Memories of an old man.
Lash LaRue, dressed in all black, came riding up at the last minute, and with that famous bull whip, he popped the gun right out of the bad guy’s hand. We were already on our feet cheering when we saw him coming, but the Liberty Theater erupted when the bad guys were taken down and the girl was saved. Our hero saved the day and we could not wait until the next movie of the double feature started, with Roy Roger, or Eddie Dean, maybe even Gene and gang. And it was a good Saturday when we got to laugh at Gabby Hayes, or Frog Milhouse. That was a well spent 15 cents back then, made even better if we had another 15 for a Jimmy’s Hot Dog and a 6 oz. Coca Cola before we made our way home.
I guess it’s true for most folks, that reach my age, to sort of spend time reminiscing our days of youth if no where else but in our own minds. For me those Saturdays spent at the theater were special as were the times when we sneaked into the “Capitol Drive In” that was in front of our house on the Moultrie Road. It was there as a young teenager that we sat through the “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” I remember we were scared out of our wits and love it, but then I had to walk home through the wood in the dark. I saw that creature behind every tree.
Our neighborhood was filled with boys my age, or nearly so, and our summers were spent outside all day. There were girls too, but it was a few years before we noticed. At least when we would ride our bikes by their house, we would pretend not to see them in the yard. I can close my eyes and see all the kids of my youth. My mom and dad raised seven children and having the gang over to feed was common. Our days were spent bike riding, camping out and swimming in the nude at a spring not far from us called “Green Hole.” There was a time though when a mother of one of the guys came down to get him and caught us that way. We stayed in that cold water until she left, which was a lot longer than we wanted.
Speaking of swimming, when they developed our neighborhood, they built a retention pond in front of Jimmy Wages’ house. It was at that pond one day while swimming in that “Storm water runoff” with Jimmy, that I first met Larry Ladd. He had come up to live with his sister. He just walked to the edge of the pond and dove in and swam to the middle where we were. Larry became my best friend growing up. With Larry, life was always an adventure. Radium Springs was also another place where we spent many summer days where we swam and then danced under the pavilion to the music of Chubby Checker, the Beach Boys and so on. Of course that was after reaching the age where we finally noticed girls. That awareness created it’s on special problems, especially when showing off on that diving board at the spring. “That didn’t hurt,” was one of the big lies back then. Those tricks remind me of what Forrest said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Then there was River Bend, on down the road from Radium Spring, which had a pool and skating ring, own by Paula Deen’s grandparents, (“Hey y’all”). Of course her name was Hiers back then. That’s where we like to go once we got driver license, or knew some kid that did. I don’t know if I ever skated with Paula or not, with her being younger than me, but I remember the thrill of holding hands with girls and skating, even if I didn’t want to show it. There again showing off on skates can be dangerous. Wonderful summer days there still flood my memory.
Many summer days were spent water skiing on Lake Worth and Lake Blackshear in my dad’s ski boat. That was family time at its best. There was usually a picnic lunch that included fried chicken and potato salad. Uncle JB’s family was most often there with Aunt Virginia and cousins Dewey, Tommy and Carol. I was fair on the skis, but my brother Irv was a real pro.
However, what sticks out most in my mind about that time in my life was how safe the neighborhood was back then, where we walked to church every Sunday, and played ball at the triangle. None of us knew anything about drugs, cell phone or computers. The doors were never locked at night, but even if they were it would have done no good with the windows open, since no one had air conditioning. I had only seen a television set at Sears until we got our first one. So we play outside together.
We played from morning till night with our parents never worrying about us, other than about our getting our necks broke. My mom was always telling us we were going to break our necks if we were not careful. I guess we were because I never knew a kid that had one, even though riding our bikes flat out down suicide hill, and making the hair pin turn at the bottom, should have produced at least one. I also remember a tree house about 20 feet up a big tree in the woods, from which we would jump to a small sapling and climb down. One day Jerry Hobbs made his first jump after stating, “I only have one life to live,” and missed the sapling. We hauled him home in a wagon behind the bike. But no broken neck.
Ah, the memories.
David Butler, a 1963 Albany High School graduate, is retired from the Florida Department of Corrections. He lives in Jasper, Fla.