A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mama and Daddy

 People always thought it was kind of funny that their names were so similar:  Albert and Alberta.  Albert was never called that; everyone who knew him called him Abb.  In her younger days, Alberta was known to her friends as "Peaches," but by the time I came along, everyone called her Alberta, except for her closest friend, Florene Douglas, who called her "Berta."  But I and my siblings were fortunate enough to get to call them Mama and Daddy.

Daddy worked for the phone company, which over time had gone from the Waldron Telephone Company to the Interstate Telephone Company to the Continental Telephone Company and possibly a few other names that I have forgotten.  It was probably one of the best jobs available in Scott County; not that we ever got rich, but it was a company that offered lots of benefits.  Because of the nature of his work, Daddy was friends with almost everybody in town.  He was also very handy at repairing things, and lots of people called him to work on their appliances.  He never said no.

Mama was mostly a housewife, except for a brief period of time in the 1960's when she worked as a waitress at the Rock Cafe, and again briefly when she worked at Judy's Drive In.  Her main focus in life was her five children; my older brothers Gary, Gene, and Phil, and my twin sister Janet and I.  She cooked, cleaned, worked in the garden, provided medical attention when necessary, while never missing a church service at the Assembly of God Church, and making sure that we kids likewise never missed a service.  As she went about her unrelenting chores, she could almost always be heard singing a gospel song.  I believe, in all sincerity, that Alberta Yates was incapable of thinking a negative thought about anyone. 

Their life together was full of both happiness and trials.  Daddy fought an ongoing battle against alcoholism, which consumed a large part of his salary and severely damaged his relationships with his wife and children.  He was never abusive, but his addiction to alcohol prevented any semblance of normalcy in his family life.  For most of his life, he was able to separate his drinking from his work life, but eventually, he had to retire from the phone company due to his alcoholism.  Mama was patient and loving throughout the difficult years, as was her nature.  She was a devout Christian, and her faith sustained her.  She was somehow able to pass this faith on to her children.  Her insistence that we go with her to church undoubtedly saved us from lives as alcoholics ourselves, since the disease is often passed down through the generations.  Watching her life made us want to have a relationship with Christ; if she could be that happy in spite of her surroundings, so could we!

We knew that Mama and Daddy loved each other, although we never heard Daddy say it.  He was doing the best he could; he was just fighting something that was bigger than him.  And it was a fight that lasted a long time. 

When Mama was around 70, she developed lymphoma.  When she first got the diagnosis, we were terrified.  But we learned that it was a disease that could be managed, and in true form, Mama managed it.  When a tumor would develop, she would go in for treatment, which usually required radiation, and when that was done, she would go on about her life.  Meanwhile, Daddy was not doing so great either.  His drinking was causing him to fall and injure himself, and on more than one occasion we had to get an ambulance to take him to the emergency room.  He broke his upper leg one time, and that required an extended hospital stay.  After that, when he was away from alcohol for a couple of months, he was able to finally stop drinking when he got to come back home.  I couldn't believe it; he had finally managed to win against an enemy that I was convinced couldn't be defeated.

In late September of 2007, Mama had to go into the hospital again for treatment for her lymphoma.  Everything seemed to be going well until she experienced a spinal hematoma, in which she had bleeding into her spinal column.  In addition to the excruciating pain this caused, it also left her legs paralyzed.  But she rallied, and we brought Daddy up to the hospital one Saturday to see her.  They shared the most pleasant of days together, with Daddy sitting beside her bed holding her hand, talking and visiting with their children.  A few days later, Mama told me, "I hope today is the day I get to go home..  I said that to that nurse, and she didn't know I meant my Heavenly home."  Later that night, that's exactly where Mama went. 

We all drove down to Waldron early the next morning to tell Daddy.  We had to wake him up, and my sister Janet gently told him what had happened.  He was quiet as we made sure he understood what we had said.  "I just wasn't expecting that," he said.

Later, I found a post card that Daddy had sent Mama when he was in the Navy.  He was in Basic Training at the Great Lakes Naval Station, and he must have been missing Mama quite a bit.  In the card, Daddy writes, "Hello Sweet.  How are you feeling today?  How is Memaw (Mama's mother) and all?  I just finished writing you a letter and I'm all out of things to write.  I haven't got your letter yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  Bye, Abb"

I'd never heard Daddy speak so tenderly to Mama.  That must have been the guy she fell in love with, and that was the man she always saw.  I didn't understand that until I found that post card.  He called her Sweet. 

Be patient, Sweet.  It won't be too long now.  You'll be holding his hand again soon.

Skipper Breaks His Leg!

Love Always, Skipper
The rest of the family always said that Skipper was emotionally disturbed, and there’s a better than even chance that they were right. I got Skipper when I was about eleven years old, after the tragic death of my dog Scooter (more on that later). My Uncle Joe found Skipper for me, and we were best friends right from the start. He was a mixed-breed puppy (actually, Mutt) with a lot of Fiest in him, which made him a little high-energy. He was black and tan with mid-length hair and a tail that curved up over his backside. As far as the emotionally disturbed part of it goes, he did have a tendency to annoy our great dog Lucky quite a bit, which occasionally resulted in a fight between the two. Lucky would fight until he was ready to quit, but there was no quit in Skipper. Eventually, Mama would have to tie both of them to the clothesline to get them to stop fighting. Now, those fights were rare, but they did happen on occasion.

For some unknown reason, Skipper took a particular dislike to a specific pair of pants belonging to my sister. They were a bright, checkered pattern, as was the style back in the 1960’s, and they reminded me of a pair that I often saw one of our neighbors wearing, so I euphemistically referred to them as Janet’s “Kay Bray Britches.” Skipper evidently picked up on my disdain for this particular article of clothing, because every time Janet wore them, he bit her. No, EVERY time. So, among those questioning Skipper’s mental state, Janet was at the forefront.

Skipper, being a young, unaltered male, often went on what we might call group dates with some of the other dogs in the neighborhood. One evening, when I went out to feed Skipper, I found him in obvious pain, his right foreleg hanging limply. He had gotten into a fight with a bigger dog, and it was obvious that his leg had been broken. I quickly summoned Daddy, who looked Skipper’s leg over and constructed a crude splint which he placed on the damaged leg. After a sleepless night, I hurried outside the next morning to check on Skipper, and found his leg swollen to more than twice its normal size.

We loaded Skipper into our 1967 Ford Custom 500 and headed downtown to the office of Dr. Stubbs, the local vet. It was a Saturday morning, but Dr. Stubbs was there. He examined Skipper and told us we would have to leave him there for the rest of the weekend. When we returned to his office the next Monday, he had me call for Skipper from the lobby, and when he heard my voice, Skipper came trotting out with a clean white cast on his front leg. He was overjoyed to see us, as we were to see him.

We took him home with the instructions to keep him inside the house. Skipper quickly recognized two things: One, he was not an inside dog, and Two, this weird thing on his leg didn’t belong there. We were in school, and Mama was working at the Rock Café, so Skipper was going to have to stay by himself. So, we left him in the house and headed out to school and work.

You can imagine our surprise when we got home from school and found Skipper waiting for us on the porch, his curly tail wagging. He had somehow managed to find his way outside. A quick inspection inside the house revealed how he had done it. There was a bed next to a window in the back bedroom, and the window didn’t have a screen, so Skipper had managed to break the glass and jump through.

The next day, with a piece of plywood over the window, Skipper decided to work on getting the foreign object off his leg. We had gone to school, and Mama was hurrying around getting ready to go to work at the Rock Café, when she entered the living room and saw what she believed to be Skipper’s leg lying in the middle of the living room floor. Taken aback, she examined the object more closely and realized that it was in fact only Skipper’s cast, which he had somehow managed to get off his leg. Hurriedly, she loaded Skipper in the car and hauled him back to Dr. Stubbs, who replaced the cast. Mama brought him back home and went on to work, arriving uncharacteristically late. That evening, we decided to go ahead and let Skipper stay outside, broken leg and all.

Well, Skipper was completely happy outside. As an added bonus, he discovered that he could wind his way through the hedge next to the driveway and remove his cast with only minimal effort. By now, we were used to it, so we would just pull the empty cast out of the hedge and stick it back on his leg. After a few weeks, the leg was healed up and we just left the cast off permanently.

Skipper’s leg didn’t seem to bother him much after that. However, when my Aunt Lola would come down, she would get a kick out of giving Skipper sympathy over his leg, talking to him and repeatedly mentioning his leg until he would invariably raise his “injured” leg off the ground, holding it in mid-air which sent Lola into peals of laughter that could be heard all over the neighborhood. Lola knew how to laugh, and she didn’t hold back. She had the kind of laugh that just made you feel good, and she always got a good laugh over Skipper and his pitiful leg routine.

Skipper, my good and faithful dog, lost his life on December 5, 1973. He was run over up on Featherston Street. I took it hard, but we’d had lots of good days together. As I said earlier, I got Skipper after my previous dog Scooter died. When Scooter was killed it was a tragedy, but it was almost a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. But that's a story for another day.

Addie and Joe

Addie was Mama’s older sister. She was always kind of like our second Mama; I guess that got started when Mama was in the hospital for over a week in the early 1960’s, and Addie took care of us. She lived on a farm seven miles east of Waldron with her husband Joe Carmack. Joe’s real name was Ira, but he was known in the family as Joe. They used to live in Wichita, Kansas, and Joe worked for Boeing Aircraft. But he was seriously injured one time when he fell while working on a plane, and Boeing settled with him for his injuries in the amount of $3,000. So, he and Addie headed back to Waldron in about 1961 and used the $3,000 to buy their farm.

Joe was actually Addie’s second husband. She was first married to Herman Cameron, an inveterate gambler and womanizer, who broke her heart. This was well before my time, during World War II. They divorced a few years after the war. My older brother Gary has a vague recollection of Herman coming by the house to say goodbye, and Gary recalls that he refused to go out on the porch to see Herman, because he knew that Herman had done something to hurt Addie. The years eased the pain, I have no doubt, but I’m not sure Addie ever completely got over the hurt.

For a big portion of the 1960’s, Addie and Joe were our primary means of transportation. We didn’t have a car; Daddy got to bring home the telephone truck from work, but with our family of seven, that wasn’t too conducive to dignified travel. Of course, most of the places we needed to go were within walking distance anyway, but we did catch a ride to church with Addie and Joe.

Joe was a man of few words. He had a deep, gravelly voice to go with his long, lanky frame. Sometimes at church, when the testimony service was dragging, whoever was leading it would call on people to testify. On those times when Joe was called upon, it always amazed me to hear him speak up in church. It was just rare to hear him put that many words together. He was a kind, patient man who would do anything in his power to help out someone who needed it.

One cold winter morning, Addie and Joe were on their way to Sunday Morning services when they encountered a man walking along the highway. The man was without a coat on that frigid morning, just walking along the road. Addie and Joe stopped and talked to him, and he told them he was just trying to get into town. They insisted that he climb into the back seat, which he did, and Addie and Joe brought him into town. Later on at church, someone asked Addie if she had heard about the men who had been caught stealing cattle out their way the previous night, or had seen anything of the one who managed to get away. “I guess we gave him a ride into town,” she replied.

Addie was a gifted artist, poet, and writer. She loved to draw pictures and write poetry during the long winter days on the farm. She was deeply religious, and her writings reflected her faith. She was also a fountain of knowledge about the history of Mama’s side of the family, the Waganers. She kept copious writings detailing the family lineage and history. She also had many, many photographs, on the backs of which she had detailed information about the subject of the picture.

Addie and Joe lived a very simple life. The farmhouse they lived in hadn’t changed much from the time it was built. I think Addie longed for some of the modern conveniences that living in town offered, but at the same time she loved the farm. When I was little, they had some chickens that they kept for eggs, and Joe had a few head of cattle. They also had three or four horses, in addition to some hunting dogs that Joe kept out behind the barn and an untold number of stray cats that Addie just couldn’t stand to see go hungry. Of course, Addie gave them all names and made pets out of them. Farming was just a sideline for Joe; he got up at the crack of dawn every morning to go to his job at the feed mill at AVI. We always looked forward to getting to go out to the farm, particularly at Christmas time when Joe would lead us up into the woods to find a Christmas tree.

Addie and Joe didn’t ask for much. They enjoyed the simple pleasures. When you sat down at Addie’s kitchen table, you could be sure that she would bring out a box of Little Debbie’s. Usually it would be the snack cakes with white icing. Around Christmas, she would make what she called an “unbaked” fruit cake that Joe dearly loved. On Wednesday afternoons, they would come into town early for church so that they could go by Owen’s Drug Store and have ice cream. They were content with what they had, which really wasn’t all that much, but they found joy in life’s quiet moments.

They finally did get to live in town, after Joe’s health got bad. Addie was proud of her house in town and the conveniences that it offered. And, she even managed to find a stray cat to take care of.

Addie and Joe are both gone now. But in the spring, there will be blooms in my sister’s yard, and my yard, and in the yard at Mama and Daddy’s house, blooms from plants that were lovingly tended by Addie, who could get a start of just about any plant by breaking off a twig. Blooms from plants that were shared out of a mutual love of God’s beautiful creation, and admired by a gracious lady who saw life as a poem.

On Being A Twin

Our store-bought birthday cake, circa 1964.
 I share my birthday.  I arrived at Sparks Hospital on a snowy January 18, 1956, at 12:34 p.m.  I basked in the attention and pampering only briefly, because in the middle of my moment of glory it occurred to those gathered that we were not done; in fact, another baby was in the process of being born.  Exactly ten minutes later, at 12:44 p.m., my twin sister Janet made her presence known. Yes, no one, not even Mama, knew that she was having twins.  From that moment on, the phrase "the twins" entered into the nomenclature of the Yates family.

Being a twin meant you always had a competitor and a friend.  Janet and I competed relentlessly, which was a good thing I guess because we always tried to outdo each other in terms of schoolwork, so the competition made our grades better.  Back in those days, parents got to request who they wanted for a teacher for their child, so in grades 1-6 (there was no kindergarten back in those days), we were always in the same classroom.  We could also keep an eye on each other that way, and should one of us made a misstep, the other could gleefully report it to Mama.   

Our 1964 Birthday bash.  Left to right:  Randy Bottoms, J.P.
Hicks, Terry Nichols, Terrel Scroggins, Mary Hutchens, Me,
Jannet McDonald, my sister Janet, Brenda Owens, Cindy
Douglas, Terri Watkins, and Ida Mae Smith
 The constant companionship invariably produced some conflict.  This conflict often displayed itself in a very visual way.  Our next-door neighbors Randy and Swanna Bottoms' dad, Hoss, once said that he would be sitting on his porch when he would hear our back screen door fly open, and he would witness me running with all my might through the field next to our house, with Janet close behind me swinging a broom.  There was a tree at the end of the field, and past experience had shown me that if I could reach the tree unscathed, Janet would more often than not give up and turn around.  Never much of an athlete, I honed my sprinting skills until I reached the point where I could outrun my sister.  After that point, I got a lot braver.

I mentioned our competitiveness as a factor in our school work, but it was also true that we greatly benefited by studying together.  We really did help each other, and if one of us didn't understand how to do a math problem, the other could most often explain it.  Mama had a blackboard mounted to the wall in the bedroom, and we would spend lots of time at that little board working math problems. 
A more traditional Birthday cake.  Twelve
candles...that's two people turning six.

Well, over time the competitiveness began to lessen, and although we did occasionally argue, we were most of all friends.  I really believe that there is a bit of an "ESP" connection between twins, because we often were amused when we would start to say the same thing at the same time.  In Junior High and High School, we seldom had the same classes and began to become individuals more than "the twins." 

Oh, and that store-bought birthday cake.  Daddy got it for us; it seems like it came from Ward Ice Cream company in Fort Smith.  We had a big party that year.  It must have been an unusually nice January day, because we were outside with only sweaters, evidently. 

When we were 16, on January 18, 1972, our first niece was born.  Sandy Yates Swanner is my brother Phil's daughter, and now there are three birthdays in the family on January 18th. 

And now, as I write this, I'm preparing for my 55th birthday.  My wife has a present for me that she has been hiding in the car, and has had to move it already twice to keep me from seeing it.  She doesn't know that just seeing her in my life everyday is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.  Across the street, my mother-in-law is even now preparing a feast in my honor that we'll all share tonight.  My stepson Ross and his wife Maegan are about to become parents in a few weeks, and Marilyn and I can hardly wait to meet our little Kate.  Ross, who racked up a series of awards at Arkansas Tech including Outstanding Male Student, is now applying his leadership skills to the teaching profession.  My brilliant step-daughter Laura and her husband Kip live in Little Rock, where Laura is a doctor completing her residency in OB-GYN.  And I, I'm just soaking up blessings like a sponge, so fortunate to be at this place in life right now, and happily reliving pleasant memories on this little blog.  Please excuse me now; I have candles to blow out.

Elementary School Days

There was no such thing as kindergarten at Waldron Elementary School back in the 1960's.  First grade was where it all began; the first grade teachers were charged with taking raw, uneducated little kids like us and turning us into readers, a feat they somehow accomplished against all odds.  My first grade teacher was Mrs. Clara Evatt.  She had been my brothers' teacher, and since parents got to pick whose class they wanted their child to be in back in those days, we were signed up with Mrs. Evatt.  It didn't take me too long to get into the school routine, I recall.  I kind of liked it.  There were, however, two incidents in first grade that somewhat blemished my school record.  One, David Houston took a swing at me one time while we were sitting at our table, and in so doing he knocked over the glass fishbowl that held a small turtle in the center of our table.  The turtle was rescued, and we received a small scolding, but that was that.  The other incident occurred when my sister and I were doing homework, and our assignment was to answer some questions in a book about some monkeys.  Well, we assumed we were supposed to write our answers directly in the book.  We were wrong. 

In second grade, my teacher was Mrs. Winna Tharp.  Mrs. Tharp had a lot of science stuff on display, and that really intrigued me.  One of her displays was a vase of cattails.  I guess cattails spread their seeds by breaking apart and letting the wind scatter what's inside, so Mrs. Tharp warned us that the cattails might begin to break apart sometime during the year.  Perhaps she used the word "explode" in describing what would happen to the cattails, because I spent the entire year just waiting for those babies to go off.  Unfortunately, they were located right next to my desk, so I recognized early on that I would likely be a casualty to the impending event.  Resigned to my fate, I tried my best to concentrate on my studies.

Second grade also featured the only fight I was ever in.  I have no idea what started it, or any of the circumstances leading up to it.  I just remember lying on my back near the big steps in back of the white frame first and second grade building, with Clyde Johnson, a third grader, on top of me, landing blow after blow.  I would have surely been killed had not My Greatest Childhood Friend, Randy Bottoms, intervened and dragged Clyde off of me.

Third grade, as I mentioned in a previous post, was a bad year.  It was not the fault of my teacher, Mrs. Inez Baugh.  She was very nice, but my sister and I had school phobia that year and missed a lot of school. However, third grade stood out for one event.  Mrs. Baugh took her entire class on a field trip over to her house on West 2nd street to watch the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson as President in January of 1965.  She had a color TV, and it was the first one I had ever seen.  She also took us on a tour of her rose garden in her back yard, which didn't have a lot to offer that cold January day, but it was nice anyway.

Fourth grade was great.  Read my post, Batman, Beatles, and Mrs. Nelson for a full discussion of that wonderful year.

Fifth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Robbie Hunsucker.  Fifth grade was memorable because we got to change classes for reading and math, although I seem to recall having Mrs. Hunsucker for both subjects.  Everyday after lunch, Mrs. Hunsucker would read to us from Laura Engalls Wilder's Little House books.  How I loved those stories!  Fifth grade was also the year I built the greatest Valentine's Day box ever.  Each year, we would get a shoe box and decorate it for Valentine's Day, and everybody would exchange cards by dropping them in each box.  When I made my box, I wrapped it in Reynold's Wrap and glued on a few hearts that I had cut out of construction paper.  I had to put my name somewhere on the box, and that's when I got a great idea.  I got the daily Fort Smith paper, turned to the classified ads, and found a full-page advertisement for a new car dealership in Fort Smith, Bill Yates Buick.  I carefully cut out the large letters "Bill Yates" from the ad, and glued the piece of newsprint to my box.  Of course, this was well before the days of computers and printers, so everyone was totally amazed at the professionally printed name on my Valentine's Box.  Many years later, I got to meet the Bill Yates of Bill Yates Buick, and told him that story.

In sixth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Hazel Smoot.  Mrs. Smoot was nice, but we had a few guys in our class who always succeeded in getting her in a bad mood by the end of the day. We changed classes again for math and reading, and I had Miss Chiles for math.  I remember we used to have races on the board, and one of my classmates, Frances Moore, was absolutely unbeatable.  I mean no one could beat her; watching her work a math problem on the board was a fascinating sight.  In reading, each week we got the Weekly Reader, a kind of newspaper for kids.  They were great, and I kept mine for many years, but I think they are long gone now.  Every six weeks, Weekly Reader came out with a reading comprehension test.  I was a good reader, but when the test was given I was almost always beaten by Doug Cottrell. 

I also remember my first public speaking experience, which was in sixth grade.  We had to give an oral book report, and I had chosen the book The Day of the Arkansas, which was about the C.S.S. Arkansas, and ironclad battleship during the Civil War.  For Christmas that year, I had been given a little brown vinyl notebook that had small, perforated sheets of paper attached to it.  Jumping at the chance to actually use my new notebook, I made notes on the little slips of paper and held them in my hand, speaking extemporaneously while glancing occasionally at my notes.  Well, Mrs. Smoot was impressed, and was lavish with her praise.

I was fortunate to have some really good teachers.

Lunch At The Candy Store

I started my school career dutifully partaking of the nourishment offered by our school cafeteria. Being a somewhat picky eater, I held most of the entrees in complete disdain, other than the occasional homemade roll or peanut butter cookie. And the little cartons of milk…just not my thing. However, sometime in third grade, a decision was made that I would be allowed to have lunch at a wondrous place called The Candy Store. Saying goodbye to the unfortunate chumps that were relegated to the cafeteria, I discovered for the first time that school could be a place of culinary excellence as well as learning.

There were actually two Candy Stores. Gatlin’s, or The Green Candy Store as we called it, was more popular with the elementary crowd. Burden’s, or The White Candy Store, was more often frequented by the high-schoolers. Over the years I developed the pattern of having my main course at The Green Candy Store and then leisurely strolling over to The White Candy Store for my dessert. When you first walked in to Gatlin’s, you were immediately hit with a continuous clatter that sounded like a severe hail storm on a tin roof. This was caused by about a hundred elementary students pecking on the glass candy counter with their nickels. The popular belief was that it was necessary to peck in order to be waited on. Gatlin’s had all the popular candy bars, but elementary boys and girls had developed an affection for Winner Suckers more than any other product. A Winner Sucker was a grape flavored sucker that actually was shaped like a cluster of grapes on one side. The other side was flat. When you bought a Winner Sucker, the person working the counter would carefully unwrap it, and if the flat side of the sucker had a piece of tape stuck to it that said “Winner,” you won another sucker. One kid actually won three additional suckers one time, a record that was never bested. Grape Jolly Ranchers are the closest thing nowadays to the taste of a Winner Sucker.

The Gatlin’s candy counter also often featured a punchboard, a form of legalized gambling for elementary kids. You paid your nickel, picked a number, and the sales person would punch out that square on a cardboard frame, and you got to keep whatever trinket was located behind the number. Of course, the punchboard had samples of some really great prizes attached to it. One day John York told me that he had asked the ladies working the counter if, when the current board was used up, could he have the board (with the samples still attached). To his surprise, they agreed. I tried this and was actually promised a used board myself, but when I showed up to claim it, the new board was in place and nobody knew what happened to the old one.

Back at the grill in Gatlin’s, my usual choice was a Frito Pie. They kept a big pot of chili cooking all the time, and to make a Frito Pie they would cut open a package of Fritos on the side and pour a ladle full of chili on top of the Fritos. Add one plastic spoon, and you’ve got yourself a Frito Pie. That costs twenty cents. Also for twenty cents, you could get a grilled cheese (delicious), or a “hot dog” which was actually a piece of bologna that had been cooking in the pot of chili, served on a hamburger bun. For the more affluent, a hamburger was twenty-five cents. You got your sandwich and a package of chips, and then headed over to the fountain for your coke, which set you back ten cents. It was standing room only, so you ate standing up. Oh, there was a back room with some benches and a juke box, but that was the domain of older kids and elementary students didn’t dare step in there. I did peek in once and saw one of my brothers back there.

After finishing my Frito Pie and Coke, I would generally go over to Burden’s for a candy bar. I always thought they had a slightly better selection of candy bars than Gatlin’s. I always got the same thing; Mars Bar. After that tasty dessert, it was time to stroll back to class.

It’s kind of amazing to consider that the Candy Stores were unsupervised by any school people, but there were very few problems. I think both the Gatlin’s and the Burden’s made it a point to monitor the students and were able to head off most trouble before it got started. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and sometime in about tenth grade, the school district closed the campuses and that meant no one could go over to the Candy Stores anymore. But they remain the source of some of my best childhood memories.