WAY BACK WHEN…

A Big Yellow Cat

If I could go back… back to my childhood days… way back to the days when ‘a drug problem’ at school’ meant that the office was out of aspirin… I’d go back!  You’d better believe I would! Things were truly different  back then.  No, we didn’t have Covid, but we did have mumps, measles, chicken pox, and polio.  We didn’t have TV, but we did have AM radio that brought Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly, and Guy Lumbardo into our homes.  We didn’t have cell phones that rang during church… but we had telephones with long cords and a favorite place to curl up and whisper sweet nothing to that favorite someone across town.  We didn’t have TV to keep up us half the night… or the internet to rob us of valuable family time.  But we did have those amazing places called libraries that carried countless books on countless subjects that gave us countless hours of pleasure while reading.  Hardly anything was ‘right at our fingertips’ back then, which made possessing anything – mean that we had to put out some effort to possess it. This only made things much more dear to us.  And as one of the most popular songs of the day stated, ‘little things meant a lot.’

Looking back, I remember those simple pleasures, those special treats that we found while outside discovering the world around us.  You see, our world was the real world, and not some animated imaginary world on a small flat screen manupilated by our fingers.  A good example was:  About every six weeks or so, the city sent to our neighborhood a great yellow monster!

The street on which I lived was two blocks north of Battlefield Park.  It ran east and west. Connecting our street to Battlefield was Peabody Street, running north/south.  In the 40s, Peabody had yet to be paved… it was still gravel.*  Periodically, the city would send out this great yellow monster, a road grader, to smooth out the ruts and bumps of Peabody Street.  And the neighborhood kids lined the path to watch this great machine at work!   Oh what a treat that was!  The one in the photo is only a toy-model.  But it still brought a smile to my face!

I’ve always had a deep fondness for airplanes.  Perhaps that’s because our home on Evergreen lay directly below the landing approach to one of the main runways of Hawkins Field, Jackson’s original airport.  Those old Delta and Southern DC-3 lumbering directly overhead never got boaring to this young boy!

Back then, a dollar would buy far more than it does today.  In the late 40s, a fully dressed hamburger was only a quarter… and it came with condiments on BOTH buns (something you never find today) plus lettuce, pickle, tomato and onions.  A soft drink was 5c.  When I began driving, and dating… I had $5.00 set aside for my week’s spending.  I could take that $5, put gas in Dad’s car, buy the date and myself burgers and drinks, tickets to the movie, and still have money left over for snacks for myself the remainder of the week!  

In 1945, the southern city limits of Jackson was only yards south of US Hwy 80!  And I had a cousin who also lived on Evergreen, who walked south on Peabody, crossed Battlefield Park, then crossed over Hwy 80… to squirrel hunt!  Yes, I helped eat many a squirrel that was bagged just south of Hwy 80… when that area was mostly forrest and fields.

Not long ago I found an eye-opening bit of local history which underscored just how old I really am. It was an old highway map of Mississippi, dated less than 10 years before my birth. It showed that both Highway 80 (East and West) and Highway 51 (North and South) were only PAVED just a few miles outside of Jackson! Can you imagine traveling to Memphis on a gravel road? How about on a MUDDY gravel road?  

Yes, I know, times have changed.  And they keep on changing… especially in my lifetime.  But, times have also changed during my parents lifetime, and durning their parent’s lifetime!  Not long ago I saw a list of average salaries of profession people at the turn of the century (1900).  It stated that railroad engineers then made more that medical doctors!  Yes, times have changed!  It makes me wonder what it will be like when my great-grand children are adults.  I don’t think I want to know!

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Doing What Old Men Do

    I’ve just returned from a delightful outing with my childhood pal Buddy Gorday.  For the past hour, we’ve been sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the Madison County Airport, a very active airport for its size, watching aircraft takeoff and land… and sharing sweet memories of the past.  We were doing what old men do.

    There was a time, way back when, in the days when I was far, far younger, when I simply couldn’t relate to this.  This morning my memory was jogged to such a time, many years before, when I experienced a stark and powerful illustration of the ‘progress’ of time, which I could not at that time comprehend.

    Buddy is only eighteen months older than me.  But a year is much, much longer when you’re ten… than when you’re eighty.  Remember?  This day, Buddy and I were far closer to 10.  We were in his front yard at the time, probably doing what robust, active boys did during those days long before TV and video games.  We chased one another, dared each other to ‘see’ if we could jump over the neighbor’s hedge, always doing active and physical things like that.  And that’s when we spied him… and old man slowly making his way down Evergreen Street.

   I don’t recall if he had a cane or not, but he walked slowly, carefully, and slightly bent over as if he needed one.  I stopped my activity, and simply stood and watched, actually a bit confused.  In my young mind, I could relate to only my then young and active body.  I couldn’t understand his slow gate and posture.  My thought was:  Why is he walking so painfully slow?  Doesn’t he understand that all he needs do is to stand elect and walk purposefully and correctly?  I even walked a few paces myself as if to demonstrate!      

   Fast forward seventy years.  Now I understand.  

   This morning, when Buddy pulled up in my driveway, it was two ‘old men’ meeting to go out and play again.  But we had no plans to chase one another around the yard, or to jump hedges.  It was to do what ‘old men’ do… sit and watch the airplanes take off and land.  It’s only ‘the fun’ that has changed to other things.  I’m sure we haven’t changed a bit!

The photo above is of Buddy and me taken on Evergreen Street. I’m sitting in my beloved and much-used airplane ‘kitty-car.’ I’m not sure of the date, but at the time, we were just doing what kids did in the 1940s.

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An Old Man

Arm 1

©2017 Bill Murphy

As Sgt. Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

And the facts are that Ole Bill has ‘suddenly’ become Old Bill.

My birth certificate and today’s calendar hanging on or frig verify that I’m chronologically 76 years plus a few weeks old. The clock on the wall downstairs appears to agree with this much earlier each night, as does the radio/alarm beside the bed each morning. They’re conspiring against me.

No – ‘against me’ is far from the correct term! The alternative would be, well, you know.

Two things happened within the past 12 hours to bring me to the staggering conclusion that I’m aging. And both shed some fresh light as to why.

Last night was reclined of the sofa downstairs watching The Voice with Carol. I happened to raise my right arm and noticed how ‘loose’ the skin had become, especially on the inner area near the elbow. It was as loose and wrinkled as I remember my grandfather’s arms had been.

Then it hit me – I AM a grandfather. Correction: I am a GREAT-grandfather. Ergo: I have grand-father, great-grand-father skin. When did this happen?

Then this morning Carol was enjoying her usual early morning phone chat with her sister Mary Ellen. Carol was relaying her unusual dream of last night, and how vivid and detailed it was. That got the two sister’s talking about dreams.

I interjected that I dream EVERY NIGHT – and that most of those dreams are busy, active, work-filled dreams of past high-pressure jobs and projects – like ad deadlines at Jitney Jungle and whole notebooks of things to do for Lanny Wolfe’s Music Ministry Conferences. Mary Ellen then replied that I was actually LIVING TWO LIVES, one by day, the other by night!

So THAT too explains my aging process, and the visual effects thereof. I’m not 76 – I’m 76 x 2. I’m actually 152! No wonder I’m looking and acting old.

I feel much better about it now, for in truth, I’m not doing bad at all for a man of 152!

 

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