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October 07, 2013

My Shed
by Tommy Towery
Class of '64


        A “shed” is defined by the Microsoft dictionary as “a small structure, either free-standing or attached to a larger building, used especially for storage or shelter.” As with many things that run through my mind each week while trying to come up with something interesting to write for my readers, there is a reason why I share this tidbit of information with you.
        Earlier this week I finally took the time to paint the trim on the shed located in my backyard. The paint was starting to peel from the structure which I purchased and placed behind my house back in 2001. Through the years it has been there, it has served only one function – it is a shed, but in a way it is a man cave by modern definition. I found that as I painted it, I was enjoying a task that I normally hate – painting. I decided the reason that I enjoyed it was because paining a shed is not like painting a house. You don’t have to be so careful, so precise, or so strict, when you paint a shed in a backyard as you do when you paint a house. Most people don’t expect a shed to be as immaculate as they do a house. Now don’t get me wrong, I did take the time to do a good job, but I did not take the normal precautions I would have done had I been painting the house. I did not tape off the trim, did not get upset if I happened to get a little extra paint on the main wall, and only gave it one coat of paint. I did the whole task using only one paintbrush and did all the trim in one coat of a mismatched color that someone had returned to Home Depot which I bought for $5 instead of the regular price of $28 a gallon. I did not have to perfectly match an existing color, and in fact, changed the color from a white to a taupe because of the paint being on sale. It really did not matter that much on a shed.
        The shed is really a part of my domain. Sue probably hasn’t been inside it for more than a couple of minutes at a time since we bought it. Inside are my tools, my man toys, my pellet guns, my camping gear, a lot of storage items, and a disordered collection of things that would never belong inside a normal room in the structure in which we live. Several years ago I added an attachment to the side to give me a little more room for some extra tools and my Shopsmith Mark V. It does not matter that I have not used the Shopsmith since we moved into the house; it needed a place in a shed to live. It was fun building the addition, and I got to thinking about my country relatives up in Fayetteville and how they continued to add more and more additions to their own sheds. It scared me enough that I vowed to add no more, except every once in a while I think a porch would be nice, and then a roof over the porch, and maybe a few more windows.
        As I started thinking that it might be fun to write a story about my shed, I tried to think of a connection to my Traveller readers who expect to read about things from the past associated with Huntsville and care little about me painting a shed in my current house in Memphis. It did not take long to find a suitable connection though. I thought back to the first shed I remember in my life. We had moved to 505 East Clinton Street in 1954, and in the back of the large two-story duplex we rented for $65 a month was a shed. It was not just any shed; it was a coal shed. I knew it was a coal shed, because the house was still heated with coal burning fireplaces in each of the bedrooms and the living room, which were fed with coal carried in from the coal shed. In the front of the shed was a wooden half-door that lifted upwards and coal was delivered through that open door. It had a dirt floor and unfinished boards that were only painted on the outside. We never really filled the shed completely with coal, and back behind it was a void space as black in my memory as it was in its day. But there we were, living in probably the highest technological center of Alabama, with the people that would put a man on the moon, and we still used coal to heat our house, and stored coal in a shed in the backyard.
        The most memorable shed I ever saw was owned by a friend of my step-father who had a metal storage building placed in his backyard. It was during the CB radio fad and he put in a CB base station after he ran electricity out to it. A little while later ne needed a soft place to sit so he put an old sofa there. It started getting a path worn in the yard that led to it so he put in a concrete sidewalk. He was wearing out the sidewalk as well, waling back and forth to get his favorite beverages, so he bought a refrigerator to keep his beer cold. Since he then had beer and a sofa, he needed a TV to watch the ballgames and that was added. Later I found out that a lot of the decisions about what to put in his shed and how much time to stay in it was directly proportional to the plans his wife made for the movement of his mother-in-law into his house. Oh yes, he did put in an air conditioner as well, but no coal burning stove ever was added. 
        In an era of central air and heat, the thought of using coal as a heating source is far-flung. I have no idea how much we bought at a time or the cost of the purchases, but I do know that our coal shed never went empty. In the winters we would pile the fireplaces high with coal at bedtime in an attempt to keep the house as warm as possible for as long as possible during the cold nights. In the mornings we awoke to cold houses and the first one up would start a fire in the living room fireplace. I was lucky enough to be the youngest kid, and I never remember me ever being the first one up. The fires were already lit by the time I rolled out of my bed. Many mornings I got dressed in the living room, standing in front of the black lumps of coal glowing red and turning to ash. I do not remember where we emptied the ash bins, but I know we did and I know they were messy. We would takes the ashes out and dump them then fill the coal bucket from the shed to take back into the house for future fires. The idea of going to bed with a fire burning unwatched is a scary memory.

        A couple of years later the coal fireplaces were replaced with natural gas stoves and the real purpose of the coal shed went away. It became a storage shed for things like the lawn mower and hoses during the winters, but nothing valuable or fragile, because the shed was not built to hold out the elements and sunlight and rain easily penetrated the walls.


        I have not been by the old house in several years, but I would be surprised if the coal shed of my past is still standing, having long ago outlived its purpose.

        Do any of you classmates have a story about a "shed" or a workshop or garage that you want to share with the rest of us?  If so, please email it to me.


        Memphis, TN - For those of you who do not follow me on Facebook, I will tell you that I am once again living in the season of my youth - which means no air conditioning. It seems that the contractor who replaced the coil and "fixed" it did use a good coil, but failed to properly solder the joints together and while Sue and I were visiting Hawaii all the Freon leaked out again. We are currently awaiting the return of the same person to "fix" it again.

        As I state in the email section below, I am not going to print the dozen or so emails from you readers commenting on the new format of The Traveller. Most of them were positive and even the ones who still do not like it seem to understand why I made the change. So, I will continue to try to improve and maintain it as best I can in hopes that most of you will eventually adapt to the change. Thank you all for your understanding.


"In Memory Of"

Video and Information

Added to Navigation Menu


        This week I have successfully added the tribute video I made for the 2010 reunion to the menu choices in the navigation pane at the top left of the pages. I am in the process of adding all the names of the classmates we have lost since then to the list.

        While I am on the subject, in this week's section of the 2000 Reunion video shown below there are several shots of Annette McCraney, Class of '64. I have been unable to get a definitive answer as to what happened to her. If any of you have information on her would you please email me. Thanks.



2000 Reunion - Part 1

The Video of the 2000 Reunion
of the Lee High School
Classes of '64-'65-'66
Part 1
        This week we start featuring segments of the video tape made at the 2000 reunion and supplied by Niles Prestage, Class of '65. It will be broken down into approximately five minute segments and continued each week as permitted. We hope you enjoy these visits back and the chance to see some old classmates who are no longer with us.

 Your Favorite Songs Prior
To High School Graduation
Featuring Purple in the Title  
        I found it strange that no one sent me any songs featuring "purple" in the title as suggested last week, that is until I went back and saw that I had somehow failed to insert the section requesting it. So, we will offer the same quest this week. Please send my your favorite song featuring "purple" that you enjoyed from the time you started listening to music up to the time you graduated from high school.


New Emails

Editor's Note: I received many emails from my reader's commenting on the new format. I see no reason to continue to go back and forth on the issue, but I appreciate and take note of all the comments and will do my best to try to please the majority of you readers. Thank you for your interest in making this a friendly and appreciated school paper. 


 Subject:    Folk Music

George Vail

        I was a huge "Folk Music" fan and loved all the popular groups of that era. They kindled the musical spark in me. I even worked at a coffee house near my hometown in Upstate NY The "Village I " that on occasion feature name acts. I once sat in with the "Limelighters" and played bongos on one of there hit songs...Those years really laid the foundation for my musical career. I never get tired of hearing music from that part of my life. Wish that The "Kingston Trio" or "Peter, Paul and Mary" would've played our little cafe, but the acts that did have were a pleasure too... Thanks again, Tommy    

Subject:    Print Option

Jim Tribble

Cathy (Cox) likes to print and save the letters offline.  If you could create a print subroutine with margins 1" each side of the text, and a PRINT button on the page, it would make a great printed page. Thanks.

(Editor's Reply:    Jim and others, at the bottom of this page is a line that says  "Recent Site Activity|Report Abuse|Print Page|Remove Access|Powered By Google Sites" . If you click on the print link you will get a printout of the website on standard letter page sized paper. Of course, the video insertions will not print out.)