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210823 August 23, 2021


The Huntsville Summers
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

(Continuing with our theme of early Huntsville, the following was extracted from my book "The Baby Boomer's Guide to Growing Up in The Rocket City.")

    For many of us kids, the summers meant one major activity – the playgrounds. The City of Huntsville funded several playgrounds around the town to keep the younger kids out of trouble and occupy their time. They would hire older teenagers or college students to manage these playgrounds and supervise the activities.
For me, the playground was located at East Clinton Elementary School and each weekday morning I would get up early and join my friends for the day’s adventures. One of the many organized sports was softball. My teammates and I would hop on our bikes and ride to other playgrounds to compete with the other teams. I especially remember going to the California Street playground and I believe we also went to one up near Rison School. 

    I will not go into detail about all the other things we did during the summer, because most of the activities are covered in other chapters. 

    Instead, I would rather share what Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly of Lee High School’s Class of '64 has to say about those summers of long ago.

    Barbara writes that Huntsville was much, much hotter when we were young than it is today, and she has a theory about the reason behind that oddity. You see, there were fewer people in the city. In fact, population-wise, Huntsville was still so small that it wasn't even necessary to use its name when addressing an envelope. To simply write "City" would suffice. Now this lack of people meant more air space in which the heat could maneuver to envelope you from head to toe and cause hot, salty sweat to roll into your eyes, stinging them beyond imagination. 

    The heat was all-encompassing, but we were much more tolerant of it. Maybe it was because there were so many fun things to do and discover outside. She remembers sitting down many times to a peanut butter and banana sandwich lunch, with one foot on the floor, already pointing at the door for a quick getaway. Her family had oscillating fans in every room of the house, a couple of floor fans, and a huge window fan in the living room. Most homes had some sort of fans such as those, and every church pew was laden with hand-held, paddle-stick stiff cardboard fans that were usually courtesy of Spry or Laughlin Funeral Homes. Barbara says they didn't have an air conditioner installed in her house until she was around 15 years old, and she didn't like it at all! When it was time for bed, she would shut the door to her room and push the windows up, breathing in the scent of roses under her windowsill. 

    Barbara thinks that for most kids playing outside in those halcyon days of youth was better than any television program. At her grandmother's house, her uncle would sit on the porch while all the neighborhood kids played kick-the-can and hide-and-go-seek until well past dark. Sometimes they only stopped for a quick drink of ice-cold sweet tea to soothe the spirit and thwart the heat. It was a magic potion in a class all by itself. 

    It has been so long since I have played it, I had to look up the rules for Kick-The-Can. According to Wikipedia, "One person or a team of people is designated as "it" and a can or similar object—paint can or metal pail or bucket—is placed in an open space: the middle of a backyard, a green, a cove or cul-de-sac, parking lot or street. The other players run off and hide while "it" covers their eyes and counts to a previously decided number. "It" then tries to find and tag each of the players. Any player who is tagged (caught and touched) is sent to the holding pen (jail) which is simply a designated area for all the captured players to congregate, generally in plain sight of the can. Any player who has not been caught can "kick the can" or "tip the can." If they can do this without being caught, then all of the captured players are set free. Alternatively, one of the captured players is set free each time the can is tipped—the first person caught is the first to be set free, the second person caught is the second to be set free, etc. until the person tipping the can is tagged or all the captured players are freed. If "it" catches all of the players they win that round and generally a new "it" is designated for the next round. The new "it" is usually the person who has been held the longest by the time round ends."

    At Barbara's house, the heat was sometimes so overpowering that she’d sling a blanket over the clothesline and pin it to the grass with clothespins. The children got inside the “tent” just long enough to gulp down a glass of grape or cherry Kool-Aid, and then ran through the sprinkler in bathing suits. Barbara remembers being barefooted more than wearing shoes and stepping on more bees than you can shake a stick at! The boys would sometimes take off their t-shirts and shove them under their baseball caps to protect their necks from the sun. She thought they looked like the guys in movies about the French Foreign Legion.
    The other way to beat the heat was the air-conditioned movies or the "shows" as we usually said then. Linda Ragland and Barbara spent many memorable days, just chillin', so to speak. Before long, people started installing add-on air conditioners to their cars and their houses. If you look at the ad at the top of this story you see the price of an ad-on automobile air conditioner. I looked up the inflation value of that purchase in 1964 and see why most of us did not have one. 

    “The sweetest air on earth was during a sudden shower, with the raindrops pounding the pavement like miniature soldiers marching in a line as steam from the day's heat escaped,” says Barbara. “Make no mistake about it, Huntsville was ‘HOT - hotter than a match head’ when we were young. More and more often, memories of those days return in a rush, as another song says, ‘like a heat wave . . . burning in my heart.’  I wouldn't have it any other way.” 

        Memphis, TN -  Continuing on the Early Huntsville idea with another extract from my book that was submitted to me by Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly, LHS '64. Please feel free to send me anything you think will interest your classmates. I only have one more issue which I can produce with this program and then I have to switch to the new Google format. We'll see what happens when we do..

First Solo Drive

    The question was: "To where did your drive on your first solo trip in a vehicle and were there any problems encountered?"

Nancy Davidson Hummel, LHS '65, "Only answering this because you try so hard and few of us help you out! I drove to 5 Points for something don't remember what. It was either on that trip or the one to Dunnavants Mall that I hit the car parked next to me."
Did you already have your full license? Yes 

Dianne Hughey McClure, LHS '64, "To my sister's house."
Did you already have your full license? Yes

Taylor Wright, LHS '66, "I drove to school in the 10th grade at Lee.I got home safely with no problems."
Did you already have your full license? No

Andrea Roberson, LHS '66, "My parents went out with some friends and I was baby sitting my twin brother and sister. I was 15 and they were 3.  For some reason my friend and I thought it would be a good idea to go to Mugs Up on North Parkway. I lived on Oakwood between Virginia Blvd and Kildare and I didn't think that it was that far to drive.  We kept telling my brother and sister NOT TO TELL Mother and Daddy when they got home!!??  BUT!! as soon as my parents got home GUESS WHAT!!?? Boy was I in TROUBLE!! When I look back now, I can see what a CRAZY and UNSAFE thing to do!"
Did you already have your full license? No

Glenn James, LHS '65, "My first solo trip was going to a Veterans Day Parade. I was driving my Dad's 1960 Falcon Station Wagon. I had asked Lynn Hughes to go with me. I was driving on the Parkway in front of the Volkswagen dealership and lost control of the car. I hit the curbing in front of the dealership and blew out the right front tire and bent the rim. We did not make it to the parade, but did get back home after I changed the tire. Needless to say Lynn never went on a date with me again, but my Dad was not too upset with me. He did give me more driving lessons after that."
Did you already have your full license? Yes


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Brother's Passing  

Taylor Wright

LHS '66


    Tommy,I have attached an obituary for my brother who graduated Lee in 1978.I realize their may be some later grads who follow your post and just wanted to let them know about his passing.Thank you.

Sherman Wyatt Wright

September 23, 1960 - August 7, 2021

    Sherman Wyatt Wright, 60, of Huntsville, AL passed away on August 7, 2021.

    He is survived by his sister; Wand Quillin (Jim); his brother; Taylor Wright (Marilyn); and a host of nieces, nephews, and great-nieces. 

    Mr. Wright graduated Lee High School in 1978, playing in numerous sports while in attendance. He was awarded a scholarship at Jacksonville State University and went on to finish his degree at Middle Tennessee State University, majoring in Business Administration. Sherman was a huge fan of MTSU and followed their sports programs fervently.

    No services are planned at this time. A memorial service will take place at a later date. 

Subject:    Lee Teachers
Wayne Shelton 
LHS ‘65

    I enjoy reading your articles about the events and students of Lee.  If possible it would be of interest to me about what happened to some of the teachers, coaches and administrators after 1966.  Did they retire at sometime in the future as a teacher, move on to other careers, move to other states, still living , involved in some special event, etc. Thanks.



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