Paula Mitzner Burrow, age 67, of Mt. Olive, AL passed away peacefully on July 20, 2015. She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert Jack Mitzner and Mary Lee Mitzner; sister, Mary Bauman. She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Wayne Burrow; daughter, Patricia Freeman (Tom); grandson, Thomas Freeman; sister, Jacqueline Gladin (Jack); brother, William Jerry Mitzner (Annette) and several nieces and nephews.
Paula was born in Lexington, Tennessee September 7, 1947, and moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1955. She graduated from Lee High School in 1965. Paula attended Florence State University (UNA) graduating with a B.S. in 1969. She worked 35 years for the Internal Revenue Service retiring in 2004.
A great enjoyment for Paula was singing in her high school and college choirs. The enjoyment of singing continued in her adult life as she sang first soprano at Gardendale – Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church. A church member at Gardendale – Mt. Vernon for 42 years, she was active in the Chancel Choir, United Methodist Women and Sunday school. Paula enjoyed annual beach trips to Gulf Shores for 29 years with ladies from her Sunday school class and UMW circle. A bond with these ladies she truly cherished. This past spring was their 30th trip. One she missed due to her illness, but was with them in spirit.
Thomas, her only grandchild was a great joy to "Maw Maw". She cherished her time with him especially when she would pick him up from school (Thomas Tuesdays) and he would tell her all about his day and what he was learning. Her heart was truly filled with love and joy for him. Paula will be deeply missed by her family and friends. Pallbearers will be Michael Burrow, David Burrow, Tom Freeman, Wayne Duncan, Dr. Richard Thomason and The Honorable John Carson.
The funeral service was Thursday, July 23, 2015 at Gardendale – Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, 805 Crest Drive, Gardendale, AL 35071. Burial followed the service at Oakwood Memorial Gardens, 2100 Moncrief Road, Gardendale, AL 35071. A special thank you to Optum Palliative and Hospice Care for the tender and loving care given to Paula and her family. Memorials may be made to Gardendale – Mt. Vernon UMC Chancel Choir Fund, 805 Crest Drive, Gardendale, AL 35071.
The Day I Turned 16
I turned 16 on June 21, the first day of summer in the year of our Lord 1962. I always bragged about my birthday being longer than my friends, since it occurred on the summer solstice, which is officially the longer day of the year in the northern hemisphere. In reality, the day was just as long as the other days, but it is the day with the most hours of daylight of the year. At the time I was living in Lincoln Park at 904-C Webster Drive, along with my mother, my maternal grandmother, and my brother Don, who was three years older than me. We had just moved there from McCullough Avenue, where I lived when I entered the ninth grade at Lee Junior High School. In the fall I would start the 10th grade and officially be a high school student. I was happy to be in the new place, and was unaware that I was actually living in the projects as people call such neighborhoods today. It was actually the newest home I had ever lived in. I knew it was government subsidized housing for lower income families, but was blissfully unaware of the real status of such a tag applied to my social status. I always felt I was just like the other people in school and only a few times in my whole life’s existence was I conscious of how little income my family brought in or ever felt restricted by my economic status in life.
My parents were divorced when I was eight, and my father did not play much of a role in my everyday life at the time. He worked on Redstone Arsenal and I rarely saw him. My mother worked as a dental assistant for Dr. England, a job she learned with only on-the-job training and no formal school education. Back then he said he would rather hire someone who knew nothing and train them to do things his way rather than have to alter the way others had learned working for a different dentist.
As for me, I considered myself shy and always overshadowed by my very athletic and handsome brother. To compensate for the lack of athletic abilities, I devoted myself to becoming the best Boy Scout possible, with my eyes on becoming an Eagle Scout and a goal which I eventually reached. I also did better academically than my brother, but he had a way with the girls that I would have killed to possess. I was much shorter than my contemporaries and was self-conscious of being so.
Although I had made some good friends at Lee, at this time in my life my best friends were still some of the boys in my Boy Scout troop and my church friends. Probably my best friend at the time was Pete Goodwin, but I did have several others who I knew from some other activities like Johnny Carter and Mack Yates. Previously, I always considered Buddy Crabtree, Mickey Drake, and Bob Davis friends since we all lived close to each other. In reality, I had recently had a falling out with Mike Thompson, someone who had been my closest friend since the third grade at East Clinton. Those were my best male friends, but I also had some very good female friends, notably Dianne Hughey and Carolyn McCutcheon.
Most of the current crop of friends was the ones I had social contact with while participating in my favorite fun activity, skating at Carter’s Skateland. I went skating there at least three times a week and often more. Before I matured into enjoying the social activity and female companionship of skating, I had always considered camping my favorite activity, and I had racked up over 100 nights under the stars while a Boy Scout and during several summer camps with my church group from Central Presbyterian Church.
When not socializing, I spent a lot of time watching television. Each afternoon after school I would rush home to watch American Bandstand. Though I was not addicted to it like some were (I never bothered to learn all the dancers’ names) I did enjoy the music and watching the tight-skirted girls dance to the latest hits and the latest dance crazes. I also enjoyed prime time dramas, especially westerns and detective shows. Most of my crowd had loved Ed Burns’ character Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip. I was also a great fan of Zorro and both Combat and The Gallant Men.
Thanks to my older brother, I was exposed to Rock and Roll music much sooner than many of my contemporaries without older siblings. Buddy Holly was my first favorite artist, but my first dance moves were learned watching Chubby Checker do the Twist. It became the first dance I would master. I loved Rock and Roll music, but my deepest love was really folk songs sung by The Kingston Trio, the Highwaymen, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Like most kids my age, I was looking forward to turning 16 because I could not wait to get my driver’s license. My bother Don had taught me to drive and I yearned for the freedom of the open road. I had risked getting into trouble earlier that summer by taking the car out solo when I only had a learner’s permit, and only later in adulthood did I come to realize the impact upon the rest of my life it would have made if I had been caught doing so. But there was this very special girl in my life, and she lived further away than I wanted to walk, and my mother was out of town, and the car was just sitting there in front of the house, and I was all alone, and temptation knew my name.
Though it was only a short trip, I enjoyed it greatly. I always had a thing for adventure, and this particular girl had a way to lure me to the dark side. The car I drove was the family car, a 1953 Ford Custom V-8. We called it “The Red Bomb” because it was red, of course. Eventually it just became “The Bomb” and was well known around the teen hangouts between Shoney’s and Jerry’s Drive-Ins because of Don. My primary mode of transportation was by foot, since my bicycle had been stolen the year before. Often I took the bus, and was thankful of the cheap 10-cent fare of our public transportation system.
A bus was the transportation mode I had used to go on the best vacation I had ever taken prior to then. It was back in 1960 when I accompanied a troop of Boy Scouts to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to attend the 5th National Jamboree. It was not a trip I would normally have been able to take, but thanks to the local Kiwanis Club, I had been selected to have my way paid by them. I was never sure why they picked me to honor, but it made an impact in my life I would never forget. Again, it never occurred to me that I was so poor others felt sorry for me. A memorable décor item in my room was a set pictures of the National Jamboree encampments hanging on my walls.
I guess I was lucky in a way to live in the era and location in which I lived. It was cheap to ride the bus, and it was cheap to buy a hamburger at my favorite café. It was even cheaper for me, because my grandmother was a short-order cook at the Rebel Inn in West Huntsville, and many-a-night I would call her and she would bring me home a hamburger or a chili dog when she got off work at 10pm. I don’t know how many of those things I consumed right before bedtime when I was in school. Of course I also loved to go to Krystal’s when I was downtown and enjoy a couple of their 10-cent hamburgers. Later they went to 12 cents and then 15, but I still loved eating there. Still do today, as a matter of fact. My favorite drink was a Coke, but at home I mostly drank Grape Kool-Aid, made from the nickel packs of brightly colored powder and a lot of sugar.
Krystal’s was also one of the stops I normally made after going to a movie downtown at the Lyric or Grand Theatres. Later, of course, the Grand closed and the Tony (later renamed the Martin) opened up across the street from the Lyric. My favorite movies were the monster movies, especially the ones with giant creatures like ants, spiders, gila monsters, and anything else that could be mutantly affected by atomic radiation and grow to enormous size. I liked the movies back then because at the end of the show, the good guys always won and the beasts were always eliminated. It was not like today when they kill a creature and it just keeps coming back or their fate is left in doubt when the ending credits start to roll.
Sometimes I rode the bus to the Center Theater where they showed second run movies for a dime. I would ride over there and see them then walk across the street to the Rebel Inn and ride home with my grandmother when she got off work.
Since I started this out to write about the day I turned 16, I suppose I should note a thing or two about doing so. I really do not have any great memories about anything I did socially for the big event. Research shows me June 21, 1962, was on a Thursday, so it was not even a day I normally went to the skating rink. Though I did not have a “sweet sixteen” party, and since it was during summer vacation, my one plan was to go downtown and get my driver’s license.
Since Lee High School was still in the transition stage from being a junior high to a full-fledged high school, I cannot remember if driver’s education was offered as a subject or not. It really didn’t matter since it was summer and I didn’t want to wait until school started back to get my driver’s license. Don had spent many afternoons teaching me to drive and I had diligently studied the driver’s manual to pass my written test. I learned to drive the straight stick Ford, but on the day I went to get my license, my brother talked Gene Bailes into loaning me his automatic transmission 1959 Chevy to use for the driving portion of the examination, since learning to ease off the clutch as you pressed on the gas pedal took a lot of practice. I had not driven an automatic before I took my road test, which today seems like a recipe for failure. I showed up at the old Elk’s Theatre building and soon was joined by the policeman administering the road portion of the test. After I followed his verbal commands on where to go, where to turn and where to park, I finally drove up to let him out. His final words to me were “You passed; now be careful.”
Like many in my crowd, the license was my ticket to dating. I had a crush on a girl named Ginger, and it was her house to which I made my earlier illegal outing without the license I then possessed. Though I first kissed a girl I cannot recall during a kissing game at a boy-girl party, she was the first girl I kissed without the aid of a game like spin-the-bottle, or seven minutes in heaven or how deep is the well. I had yet to fall into the trap of worrying about my wardrobe and always trying to look good. My first venture into really trying to dress for attention was when the matching shirt and socks fad hit. I felt way cool in my matching pink shirt and socks, especially when I dashed myself with my English Leather aftershave.
The following fall, when school started back, I would drive “The Bomb” on the days it would start. My favorite subject in school was journalism, but I made my best grades in geometry. I thought I wanted to be an astronaut when I graduated from high school, and though I failed to reach that goal, I made a noble effort. With the skills I developed being the editor of the Lee High School paper, I was able to earn a college degree in Journalism along with a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. I was thrilled to finally succeed in completing a 20-year career as an Air Force aviator and logging over 5,000 flight hours, even if it was accomplished as a glorified navigator instead of a pilot.
It was only after my retirement from the Air Force and a 20-year second career as a computer support specialist at the same university from which I first earned my degree that I was able to devote myself once again to my love of writing. I found my niche in archiving my life and the historical events through which I have lived. To date I have published 14 books primarily dealing with the events of my Air Force career and of growing up in my hometown, Huntsville, Alabama, “The Rocket City.”
On the day I turned 16, my only real goal in life was to get my driver’s license. Once that was accomplished I had to set my goals higher. It has been a good ride.
Memphis, TN - I have finally exhausted the group of stories submitted on turning 16, so I end the series with my own reflection on the subject. I really appreciate all the submissions made by so many of you and it was fun to look back upon those days as seen through so many different sets of eyes. I am working on another similar story line in hopes of the same type of responses.
43rd Annual Reunion
Jackson Way Baptist Church
10:00 AM - Registration and Visitation
11:00 AM - Business Meeting
12:00 PM - Luncheon. Please bring a 6-8 serving covered dish
Entertainment will be provided by "The Fahrenheits".
Hosted by the Association Committee
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