“How is the middle Colbert boy today?” I wasn’t dead certain positive Mr. Abernathy knew my first name but he got me in the right place, in the right family. I’d drop by his hardware store from time to time to look over the toys down in the basement. “Anything special I can show you?” If I thought it was neat that the owner of the business was giving a ten year old his undivided attention, it didn’t register on me. It was pretty common. Mr. Abernathy was about as friendly as they come.
“No sir. I’m just looking.” Both of us understood that shopping was all I could do. I didn’t have the money to actually buy anything.
’Course, I didn’t realize at the time that wonderful memories don’t cost one red cent.
Billy Bradley’s father ran the Golden Rule right across Broadway Street from Abernathy’s Hardware, close to where the old bank stood. It was a five and dime that was crowded with back to school items, assorted candies, Tinker Toys, cap pistols and Lone Ranger masks. It was another fun place to “look around”. Mr. Bradley treated me just like a paying customer. He let me browse for hours. I could pick up the rubber baseballs and test the seams. I could pull out the spyglass and bring the bamboo picture frames hanging on the back wall “up close”. When I got a little older he hired me to take his advertising flyers door to door. It was a favorite place to “shop”.
And the memories are still alive of the Clove Gum smell, the big glass windows and the friendlessness of the staff and customers.
Mr. Howard Freeman owned a men’s store over on Cedar Avenue. As I grew into the dating stage his place became more and more important. I couldn’t take Jane Hill to the movie wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt! And I had real money made from picking cotton, unloading lumber or working at the swimming pool burning a hole in my pocket. Mr. Howard seemed more interested in Friday’s night’s ballgame than selling me a Penguin sweater with the suede leather elbow patches. And he loved my older brother. “I haven’t seen Leon in a while. Is he staying out of trouble?”
You had to do a bit of socializing before you got down to business at Freeman’s Menswear. And it was the same all around the square. Folks took time to talk, catch up a mite and enjoy the moment whether you were the seller or the “sellee”.
Those special memories way outlasted the cap pistols and the sweaters.
Most anybody growing up in a small town in the late ’50’s knows exactly what I’m talking about here. We still bask in the laid back attitude, the slow pace, the Mayberry feel……..
I thought of Mr. Abernathy this week as I went into our local hardware store. My first wife was doing a little rearranging in the attic and I needed some boards or plywood or something. As usual I was about half prepared. Greg talked baseball and grandkids. Deb was still laughing over something I’d said about Irene a year ago. The owner asked if he could help. When they decided what I needed, they rushed to get it loaded and squared away. And Greg let me know if I could wait until Saturday, he’d come over and help me nail it up.
Cathy thought a small strip of carpet would keep the storage boxes off the plywood. I hustled out to the carpet place. Now folks, they knew right off that I wasn’t spending much money on this project. We’d already carpeted the house in 1983. It still looked pretty good to me if you don’t count the grape stain Josh poured into it the first month we had it. I just needed a small remnant on this day. But before we discussed the reason I was there we had to compare our kidney stone pains. Dennis was knocking on wood, Kenny was carrying two or three even as we spoke and Danny was thrilled it was me instead of him! They all listened politely to my carpet story and Danny found exactly what I needed and loaded it up as we talked church, world affairs and retirement.
Mr. Bradley never treated me so good.
I stopped by the auto parts store on the way home to get some oil for my lawnmower. It was the same thing. We had to catch up on family and friends before we got down to the “NAPA Know How” part. Dick even asked about Leon. When I was emptying my pockets to see if I had enough for two quarts, Glen was ringing it up for me. They were sending me home with the oil. I reckon they figured we could worry about the money tomorrow or next week.
Folks, you don’t know how lucky I am to be living in a town with no Lowes, no Home Depot and no Walmart.
And the special memories I have made shopping this week will linger longer than the stain on the carpet or the junk in the attic.