We Didn’t “Stop Loving Him Today”

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 09:19 AM.

            The City Café in downtown McKenzie was located between the railroad tracks and McCadams Tractor and Implement Company. It was a special place for us for many reasons. We liked to see that “stuff” floating in the giant pickled pig’s feet jar. We loved to hear Mr. Red Melton and Jack Cantrell “go on” about the Cardinals chances to overtake the Dodgers in the National League pennant race. You could swing up on a stool at the counter or slide into the red and white “almost leather” covered seats in one of the booths. It was about as “grown-up” as an eight year old could get!

But most of all, in 1955, you could buy a hamburger there for a quarter. We were raised out at the end of Stonewall Street on collards, brown beans and polk salad. We ate black eyed peas like they were going out of style. Hominy grits and turnips were our staples. We ate fried green tomatoes before they became fashionable. We crumbled up cornbread in buttermilk for dessert.

A City Café hamburger was a genuine treat for us. As was the big juke box over by the front door. They even had “remote” devices so you could slide in a nickel right at your booth and play your favorite song…… ’Course, me and Leon and David Mark didn’t waste our nickel on the jukebox. We just listened to what everybody else was playing.

It was the time and the place where I first heard a young George Jones blasting out of those speakers. “Why, Baby, Why” was the song. I had no idea what it was about, but it was loud and fast and the guy seemed happy just to be singing to us. It quickly became my favorite song.

A couple of years later, he was singing, “No Money In This Deal”. Everyone out towards our end of town could relate to that one. We figured George must’a eaten a few stewed tomato sandwiches in his time. I was in high school when he recorded “The Race Is On”, another fast moving ditty that described “coming out in second place” in his race to win the girl. Danged if he wasn’t singing my song!

I was trying so hard to be cool and find a girl that liked baseball, western movies, could bait her own hook and wouldn’t embarrass you in the looks department when you strolled into Frank’s Dairy Bar together. We were all young and innocent and mostly just searching for a good time. George was belting out, “I’ve Got Five Dollars And It’s Saturday Night” that summer. I found myself nodding along in agreement to the words.

Charlotte Melton was my first love. For almost three months! She fell for that tall guy who moved in from Puryear. I drowned my sorry over a Root Beer float listening to George wail about “A Girl I Used To Know”. When he got down to the “I don’t talk about the nights I cry about her” verse, I thought several times, JUST SHOOT ME!

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