Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visiting the Old Neighborhoods

Sis and I had motored through the old neighborhoods some 15 years ago, but on this occasion we had along with us a former neighbor and childhood friend, Sara, who had lived in a duplex adjacent to our apartment when she and Sis were six years old and I was 13. Sara was in town from Delaware to attend her high school reunion at Provine. After a light lunch I suggested Sis and I show her how Jackson had changed by touring our old neighborhoods where each of our families had lived periodically.

Not an easy task to wander through narrow streets we once thought were wide; past  houses where we remembered this person and that lived; where once stately houses stood; and finally to the street, Fourth Avenue, where we had begun our lives knowing each other. At first finding the block was difficult. Some houses were torn down, others in states unfit to live in but were, and many boarded up. However, the little duplex with the front porch that wound to the side with a half bricked wall, we knew was our old home place. How small the yard is, we exclaimed. The porch, I'd recognize the porch anywhere, we added. We sat in our  stopped automobile in the middle of Fourth Avenue while memories flooded.My suggestion that we knock on the door and ask to see the interior drew no yes's. None of us could remember if there had been a driveway, as there was now. Sara remembered a back yard and a garden. We each  brought to mind something the other had forgotten.

We rode slowly down the block, turned into the wide Grand Avenue, which suddenly was narrower, looking at houses and trying to place certain houses that once held friends. We came upon a faded white stone house with a turret in much decay. We pulled out of our minds the fact we'd called this the "haunted house". It's beauty was hidden by layers of mold slathered across the turret's exterior, tree branches resting on the decaying roof. Overgrown yard.What a shame allowing such a lovely home sit in that condition. Sis suggested we find out its owner and buy it, recondition it and move into it. Silly dreams. We couldn't buy a door, much less the entire house. And the neighborhood would be too iffy for us to reside.

Another spin around the neighborhood brought more oohs and aahs. We had forgotten about the small church that had been only a block away. The large Lovelace home was now no longer standing,a new subdivision laid out in its place.Turning back onto Robinson Street we passed our old elementary school, Poindexter, and still sitting in its place. The large yard as we remembered with our small  eyes had diminished. But the wording across the top of the school was as bold as we recall. Then a pass by our junior high school, Enochs, across from Poindexter Park brought memories of some of our happiest school days. The park  now denuded of all the swings and sand boxes and benches is a grassy lawn. No reason to enjoy the outdoors as we three once did on those silver gliding swings. A quick run down Central Street where Sis and I had lived was another disappointment. We found our aunt's home, but the tiny grocery so convenient was missing. Familiarity was disappearing from this area. We may a well have been in another town in another state.

From there we entered West Capitol Street past the Methodist Church and headed towards the rail road tracks and the new buildings of the train station. Sara hadn't seen the newly-furbished King Edward Hotel, sitting majestically  among the ruins of once thriving buildings we so fondly recalled. Abandoned, boarded up facades once watched us prance down the street unafraid to be alone or with a friend as we made our way to the State Theater or further uptown to the Paramount or the Lamar Theaters. Sara remarked how much we walked from our homes to anything in town without a thought of distance, choosing that over the city buses. I  pointed to the modern structures that had replaced Woolworth's, several clothing and retail shops,  pointing to Sara, "That's where Walgreen's used to be". Through our eyes we saw the safe streets we had walked from our homes in West Jackson to the busy downtown of Jackson circa 1940-1960. Our wonderful West Jackson was a  memory.

We failed to drive by Hawkins Field, the Jackson Zoo, Livingston Park, down Robinson Street where our churches were located.  So much still to find. That awaits for Sara's next trip to the state.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shoes, Wonderful Shoes

A recent advertisement for a shoe company in town brought back memories. As you can see in the photo the wedge is popular now.  The style is similar to ones I wore in 1954 when I began teaching in a very small community near Oxford, MS.

Newly married, I had moved with R to the student housing, not the best at that time but cheap. I had a job teaching in an unincorporated school district. To offset the few students I was assigned to, the principal asked me tobe the librarian. I had to enroll in two three-hour courses in June to be able to hold such a “responsible” job.

Already I had  two years of experience behind me in the Delta  in small communities, but this one near the University of Mississippi was a pitiful example of how necessary this district needed to incorporate with larger ones. This particular school began in July and released the students in the fall for one month so kids could help with crops.  I wore my coolest clothing, as those days didn’t see air conditioners in school buildings. Topping my outfits were my lightest shoes, straw wedges.  I wore them every day because they were easy to slip on and off.  My job as librarian rarely saw me out of a chair, hence, removal of my shoes when no one was looking.

In the six short weeks I was employed, the local teachers let me know that I was too dressed up. The students had never seen shoes like mine;” citified” was barking loudly around me.  I ignored their remarks, not understanding how anyone thought I was citified. I did speak better English—was that it, really?

Those shoes lasted the rest of the warm fall and the following spring when I was teaching in Jackson, Mississippi, where I transferred . Now, 57 years later this style is popular again. You can bet I’ll have another pair like the ones above, not to celebrate my teaching in the country, but to remember an early time in my life.