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180723 July 23, 2018


My step-grandfather and  maternal grandmother in a typical country house of the time.

Going to the Country in the Summer
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    It is summer time and time for visiting. This week Sue and I will be the hosts for my daughter and her family (including 6-year-old twins) visiting from California. It is a unique opportunity for me, since they do not get to visit very often. It is fun to do the grandfather thing with them. It is a memory I do not have from my own childhood. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born so I never got a chance to live that experience personally. I did, however, have a great-grandfather still living but I never spent much one-on-one time with him. He lived up in Fayetteville and the only time I saw him was when I went there with the rest of the family. Later my maternal grandmother remarried but I never spent too much time with my step-grandfather either.

    Even if Huntsville was a small town, it was still an urban community in which I grew up. As a matter of fact, you could not get much more urban than where I lived. From the second until the eighth grade I lived on East Clinton Street, only three short blocks from downtown. Checking on today’s map, I lived .3 miles or a seven minute walk from my house to downtown. That’s pretty close by today’s standards.

    Living where I did, most of my childhood I spent my free time walking the sidewalks of Washington Street mainly, or on one of the streets surrounding the courthouse. If I wanted to go a little farther and commute with nature, the Big Spring Park was easily without my radius of travel. The picture shows, the Five & Dime stores and some of the cheap eating places like Sno-Wite and Krystals were my normal haunts, and I am my friends spent most of the summers enjoying living in the concrete and steel jungle of downtown Huntsville.

    Though I did not spend my summers with my grandfathers, almost every summer I remember going up to Fayetteville and spending a week with one of my grandmother’s sisters. We called it going to the country, and it was backwoods country by today’s standards. They all lived in the Fayetteville area, but farther outside the city. Being a “city boy” I never really liked spending much time away from the comforts and offerings of Huntsville. There were no store in walking distance from the farm.

    First of all, the houses were small. I remember one bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen in one of my great-aunt’s house. The walls were covered with some very old wallpaper (see photo above) and the floors were wooden, with no tile or carpet. It was heated by a coal or wood fireplace (in the living room) and of course there was no air conditioning to be found. It did not even have fans, so the place was cooled by opening the windows and hoping the screen kept the flying bugs out. The crawling bugs had free reign over their domain.There was a porch with a swing to sit on during the day and early evening. (My great-grandfather's house had the required dead school bus sitting beside it, and the required mirror on the front porch.)

    The toilet facility was the traditional “outhouse” but there were some “slop jars” kept under the beds for late night usage. Yes it was a real outhouse located up the hill a bit from the back door and it was a fancy one at that – it was a “two-holer.” I suppose that was so you could socialize while you did your business. I don’t remember the traditional Sears-Roebuck catalog for toilet paper, but do remember newspapers and magazines were hanging on a nail on the wall. And I remember the smell – who can ever forget the smell.
 Noun. slop-jar (US) A container used for urinating or defecating when it is not possible or convenient
 to use a bathroom or toilet; a bedpan, a chamber pot. 

    I can’t remember exactly the location of the well, but if was somewhere on the same hill as the outhouse. It was one with the long rain-gutter type buckets which you lowered down and pulled up when it was full. When you got it up you pulled a rod on the top and the water came out of the bottom. 

A typical well bucket (notice the pull tab in the center to release the water from the bottom.

Dipper for Spring water

    They had a flowing spring also, and often we used a dipper to quench our thirsts straight out of the spring – being careful not to scoop up a crawfish in the process. The water was cold and delicious. Everyone drank out of the same dipper, and to my knowledge it was never washed, and no one ever got sick from drinking it. Without running water the idea of taking a bath or shower was out. Usually we survived on “spit baths” of just washing off with a wash cloth at a sink, or sometimes when we were smaller, a nice bath in a wash tub was in order.

    During the days we played in the barn, jumping from the loft into the hay below, or fishing in the pond on the property. We spent a lot of time catching bugs - especially lighting bugs at night. I don’t remember much about the food we ate, but do remember it was all fresh from the garden and normally cooked early in the morning and sat around on the stove covered with some netting during the day. I did not like “county” food at the time and especially hated raw “cow’s milk” as we called it. Oh, I loved milk from a carton in town, but could not stand the taste of the milk straight from the source.

    Night time was the worse time for me. They had no television, but I learned to survive by listening to the radio in the evenings. It was always statically and being AM the stations would come and go and often bleed in from another state. But, it was better than nothing. Usually I took some comic books with me, but it did not take long to go through them. In town I was rarely in bed before 10:30pm even at that age, but in the country I was lucky to be allowed to stay up much later than 8:30pm. I would lie on my pallet in the floor and listen to the night creatures trying to figure out what was making which noise. There was no street traffic and no airplanes roaring in the night. It was a miserable time just lying there and even though I had part of my family with me, I was still homesick for my own domain.

    So this week, the grandkids will be here with their iPads and Disney channel and sweet treats and own beds with nightlights for their reading pleasure. They’ll go to the malls and to McDonald’s and to the zoo and splash pads and playgrounds. When they can’t find anything interesting on any of the 180 cable channels available, they will watch one of the several dozen “favorite” DVD movies in the cabinet. They’ll bathe in our king size Jacuzzi and pop popcorn in the microwave. 

    I can’t help but wonder when they are in their 70’s how they will entertain their own grand kids and try to explain to them how “rough” they had it when they were growing up and spent the summer with their grandparents.

        Memphis, TN - Something sparked inside of me and made me want to write the story above. I have spent the last several months working on my eighth book of B-52 memories and my quest to save some of the stories for future generations, so I guess that was part of the problem.

Lee Class of '68
50th Reunion
July 28, 2018

John and Sandy Cates

    We are working with the Lee High '68 50th Class Reunion Committee.  Greg Patterson asked that we send the 50th Class Reunion Invitation and Registration Form to you.  Please send/share the information with your Lee High friends and classmates.  We hope to have a great party and look forward to you/your classmates being there, too.  


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Acting

George Vail

LHS ‘66

I traveled to Nashville's Nissan Stadium to try and get in for that day's shoot on the TV show "Nashville". Long story short I didn't make the show and as the girl over wardrobe breaking the news she was comforting me and I told her it was my pleasure just hanging out with them for  most of the morning and the payroll manager came over and told me he was gonna pay me for the day anyway.... I thank them and 2 weeks later a check for $64.00 ... Not bad for hanging out, eh..?


Subject:     Mechanical Drawing

Spencer Thompson

LHS ‘64

When I took mechanical drawing the teacher was Mrs. Osborne.

Subject:     Your Acting Career
Barbara Seeley Cooper
LHS ‘64

It has been fun and interesting to read about your “background talent” roles.  Your description of a typical day (hurry up and wait) reminded me of the time I served on jury duty.  No costumes were required, but entire days were spent doing mostly nothing.  I got a lot of reading done, though.

Keep up the good work!



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