The Town Folks

The town where I spent the first part of my life had about two hundred people but they were scattered out through the woods. The town itself wasnít big enough to hold two hundred people.

Quite a few of those people were relatives. My grandmothers sister, her daughter and three of her grand daughters and their children lived there. We had a lot of cousins to play with.

We had two small grocery stores, a barber shop, gas station, ice cream parlor-pool hall, a small cafť, a tavern, roller rink-movie house, a town hall, two small churches, a grade school and a small ice house.

Are you old enough to remember when people had ice boxes instead of refrigerators? They were made of wood and the top where the ice went was lined with metal. You hung a little sign in the window that told the ice man how much ice you wanted. He would come with anywhere from a twenty five to a hundred pound chunk of ice and put it in the icebox. They carried the ice with a pair of wrought iron tongs unless it happened to be a hundred pounds, then they hoisted it up on their shoulder.

Our ice man was Mr. Adams. He was a very nice man with a broad smile and gold tooth.

Mr. Matthews owned one of our grocery stores. It was a dark, dingy building and had a musty odor. I loved Mr. Matthews but not his store.

Mr. Bailey owned the other grocery. It was a bright cheery store but then it was newer. Mr. Bailey was a very nice man also. My brother and I saved pop bottles and paper grocery bags and returned them to Mr. Bailey. He paid us for them. If we saved enough of them, we made enough to go to the picture show and if we saved more than enough, he gave us a five cent bag of penny candy. So we hustled.

Our barber was Barber Bean. No one called him Mr. Bean, he was Barber Bean to everyone. He was a tall, skinny man, his wife was a short fat woman who dipped snuff. I loved them both dearly, especially him. His shop was directly across the street from our house and when he wasnít busy, Iíd go over and visit with him. One day I took a doll with pretty blonde hair along with me. I was about six or seven years old. I talked him into letting me set my doll in his chair and cut her hair. When I was through, my doll was bald. Then I cried when I found out it would not grow back.

Mr. Clark owned the gas station next to the barber shop, it had a dirt floor but the dirt was packed down so hard that when Mr. Clark swept, it shined like glass. My brother hung out there a lot. Mr. Clarks daughter Ann was my best friend.

Mr. Skinner owned the ice cream parlor-pool hall. He had a daughter, Wendy, who was older than me and gave me piano lessons although I never really learned.

We didnít have a regular preacher in our town. One of the elders always delivered the sermon.

My Sunday school teacher was Miss Winnie. She was married but we all called her Miss. I thought she was so beautiful. She had blonde hair that came from a bottle and she had long finger nails that were kept painted a bright red.

We had a celebrity in our town. It was my brother. He had a beautiful singing voice and he went around singing all the time because everyone loved to hear him and were always asking him to sing a song for them.

The Clabber Girl Baking Powder company had a truck that came out from the city about once a month. It had two large speakers on the top and they drove up and down from one end of the town to the other advertising their product. After someone told them about my brother, they would put him in the truck and have him sing. His voice rang out over the whole town. Everyone always looked forward to the days the truck came to town. I was very proud of my brother.

One of the most prominent citizens of our town was old Jim Crow. Old Jim was just what his name implied, an old black crow. He had evidently been someoneís pet at one time because old Jim could talk. Mr. Bull Dog White, one of our neighbors, taught him to say my grandmothers name. Her name was Bennight. Every wash day old Jim would perch himself on the clothes line and say, " Hello Miz Burnite."

The first time it happened, it scared her because she saw only shadows. Since she saw no unusual shadows, she didnít know where the voice came from.

Old Jim was everyoneís friend. The kids all loved him but we dared not leave anything shinny laying around, especially marbles because old Jim was a thief.

You never knew when or where Old Jim would show up with his "Hello." If we happened to have on shoes, he tried his best to untie them and if we were bare footed, he pecked at our toes.

One day some of the men in town chopped down an old hollow tree close to our house and found Jimís stash. You would not believe the marbles he had. Along with foil from cigarette and gum wrappers and even a few coins.

I donít know what happened to old Jim, when we moved away, he was still flying high and wide.

Almost everyone who lived in and around our town were coal miners, including my grandfather. He owned what he called a "Slope" mine. Several men in town worked for him but there were numerous mines in the area.

Our little town was named, Jenny Lind, after the famous Swedish Nightingale who toured the U.S.A. between the years of 1850 and 1852. It was the greatest little town in America to raise children.

By Lora Cox  ©2001

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