When I was a child in the 1950s, the downtown square and it’s many stores were the focal point of our community.  On harsh winter days, old men gathered around the wood stove at the local train depot to play a heated game of dominoes.  During fishing and hunting seasons, men found their fishing and hunting supplies at Roach Feed and Seed. Relief from the summertime heat came in the form of a homemade milkshake from the soda fountain at McKnight’s Drug Store.  When families needed new furniture, Baker’s Furniture offered an easy-payment purchase plan.  Come September, back-to-school clothes and shoes were purchased at Cole’s Dry Goods. Our downtown square had everything a 50’s family needed including a two-screen movie theater and an A&P Grocery Store.

When Mother shopped for our groceries at the A&P, my brother and I were each given a quarter and permitted to cross the street and, unsupervised, browse through Nicholson’ Variety Store.  My brother immediately headed for the can…


Though landline phones may be on the endangered species list, in the 1950s and before, they were the lifeline of communities—and a teenager’s life.For nearly a hundred years, the landline was the way we talked with someone who wasn’t in the room with us.The telephone wire plugged into the wall jack, and the phone line ran from our house to the perfectly named telephone pole in front of our house.From that pole and all its cousins standing along our streets, those wires magically found the people we talked with on what was called the telephone.
We had only one telephone, a black rotary one, that sat on a built-in phone cubby in the hallway.There was no digital caller ID, no robocalls or tele-marketers intruding in our lives.So when the phone rang, we were excited and curious, not knowing who the caller might be.The caller could’ve been anybody, but in truth the caller couldn’t have been just anybody.The caller was usually one of four or five people who had our telephone numb…


Grammy’s cookie jar holds special memories for me.It was a rather big pig, aShawnee Pottery Smiley Pig, she named Sweetie-Pig.It sat in a corner cabinet, a bit out of my reach.I always tried sneaking into her kitchen to get some cookies, but the lid was so heavy and cumbersome that she would show up like black lightening when I tried.
Inside were generous sugar cookies with sparkly sprinkles of sugar on top, soft and moist—precious gifts that didn’t even have a handwritten recipe—made straight from her heart. Grammy was the same way, no printed directions with her.What you saw was what you got, with those special touches like sugar cookie sprinkles on top—she used to add to everything from family gatherings to fresh homemade bread with melty butter and cinnamon sugar on top to teaching me how to appreciate classical music and admire Monet paintings.Those memories are inside that cookie jar today sitting in a safe spot in my home.
Nowadays, it seems indulgent and impractical to g…




The luxurious, time-worn building located at 1618 Main Street was like a majestic Paramount Movies studio set.I lingered at its front doors and pretended that perhaps Gina Lollabrigida, Ann Margaret, or even Rock Hudson would emerge from the set onto the street where I stood.

            “Are you coming?” Grammy tugged on my shirt sleeve.“We musn’t be late for the fashion show!”As we walked through the picturesque lobby, I stopped and—like a tourist—gawked at the exquisite crystal chandelier above me.I even imagined Grace Kelly wearing a glamorous floor-length gown, mink stole, and elbow-length gloves slowly descending the department store’s signature double staircase.

“Little Lady, would you like to sample some perfume?” asked a woman carrying a perfume tray.

“Yes ma’am,” I said my eyes skimming over the tray.

“Shalimar, Chanel No. 5, or Evening in Paris? What shall it be?” I shrugged my shoulders.“Hmm…let me see.You look like a Shalimar gal to me.”She removed the dark blue cap and spray…


Those of us who grew up in the 50s knew what the recess bell was.It was a bell—an actual giant red bell—that rang at the beginning of recess in elementary schools all across America.When it rang, kids lined up to go outside to play—disorganized, loud, dirty play.When the bell rang again, kids lined up to go back inside. We had morning recess, lunchtime recess, and afternoon recess. In between recesses we had class.

One day in 1962, the afternoon recess bell rang at W.C. Daughtery Elementary.My friends and I lined up to go outside and play; once outside we scattered like frantic ants on the first warm spring day and headed in all different directions.Some ran to the slides; others toward the merry-go-round, the swing set, the monkey bars, or the seesaws. But others, like me, didn’t gravitate toward the playground equipment.We had something else entirely different on our minds.

“Sticker weed battle!” yelled my friend, Tommy, as he ran past me.“I want you on my team.Come on!”



In the two days since my arrival, Granddad and I exchanged only a few predictable, cursory words.
“Here’s your cereal; no milk, right?”
“Right, Granddad. Thanks.”
“You sleep okay?”
Although his silent house had kept me awake, I respectfully replied, “Yes sir. I did,” followed by, “How ‘bout you?”
“I’m old: I never sleep well,” he grumbled.  “Just too many memories and ghosts.” The house became still as we struggled with what to say to one another. So we ate breakfast in silence; a silence so thick I could feel it drape around me like an old shawl. I pulled it against me as I plopped down into my grandmother’s chair suddenly aware of something else in the house, something different; a faint rustling, a soft presence of some sort. I didn’t know what it was.
Perhaps it was the lilt of Granny’s lavender perfume that lingered in the rich tapestry fabric, stirring memories of when I sat in her lap reading a book or sharing hot cocoa. Perhaps it was Granny herself. I closed my eyes and remembered…