Back To Webster Drive
(A House is not a Home)
When I first started writing my story last week about the house I lived in on Webster Drive in Lincoln Park when I was attending Lee High School, I had to backtrack and set the stage for what I intended to write about in the first place. With the background now covered, I shall continue my revelation on the original subject.
The memories of the apartment, house, building, or whatever name you want to attach to the structure in which I resided came to me last week when I started thinking about the amount of my current home devoted to storage of the stuff I have accumulated in my life. I never considered that abode my "home." Let me regress a bit again, and correct a statement I made in last week’s story. The house on Webster Drive was not a house or part of a duplex. It was actually a unit of a triplex, which should have been obvious by the address of 904-C. Since it was “C” then there had to be an “A” and a “B” in the same complex. Our unit was the northern most end part of the structure. As stated earlier, the complex only opened the year we moved in and I think we were the first occupants of our apartment. The newness of the place (compared to the house on Clinton which was built in 1902) was exciting for me, and overshadowed the fact I was living in a low income housing project.
In thinking about it, another oddity strikes me. By my best recollection, I lived there for three years (from 1961 until 1964) and yet I have no recollection of any kind of the families who lived in the other two units beside me. Those of you who often remark about my keen memory should understand how strange that strikes me. But I don’t. I do know that when I moved into the apartment I had a very good bicycle which I used for transportation and within a week or so after moving in it was stolen, leaving me without any transportation save walking. I did a lot of walking then.
When we moved into the low income housing (I hate to call it the projects) my family consisted of me, my mother and older brother, and my grandmother. The size of the family entitled us to a three bedroom unit. Mother had the bedroom at the back of the house, my grandmother had one in the front, and Don and I shared a small bedroom on the front as well. We had twin beds. There was one big living room / dining room combination, a kitchen with a pantry, and one bathroom with a tub (no shower). The walls were cinder block coated with a pointy-scratchy mason cover of some type, and the floors were the same linoleum pattern throughout the apartment. There was a small hallway from the dining room leading to the three bedrooms and bath. A wall mounted heating unit opened to the living room on one side and the hall on the other. Our bedroom had one closet, which had no door but was covered with a drape-like shower curtain thingy. Don and I shared the closet of course. There was no outside utility shed, no attic, and no basement storage facilities either. My entire life’s collection of tangible objects had to be contained in one half of the small closet and the chest of drawers designated as mine. We did have a small porch on the front of the place, as well. Oddly enough, I don't have any known photographs taken inside the apartment. No birthdays, no holidays, no Christmas, nada!
Because it was public housing, we did not have to mow the yard, which was nice. We did have a small front yard and a back yard – the main feature of which was a set of clothes lines. We had a ringer washer but no dryer. There was no air conditioning in the apartment, but we did have a twin exhaust fan in the window of the dining room area which was set to suck hot air out of the house and in through the windows we left cracked in the bedrooms. There was an electric stove and a refrigerator with no ice maker, but which used the common ice trays of the period. Our freezer was so small it only held two of the ice trays. At the bottom of the refrigerator was a small pull down drawer in which we kept the brown grocery bags we brought our shopping home in. We had a black and white television in the living room, and the four channel cable system supplied us with our TV entertainment. We had one telephone which was located in the living room, but was jury-rigged with a 25’ cord which I installed myself to allow me to take it into my bedroom for privacy when needed. After all, I was a teenage boy and there were teenage girls in the world with which I wanted to communicate sometimes.
We had no driveway, so I parked my 1953 red Ford “Bomb” out on the street. That made it handy to push it to start on the days when the battery was so dead the engine would not turn over. In the back of the house was an alley allowing access to the garbage trucks to pick up the trash throughout the complex.
As stated, we were a family of four when we moved there, which entitled us to a three bedroom apartment. The year I became a junior, Don quit school, got married, joined the Navy and moved away. With his departure, I finally had my own bedroom for the first time in my life – at age 16. Because there were still three of us we continued to be eligible for the three bedroom unit. In January of 1963 my mother re-married and moved in with my step-father leaving only my grandmother and me in the apartment. Since I did not want to move to Memphis and spend my senior year in a brand new school, I decided to stay with my grandmother when my mother moved there. Being a new wife and starting a new phase in her life, I am sure it did not take much to convince her that was the best idea. I don’t think we let anyone in the housing authority know of the family size change, because we were never forced to give up the three bedrooms and move into a two-bedroom unit. Even so, I kept my original bedroom rather than move into the somewhat larger one on the back which my mother had occupied. I also continued to sleep in one of the twin beds. I also inherited the car (despite its somewhat unreliable running abilities), since my grandmother did not drive.
With me living with only my grandmother, I found myself in a potentially volatile situation. She was a short-order cook at the Rebel Inn in West Huntsville and worked from 4 pm until 10 pm each night. She rode the bus there each day, meaning she usually had to leave every afternoon about the same time I got home from school. So, that left me alone in the house without adult supervision each school night and many weekends. I always attribute my ability to stay out of trouble, despite the other options available, to the values I learned from the Boy Scout program and its codes by which I lived. I’m not saying I was an angel, but I pretty much stayed out of trouble most of the time. There were a few early times I took advantage of the empty house to invite my girlfriend over, but we never did much more than we could do at a drive-in movie. The fact my steady and I broke up prior to my senior year when I had the house to myself probably did more to keep me out of trouble than my Boy Scout upbringing.
I could not write about the apartment on Webster Drive without recalling the days my car would not start and I would have to walk to school. I always showed up late. According to Mapquest, it was a 1.7 mile walk and took 40 minutes to get there. That’s when my true friends came to my rescue. If I knew the night before that my car would not start I had four friends upon whom I could always rely. That was Bob Walker, Lewis Brewer, Tommy Thompson, and Dianne Hughey. Dianne turned out to be my primary go-to-gal and she would always go out of her way to help me. We were the best of boy-girl friends who ever walked the face of this earth and I would often walk over to her house where we would spend hours in the evenings sitting in the swing on her front porch and talking over the unknown future of high school seniors. Those last few months of our senior year we were constant companions, along with Carolyn McCutcheon with her and Bob Walker with me. The four of us burned up the Parkway between Jerry’s and Shoney’s. I was lucky to live so close to her, and even luckier to have her for my friend.
So, the day after graduation, I packed up the few remaining worldly goods from my dresser and closet and headed to Memphis. Homesickness hit me like a bolder dropping on Wile E. Coyote. The move also impacted my grandmother’s life. For the first time since I was three years old, she was living alone. She was not allowed to stay in the three-bedroom apartment and had to move to a one-bedroom unit lower on Webster Drive. The only good thing about the move is that it put her much closer to the bus stop and she did not have to walk as far to get there. A few years later she moved to Johnson Towers and lived there until her health finally gave away. She passed away in 1977, thirteen years after I moved off and a week before my daughter Tiffany was born.
Memphis, TN - A special thanks goes out to Mike Crowl who has sent me a couple of short stories to share with his classmates. The first one is included in this issue and we will continue to welcome and print his contributions for as long as he wants to contribute them. He has asked me to encourage others to do the same, which I always have done but rarely had results.
My input this week is the continuation of some of my memories about the houses I lived in and hope some of you find them interesting. I would really like to hear from any of you who might also have lived in Lincoln Park while you were attending Lee, and compare notes with you.
Football season reminds me of a time in the late 60s when I was in Houston, Texas and got some tickets to see UT play. I was so looking forward to going and made plans to work a half day and then drive up to Austin.
The big day came and while at work that day there was an explosion at the train terminals about a mile from where I worked. It was an explosion of a chemical car, and it was like a atomic bomb going off. All the windows in my place of business were blown out and several people were injured from the glass. Fortunately no one was injured seriously.
Well, I was very upset about all the people and damage that had happen. I knew my plans to go to the game were probably slim none to go. By some faith I was able to get all the people cared for and boarded up the windows that had been blown out and cleaned up the mess.
My timeframe to make it to the game didn't look good, but I had finally decided to go for it anyway. I might be late, but still get there in time to watch part of game.
I was driving a Volkswagen , which turned out to be a blessing. When I got Austin ,traffic was heavy - especially at the stadium.I had actually got there before the game started and because I was driving my little bug, I was able to get parking very close to stadium. Larger cars could not maneuver in and out of traffic because they were to big.
I made it in time for the kickoff and enjoyed the game.
I hope everyone has a great time watching your favorite teams this year!
My brother Don (back), my mother, and me and our TV on East Clinton Street.
The Vintage Television
The Alaskans is a 1959–1960 ABC/Warner Brothers western television series set during the late 1890s in the port of Skagway, Alaska. The show features Roger Moore as "Silky Harris" and Jeff York as "Reno McKee", a pair of adventurers intent on swindling travelers bound for the Yukon Territories during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. Their plans are inevitably complicated by the presence of singer "Rocky Shaw" (Dorothy Provine), "an entertainer with a taste for the finer things in life".
The show was the first regular work on American television for the British actor Roger Moore.
Lee Lunch Bunch
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Logan’s Restaurant (fireplace room)
Please mark your calendars and save the date for our next Lee Lunch Bunch. Most of you will remember that we decided last year to have the LLB two times each year rather than the three times a year that we used to meet. So now we meet on the last Thursday of April and October. Just wanted to remind those who could not remember and those who have never gotten to come at all yet. Our classes of ’64, ’65, and ’66 have been meeting for these lunches for six years now, and we always have a good turn out and a great time visiting with each other. The class of ‘ 66 has their big 50th reunion coming up the first part of October so hopefully many of them will be at LLB to tell us all about it. They have been kind to invite us all to their party, but for those who cannot attend, maybe we can get all of the fun details at the LLB which will take place just a couple of weeks after their reunion. Once again, mark your calendar to save the date, and let me know if you plan to come. See you!
Patsy Hughes Oldroyd ’65. Call, text, email, or Facebook message- h (256) 232-7583 c (256) 431-3396 firstname.lastname@example.org
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From Our Mailbox
Subject: The Beach Boys
Tommy, before you end your discussion about The Beach Boys, I would like to mention the recent movie "Love and Mercy." This music biography was released in 2015 and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Paul Dano as the younger Brian Wilson. John Cusack was also laudable as the older Wilson and had a career-best performance. There is a movie soundtrack available which I think is excellent.
After seeing this movie, I became rather obsessed about The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson's life, both past and present. I ordered several videos and CDs which allowed me to really learn more as well as to reconnect with the music of our youth. If anyone is interested, I highly recommend a double-feature movie called, "The Beach Boys: An American Band" and "Brian Wilson: 'I just wasn't made for these times.'" Two other very good movies are "Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1962-1969" and "Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1969-1982." There are also a wide variety of music CDs available, some with information about the composer(s), lead vocal(s), and chart ranking(s). My favorite is "Sounds of Summer: Very Best of the Beach Boys," but there are many other good ones.
In the future, I would love it if you would let us know when Brian Wilson is performing nearby.
Subject: Short Stories
I do wish others would write something about their lives. Maybe I missed some stories, being I haven't been reading your articles that long. I do look forward to seeing what you print each week.I have gone back to older issues and try to catch up . Thanks Tommy. I am an eager reader.
Subject: Your Stories
I always enjoy reading your stories. I'm amazed at how much you remember.
Subject: Last Week's Issue
Your post as of 8/29 was so very enlightening. I swear it brought back so very many mental images of "our Huntsville" and the 1950's. Wow i really appreciate your diligence in keeping "THE TRAVELLER" alive, but also in the memories posted. We have all enjoyed the wonderful evolution of our respective lives but are also thrilled by the dormant memories which you manage to resurrect with your words and insights. Bless You My Brother! I am in hopes and prayers that you continue to fill us with the joys which you have so far done.
BLESSINGS TOMMY !
Subject: More on Roy Rogers
After reading my previous letter I thought I should balance out the presentation of the Roy Rogers Museum. He and Dale were our childhood heroes. To see a more positive view of that museum, just Google “Roy Rogers Museum.” Plenty of pictures will come up that give a good impression beyond the elephant’s head. But that was the times. Counter to the Roy Rogers Museum is the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage near the LA Zoo. That museum was much more formal dealing with exhibits of our western heritage. Only at the end of the tour was there a section on Hollywood Westerns, and really not so much about Gene Autry. Nicely marble dressed facility. Interestingly, they both died within three months of each other that Summer/Fall I was there, Roy, 86, Gene, 91. Gene was much wealthier. The Roy Rogers Museum with its “fort” like appearance was sold I think after Dale’s passing and moved to Branson, MO. Its gone now and I am sure all those Rogers artifacts are somewhere in storage, including Trigger. I don’t recall seeing Dale’s horse “Buttermilk.". Another interesting part of the Apple Valley/Victorville area was that the famous Route 66 came through there. Fascinating area along I-15 which is called the "high desert” of the Mojave Desert. The “Land of Joshua Trees,” with the only other location for those trees being the State of Israel, thus the name. And if you travel along I-15(Route 66) be on the lookout for the Mojave River. It really does exist.