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190513 May 13, 2019


Coming Home
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to Huntsville to attend the Lee Lunch Bunch get-together. I don't get home very often these days, but I got to thinking about all the times in the past when I have returned to my home town and about the things I did when I went home.

    You see, I moved away from Huntsville on the day after I graduated from Lee in 1964, and I have never lived there since then. But it is still my home. I was born and raised in Huntsville, a decedent of a family of cotton mill workers like many of you. I lived in several areas of town which are now well known and some historic in nature these days. When I was born I lived in West Huntsville on 9th Avenue. My family never owned a home the whole time I was growing up, always living in rental houses. When I was three we moved to Miland, Tennessee, when my father transferred there while he was first working at Redstone Arsenal. We only lived there a short while before we moved back to Huntsville. We came back to a rental property in Redstone Park where I started school in the first grade at Farley. Halfway through the school year (right after we got out for cotton picking) we moved to a house on Halsey and I transferred to Rison to finish up the first grade. Before the school year was over we moved again, that time to Huntsville Park and I rode the city bus back and forth from there to complete my first grade at Rison. Before I started second grade we moved to 505 East Clinton Street and I continued my schooling at East Clinton Elementary School, finishing up the sixth grade there and moving on to Huntsville Junior High for the seventh and eighth grades. 

    During the summer of 1960 we moved to Hart Avenue in West Huntsville which put West Huntsville Junior High in my sights and the potential of being a Butler Rebel for high school. We were there less than three months before moving to McCullough Avenue and transferring to Lee Junior High for the ninth grade. My final move in Huntsville was to Lincoln Park in the new government subsidized housing there and that was my base to continue at Lee High School and my final years of actually living in Huntsville. As stated, the day after graduation I packed up and moved to Memphis, leaving my friends and family behind in the town I would always call my hometown.

    During the four years I was going to Memphis State I went back to Huntsville as often as I could, normally staying with my grandmother who still lived there and visiting and having fun with many of you who were still in town. I went to dances at Bradley's and the armory and still drove through Jerry's and Shoney's. The longer I was gone, the less I saw of my friends. Once I finished college and went into the Air Force my visits became less and less frequent. Often on trips home I would go to a mall and just walk around trying to "run into" any of you who might still be around, but that rarely happened. I do remember running into Alice Gullion at Walmart on one of my later trips, but if I ran into anyone else I knew later in life I did not recognize them.

    But I had my routines whenever I did find myself back in Huntsville. I always ate at Mullin's and visited Zesto on almost  every trip. Until Carter's Stakeland closed down I would try to make at least one trip there. I always visited Big Spring Park and drove up Bankhead Parkway to the top of the mountain and looked at the city at night. I stopped in some of the lookouts, thinking back of the days when they were romantic solitude spots. I drove by Lee High School and often parked in the parking lot all alone and traveled back in time in my mind to the fun days I spent there. I always drove down Clinton (by then it was no longer a street but was an avenue) to see if my old house had any changes. I would park downtown and walk around the square and up and down the main streets, watching the stores I remembered from my childhood slowly disappear or change ownership and names. I ate at Krystal's and Thornton's Doughnuts and Gibson's BBQ. I don't know how many times I have sought and found Upside-Down Hill and enjoyed the mystery of it.

    I don't know how many of you have lived in Huntsville your whole lives, but I am betting many of you have. For those of us who didn't, we do silly things like I have described above. We do them still today, even though most of the places only hold memories now. One of the things I do today is find a place that sells Golden Eagle Table Syrup (The Pride of Alabama) because I can't get it in Memphis anymore. A few years ago I was talking about it and Steve Cook sent me several jars in the mail - which did not get broken and kept me in cornbread and syrup and butter for a long time. This trip I made my way to Star Market at Five Points and got enough to last me a year (maybe!). But in doing so, it only brought back the memories of the other trips I have made in the past and how many of my places have gone away. Yes, they are gone, but their memories will endure forever. The Lyric, Grand, Center, Mullins, Carter's, Zesto's, (the old) Parkway City and Heart of Huntsville and even Lee High School are but memories now, but just visiting where they once were is still important to me.

    I have written four books about growing up in Huntsville since I left there. My first one was "A Million Tomorrows...Memories of the Class of '64" followed 25 years later with "When Our Hears Were Young." I wrote a book containing a small collection of Huntsville short stories. The one I like best is my latest one "The Baby Boomer's Guide to Growing up in 'The Rocket City'" which is a collection of memories of early Huntsville which included stories submitted by many of you readers. That writing has kept the Old Huntsville live in my memories.

    I would love (but don't expect) to hear from some of you Huntsville Expatriates who will share some of your activities you do when you return to Huntsville for visits. There's got to be more to your memories than the taste of Golden Eagle Table Syrup, and I know we have to hang on to somethings from our past.

        Memphis, TN - I really would like to hear about some of the things my fellow classmates who no longer actually live in Huntsville like to do, eat, or see when they do make it back. Which of you have never lived anywhere but Huntsville? Which of you have moved away and never gone back, even once? Please share some of your own thoughts on the subject.

Swingin' with the Swingin' Medallions
Skip Cook 
LHS '64

    A couple of Fridays ago we learned that the Swingin' Medallions were going to be performing at the Thomasville, Georgia Rose Festival.  I went to the storage place for all things special and immediately found my 50+ year old vinyl album.  With album in tow,  Paula and I decided to get in the car with another couple and make the 30 minute drive north from Tallahassee.  As we arrived and got out of the car, we could hear the band start up about two blocks away.  Although there was only one original member of the group on stage that night, they sounded great.  

    I believe that the original band played at Bradley's one summer night and were there as a result of the class of '65 or '66 winning some type of competition with other high schools....can somebody help me out here?  When the band finished their last song, what else but "Double Shot", I went up to the stage as they were breaking down their set up.  I gave a shout to the "old guy" on stage and held up my album cover.  He was excited and called some of the younger members over to take a look.  He looked at me and said "Can you pick me out on the cover?"  Not a chance!  He said that he was 19 years old when the album photo was taken.  His name is Jim Perkins and if you still have your copy of the album, he's the short guy, third from the left back row.  Great show, good music and dancin' the  Carolina Shag.  

    (Editor's Note:  I remember driving to class at Memphis State back around 1966 and pulling up to a red light right behind a car pulling a little covered trailer. On the rear of the trailer was painted “The Swingin’ Medallions.” I don't know where they were playing but it had me singing "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" for the next couple of days.)

Double Shot of My Baby's Love


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Lee Lunch Bunch

Barb Biggs Knott

LHS '66

    Kudos to Patsy and everyone involved in the Lee Lunch Bunch get-togethers! The latest editions looked fabulous with photos of so many participants. I pray that one of these times I will be able to leave northern Maryland and find my way to attend. It is fun to see all the faces of the people I went to school with. Hopefully mine will be among them soon. Thanks for all the memories you make possible with the Traveller!




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