I’m the little guy on the right and that’s my friend Billy on the left.
(Since I wrote the article in 2008 my Mom passed away in 2015.)
My earliest memories as a child are when my family and I lived on Lewis Street. The memories from my early childhood there are special. I had three close friends Billy, Mike, and Carol. We were all the same age, except Billy, he was a year older. So as far back as I can remember the gang and I met in our front yard on Christmas morning to compare presents. One year the boys and I all had cowboy outfits, and another year football uniforms. But my favorite Christmas that I remember we all got Army uniforms. We were all decked out in our uniforms and prepared for war! We played war games in those days fighting the ‘Japs’ and Germans (We didn’t know what political correctness was!) When the guys and I had fought the enemy all day long, occasionally Carol would pretend to be our nurse.
During those days we lived in what seemed to be in a “Leave It To Beaver” world. All our Moms stayed at home with us, each family had one car (I remember our 63 Chevrolet) and one black and white TV. We played hard back then, until the streetlights began to come on, and the lighting bugs came out during the summer months, until of course I heard my Mom say,”Bobby, come in, it’s getting late!” Usually I was getting scared by then because many times we told ghost stories setting on the side-walk. How I miss those simple days. I watched the first episode of Batman on T.V. with my friend Mike, and I also remember the first episodes of, The Adams Family, and my favorite, Combat!
I woke up this past Christmas Eve morning feeling a little nostalgic … I miss my Dad, and I miss my old friends. So since my wife was spending the morning, cooking (she’s a Proverbs 31 woman!) I decided to go to Broad Street, get a cup of coffee, and walk around downtown Gadsden. That’s were we shopped before we got the Mall, Walmart and all the other new stores. Downtown was where the movie theater was located and where all the action was. There’s still one Variety Store that we shopped in when we were growing up, the name has been changed, and it still has that same smell of varnished wooden floors and popcorn. I took a leisurely stroll on those sidewalks that had been such an important part of our community. And while enjoying the cool air and listening to Christmas music that was being played, I reflected on the past.
Somehow I felt I was starting a journey back in time, so my next stop had to be at my old Elementary school, that I had attended until the second grade. I pulled up at the school only to realized I hadn’t looked down those halls since I left in about 1965! I just stared … it was like going back in time … the halls looked the same as I remembered … I could see my first grade class room, but the playground seemed so much smaller than I remembered.
Well, there was no stopping now, I had to go back to Lewis Street. I had been back before to visit the Lewis Street Baptist Church and to look at our old house … but this time was different. I drove slowly behind Lewis Street and gazed into the woods that we use to play in behind our house, I couldn’t see it but there was a large flat rock back near the woods that we kids used to think the Devil lived under! In those days we had great imaginations because all we had to do back then was to play outside.
As I turned the corner to Lewis Street I stopped the car and stood for a few moments taking in all the memories at the corner of the woods, where I had spent so much time in so many years ago. I looked to the left where the ” Little Store “had been, at least that’s what we called it. They built onto and expanded the store an turned it into a diner. Then eventually it was torn down. I slowly drove past the church on the left and there was Carol’s house, next to Mike’s across the road from Billy’s home which was next to mine. I could feel the past … I don’t think I’ve ever looked so intently at our old house as I did that day.
The large lot we had played football on was really not as big as I had remembered as a small child. My old house was for sale again, I sure would have liked to have gone in. The memories just kept flooding into my soul. As I turned left on Nunnelly Avenue, I remembered as if it were yesterday how I had somehow slipped out of the house unnoticed and rode my tricycle to Nunnelly. I can still feel the horror I felt as my Dad drove up and put me and the tricycle in the car … he was angry, and that was the worst spanking I ever got! Needless to say, I didn’t ride my tricycle back there again.
My first memories of church, Sunday school, and Vacation Bible school happened at the Lewis Street Baptist Church. The Church was located across the street from our home. My first thoughts about God and my first prayers that I prayed, happened in that neighborhood. That’s the place that I first learned how to make and relate to friends. God doesn’t want us to live in the past. But there is something spiritual about remembering and honoring those defining, and formative moments, and people in our past.