I like old folks. I liked ‘em when I was a youngster — Glea Gray, Hilt Gray, Cooper Jones, Sara Kezar, Ruby Hodges, Molly Moss, Big Hoss Johnson, Tom Chapman, Joe Hodges, Ed Thompson, Donald Brand, Wilson Martin, Fred Stokes, Frances Couey — I could go on and on, but I won’t.
And, I like old folks now, maybe even better than I used to, if that’s possible. And, let me say that I liked to listen to them, to find out about them and listen to the interesting tales they had to tell. There doesn’t seem to be as many old folks to visit with as in the past. I guess that’s because I am one, and there’s not that many folks older than me to talk to.
I miss playing out at night. You say, “What, a man over 70 years old misses playing out at night?” Well, I’m not saying I’m going to start back playing out at night, but I do miss it. I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to leave to go to the bathroom. I remember that I’d have to go to the bathroom so bad, I actually hurt. I thought I might “bust,” but I didn’t.
We had so much fun. Running, hiding, scaring each other, “Red Rover, Red Rover,” pop the whip, catching lightning bugs, roasting marshmallows, etc. Yes, I miss playing out at night.
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Some of you, most of all of you over 50, remember when the new cars used to come out with great fanfare. My recollection is that it was about this time of year, perhaps a few weeks sooner. In Perry, Cecil Moody had Fords, my grandfather, Charles Gray, had Chevys and Calvin McClendon had Dodges and Plymouths. All of these dealerships were in downtown Perry. Three good dealerships, three good men.
Unlike today, all of the cars looked considerably different from year to year. Think: a 1957 Chevy, a 1958 Chevy and a 1959 Chevy. You could tell when you saw one what make it was and what year it was. Today, I can’t tell the difference in Ford, Chevy and Honda SUVs, when I meet them on the road. When the new cars used to come out, it was almost as big as the fair coming. I miss the old-time new car shows.
Folks in Perry, well, at least the men, used to have gathering places where they met, drank coffee and solved the country’s problems. When I was “coming along,” the group I attended met at the Coffee Cup in downtown Perry. There were three morning shifts, one about 6:30, one at 7:30 and one about 8:30 with some “bleeding over” from one to the other. Lots of banter, lots of bull and lots of opinions. But, you’ve got to admit that things worked better back then than now. Maybe if we had these places today, politically things would be better. I miss these gatherings.
I don’t have a place to go and hang out, a few minutes, maybe 30 or less, when I tire of the law office and just want to get out for a little while. I used to go to the feed and seed store, Walker and Thompson, and visit with Mr. Ed, Mr. Glea, Mrs. Middlebrooks and Joe Hodges. Or, I could go uptown to the Swank Shop and visit and listen to Billy Bledsoe. Or, I could drop by Union Motor Company and talk with Uncle Norman and Uncle Thomas or go down to Walker-Rhodes Tractor and visit Daddy and Foster. I miss a place to just go and hang out for a little while.
Truth of the matter, I miss the South and how it used to be. I miss Perry and how it was. I miss the way Southerners used to talk — the way they sounded. I miss donkey basketball, Tom Thumb weddings, womanless weddings, dances at the National Guard Armory, Perry High School basketball, the arcade, dance hall and the bowling alley at Houston Lake, feed stores, seed stores, baby chicks (biddies) for sale, hog feed, cotton gins, turnip seeds, drink boxes with ice cold water and grape drinks in bottles, merchants that would let you charge and would cash your check, and fishing for bream on the bed. And then, there were those three drugstores in downtown Perry with all three having soda fountains.
These are some of the things I miss. And, there’s lots more, but I guess I’ll just have to get over it and move on. That’s what I’ve done so far.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.