A few years ago I took a trip back to the area in which I lived as a child and I visited the little town in which I grew up.
As I walked down the streets of the little town, I listened carefully to see if the sounds of yesteryear would come on the gentle breeze that swayed the trees lazily around the bandstand. I walked north across the street to the line of buildings which faced the park. There, the Dortches grocery store resided for so many years, and I paused and listened for the clang of the registers and the good natured "howdy do Mrs. Shelton, how are you today?" and saw once again me standing by my grandmother as they cuaght up on all the howdy-do's.
Across the heat waves coming off the pavement came the sounds of kids playing in the park, the low rumble of the voices of the crowd in the park, the MC trying to be heard over the traffic or the train blasting through town . . . My chest ached for the wonderment of those years.
Though the visions were dimmed by the years, I still saw the old five and dime again through the eyes of a child. I remember well the smell of the candy in the large glass display at the front of the store. Not very often did I taste that!
I turned the corner where the Davis jewelry store used to be, and walked north on the sidewalk. I looked up and saw the bullet holes still evident of an attempted bank robbery, and the story told years ago by my Dad played over in my mind.
I was surprised at the difference in the little town of Rector, AR.; the little town in which I grew up. The difference nowadays and my experiences as a child is so great it's hard to comprehend just what happened.
Back in my auto, I slowly drove down the streets of Rector and was dismayed at the ruin and decay of many of the long abandoned buildings. I still remember the Western Auto store to the west of the park, and the big bank is still there.
I was quite dismayed though that the huge triangle park on Main Street of the huge town that I remember as huge, turned out to be a little bitty thing. Many are the times I quieted my restless children down with stories of this wondrous town and this huge park.
I stopped back by the park and strolled through it, climbing the steps of the grandstand one last time. As I walked around on the platform where they used to have the $100 drawings on Saturday nights, once again, the sounds from the past came faintly through the years. I could hear the voice of the MC as he called out the announcements and the specials to be had in town that night.
As I stood just reminicscing about the past, I could hear the nervous murmer of the people who had gathered around waiting for the lucky winner of the prize. Cars would be double parked on both sides of the road all the way around the park leaving sometimes only one narrow lane through which both directions of traffic would snake their way carefully.
One hundred dollars was an awful lot of money back in the 50's. But all the stores would pitch in on the prize so it wasn't too much on each owner. They would make it back several times that night as everybody came into town to do their provisional purchases. Most everybody would generally wait until Saturday night to do their shopping.
Most farmers "Sunday-go-to-meetin'" clothes were overalls, white shirt and brogans with a fresh coat of hog fat on them. You just didn't waste good money on something you didn't use every day. If the time came for a marryin' or a buryin', most folks men would come up with some fancy duds of some kind.
But normally, unless it was something extry special, you just wore clean everday clothes.
Every once in a while, there were some fancy cars come through. These were usually some kin to one of the Saturday night attendees. Heck, I remember a '57 Chevy come through one time! It drew quite a crowd! But, mostly, there were GMC pickups, and most were bought at Hargraves GMC dealership.
I've seen 'em come into town with horse drawn trailers as well as tractor drawn trailers. The whole family! Girls in muslin or poplin, boys in overalls and floursack shirts.
But, even though we were poor, we were happy and contented. It was indeed a rich time in the life of a small, impressionable young sprout with overalls, no shoes, and toes skinned and stubbed from going barefooted so much.
While I was saddened by the changes and wished that it was all still like it was then, I knew kids with higher aspirations than sittin' round the park chawin', whittlin' and spittin' naturally move away to the larger towns. There they can find opportunity, albeit sometimes not conducive to a good life.
Then, my mind went back to all the hard times, times of need, the times of inability to eat all you wanted, the times of walking to school in the snow and the cold, the hard work in the cold and the heat for little pay, and then, I was happy for the changes, and the many blessings with which the Lord has blessed us.
I wondered what it would be like to put it all back the way it was then. All the wonder, the people, the good honest living. I wondered what it would be like to look forward all week to going to town on Saturday night, then wandering up and down each aisle of each store to wonder at its wares.
I realized it would take much, much money to put it back like it was. Then, for what? Everybody all goes to the large places like Wal-Mart for the cheap stuff that lasts only for a short time. Seems like people had rather help nations other than our own.
It would be hard to make it as a business until you got everybody in the notion to coming back and spending their money there, paying higher prices. Thard part would be convincing everyone they'd be rewarded because of the quality of the product. But even today, money is still tight, so they spend their money on cheap garbage made in China thinking they are saving. That's why so many businesses have failed over the years.
So much for sentiment. But still that little part of me wants to see it one more time.
I guess that's the price to be paid for change, progress, and technology. People change, ways of life change, desires and wants change, places change . . .
But one thing never changes: and that's the memories of how it used to be.