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a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
December 9, 2013
Mississippi summers are what they are—hot.
This isn’t a news alert, unless you recently unloaded your moving van displaying a car tag from one of those northern states.
This month’s column is taken from an interview I wrangled out of Mr. Roy, my husband. He was born in George County—Lucedale—and has lived here most of his life. Though he hopscotched to Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama and then Florida for a few years, as determined by his career choices and a stint in the Army. His bachelor’s degree is in mechanical engineering, his master’s in business.
I tagged along beginning with Arkansas. He insisted, since we were married.
I penned his responses to my questions.
“Mr. Roy, I realize that you are much older than I am, therefore I doubt your summer experiences will spark the same memories for me, but there are people that can relate to yours.”
He frowned and kept walking. “Not that much older,” he grumbled.
“Slow down so I can take notes,” I said. “OK, I’m ready to key in your memories on my Ipad.”
He stepped over a limb that had fallen across our trail in the woods and began. “When school was out each spring, it was time to take my shoes off. All of my friends did the same. The biggest problem was when I was at my daddy’s car business I’d step on cigarettes people threw on the concrete around the shop.
“Another hazard was stickers. The grass would feel so good as I ran through my yard, then a patch of stickers would surprise me—they were hard to see. Going barefooted was like being a soldier in a minefield. I was always on the lookout for the next ouch!”
Mr. Roy’s long strides slowed, so I could keep up.
“Every day was an adventure. The boys in the neighborhood and a few blocks away would gather in the large field behind my house for a game of baseball, or whatever someone dreamed up. Some days we’d make rubber guns and have wars. Our bikes were always handy to charge out to another backyard. Most of our mothers didn’t work, so they’d make Kool-Aid for us. Soft drinks were too expensive to keep on hand.”
“What would you do on Sundays?” I asked.
“After Sunday school and church we’d head over to my grandparents for dinner. Their house was where Jack’s Hardware is located on Cowart Street. Afterwards, my brother Bobby and I would load up in Dad’s car with Mother and go out to Brushy Creek swimming. Our friends gathered there and we’d dive into the deepest spot trying to locate dead man’s hole. The parents sat on blankets in the sand and visited but kept a watchful eye on us. I was 15 years old before I ever went swimming in a real pool.
“Occasionally on Sunday afternoons my parents took us to Mobile to a Mobile Bear’s baseball game. My friends Edd Evans or Max Lassister would sometimes go with us. Baseball was the major sport back then. During the week, downtown businesses kept their doors open. I remember walking past the stores and radios could be heard broadcasting a baseball game. Especially when Claude Passeau played for the Cubs.”
The trail Mr. Roy and I were following curved, and we followed it into the back fenced field. We continued the trail around the tree-lined fence and headed south. The trail was also our running and walking track. “Tell me other memories that stand out when you were a kid,” I said.
He stopped and patted our dogs, and then began. “My daddy and granddaddy made lots of homemade ice cream. I can still taste how good it was. They would buy a block of ice from the ice plant, put it in a croaker sack and hit the sack with an axe to break it up. I remember at night we’d catch lightning bugs, put them in jars and use them for lanterns until our parents called us in for bed.
“But some of the best times were just lying in the grass on my back watching clouds while I dreamed of being a baseball star and playing in the World Series—and a million other dreams. Even though we lived only 40 miles from the Gulf, we didn’t go to the beach. I wonder why.”
We made a turn on our track and headed east. I said, “Do you think it was because your daddy worked such long hours?”
He nodded, “I’m sure that’s one reason. He worked six days a week and many days he worked into the night. I never heard him complain about anything. That includes the times he was sick.
“Thinking back on those summers in the late 30s and 40s, I can’t remember having an unhappy day. I didn’t have material things, but I had a wealth of love from both parents.”
I truly believe my husband had a perfect childhood. My wish is that all of us can say the same when we recall our summer memories.
Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.
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