Tuesday, January 29, 2013

There's no Place Like Home

Wouldn't it be nice to travel, without all the hassles of missed airline connections, mixed up hotel reservations etc...and never leave your home?

I did it over the weekend. It was wonderful!

My good friend and fellow CHS54 classmate, Sam Salamander and I took a trip from Falls Church, Virginia to my old home town of Charlotte without even getting up from my chair. Sam, who some say is not a real person..(but I know better and I can prove it by showing you his name in the 1954 Key Club Directory! That rumor got started just because Miss Odom always answered his phone.)

 Anyway, we got the idea from Manti Teo. If he can meet the "Love of his life" in cyberspace, then Sam and I ought to at least be able to take a cyber trip down to North Carolina without any problem.  And thanks to Google Earth...it's as simple as firing up the family mouse, and clicking on down.

Make sure it's one of the fairly new versions of Google Earth, either #6 or #7 (which if you haven't played around with that software lately, it really is spectacular!)

We got to the city limits in practically no time and the first place we wanted to see was our old high school. It's still there and the face lift they gave it a few years ago is holding up nicely. One thing I didn't see, or smell, and wondered if it was still there was Sugar Creek. I certainly wouldn't miss it if it was no longer there but I'm curious as to how you go about removing a creek.

We swung by Elizabeth School to see if survived its big 100th birthday celebration in good shape, and it had. I took a look at that vacant field where the Detroit Lions were playing football that day I saw them during recess. I'm surprised that it looks pretty much the same as it did back then.

It looks like they are building a new Alexander Graham Junior High School. This wasn't a very good angle, but what I saw doesn't have the "character" that the AG I remember had. But at least, they have a basketball hoop.

The good old Visulite Theater is still there (behind the tree), although Anderson's Restaurant is gone. Since my Mother worked I ate a lot of my meals "out," I was a regular at Andersons.  One year, she arranged for me to have supper every night at a "boarding house" (It was in one of those great big old houses on Hawthorne Lane...that are no longer there.)  Those were very memorable evenings. That boarding house had a number of Elizabeth School teachers, who also lived there. It was a real warm, family style experience. Everyone ate at 6 o'clock at one great big table in the dining room.  That's where I learned the meaning of the expression, "boarding house reach."

We went by "the old Stanley's Drug Store" which is where Starbucks is now. To the right of Starbucks is where the A&P grocery store was. They used to grind your coffee right there at the check out counter while they were ringing up your purchases. The aroma was fantastic. The A&P house coffee was called Eight O'clock coffee...and it's still around and sold in most grocery stores, but A&P stores no longer exist.  To the left of Stanleys was (I believe) the Colonial Grocery store.

I was happy to see that the rails were still outside where the original Stanley's stood. That's where some of Charlotte's finest
"drug store cowboys" once sat (with their rumps on the top rail and their feet on the bottom one) smoking cigarettes, coughing, spitting and acting cool. I once saw Grady Cole in Stanleys sitting at a card table telling stories to a small crowd of locals who had gathered around. As I recall, he seemed to have some kind of "tick"...that caused him to blink excessively. I was just a kid, so perhaps I just imagined that.

Right around the corner, just 30 or 40 yards is...a Caboose.  That's right, a real old time Southern Railway Caboose!  No doubt the Charlotte TV stations have done features about it (I know I would if I was still there). So you probably know more about it than I do. As I understand it, a CHS graduate named Drew Ahearn put it there. I assume he lives in the house next to the Caboose. I'll bet I'm one of the few people who remember that he once won the Charlotte Soap Box Derby back in the 1940's. Also, I'll bet you don't remember that our classmate Max Evans won it when we were in the 9th grade!

Sam and I decided to go on down 7th Street and veer off on Weddington Ave and see if Wilson Snell's house was still there.  That was my favorite house!  It's the oldest and I think the only remaining "farmhouse" left in the Charlotte city limits!  I used to go over there and "study" with Wilson.  I use that term loosely, since Wilson and I would usually work on more serious things before we would get down and do homework. Things like trying to figure out what the heck was a reasonable facsimile of a Ralston cereal box top...so we could send it in to receive a Tom Mix decoder ring.

We'd work on that for about an hour and then one of us would look up at the clock and declare, "Wow, we've been studying for an hour!  Let's take a break."

I told Sam that it was about time for us to get back home, but I wanted to visit one more place. It's just a small road off  Queens Road that ends at Wilkinson Blvd about where that Manor (?) theater is/was. It means nothing to anyone else, but is etched in my mind forever.  I remember with joy that summer the day  the Polio "quarantine" was lifted...and we children were finally allowed to leave our own back yards! Because of the Salk vaccine, Polio was no longer a threat!  That news was so welcome that  the first chance I got I hopped on my bike and just rode, peddling like a madman!   The fact that I was FREE...FREE...AT LAST..... didn't really sink in until I had traveled about 5 or 10 miles and turned right off Queens Road and began coasting downhill on Henley Place (on the right).  That was a moment, complete with picture, that is permanently etched in my mind.

The Google version, shown above, is only a reasonable facsimile.

(Sam and I had a nice trip back to Virginia. I drove the mouse and Sam Slept. Oh, before he left he asked me to send his best to all his old classmates.  So, "Howdy Yaw'll"....from Sam Salamander.)