It was 1965. We were country people. We lived at Muren in one of the old coal company Portland cement houses. The bread truck delivered the bread. The milk truck delivered the milk. We didn’t have running water. We had an outhouse and a well. Daddy worked second shift at Whirlpool and Momma stayed home with us. I would have been about five years old and my little brothers around 3 and 1.
The bread truck and the milk man coming were exciting to watch for and probably how I learned my days of the week. But nothing compared to the anticipation of the mailman coming. My Momma was one who would save Kool-Aid packets, ordering Kool-Aid mugs and other random premium things like that. I would get mail order clothes from Sears. We never knew what would come in the mail, so it was a treat to go to the mailbox. My grandparents on Momma’s side lived in South Carolina so at Christmas a big happy box of wrapped presents would come in the mail, along with a tin of fruitcake that wasn’t so thrilling to me. Momma had a big rose of Sharon bush on the road bank. Daddy dug into the bank and made steps out of blocks with a steel pipe handrail. It seemed so steep and far down to the mailbox. I walked so carefully. When I see it I wonder at that five year old fear.
Momma was a lot of fun. She would get the most out of Quaker oats. We ate the oats, she got the dishes, and then she would make us toys out of the empty box. A few cuts and there was a doll cradle for me. Somehow she made a covered wagon for the boys. She would make us hats out of the envelopes from the mail. She even knew how to make hats out of newspaper. She cut out Betsy McCall paper dolls for me. She let me lick the stamps to put in the stamp books from the grocery store where you could earn prizes. Daddy knew how to have fun too. He was used to making something out of nothing. He made us a merry go round. My seat was an old tricycle and baby Jimmy’s seat was an old wooden seat from a high chair or other baby contraption. Daddy would push us round and round until we would holler for him to stop because we were dizzy.
We had an outhouse. Daddy had made a little seat in it for us kids. We would go down the dirt path with Momma to the outhouse. She would grab for the door and there would be a snake hanging there. Sometimes I never saw it, but I ran back up the path with her screaming right beside her. Daddy was a trader and seemed to always have a sword around. I remember him grabbing the sword and chopping up the toilet snake.
The well was another story. My Momma’s great grandfather, some great uncles and some cousins in South Carolina were well diggers. Several of them had been buried or drowned in the wells they were digging. If not every time, at least every other time we went outside to play, she always said “stay away from the well.” Our well dried up and Daddy went in to clean it before the water truck came. I remember him going down the old wooden rung ladder and asking if I wanted to come down. It was cool down there. Was he crazy? I wasn’t getting in the well. I knew it scared Momma and something terrible could happen.
My daddy was a true shade tree mechanic. Motors literally hung from the branches of the old tree by the driveway. There was always an old car he and his brother Billy Joe were fixing up, usually a small convertible of some kind. His place to go for parts was Quick Brothers, between Ayrshire and Winslow.
Daddy would ask me to go along with him. Now that was special. I was so small and the cars were so big, I would stand up in the passenger seat with my window rolled down so I could see everything. There weren’t any car seats and seat belts. I hoped everyone would be outside so they could see me in the car. Ma Bolin always seemed to be outside and would wave. Daddy would sing to Johnny Cash songs on the radio. Driving through the barrens was shady and Daddy would jerk you around at Kitchen Corners and you had to hold on. We would laugh. Then we would go by the big old Ingle Barn. Then into Ayrshire where I hoped some more people were out in their yards that I could wave to. Then we would get to Doyal Shoultz’s mom and dad’s house. They put out a big garden by the road and always had a scarecrow. I was scared of scarecrows and would jump down into the floorboard and hide there till we started down the hill to Quick’s Garage.
I will never forget the smell at Quick’s of old car parts, oil, tires and burnt coffee. All the old men hung out there, sitting in chairs in the cluttered front. Fat Conley always teased me. Jackie or Johnny or Gettis would take me to the back where there was a big old glass candy jar full of suckers. I could pick out what I wanted, usually grape. Sometimes Gettis or Johnny would get me a cold grape or orange pop out of the bottle machine if they weren’t busy. I would sit on a high stool at the back counter while Daddy dug around for his parts. Daddy always got for himself a red and white pack of Pall Mall cigarettes from the old cigarette machine. He would roll them up in the sleeve of his t shirt and we would head back home to Muren.