A few years ago, my sister Nadja and I, accompanied by my daughter, Jana, set out on a day trip. Our plan was to visit all the places we had lived over the years, and our first stop was Gadsden, AL, where Roddy, Nadja and I were born. The old home place is now a Ramada Inn. After that shock, we located Wilbanks Avenue, where we lived when the news came over the radio one night as Mamma was rocking me to sleep, that the war was over (That would be WWII). I don't remember the announcement, but I'll always remember Mamma's words, "Thank God, the war is over." I remember, too, everybody spilling out into the street, cheering and hugging one another.
We then moved on to Campbell Court, which was a government project built "By the people of the United States for the defenders of this nation," under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. We located the apartment we had lived in. They are still standing and very well maintained, in amazing condition to this day. We walked the grounds and made pictures of every seemingly insignificant detail. It's part of our past, and it becomes increasingly important as we grow older.
Then on to the cemetery where Daddy and his parents and other relatives await the second coming. More pictures.
There is a little restaurant in Gadsden with a sign proclaiming "BALONEY BISCUITS!" I bet you won't see that in the Big Apple!
I tell you all this so you'll see what a good sport Jana was. She surely was bored to tears, listening to us relive our past, breaking up laughing one minute, yelling "Stop here, Jana," and piling out of the car to click still more pictures and pointing to every landmark along the way.
After Gadsden, we made our way back toward Anniston, where our brother, Roddy is buried. Another cemetery stop to visit his grave, and then on to Oxford and a visit to Oxford High, where Nadja went to school. We noted the football press box dedicated to Lane Thweatt, Jr. How many of you remember "Tweet?" Nadja's best friends at Oxford were Billy Jean Cox and Polly Walden. Her steady boyfriend was Earnest Robinson.
Now we finally come to the coup de gras of our little trip down memory lane. By now Nadja is our pilot and I'm the navigator. Jana is in the back seat rolling her eyes at how silly her elders are acting. The drive to Bynum, taking the scenic route along Hwy 78(?) past The Ice House, which was owned by Rod's father-in-law Hiram Little, the now infamous Monsanto Chemical Company, where Rod worked as a teen-ager to help defray the cost of college, around dead man's curve, and finally our ultimate destination, the land of some of the most cherished memories of our youth, where we were nurtured not only in body, but in spirit, not only by our parents, but by our neighbors and teachers. All three of us Grant kids attended Bynum Elementary School, where Nadja spent a lot of her time standing in the hall as punishment for talking, to the great embarrassment of Rod. Mrs. Williams once told Mamma she had tried everything she knew to do, and finally decided to just let her talk. Again, out came the camera and we clicked away.
When we drove on up the road toward the Manor, we came upon the comparatively palatial guard shack where we were greeted by a young man who inquired as to the nature of our business. We explained to him about growing up there and how we just wanted to reminisce and maybe walk around the area for a bit. After some serious thought, he decided we were okay and waved us on, whereupon we proceeded down the road and past the spot where we had lived, past the concrete pond, the post office and the community building/church and on to the mall, all mere figments of our imagination by now. Coming back, facing the old theater building, which has escaped the wrecking ball, we came to a stop and ordered Jana out of the car to snap a picture of the structure which holds so many memories: Besides the ghosts of Dale and Roy, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Cinderella, Snow White, The Black Hand and Dial M for Murder, there were the basketball games, the Fall Festivals, the talent shows, Halloween fun, Saturday tap dance lessons, and who could forget the night Joe Rumore graced the stage with his down-home corny humor. Everybody was there! You almost could see all those spirits rising from the roof, one by one, to be captured by one little click of the camera. (To our disappointment, none of these images are visible in the prints). When we got back to the guard shack, the young man asked if we had brought a camera onto the depot. Of course we answered truthfully, whereupon he ordered my baby girl to get the camera and step out of the vehicle. He told us to pull to the side of the road and stay in the car. He walked her back to his post where, we later learned, he began to interrogate her about our "real" purpose in coming there and why we wanted pictures, and did we take any pictures of the depot. For a few minutes Nadja and I could hardly speak we were laughing so hard.at the thought that we could be considered a danger to our country. I even called my son to tell him we were being detained by the U.S. Army. His response was "What have ya'll done now, Mom?" After about ten minutes, I began to worry and said, "I'm going to see about my baby." So, against orders, we got out of the car and walked back to the shack where we were told by the young man that we would have to wait for his superior. By now Jana (coincidentally nick-named our little steamroller) was glaring and you could literally see the steam rising from her head, which, to us, is way scarier than the threat of being thrown in the brig. One by one, each Army Man proceeded to call his own superior until we had amassed a contingent of five officers, each sporting more brass than the previous one. Every time one screeched to a halt in front of us, Nadja and I tried valiantly to stifle the giggles. Honestly, we tried not to laugh, because we could see that no one else was amused. After being questioned at length about our intentions, with us offering in our defense and as proof of our patriotism, the fact that Rod had retired from the Army as a "full bird" colonel (whatever that means) and being lectured about the devious lengths our enemies will go to in order to infiltrate our military installations ( including sending little old lady spies) they finally agreed to release us with the admonition not to bring a camera along if we should come back one day. Jana assured them that would NOT be a problem.
As we were leaving, I couldn't resist asking if they would pose with us for a picture. They declined.