Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's Today

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.


Heidi the Hick said...

Wow, what a great post!

Sometimes I think I was born thirty years too late.

We were a weird enough family that even learning to drive in the 80s our cars had the high beam switch on the floor. Actually I think my 76 Nova had that, if I remember correctly, and I drove that car until the late 90s!

Thanks for the recollections. You're a solid dude, man!

Heidi the Hick said...

oh shoot

Happy Birthday (belated)!

Marni said...

Love this post, dad... and love you.

Happy birthday.

My favorite story is that you learned how to travel around Atlanta by the skyline... because you sister would make you and younger bro lay in the back floorboard so the boys she was flirting with wouldn't see you!

Sweet Tea said...

A special note from Sweet Tea...
I am not a blogger, but I needed to respond to this post. I just wish I could have spent more time with coffeypot in the earlier years of his life. CoffeyPot may seem to be gruff and obstinate on the outside, but he is sweet, compassionate and loving. He shares his life, his knowledge and his humor with us all. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! If you are old we will be old together as one....

Nadine said...

Wonderful post!

Happy Birthday!

e.Craig said...

Happy Birthday, Coffeypot. And, thanks for that very interesting "capsule" life history.

her indoors said...

Happy birthday coffeypot, fantastic post, loved hearing about your life, enjoy your special day with the ones you love x x

coffeypot said...

Thank you, guys. Like I said, I wasn’t going to say anything, but since I was outed, I had to say something. I’m surprised it went on so long. I usually don’t talk about my life, unless I am making a humorous point. But thank you for your comments.

Marni is right. My little brother/sister, Gay Stephen, and I had to hide a lot. My sister, who I 13 years older than me, had a 55 Ford convertible, and when she went riding around with her girlfriend, Maxine, and GS and I were with them and we passed any good looking boys, we had to lay down in the floor so the guys wouldn’t see us and think my sister was married with kids. We watched the trees and bus lines and the tops of houses and buildings to find out our location.

She wasn’t mean. She is more like my mother than my mom was. She and Maxine, or Bettyann, or Ruanne or who ever just like to have fun and they though they were being cute. GS and I had fun doing it, too. If she stopped to talk to some boys in another car, she would tell us she would skin us alive if we set up. So, guess what??? Just as they would start talking, we would jump up and say, “Mommy, can we go home to daddy now?” She would scream and try to pop us on the top of our heads. She was sweet like that.

cooper green said...

Happy Birthday, oldtimer, you've got about 14 weeks on me. You and I grew up in different places and under different circumstances, but we did it at the same time, and I remember a lot of the same things you do. You didn't mention the iceman, the breadman, the meatman, the twice-a-day Monday to Sunday mail delivery (all with a 2¢ stamp), but I'll bet you remember them as well.

Thanks for sharing this, John, it's a treat being reminded of how valuable good memories can be.

Beth said...

What a great post, Uncle Coffeypot! I actually learned a few things about my dad's family.

Love you — and happy birthday.

p.s. My last name is spelled Coffey. Just in case you need to update your address book.

GrizzBabe said...

I enjoyed reading this. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

coffeypot said...

CG - I don't remember the twice a day postage, but I do remember the rest, plus a produce truck that came by twice a week with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Beth - What? You spell your name differently? Does your mama know?

GB, and everyone else, thank you for making it a great birthday.

Pamela said...

a lovely present you gave us on your birthday.

I'm touched and remembering some of that with you.

happy birthday C=pot

Raven said...

Happy Birthday!

May you live for as long as you feel comfortable doing so.

Your posts are great, and I enjoy reading them through the time and space difference that's between us.

coffeypot said...

Pamela, thank you, and you know that what ever I said is only a fingernail scratch to what we have experienced over the many years.

Raven, thank for stopping by. I had no idea you have been coming by. If you have a place to land, a tree lime to sit on, or a nest to rest, tell me and I will come by and read your stuff. If not, I guess you are a stalker, but that is perfectly okay and I don’t blame you. I am very stalkable.

dilling said...

Happy Belated....why am I always late?

gawilli said...

Happy Birthday! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. There were so many things that triggered a memory, like Sinclair Oil. There was a Sinclair Station down the street from our house. Mr. Halsted owned it. My dad would go and visit with him on Saturdays. I remember the green dinosaur on the pump. And the role of women back in the day was very interesting. Buying a house sight unseen to a wife these days would be unheard of, for $5,000 with a $30 a month payment. Geez. I definitely remember being scolded by others than my parents, and getting it again when I got home. Nowadays the kids get in trouble at school and their parents sue. I also remember the high beam switch on the floor. It was difficult to get used to it being on the steering column when it changed. And girls calling boys was unheard of.

Boy a lot has changed, hasn't it? But here we all are to talk about it! What a wonderful trip it's been!

Biddie said...

That was a wonderful post, Coffepot. Thank s for sharing and I hope that your birthday was wonderful!

Mr. Guinness said...

Being about six months behind you in age I can definately relate. I was a Boston boy, and even now marvel at how we survived without seatbelts, air conditioning, and the like.
Really enjoyed your post, I'm down here in Destin, FL now and have a blog you might enjoy as well.
Mr. Guinness

I'll be checking in again. Thanks, and as my grandaughter would say , "Happy b-day"

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