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210125 January 25, 2021


Mirrors and Outhouses and Drives in the Country
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Many times I have to turn to passages from my book "A Million Tomorrows...Memories of the Class of '64" to fill the void of what to write in each issue of Lee's Traveller.  The lack of responses do not indicate whether or not anyone finds it interesting but at least I also do not get emails asking why I repeat such things. I try to match the memories I previously wrote to match the date of the new issue, but this time I am a day or two off. The following is a reflection of things that happened on Sunday,  January 26, 1964. Names were changed in my book to protect the innocent as they used to say on Dragnet. I do not know if anyone will find it interesting, but I know it reflects life in an easier time and common sights of the Deep South of the time.
    One thing was nice about Huntsville in the early Sixties.  It was only a short, I mean short, ride to get out of town and into the country.  Chase, Alabama, was just outside of Huntsville and was most noted for its big nursery.  With it, of course, there were lots of nice green plants.  The rest of the area around was just as nice with quiet country roads and fresh air smells.  The roads were small, two-lane, and lined with small country houses with mailboxes out by the road and dirt drives up to the houses.  Most of the houses were in bad need of painting, and lots of smaller buildings were scattered around the main houses.  School buses were in vogue in the country back then.  If you lived out in the country, either you, or your neighbor, had a dead school bus either in the driveway or next to or behind the house.  Most of the buses were still painted yellow, and their seats ended up on the ground beside them or on the front porch next to the swing.  

    The other thing you needed to own to show your neighbor that you were rich was a washing machine.  Since none of the houses were built to hold washing machines, the newly acquired luxuries usually sat on the front porch.  I never knew if that was out of necessity or just to show all the neighbors that you owned one.  Also on the front porch, was a mirror.  Most of the houses you passed had a big, long mirror hung next to the front door.  I never did understand why though.  I guess city boys were not supposed to know everything about country life.  But, in the country those were the things you needed to have.  The yards usually had at least a few chickens running around, and multiple dogs of all breeds.  

    By the time I was old enough to drive myself through the country the toilets had started being attached to the houses.  Modern plumbing was not complete and you still didn't have to look far to find an outhouse, with its footpath from the main house.  Many of my relatives "up in the country" as we called it, still had outhouses, and I had to use them whenever I visited.  Many of them were "two-holers," so that two people could use them at the same time.  That never did seem like a good idea to me though, but there were lots of them around the countryside.  I once saw a three-holer, with two holes for the grown-ups and one hole cut lower for a child.  It was the family approach I guess.  The paper of choice was usually a Sears catalog or a phone book.  They later progressed to newspapers and then went to real toilet paper, which was a big step.  

    Riding in the country on a Sunday was a normal activity for many of the city folks, who just liked to get out in the open air.  It gave Janice and me time to continue our talks, and a time for deep conversation and thought sharing.  With the afternoon ending, it was time for Janice to go to her church and me to mine.  The topic of our evening for the teenage group was drinking.  In all honesty, this was the wrong group to be discussing that with, for none of the people I knew in the youth group at the church did drink.  It might be hard to believe, but the teenagers who went to the church on Sunday night were really a clean-cut bunch.  I always thought it seemed more like the ones who were not at church on a Sunday night would have been a more appropriate target group to address.  In our meetings we each explained why you shouldn't drink, and how you should keep your friends from drinking.

    Today it's hard to decide whether the group was strange, or whether that type of group really reflected the norm of the day, and the Hollywood image of the teenager of the Fifties and Sixties is the exaggerated story.  Of course there was a group who did drink.  But, the image of a bunch of kids who ran out every weekend and got drunk on cheap wine and beer was just as foreign to the teenagers I ran around with as the movies on TV that showed teenagers turning into werewolves.  There just were not that many of them around, drinkers or werewolves.  At least not at Lee.  One or two small cliques had the reputation, and milked it for all it was worth, but the moral majority would more accurately describe the largest school population at the time.  If Hollywood is right in its portrayal of Sixties teenagers, then we were abnormal.  I didn't have the wild times and meet the wild women.  My dull activities still probably more truly reflected the average teenager of the time than the silver screen.  We were too busy trying hard to get through school, to have friends, and to have a good time.  We also wanted to stay out of trouble.  We took the occasional stupid risk, the things one does for kicks, but we stayed away from things that were considered really dangerous or really illegal.  

    Re-reading these observations made me want to do a little more research about the mirrors on front porches. I find several references which indicate that people used to hang mirrors outside their houses to reflect back evil spells from witches. I do not know for sure how true this is, but it makes me tend to believe it. As a matter of fact, when walking around our current neighborhood we saw that even today one of our neighbors has a mirror on his front porch. I do not know exactly why, and we are not friends so I have to assume he has his reasons. As for me, I have a Ring doorbell to keep evil people from my home.

        Memphis, TN - Sue and I just returned from a two-week vacation to Hilton Head Island. We stayed isolated and cooked all our own meals except for two times when we got carry-out meals. There is a law mandating the wearing of masks on Hilton Head and people did. We walked the beaches and woodland trails and pretty much stayed to ourselves. It was nice getting out in a different environment anyway.

        By the way, January 25th is the anniversary date for Sue and me. This year marks our 20th anniversary.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Melody used the Bridge over the River Kwai

John Scales
LHS '66

    As I remember, we used the same melody during training at Fort Benning, Georgia, during the Vietnam War. Our lyrics were:

Bullshit! It makes the grass grow green!

Bullshit! It makes the trees grow tall!

Bullshit! It’s only bullshit!

And the Army has most of it all.



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