.  Jack Webb, if he were still alive today, would be considered more square today than even in his day.  Jack Webb would never fit in the politically correct moral relative world we seem to be stuck in today.  What might have seemed a gritty crime drama show then, would seem campy and old fashioned by today's vague standards.  Hollywood would have nothing to do with Webb's like today. 

I watch these shows and saddened how the world has changed.  I like Dragnet - camp and all.  I like Joe Friday. I appreciate the efforts of Jack Webb now more than ever.   Joe Friday was the standard bearer for all things decent and just.  Good show!