Quite often, we got where we needed to go by walking. For a big part of my childhood, my family’s only vehicle was Daddy’s telephone truck, which really was not conducive for a family of seven. Aunt Addie and Uncle Joe gave us rides to church, and sometimes we rode to school with my friend Randy’s dad Hoss Bottoms (actual name Horace, but for some reason we always called him Hoss). But for general purpose traveling, nothing was as convenient as our own feet.
Whether we were walking to school or town, we always started off walking up The Lane. The Lane was the side street next to our house on Pine. Later on, it got the official name of East 7th Street, but to us it was always The Lane. It was just wide enough for one car, so lots of time when you started down it in a vehicle you ended up having to back up to let someone pass. Nothing in the world smelt as sweet as the flowers growing in The Lane when you walked down it on the last day of school.
Walking up The Lane, you passed Edgar and Sophie Floyd’s house, and Henry and Toni Forrest’s house, and somewhere behind Edgar and Sophie was a railroad boxcar that had been turned into a little house. I don’t remember who lived in it, but it always made me think of one of my favorite books, The Boxcar Children. Henry and Toni had a daughter named Minnielle, who, the story goes, once set out on a bus to Hollywood. Minnielle actually was a talented singer who perhaps could have made it, but I think at some point before she reached her destination she turned around and came back home. But I always thought that was a pretty courageous thing to do anyway.
Across the street from Henry lived Malvin Rowlette. Malvin had a tractor that he used for plowing people’s garden spot every spring, which kept him pretty busy, since most people in Waldron had a garden. Malvin had a relative, maybe a cousin or nephew, who would come to see him about once a year. This guy had a truck with a big trailer that contained, of all things, a giant alligator. I guess he traveled around the country exhibiting it, and would come see Malvin whenever he got close to Waldron. Once, he let the neighborhood kids climb up and see it, which really seemed like a treat since we didn’t have to pay anything.
At the end of The Lane, if you were going to Buddy Gray’s Store or The Shed Drive-In, you would cut across the yard of the big house that is now owned by Donald Goodner. I can’t remember the name of the elderly lady who lived there at that time, but the house looked very different than it does now. It was a white frame house then, and we kept a permanent trail cut through the yard. If you were going to school or to town, you turned right on Featherston and walked down the sidewalk in front of the May Hotel. The May Hotel was more of a rooming house than an actual hotel, and was always a little bit spooky to us kids. To add to the spookiness, there was someone who lived there who, whenever school kids walked by, would make a “beep-beep” sound. We would stop and linger against the wrought iron fence, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. About the time we were ready to give up, we would hear it again. We probably provided a few chuckles for somebody living there.
Across from the May hotel was where Sybil and Earl Cabe lived, and where Sybil’s Beauty Shop was located. My sister and I spent many happy hours there reading Highlights magazine while Mama got her hair fixed. Just past Sybil’s was the Methodist Church. If you were going to town, you crossed Church Street and continued on Featherston, cutting through at George Hawkins’ Garage to get to Main Street. But if you were headed to school, you cut through the Methodist Church yard, walking on another permanent trail we kept worn into the grass. (We did a lot of cutting through; I guess that’s a characteristic of walkers).
After waiting at the stoplight, you walked past the nice houses that lined the western half of Church Street. We always kept an eye out for the horse in the pasture behind the Crutchfield’s house on the corner of Washington and Church. We figured the horse belonged to their daughter Rebecca, who we knew was a popular student in Jr. High. Just a short way ahead was our destination, Waldron Elementary.
We walked more out of necessity than anything else, but life moved at a slower pace back then, it seems. But when you move a little slower, you see more.