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Bittersweet Memories
by Newt Harlan



I still live in the same town where I grew up and travel the streets almost daily as I take care of the chores and errands in my life. Some days I go swiftly about my appointed rounds, consumed by the pressing chore of the moment. On other days, I dawdle around town and through the streets which hold so many of my memories. A lot of the town has changed, but it is surprising much has stayed the same as it was back in the '50s and '60s.

Most of the stores are gone from Main Street, victims of Wal-Mart and the mall. In their place are artisan shops and antique stores and offices. The depot is now a feed store, the old Post Office is now a cafť, the Jewel Theatre is offices and the old City Hall, jail and fire station has turned into a lounge and beauty shop and dance studio, but the Baptist and Methodist churches are still in their proper places.

The high school I attended is still standing but no longer serves as a place of learning. It is now used as a storage facility while the District figures how to demolish it because of all the asbestos used in its construction. I donít think of this as I drive past, but instead remember walking under the oak trees on the campus, holding hands with my true-love of the moment. I hope when they demolish the building they donít demolish the trees.

Slowly, I drive by the houses where my friends used to live and try to recall their faces. Not surprisingly, all the pretty girls are still fresh faced and flirty. I picture them waving and smiling when I passed their house way back then. As I pass the house of one of my male friends, I remember the time the game warden caught him for hunting after dark and I got away. I had to tell his parents so they could bail him out of jail. They didnít question why I didnít get caught, but my daddy did when I got home.

Driving down another street, I pass the house where one of the prettiest girls in my middle sisterís class lived. It doesnít look the same for some reason, not near as sparkling and cheerful as it was back when she lived there. Just a little farther down the street, I pass the family home where some of my friends decided to hold a surprise birthday party for another friend. The problem was the only preparations they made were sending out invitations, so at the appointed time every teenager in town showed up for a party that no one knew anything about. Luckily some of the adults took charge of the situation and a good time was passed. They never did figure out who sent the invitations.

Itís nice to be able to relive some of these memories almost every day. Sometimes the town seems to be smaller and drabber than I remember, but then in my memories everyone is young, the trees are green and everything is freshly painted.

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Newt tells us about himself:

I was born, raised and educated in Texas. With the exception of a few brief sojourns and the 4 years during the Vietnam Era that I spent riding around on airplanes courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, I've spent the more than 65 years of my life within spittiní distance of the place where I grew up. I managed to cram a four-year college degree into nine years and by virtue of that remarkable feat, I am a former student of six different schools, which sure helps the odds of rooting for a winner in sporting events. The academic standards committee had a moment of weakness and I was the fortunate recipient of a degree from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

I'm Southern to the bone. The sound of ďDixieĒ being played gives me goose bumps and I stand and remove my hat. My yard dog, B.J., controls the squirrels, cats, meter readers and peddlers around my place. Iíve picked cotton by hand, plowed behind a mule, churned butter, shelled back-eyed peas, and for the first 12 years of my life, went without shoes from April until October. Several of my friends regularly hold conversations with mules, but as of yet I canít get the danged mules to answer me. I think grits are as much a part of breakfast as bacon, eggs and cathead biscuits. I think ainít is a perfectly good word and donít plan to quit using it just because some damnyankee dictionary writer arbitrarily thinks it ainít.

I've been married for 30-some odd years and have beaucoup kids and grandkids. I'm now retired after having spent the better part of the past 37 years traveling around Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast areas of Mississippi and Alabama, trying to sell steel products. My hobbies, in no particular order, include writing, grandkids, hunting, fishing and visiting the local watering hole to swap honest lies and research material for stories.

Write Newt at: Newt281@embarqmail.com

Want to read more of Newtís stories at USADEEPSOUTH? Click these links:
Olí Red and the Armadillo
Earworms
Telephones and memories
Tastes like chicken
Remembering
Railroad Money
Basura Blanca News
That's Entertainment . . . '50s Style
Bugs
Juicing Bovines
Southern Words
Belly Waddin' Lunch

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Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.

Thanks!

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