I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but Marni let the cat out of the bag and Beth, of cup of coffee fame, as me to give you some of the wisdom I have obtained over the past sixty-three years. That’s easy. Not much!
I was born at Crawford W. Long Hospital on September 27, 1944. As you know, the war was going on, but my dad said my birth shortened the war because I was going to be a hell raiser and the Germans and Japanese didn’t want anyone like me that they couldn’t control. He was really good about boosting my moral.
Anyway, as was the custom back then, my mom had a private room and stayed for six days before being released. She had a private nurse the whole time. We were not rich. We couldn’t even afford to pay attention back then, but that was all the hospitals had to do, because everyone was at war, working in the war plants, or raising their kids. No one had time to be sick, or think they are sick like they do now. If you felt bad, you took a dose of castor oil or put a mustard plaster on your chest and kept on trucking.
For the first four years of my life we lived on Meldurm Street in the Bellwood section of Atlanta, not far from the world headquarters of Coca Cola. I remember riding the trolley, an electric machine that ran on tracks but powered by cables reaching up to electric wires running across the town. The seats were made of wood and were very uncomfortable. I remember mom taking me to Grant (not the same Grant of Civil War fame, but named for some dude who helped get the railroad started in Atlanta) Park to the zoo. The zoo was only about five miles from the house, but we had to transfer three times to get there.
My dad never owned a car until I was out of the house and in the service. He drove a truck for Sinclair Oil for 35 years without and accident, but he didn’t own a car. When I was born, the terminal was within walking distance of the house, and back then, a car was a luxury, not a necessity. My brothers and sister, 15, 13 and 10 years older, dated using the trolleys or busses. So when Sinclair built a huge terminal (were the gas trucks refilled to deliver to the gas stations around Atlanta) my dad had to bum rides to work. One day he was leaving the terminal and saw a house about two mile from the terminal, so he stopped and bought it (for $5,000 plus dollars and had a house payment of $30 something for 30 years.) Mom didn’t see it until the day we moved in. By then my oldest brother and my sister had bought a car and helped us move. It was in May, it was hot, I was four years old and my mother was eight months pregnant with my younger brother. The house had a living room, three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. For seven people.
This was in Atlanta, but in 1948 it was still rural. There were two barns and two horses that the previous owner left until he could get a place for them. We had them for about a year. The next door neighbor had chickens, the house two doors down still had an outhouse in the back yard and two cows. The house five doors down raised pigs. And everyone knew and supported each other. It was a family of about 150 people. I had twenty or thirty mothers who would spank me as well and as fast as any of her kids. Then they would call mom and tell her and I could expect another spanking when I got home. Today its call “Child Cruelty.”
My sister had a bedroom. My two brothers had a bed room. My dad and mom had a bedroom and I slept on a rollaway bed in the kitchen. Thankfully, my oldest brother got married and I got promoted to the boy’s bed room. My baby brother got promoted from the crib in mom and dad’s room to the cot in the kitchen. Then the next older brother got married and baby bro go moved in the bedroom with me. When my sister got married, me and little bro moved into her room and the boys room was turned into a den because it was next to the bathroom.
We lived there until I went into the service. Mom and little bro lived there for almost 40 years. The house is gone now, but we still own the land.
I have seen street-cars, electric buses, gas buses to electric buses come to Atlanta. I was raised on radio shows like Gun Smoke, Gang Buster, Dragnet, Ozzie and Harriett, Fibber McGee and Mollie, the Grand Old Opery, and many more. We had an old rotary dial telephone with a three person party line, and the same phone number of 40 years. Only the area coded was added later. I remember the Bank of Georgia building be constructed and touted as the tallest building in the South (23 stories high.) You can’t eve see it now.
I drove cars before there were seat belts and the high-beam switch was on the floor next to the clutch. There was no power steering and automatic transmissions until the sixties. The radio was AM and the air-conditioning was call 2-60. Two windows down and going 60 miles per hour. There was no rush hour traffic because most people rode the bus and lived close to their jobs. Our fist television was bought by my sister with her first paycheck. Of course it was black and white and, in Atlanta, we only had three stations (most of the time) with a “rabbit ears” antenna. The television stations went off the air at 11:00 pm or at midnight.
When I got married and bought my first house, it cost $17,000 and I was worried sick over how I was going to meet the payments each month. When I got out of the Navy, I went to work at Georgia Tech at the experiment station, and, no, I wasn’t one of the experiments. I worked in the warehouse and delivered supplies all over the campus. For this I was paid a staggering $185 once a month and out of that I had to make a car and insurance payment, date, drink, get into trouble and live. I left GT after a year and went to The Atlanta Coca Cola Bottling company and by the time I got married and bought the house, I was making around $200 a week.
My baby girl, Marni, came along, and that slowed me down some. I mean, I was a father, now, and had even more responsibilities. So after a few years, I divorced my first wife and SHE gets all the credit for raising Marni to the lady she is today. All she got from me is her since of humor and her temper.
I was amazed and amused when my step kids came home with history homework and I knew, first hand, what they were studying. I lived through and witnessed Korea, Viet Nam, Integration, race riots, bra burnings, social change of all kinds, White Flight out of Atlanta, the advent of fast food restaurants and chain stores. I’ve witnessed, and participated, in the changing of girls and women going from being respected, protected and treated like gentle souls who never had to, or was required to, work outside the house to being a peer in the work force. Back in the day, a girl would die of embarrassment if she was caught calling a boy on the phone, and she would never ask a boy on a date. And the guys were scared to death of the feminine mind and body.
Yes, people did not live as long back then, but they were stronger and more self-reliant than we are today. I miss those times, but I’m glad I have my Waffle House and central air-conditioning. And computers. And color television – on cable. And cell phones.
But of all the things I have loved in my life, Sweet Tea, Marni, J-Man and Bug head the list. As we all do, I look back on my life and think, “If I had done this or that instead.” I wouldn’t have these precious people in my life. And, for that, I would not change a thing.
Sorry for rambling, but that is what I was thinking about today, my birthday, while I was trimming my toenails, getting a haircut, having the oil changed in my truck, and getting fish supplies for the fish tank. Although I don’t FEEL sixtythree, I guess I look it, but that’s okay. I don’t have to look at me, even when I am shaving, because I do that in the shower. Thanks for hanging in there.
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