Bulletin Board, excerpt


Excerpt from (St. Paul Pioneer Press) Bulletin Board, February 29, 2004

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Writes Jon Anon of River Falls, Wis.: "We never had a car when I was a child. Like many other people in Franklin County, Tennessee, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, our main mode of transportation was walking. We walked to Partin's store, almost a mile away, for the few food items we did not grow. A longer trip that I remember came when my cousin Vernon asked me if I wanted to walk to Alto with him. I was about 8 years old, Alto was two miles away, and it was very hot. Vernon bought me a Double Cola from the icebox at Jim Long's store. Double Colas came in 12-ounce bottles at a time when Coca-Colas were uniformly six ounces. In all the years since, a cola has never tasted so good. Now, decades later, we rely on Vernon's fantastic memory of those bygone years when trying to recall people or events.

"Other trips involved riding in a mule-drawn wagon, usually driven by Uncle Lige. We took corn to a mill in Alto to be ground into meal for cornbread. Once, we hauled wheat to a mill in Oak Grove, three miles away, to be ground into flour. We also rode in a wagon once with Uncle Chester's family to visit Uncle Elgin across the Elk River in Coffee County, about three miles away. Uncle Chester knew a shortcut that also avoided a hard climb up Rutledge Hill and a perilous trip down the other side on primitive rutted roads. We forded the river at a seldom-used crossing at which the water came up to the floorboards. The mules had a hard time pulling the wagon up the far bank; some of us had to get out of the wagon to lighten the load. We made it in time for dinner (the noon meal).

"Noteworthy car trips were few. We would sometimes get a ride on a Saturday to Decherd, 10 miles away, in our neighbor's old pickup truck. He drove about 15 or 20 miles an hour. Our mother got to sit up front; we kids rode in the uncovered back. We had no electricity on the farm, so going to town where we could get a five-cent strawberry ice cream cone was a great treat.

"The only long car trip I remember was to visit Aunt Bessie in Chattanooga, 70 miles away. Uncle Paul drove down the mountain from Sewanee to pick us up in my grandparents' old Plymouth. We then rode back over the mountain to Chattanooga. I don't remember how many people were in the car, but it was really packed. None of us kids dared complain; we knew that any of the adults could discipline us swiftly and firmly. I don't remember much about the trip except that Aunt Georgia gave her son, then called Sonny Boy, a quarter to take my sister and me to a Krispy Kreme donut shop a few blocks from Aunt Bessie's. For the 25 cents, we each got a donut. What a treat for country kids.

"One final note about another kind of noteworthy trip: Sonny Boy is now called Paul. Last Thanksgiving, I was privileged to have a brief visit with him and Evelyn, his beautiful wife of 52 years. Evelyn, who was also my high school classmate, passed away earlier this month. That sort of puts all other life's journeys in perspective."

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