Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Year I Discovered The True Meaning of Christmas

I’ve always enjoyed the Christmas holidays, whether as a child receiving Christmas presents or as an adult giving them. There are three Christmases I will never forget, because of what the Christmas season is really all about and the symbolism surrounding it: 1973, when I was 5 years old and living in New Mexico; 1978, when I first learned what Christmas is all about; and 1982, when I finally acknowledged what I had learned.

I know I was supposed to talk about the Fall of ’78 and when I first attended Jodie McClure, and I will get to that in a future post. But since it’s the Christmas season, and since this is my 50th Christmas (even though I’m still 49) I felt it would be appropriate to write about the 1978 Christmas, which was memorable for a lot of reasons. First, it was our first Christmas living on Margo Street, and the first we would be able to spend it with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in over two years- some we hadn’t seen in longer than that. Second, this was also the first time in years we had been able to put up some Christmas lights- something I enjoy doing to this day. I will never forget how pretty it was when we lived in New Mexico- there was snow on the ground, snow in the mountains, and Christmas lights were lit all over the mountains (there was a town up in the mountains and at night, with all the lights lit, it was a sight to behold). My parents took us to one of those Christmas tree villages (like the one seen on A Charlie Brown Christmas), and I will never forget how beautiful that was. The decorated trees, the spotlights flashing, the snow-covered atmosphere, and the decorated snowmen, I haven’t seen anything like that before or since. That’s why the 1973 Christmas is so memorable, because of its beauty.

Anyway, back to 1978, when Daddy put up the tree and some Christmas lights, those were the first lights put up since we lived in New Mexico, and my sister and I were excited to see them. However, what made that year’s Christmas so memorable wasn’t anything that happened at home, but it was something that happened at school, Jodie McClure to be precise. Back in the day, elementary schools used to have Christmas programs, and all grades would usually participate. I remember being in the programs when we lived in Abilene and I attended Dyess Elementary, and I can remember one back in the 2nd grade, but as far as kindergarten and 1st grade go, my mind draws a blank.

For our 5th grade Christmas program, we were going to re-enact what Christmas is all about: the birth of Jesus. I can remember our music teacher telling us this, and then she passed out the parts. The part I received was the part of Joseph. My friends Roy Craine, Marion Burton, and Robert Taylor nearly killed themselves with laughter. They was like, “He’s playing Joseph! He’s going to be married and have a wife and a baby! Ha ha ha!” I was like, Who the heck is Joseph? Before you all laugh at my ignorance, I’m embarrassed to admit that at the time, I really had no idea who Joseph or even Mary was. I had a vague idea of who Jesus was, but it was very vague. We had attended church when we lived in Longview earlier, and I had even gone to Sunday School, but they had basically taught us the same thing over and over and over again, which was John 3:16 and Luke 10:27. Nothing more, nothing less. So, by participating in this program, I learned about the birth of Jesus. I would say that I had fun doing so, but that would be a lie. It was very stressful. I learned I was to walk Mary across the stage, push a big wooden donkey, and carry a gigantic stick (called a staff). There were four sticks in all, because the three shepherds had to have sticks, too, and three sticks were of average size, while the 4th stick seemed to be as tall as the Statue of Liberty and just as heavy. We would race every day to grab the sticks and keep from having to hold that gigantic stick, and just about everyday I was the first to grab a medium-size stick while one of the shepherds had to suffer. I reminded myself to be sure I did that on the day of the play, because it was enough I had to play the part of Jesus’ earthly father and be laughed at every day for my probably pained facial expressions.

Another interesting aspect to this tale was that the girl playing Mary was white. (And the baby doll was white, too.) I don’t know what the atmosphere was like as far as there being a black Joseph with a white Mary; God knows I wasn’t thinking about that- I just wanted to get the whole thing over with- but I wonder whether or not there were some parents (and even teachers) who were unhappy about that back then. Again, that thought never crossed my mind then, and I’m sure that most of the teachers didn’t care one way or another. I know my music teacher didn’t care because she said no one could change their parts. Ok, then.

On the day of the play, my momma decided in all of her infinite wisdom that I would wear a suit, tie, and slacks to school. It was cold that day, but I would have to wear a robe over all of that, and naturally, I would almost burn up with all of that stuff on. I was already nervous, and this was not helping. What also didn’t help that due to my worrying about wearing hot clothes and hoping I didn’t catch on fire on stage, I completely forgot about the sticks, and by the time I went to get one, the only one left was the telephone pole. If I could’ve cussed back then, I would have. Now I had to walk across the stage with a white wife and a baby Jesus, push a big donkey, and carry a big stick, all the while hotter than the sun itself. Somehow, we made it across the stage, then I had to stand there stock-still holding the stick.

I looked and saw more people than I’d thought I see, and I almost passed out. But then I looked again, and I saw Momma and Daddy- and I was shocked, because I thought he had gone to work. But he had taken off from work to see our Christmas program- and although I was sweating like a horse, I actually felt a little better after seeing him there, and I basically just watched him the entire time. When the program was over, I almost didn’t want it to end, and I finally understood what Christmas is all about. That was the second-best Christmas program I was ever in (the best came at church in ’82), and after the music teacher thanked everyone for coming, we all ran to our parents and got hugs. Daddy told me I did really good, and Momma was proud of me, too, and then I asked them if I could go home and get out of that hot suit. They said, yes, and they must have thought I was going to wait on them to take me home, but I didn’t. I got the house keys some kind of way, and then I ran home and changed clothes and then ran back to the school. Yes, although I had not mentioned it, it had been a late morning program.

Later, in 1982, a week before Christmas, I participated in my church’s Christmas program, where I played the part of the innkeeper who had no room for Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. It was the best Christmas program I had ever participated in. Then, the day after Christmas, December 26, 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior and was baptized roughly two weeks later. That was the greatest gift I had ever received on Christmas, but it all started with the gaining of a little knowledge in 1978- for had I not played the part of Joseph in the school play, I might would still be wondering who the heck Joseph is and about the true meaning of Christmas.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book- Episode 7

Things I Should've Put In The Book - Episode 7

Return to Longview – July 1978

In June of 1978, my daddy retired from the Air Force. We were living in Abilene on Dyess Air Force Base, and we had lived there for the last couple of years. During that time, I’d seen a few of my classmates move away due to their father or mother being transferred elsewhere, and it was usually kind of sad, especially if it were one of the more popular classmates, but for some reason, I never had given it a thought that it might happen to me…until it did. I knew we were going to move even before school had ended, and for me and four of my other classmates, it was very, very sad. I will never forget the last day of school; my entire 4th grade class was crying because five of us were moving away and more than likely we were never going to see one another again. (And to this very day, that was the last time I saw my classmates from that school year.) My best friend was a guy named Robert Duff. He was my next door neighbor, and for the last year or so, we had done everything together- We played baseball, kickball, soccer, we were in the same cub scouts group, we collected and traded comic books and baseball cards, had races on our bikes, walked to and from school together, and other things 4th grade boys did at that time. If he hadn’t moved next door to us the year before, I’d have probably wanted to move away sooner. But, as it was, I enjoyed living in Abilene for the most part, and I felt I was blessed to have a buddy like Robbie and I really got along with everyone in my class.

So, in other words, I did NOT want to move. But of course I had no say so in the matter, and the movers came and got everything less than a week after school was out. My memory is a little bit hazy as far as how long did it take to find a place to stay- we stayed at a motel in Abilene for a few days before heading east, and then there was a period of time where we were out looking for a house and staying with my grandmother.  My parents have told me that it was between Longview, Marshall, and Fort Worth as to where we would wind up staying, and the favorite (for my parents anyway) was Marshall because that’s where both of them were from. My daddy told me he sent letters to the Chamber of Commerce’s for each town, and the only one to respond was Longview. (Is it any wonder Marshall has never grown beyond 20,000 people?) There was a lady who helped us find a house, helped Daddy find a job, and who basically made things as easy as possible on starting to adapt to life outside the military.

In July 1978, after looking at numerous houses, we moved to a house on Margo Street and gradually settled in within the next couple of weeks. My frame of mind during this period was basically one of sadness, because I missed my friends in Abilene, and I knew that things were going to be totally different compared to living on a base. I had been in the cub scouts and had just moved up to Webelo boy scout status, but I knew in my heart that was over with. Plus, although I didn’t really think about the friends I had when I attended East Ward two years before (such as Joanna, Jennifer, John Young, Mary, Deyavor), I knew it didn’t matter anyway because I was going to a new school right down the street from me- Jodie McClure Elementary School- and I didn’t know anybody who’d be going there. And I was only going for one year anyway because I was going to the 5th grade and I’d be going to middle school for the 6th grade next year. So the way it eventually wound up, I attended three different schools in three years. All this before I turned 11 years old.

I was into comic books and baseball cards, and in Abilene, I would trade comic books and cards with different guys, but in Longview, I didn’t see anyone who even looked like they had read a comic book or touched a baseball card. So, basically I was thinking, What am I going to do? I’m going to be miserable living here- I wish we had never moved away from Abilene!  Yes, I was thinking along those lines, until one hot summer day, as I was exploring the backyard (which, in time, would be the most interesting part of the house), a little kid around my sister’s age came down the hill from next door, and asked me what my name was. I told him, and I asked him what his name was. “Tony” he replied, “Tony Lilly”. As it turned out, my sister and he were the same age and we all became friends. His family had moved next door a month before we did, so we all were basically new to the neighborhood. Then he said something which turned the tide as far as my attitude on living there went. “I have an older sister. Let me go get her so you can meet her.” He brought his sister over, and when I saw her, I instantly forgot about comic books. She introduced herself- “My name is Carla.” One thing Abilene did not have much of was black girls, and after looking at and meeting Carla, I began to wonder just what all did I miss living on a base. Carla was a little more than a year older than me, and she was going to the 6th grade. And though I would never admit it back then, from the get-go I was attracted to her, but I kept my feelings to myself seeing that I was 9 at the time and didn’t really understand why I was feeling the way I did anyway.

Carla, Tony, Poinsettia, and I played together almost every day that summer- we played kickball, rode our bikes, and explored the backyard for frogs, crickets, rolly-pollies, and anything else we could find. There was a swamp with a pond and a trail back there, so it was never boring playing out back. We also played something that not many kids play today, if at all, and that was jacks. Carla and I would almost always either sit in the driveway, or on the porch, or go inside sometimes, just to play jacks. I know that it wasn’t exactly a boy’s game, but I really enjoyed playing jacks with Carla, for obvious reasons. Carla used to wear these shorts which really were Daisy Dukes before Daisy Duke even existed, and they were a big time distraction and caused me to lose more times than not. Or maybe I won…Anyway, Carla and Tony, mostly Carla, made me forget my depression over moving, and I wound up enjoying that summer more than I expected.

I almost enjoyed it more than possibly any summer ever, more than any future summers in my life, if possible. One day, Carla suggested we go and walk down the trail and…enjoy life, so to speak. I was shocked and intrigued at the same time, and after a little prodding, I agreed and got ready to go from 9 years old to 18 years old in a matter of seconds. So we was just about to go on our way, when my mom, who was probably looking out the kitchen window anyway, called out to me and basically told us to stay in the backyard (where she could see us). That would be the first and last time Carla would suggest anything like that (I think), and we went on to playing jacks, which no longer was interesting to me.

Next: Jodie McClure and Football

Friday, November 10, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book, But Didn't - Episode 6

Episode 6 The City of Longview 1974-1975

The city of Longview in 1974-76 was totally, totally different compared to today. Of course, it was smaller population-wise and territory-wise, but also, places that exist today didn't exist back then, and vice versa. The main part of the town was in the middle and in the south, and as far as I was concerned back then, there wasn't anything on the northside but houses and Pine Tree.

When I was little, we (my mom, sister, and I) went to basically the same stores and shopping centers every week, so I learned about my general area pretty quickly and could find my way back home from anywhere on the southside of Longview. The northside? I would've been lost. We lived on Young Street, which ran east and west from Eastman Road to Green Street. We could connect to at least four of the five or six major streets which ran north and south in Longview in Eastman Road, 16th Street, Mobberly Avenue, and Green Street. And these streets had plenty of grocery stores, department stores, gas stations, and restaurants to choose from. The only street we didn't connect to was High Street, so we didn't spend much time on High. (Another reason we didn't hardly travel on High Street back then was the fact that during this time they were working on reconstructing the railroad overpass on said street, and it was closed the entire time we lived in Longview during this period. More on this later.) As far as the other east/west thoroughfares we traveled on during this period were concerned, we would go to places on Marshall Avenue, or Highway 80, Birdsong Street, which originally ran from Lilly Street to just a couple of blocks pass High Street, and all the main downtown streets which ran east to west such as Cotton Street, the longest street in Longview at the time, Tyler Street, Methvin Street, and Whaley Street. We also would travel on Nelson Street a lot, notorious for its clubs, lounges, and liquor stores back then.

When we wanted to buy some groceries, we usually went to Brookshire's on Mobberly or Safeway on Green. Of course, none of these stores exist in these spots today, and considering it's been 40+ years which have gone by, it'd be a miracle if some of these places were still in operation in the same spot today. For instance, Brookshire's on High Street became the Super Ones' grocery store of today that's in the same spot, and that's the only store on the southside which is in its same spot today that it was back in 1974-76. Other stores that existed in South Longview back then that disappeared and became furniture stores, beauty stores, workforce centers, jails, empty buildings, etc., include Kroger's, which used to be on Mobberly, the Safeway which was on the corner of High and Whaley, and Winn Dixie (or Buddies, its name back in the day), which used to be on High Street. We didn't go to Buddies, we didn't go to the Safeway on High, we went to the Kroger's on Mobberly maybe once or twice, and the rest we went to almost every week. Of course, there were places on the northside which existed back then, that I didn't know about at the time- there was a Kroger's on the Spur, a Brookshire's on McCann Road, a Brookshire's on Judson Road, and a Brookshire's on the corner of Alpine Road and Highway 80.  Interestingly, only the Kroger's on the Spur is still there today, and the Brookshire's on Alpine became Super Ones.

Whenever we wanted to buy something really fast, like gingerbread cakes, candy bars, or small drinks or sodas, we'd usually walk up Young Street to the small store which was on the western corner of Young and 16th. I think it was called Dairy Mart, or something like that; My sister and I called it the Icee Store, because we were little and we always bought icees there. It's kinda amazing I didn't call it "the comic book store" or "gingerbread cake store" because I think I bought way more comic books and gingerbread cakes than I did icees in all the times I went there. This was our favorite store. Back then, I could have a dollar and be able to get an icee, gingerbread cake, and a comic book, and have change left over. (I wish those days would come back!) Of course, that store doesn't exist anymore, but I really wish it did.

My mom used to take me to the barber shop, which back then was in the building on the southeastern corner of Young and 16th, where a lady named Dorothy would usually give me a haircut. The first time we went to her, I was a little scared, but I quickly got over it and used to look forward to getting haircuts from her. Momma used to try and use these old clippers Daddy kept in his drawer, but they would pull more than cut and ultimately and legitimately hurt, so I was glad to be able to go to a barber. To be honest, even though I know there were some somewhere in Longview, I don't remember seeing any male barbers.

Our second favorite store to go and shop was the M.E. Moses department store on Mobberly right next to the Gibson's department store. Gibson's was the Wal-mart of the 70s in Longview. We liked going to Gibson's, but we liked M.E. Moses a hundred times better. M.E. Moses had toys from one end of the store to the other, and it seemed to have the most toys of anyplace in Longview. In fact, with the exception of TG&Y on Highway 80, we seemed to get the majority of our toys from M.E. Moses. TG&Y also had a great selection of toys, clothes, etc., and though we didn't go there very much, when we did go, I'd want to go straight to the toy section. Of course, M.E. Moses and TG&Y don't exist in Longview today; now we have a bunch of dollar stores.

Of course, in 1974-75, the high school was not on the northside of town and neither was the mall. There wasn't anything in that area on the Loop; one wouldn't see any stores or shopping centers on the Loop until they reached the Pine Tree area, and I'm told that there was a TG&Y out there on the corner of Gilmer Road and the Loop.  So where were all the major department stores? Downtown, of course. Where was the high school? Downtown on Whaley, Magrill, and the surrounding area. I know I visited Longview High School once while it was on Whaley, but I can't recall why- I don't know if we were picking somebody up or what, but I do remember going there and somebody gave me a Peanuts book from the school library which I still have to this very day. (I hope they didn't steal it though- oh well-) Back then, we went to all the major stores- JC Penney's, Sears, Dillard's, Perry's, and Anthony's. JC Penney's, Perry's, Anthony's, and Dillard's were all on Tyler Street. Sears was where Kilgore College is currently, on the corner of High and South Street. I think there was a Montgomery Ward on High Street, also. I have two main memories of going to these places- First, I remember that since they were working on the High Street underpass during this time and had it blocked off, we had to park in the large parking lot off of Cotton Street, and walk across the railroad tracks to get to the stores. I'm ashamed to say that I had a fear of trains and railroad tracks back then because of a tragic accident which happened in Hallsville that they graphically showed on the news which I happened to watch. After that, I couldn't stand trains and railroads, much less crossing them, and it seemed every time we went downtown, a train would come down the tracks, and I'd be afraid to cross them until the train had passed. Momma didn't want to wait sometimes and she would just about drag me across the tracks even though I swear I could hear a train coming, so that was not exactly fun.

The second memory I have is during Christmas time, we'd go to see Santa Claus sitting right there in Sears, and we usually went with Jennifer Anderson and her family. Somehow, Santa Claus didn't exactly scare me back then, and I had no problem sitting in his lap and telling him what I wanted for Christmas. Poinsettia, however, refused to do so. I also remember this was the first time we went to the Christmas parade in Longview, and after running across the tracks, we enjoyed viewing the parade as it came down Tyler Street.

As far as going out to eat, we very seldom went out to eat during this period. Longview had some pretty good places, too- places I wouldn't discover until I was much older. Places such as Pizza King, on Highway 80, which has probably the best pizza bar none; Dairy Creme, formerly on High Street, which had a great variety of food which tasted really good; Fisherman's Market, on Judson Road, which was just opening around this time; and Bodacious Bar-b-q on Mobberly, which back in the day was the standard all the other bar-b-q establishments measured itself. In 1974-75, we never went to any of these places, even though they had good reputations. Whenever we did go out to eat, it was usually to a Dairy Queen, which back then, there seemed to be one at every corner. In fact, I'm sure Longview had at least 10 Dairy Queens within the city limits in 1975. I wouldn't be surprised if there had been 20 of them in the town. Now there's probably no more than two or three of them. I don't think there was a Burger King in Longview back then; Wendy's also came later, and the only McDonald's that existed then was on Highway 80, where it's still there today. We went there for my 7th birthday, and I don't think I ate anything (because I hated their food back then); I just played on their brand-new playground. There was (and still is) Whataburger on the Spur, but we just didn't go there. There was a Kentucky Fried Chicken (the 12 herbs and spices version) on Highway 80 and on Estes Parkway, but we may have went to the one on Highway 80 a couple of times. Other restaurants which existed back then which definitely don't exist now were Alfie's Fish & Chips, Bonanza Steakhouse, Ken's Fried Chicken, Jim Dandy's Fried Chicken, Burger Chef, and K & N. We went to Jim Dandy's a few times and Burger Chef more than a few (they had the best burgers to me back then), but eating out just wasn't our thing back then. The food, however, was a thousand times better then compared to now.

Longview still had all of its elementary schools and middle schools back then, only difference was elementary school was Kindergarten-6th grade and middle school was 7th grade-9th grade. By the time we moved back to Longview in 1978, it had changed to the way it is today. Back then, there was a Valley View Elementary, Pinewood Park Elementary, and a Jodie McClure Elementary. Those schools no longer exist. East Ward would become Everhart Elementary and move to the northside. Mozelle Johnston would become Johnston McQueen and move further north off of Highway 259. South Ward, Bramlette Elementary, and Ware Elementary would be torn down and rebuilt. So would Hudson PEP and Judson Middle School. Forest Park Middle School would move to Eastman Road. Foster Middle School would move to MLK Jr. Blvd., which was the aforementioned 16th Street.

But the first big move as far as schools was concerned was the moving of Longview High School from downtown to the northside off the Loop. This would occur in 1976 for the 1976-77 school year, and it signalled the beginning of major changes for the city during the next few years. To be sure, the Longview we left in June of 1976 and the Longview we returned to in July 1978 were two very different places. And to be honest, I was a very different person when we returned. Next time, I will start to look back at the summer of 1978 leading into my 5th grade school year which, along with my senior year in high school, was probably my best and the most fun I ever had during a school year. Although I didn't know it at the time, thankfully I didn't spend it in Marshall or Fort Worth, because it very easily could've happened that way.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book, But Didn't- Episode 5

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?
922 E. Young St - back in the day

In 1974, we moved to Longview and lived in a yellow house on Young Street. This would be our home for the next couple of years until we moved again when Daddy got stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. (Right now he was stationed in Hawaii. We would have moved there with him, I think, but Momma didn’t want to move that far.) Interestingly, this was my SECOND time living in Longview.

In December of 1968 (or January of 1969), my daddy, mom, and I moved to Longview from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Interesting fact: I was born in Kittery, Maine, but I have never lived in Kittery.  My parents lived in Portsmouth, NH, but the base my daddy was stationed in was located across the state line in Kittery. And, of course, so was the base hospital, which was where my mom gave birth to me. Afterwards, we went back to our home in Portsmouth. So although I was born in Maine, I have never actually lived there.

As I was saying earlier, we moved to Longview (the only time in my life I would ever ride on a plane) and settled in a house on Chappell Street. Again, I’ve always thought it was strange that my parents would move to Longview even though they both were from Marshall. But my grandparents were living in Longview at this time, and I don’t think Momma really wanted to go back to Marshall anyway. Daddy was getting sent to Vietnam at this time (and of course, he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the thought), and he wouldn’t be back until close to the end of the year. I don’t have to say that it was a blessing that he was able to come back at all, alive and in one piece. I believe that this was the second time he had gotten sent there, and thankfully it was the last.

Something else I didn’t learn until much later when I was older was the fact that within my neighborhood, I lived very close to a couple of my future best friends and classmates to this very day- but I didn’t meet them until 1979 and 1982 respectively. In front of my house was a street which ended at Chappell Street. This was Gray Street. And who should live a few houses down from me and who already was a year old was none other than Dennison “D.J.” Johnson and his family. Of course, we didn’t find this out until we were in high school, and we thought that was very interesting, that as babies, we lived a few houses down from one another. I guess it was destiny that we should become best friends someday. The other classmate and my other best friend lived on Chappell Street at the same time I did; We later on thought it was a little strange that our parents didn’t meet one another back then, since they knew just about everyone else on the street, but somehow someway they (and we) wouldn’t meet until way later on. My mom gave me my first birthday party when it came time in September, and she invited all the neighborhood kids to my party. It’s possible (but not likely) that this classmate of mine attended that party. She would’ve been already two at the time (I was turning a year old), so maybe she was there. Her name: Choyce Gray. Later, when we found out we had lived only a few houses from each other back then, I was like, wow, that’s incredible. Again, I think it was God’s destiny for me that I should become best friends with the two classmates who were right down the street from me when we were nothing but babies, and I couldn’t ask for two better friends who have stuck by me to this day-

On the corner of Gray and Lilly Street was my future church home, St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Momma visited there when I was a baby and made a lot of friends- Friends who remained friends when we would move to Young Street five years later. Mrs. Clara, her mother Mrs. Mann, and her daughter, Elaine, who’d babysit me and my sister; Mrs. Daniels, Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright, Mr. and Mrs. Gary, and the Writts and their kids, were some of the people who we enjoyed visiting and who were very nice and kind. Daddy would return home around Christmas of 1969, then we would find out that he was being sent to New Mexico. We moved away from Longview in February, 1970, and would live in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which was where my sister would be born in September of the following year.

When we lived on Young Street, we met a lot of more people in our new neighborhood. Next door on one side was an older couple named Gwen and Sonny Burton. At least, they looked old back then. Years later, they still looked old. But they were very nice and funny people- Sonny used to try and scare Poinsettia, and was very successful doing so. I think he was a pastor back then. Sonny had a daughter named Joyce, who was in the 6th grade at the time I was in the 1st grade. She was very friendly also and kind of had a rough time back then- One of my earliest memories of her was seeing her at school in the hallway about to get a paddling; she saw me and gave me the most pitiful look I’d ever seen, so pitiful I almost wanted to cry for her. She had a hard time in and out of school, and I just felt so bad for her. We also met the Farriers, Ray and Mary, and their daughters, Mary and Gaila. Mary was a year younger than me, but we became friends instantly. Gaila and Poinsettia were basically the same age so they played with one another. We enjoyed going to their house whenever we could, and we had a lot of fun. Behind us, across 14th street, lived a sweet woman whom we called “Sister”. She used to give us money and pecans and fruit, and she was very, very nice. I remember she had a daughter named Karen, who was quite a bit older than us and in high school, but who treated us very nicely also. There were two other high school kids who lived down the street from us and who would come over and visit- Cheryl Coby and Timothy “Boogie” Richardson. Cheryl, who also attended the same church we did at the time, was a sweet and nice person, and I kinda had a little crush on her back then. She’d make me and my sister laugh, and would come by and help Momma keep an eye on us. Boogie was also one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. Although he was gay, he never did anything inappropriate to me or my sister, and my mom trusted him with us, too. He was very funny, loved to dance, and we loved being around him. Last but not least, there was an older couple who lived down 14th street named Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd gave me my first “job” when I was seven years old- I would ride with him to go help him feed his hogs, and he’d give me a quarter, sometimes two, for doing so. (Now I see how I was able to afford buying comic books and gingerbread cakes back then J) What I remember besides Mr. Shepherd being a nice old man who had enough meat in his smokehouse to the point he didn’t have to go to the store to buy it, was that the hogs were the biggest animals I’d ever been around up to that point, their slop STINKED, and their boo-boo smelled even worse- The hogs didn’t bother me, all they wanted to do was eat, boo-boo, and sleep, so it was an early learning experience for me on the taking care of animals.

Then of course, you had your strange ones in the neighborhood, none stranger than Ms. Helen and her five or six kids, and the couple who loved to fight who lived next door to us on the other side, J.T. and Gitchee (just spelling it how it was pronounced). Ms. Helen and her kids lived all over the neighnorhood- one minute they were living on 14th Street, the next minute, they stayed on Young, the next, they were somewhere on Cotton or Oden Street. So, you always saw them walking up and down Young. We couldn’t tell how old Ms. Helen was, because she didn’t look young or old- she just looked and acted strange and just steadily kept having kids. These kids, as one would expect, had some mental issues and they were constantly doing things which didn’t make sense. They would break windows, chase cats, and eat stuff together which shouldn’t have tasted good, but to them, it did. Momma really did not like me or Poinsettia playing with them, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped. One of them we didn’t like playing with at all. It was because of his talent to break wind no matter what (and drop a few bombs), where, or how. And it would always smell as bad as those hogs I helped feed. And his brothers and sisters would always laugh and join in the fun. At first, my sister and I would laugh, but then we realized that this wasn’t normal behavior and the laughter ceased.

Something that definitely wasn’t funny was our other next-door neighbors’ ability to fight one another constantly. I don’t know if J.T. and Gitchee were married or not, but they lived together, and were constantly trying to kill one another.  The police were called over there almost every week. At the time, I admired police work and would pretend I was a policeman arresting people; I loved watching police shows back then also- Adam-12, The Rookies, SWAT, Police Woman, Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, all of them- (my favorite show at the time was Emergency!, a hospital drama); Little did I realize I had my own police show right next door to me. I was six years old at the time but I have never forgotten what I saw from that couple. There was the time J.T. cut Gitchee’s arm with a butcher knife. I saw that and that was not a pretty sight. There was also the time Gitchee hit J.T. across the head with a large cinder block and knocked him out cold. He was laying on the ground, and then his son, who was small at the time, used the restroom right by him, so to speak. I remember that was a Saturday evening and everyone was screaming and my mom was trying to keep Poinsettia and I inside the house. I went outside anyway because nothing was on TV but Hee Haw, so I could watch my police show out the back door. When I saw Gitchee running toward the prone J.T. with a butcher knife determined to stab him to death, well, show’s over, son- I carried my tail back in the house. (No, she didn’t get to stab him- her brother stopped her)

Then there was the time (which turned out to be the final time) we walked to the store and passed J.T. walking back with a small sack. Momma asked him what he had in the sack, and he said, “A gun.” Momma said, ok, or something like that, and we kept on our way, and he kept on his way. I think that Momma kinda thought (and hoped) he was playing, but unfortunately, he wasn’t. After we came back home, we could hear J.T. and Gitchee having another argument, and then POW! POW! POW! I didn’t have to watch a police show to be able to recognize gunfire. My sister and I hid under the bed while my mom called the police. The police came, but nothing came out of it as far as I knew at that time. Later, we came to find out that after J.T. had went missing for a few days, the police came to search the house and found J.T. dead in a closet. Gitchee confessed she had shot him with J.T.’s own gun, and of course, she got arrested. During all this time, I was more intrigued with the whole thing than being actually scared, but after everything had gone down and ended the way it did, it soured me on police shows and crime and all that, and I never was interested in police work ever again. 

So that’s that as far as the people I met and knew way back in the Young Street days. Next to conclude my look back at those days, I will look at places and things back in the mid-70s Longview. Adios! 

Intersection of Young and Mobberly

922 E Young St. Today

Corner of Young St and 14th Street

Looking East down Young St.

Looking East down Young St. almost 10 years ago- 922 is to the left

Monday, October 30, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book, But Didn't - Episode 4

Episode 4
Remembering the 1975-1976 school year

The 1975-76 school year saw me in the 2nd grade still attending East Ward Elementary and starting to lose the majority of my baby teeth. In fact, my 1st and 2nd grade pictures are probably the worst out of all my school pictures (the 9th grade picture is up there, too), because I looked like a snaggle-toothed weeble (remember those toys?).

However, my appearance would be the least of my concerns in the 2nd grade. This particular school year saw me with the meanest and most intimidating teacher I’ve ever had in all of my years in school. Her name was Mrs. Zelma Moore, and like most of the teachers during that era at East Ward, she DID NOT PLAY. She very seldom smiled or laughed; she basically taught with a total scowl on her face. She was not there to help us adjust to the 2nd grade as painless as possible. She was there to make our lives miserable as much as she could. She was like an Army drill sergeant, even going as far as to call us by our last names whenever she wanted something- “EDWARDS, BE QUIET!” “ANDERSON, DO YOUR OWN WORK!” “HARNAGE! TURN AROUND!” She was the only teacher I had with the exception of coaches who ever did that. She’d wear these pointed shoes every single day which seemed to make her look even more evil. And if you did something major that you knew you shouldn’t have done, that’s all she wrote. According to some of my classmates, she could swing a mean paddle- Seriously, when she popped somebody, it sounded like a rifle shot every time. I just mainly tried to stay out of her way and stay on her good side (a small area to be sure), but it was difficult.

The things that have stayed with me about that particular year were branded into my memory- I don’t think I won’t ever forget that period in my life. For instance, the class was divided into two- we had second graders and third graders in the class. There were 12 second graders and about 15-18 third graders. The interesting thing when I think about it today was that Mrs. Moore taught on a second-grade level, not third-grade, and that the third-graders in the class were basically (and barely) on second-grade level. All of us second-graders who were in the class were pretty smart; We made mostly As and Bs. There was Deyavor Harnage, Jennifer Anderson, Joanna Rodgers, John Young, Amber Knight, Fay Hill, Jimmy Wheat, and some others I don’t recall. We were also for the most part well-behaved. The third-graders, however, seemed to constantly stay in trouble. Mrs. Moore seemed to paddle someone every other day for talking too much, horse-playing, not doing their homework, running in the hallway, not sitting at their desk, etc. A lot of times, the classroom atmosphere was very tense. I can remember one day when Mrs. Moore was pissed off about something and she seemed to take whatever it was to the nth degree- We would’ve been better off sitting at a funeral. She was grading papers and had obviously gotten to mine when suddenly she snapped, “EDWARDS!! GET OVER HERE!!” I practically ran to her desk, thinking, oh sh**, what have I done-? She didn’t call me to her desk to cut off my head thankfully, but she almost might as well had. She was showing me how to work a particular math problem when suddenly she turned to me and said, “STOP BREATHING ON ME!” So, my 6-year old brain took that as to literally stop breathing period, so I stood there and held my breath until she got finished talking. I almost passed out for real, she talked so long. When I went back to my desk, I practically collapsed into my chair. That was a dumb moment for me, I’ll admit.

Another lowlight occurred when, once again, we were lining up to go to lunch, and of course, one of the bad third-graders decided to push me out of the line, and of course, I retaliated and pushed him back. So, of course I’m the one who got in trouble. This time and probably not the first time, Mrs. Moore decided to use psychology instead of a paddle. She announced to the class, “SINCE EDWARDS DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO STAND IN A LINE LIKE A NORMAL PERSON, I WAS GOING TO TAKE THE CLASS TO THE PARK, BUT I’VE CHANGED MY MIND- WE’RE GOING TO DO WORK INSTEAD, AND YOU CAN THINK EDWARDS FOR THAT- NOW GET YOUR LITTLE A**ES TO THE CAFETERIA!” No, she didn’t say that last sentence- but the rest, she did. And you talk about a class turning on someone like the plague- That day I hated Mrs. Moore like never before, because I knew she wasn’t going to take us to the park regardless. We all could’ve acted like total angels and saints, and we would’ve still been doing work. And yet, the dummies (especially the ones in the third grade) couldn’t figure that out. To give credit where credit is due, Joanna, Jennifer, Deyavor, John, and Jimmy didn’t turn on me; but the rest of them did, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Sometimes I felt like Mrs. Moore just didn’t like me- (the feeling was mutual) I felt she had tried to embarrass me a few times on purpose, and if she was trying to teach me humility or whatever, it wasn’t working. We were at recess one time, and we were having running races, second-graders vs. third-graders. We would run to the fence, touch it, then run back and tag the next person to run. There were more 3rd graders than 2nd graders, so she put the slowest 3rd graders on our team. Of course. And all three were girls, who sadly were slow in more ways than one. We only had four or five boys anyway, so we were already at a disadvantage anyway. But we all tried our best, and we lost the first two races. The third race we were determined to win, and we would have, because one of the third-graders fell down. But unfortunately, I unintentionally caused us to lose. When it came for my time to run, I ran to the fence as fast as I could; we had a two-person lead due to the fall. I hit the fence, and turned to run back, and…fell. My foot had gotten caught underneath the fence, and I couldn’t pull it loose without pulling some flesh. I yelled for help, but Mrs. Moore told my team not to help and for me to pull myself loose. The bottom of the fence had went through my sock and into my foot and ankle, so I couldn’t pull loose without hurting myself badly further. I tried, but I couldn’t. While I was struggling, the 3rd graders had caught up and went through the entire team and finally won the race. I wasn’t going to give Mrs. Moore the satisfaction of seeing me cry, but I was having a hard time holding back the tears. Then to make matters worse, she told the class to go into the building! She wasn’t and didn’t even try to help me get loose! The 3rd graders went in, but the 2nd graders stayed and helped me pull loose, and yes, that’s another scar (on my ankle and foot) I have to this day. 

There was another instance that I won’t go into where Mrs. Moore and I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye, and her inclination was to give me a C on my report card because I couldn’t do something she had wanted me to do. Enough was enough, and this time I went and told Momma, and she and Mrs. Moore had some serious words. Whatever Momma said worked, because she changed my grade to a B.

By this time, I couldn’t wait for the school year to end. It hadn’t been too bad, due to the friendships I had, but having Mrs. Moore had been very stressful. I could, however, look forward to being in the 3rd grade and being at a different school. Mrs. Moore had recommended me, Deyavor, and I believe Jennifer and Joanna, to be placed in Hudson Pep Elementary School, which was a school for very smart kids. I can remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go, and I told her yes, after finding out that my friends would be going also. I was ready for a different challenge.

Unfortunately, that challenge would come at a new school all right; but it wouldn’t be Hudson Pep. My daddy got transferred to a new military base, and we were moving once again. This time, I knew and understood why we were moving. I just wasn’t happy about it because I was leaving some true-blue friends behind, and a lot of memories- 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Things I Should've Put In the Book, But Didn't- Episode 3

Things I Should've Put In the Book
But Didn't
Episode 3
East Ward Elementary School
later Everhart Elementary School

Joanna and First Grade Memories

On the very first day of school in the first grade, I met this girl named Joanna Rodgers. She came up and introduced herself to me and asked me what my name was. After I told her, she wanted me to sit at the desk besides her desk. I didn’t argue or walk away or just say “no”; I went ahead and sat by her. She was the first kid in the room who had spoken to me, and she seemed to be a real friendly person, so why not? I was new to the school, having moved from New Mexico over the summer, so I didn’t know anybody. As the new kid on the block, one mainly would be to one’s self until someone would approach them in a friendly manner. And you hoped that someone would approach you that way, rather than the opposite, or else you were going to spend a lonely school year. So I had no problem sitting by Joanna; she looked interesting to me anyway. She was a red-head, had long red hair, and a lot of freckles. She was a little taller than me, not by much, and obviously very outgoing, talkative, and friendly. She basically made it up in her mind that she and I were going to be friends and do everything together in class. We did, and I didn’t have a problem with that at all. We worked together whenever we did worksheets, art projects, and crafts; we went to all of the centers together; we sat in the cafeteria together at lunchtime; and we played together during recess. I’m not ashamed to say that she was my best friend in the first grade, because she was. I enjoyed doing things with her. In time, others in my class would become my friends as well (Jennifer, John, Deyavor), but she was the first, and we stayed like that for a long time (all the way through the second grade).

As one grows older, one’s memory of their childhood starts fading away in spots, and there are things (and people) I don’t remember. For instance, one of my classmates and a good friend to this very day remembers me in the first grade and says that we sometimes played together at recess. He was in a different first grade class from mine, and I’m pretty sure I played with classmates whom I wouldn’t actually get to know until middle school or high school. This particular classmate even lived down the street from me on Young Street on the other side of the barber shop I used to go to on the corner of Young and 16th. But I never went to his house, and I didn’t really know him back then. But we attended East Ward together at the time and crossed paths at recess. I just don’t remember that or him being at East Ward. I really wouldn’t meet and get to know him until we attended Judson together for a short while, and that’s when we became really good friends. His name: Wray Wade.

I might not remember everybody or everything that I did in the first grade, but I do remember some things:

There was a kid named Jimmy Wheat who would come to school every morning and tell us about how he watched ‘Batman” in the morning before school. We’d be like “Really? What channel does it come on?” He said, “Channel 11. At 8 o’ clock.” Now back then, there really wasn’t any cable, and the only channels you picked up were channels 3, 6, 7, and 12, if you were lucky. Channel 11 was from a station out of Dallas/Fort Worth (KTVT), and the only way one could get it would be through a good antenna or a satellite dish. I think that cable might have come along by the time I entered the 2nd grade, but at the time, only a very few had it, if it existed. 1974 was also the year I started buying and reading comic books, so I knew who Batman was (the second comic book I ever bought was a Batman issue; the first was Scooby Doo). Batman had been very popular when it came on in the late 60s, so this was the syndicated version which came on. So the next morning, I got up early and turned on the black and white TV and at 8 o’ clock changed the channel to 11, and I saw….nothing. Nothing but snow. Or I think I saw an image through the snow. I strained and strained, turned the antenna until it fell off, adjusted the horizontal and vertical holds (old-timers will know what I’m talking about), and actually made everything worse. When I got to school, obviously I wasn’t the only one who tried to watch Batman, because half of us wanted to kill Jimmy and the other half called him a big liar. He swore up and down he watched Batman in the morning, but we didn’t believe him. The funny thing about the whole thing, I wouldn’t realize he was telling the truth until way later on, when my mom and I went to a store which sold color TVs, and on one of the TVs, on channel 11, was Batman. I told my mom, “I want THAT TV.”

One day, we were coming from recess, and Ms. Eckhardt told us all to line up. I got in line, and one of the other kids pushed me out of line. I pushed him back, we scuffled a little bit, and then the teacher got both of us and told us to stand off to the side. And so, while the rest of the first grade class looked on, the two of us got something which was new to me as far as school was concerned (and maybe something we need to bring back into schools): We got paddled. I didn’t cry; I was more in shock and embarrassed than anything else, and my main concern was that I didn’t want Momma to know, because she’d surely give me a real whipping when I got home. So as the end of the school day came about, I planned to run out of the room before everyone, go out front where my mom would be waiting, and just jump in the car and not say anything and go home. As soon as the bell rang, I thought I had beaten everyone out the door and to the front of the school. But standing there with Momma was another one of my classmates, a girl named Judy Buchanan, and the first words out of her mouth as I approached was, “Cedric got a paddling today!” Thank you very much.

It seemed like everything bad that happened to me happened at recess. One day, Joanna and I went and got on one of the seesaws. The seesaws back then were made of wood, and these seesaws looked like they had been through hell. Large pieces of wood were sticking up, but we got on them anyway. Well, a big kid wanted to get on the seesaw, so when the seesaw got level, Joanna and I tried to get off of the seesaw. She got off first, but before I could get off, the big kid got on, sat down hard on the seesaw, which made me fly up fast, which caused a large piece of the wood to embed itself in the back of my left thigh. I didn’t scream (that would come later), but it felt like I had been stabbed. This wasn’t no little splinter which had went in the back of my thigh; this was like being shot by an arrow. The school called Momma, she came and got me, took me home and tried to pull the large splinter of wood out of my thigh. Well, much to my chagrin and dismay, it broke at the point where it had entered, and so I had to go to the childrens’ hospital, which at the time was on Center Street near downtown. My doctor, Dr. Brown, after futilely trying to convince me it wouldn't hurt, had to cut around where the long piece of wood had went in to be able to get it out. If that wasn’t bad enough, I received no anesthetic or pain-killers or anything, and as he cut me, I screamed and screamed and SCREAMED. It hurt like I don’t know what, but finally he got what felt like a log out of my thigh, and I was overcome with relief. So were my mom and little sister, who sat in a little chair during the whole ordeal looking totally petrified and terrified. East Ward, with Momma’s urging, got rid of the seesaws, and I was left with a scar on the back of my thigh which I’ve got to this day.

Finally, another time we were at recess, and Ms. Eckhardt decided that since the entire class had acted so good that day, we would spend the rest of the day playing at the 16th Street Park (Broughton) on its playground. We were ecstatic, of course, and we all took off running for the park. I realized I had an urge and need to use the restroom, but I was so caught up in going to the park, I felt I could hold it until we came back to the classroom. We had played for about 15 minutes until I realized I couldn’t hold it anymore, I’ve really got to go. I asked my teacher for permission, and she said, yes, so I started walking back towards the school, which looked like it was miles away. Then I started trotting, then I really took off running. I didn’t come close to making it. By the time I got to the school, I had literally drained myself and I was crying big-time. (Why? One word: Momma) My bestie had obviously followed me because after I went into the school and sat down in the hallway crying my eyes out, she came in and asked me what was wrong. I told her and she walked with me to the office and told them what happened, and of course they had to call Momma. Joanna stayed with me until Momma got there (with a change of clothes thankfully- one can’t smell like pee in front of a friend for very long), and Momma wasn’t mad when she heard how it happened. After a cleaning and clothes-changing, I was back to my old self and Joanna and I ran happily back to the park.

Next: 1975

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Things I Should've Put In the Book, But Didn't- Episode 2

These days I help teach U.S. History, and I really do believe in the quote, Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I have always been interested in reading and learning about U.S. and World History, as well as city and church histories. I hope to someday write another book on the history of a certain place I have in mind. My current book, although it was a fiction, was kind of a history of my life in high school, and if I ever get around to it, my next book will be based on my life in college. This blog currently is covering “Things I Should’ve Put In The Book, But Didn’t”, and I’m basically looking back on my childhood experiences in Longview. I’m doing this because 1. I am not getting any younger and my memory is starting to fade a wee bit; 2. I want to leave a record for my grandkids (and future relatives) of my life’s experiences; 3. I want to share some things which may help someone in something they’re going through, plus I want to make some of my friends and classmates laugh and remember similar things; 4. And last but not least, I might make a book out of this someday.

So after that lengthy intro, on to Episode 2- (I don’t call them chapters; I call them episodes-)

Episode 2: East Ward Elementary School

I very nearly didn’t attend East Ward, due to my age at the time.

If the administration had had their way, I would’ve graduated in 1987, instead of 1986.

There was a certain rule back then that, in order to be in the first grade, you had to be six years old on September 1st. If you wasn’t, then you was held back. I started school in New Mexico, who had no such ridiculous age rule. So, when I got ready to start the first grade, I was 5 years old. I already knew how to read, write decently, and could count and write my numbers up to, oh probably 10,000 or something; I’m not bragging, I was pretty advanced for my age. However, when my mom went to enroll me, they (the school) weren’t going to take me. I don’t know how I ended up going anyway, but I think it had something to do with me lying about when my birthday was. (I don’t remember- Lol) I think I was told to say my birthday was September 1st, and that I was turning 6 on that day. It’s not and I wasn’t, of course. The very first day of school, I went into my first grade classroom being just 5 years old.

Well, not quite. Then a problem popped up where all of a sudden, they figured, Well, he lives in an area where we plan to bus kids to a different school. Huh? To explain, they wanted to send all of the kids who lived on Young Street west of 16th Street, to a school called Mozelle Johnston Elementary. Yes, technically, I was supposed to go to a school I had never heard of waaaay on the northside of town and a school where we (my mom and I) had no idea where it was located. When my mom found out where it was located, which was way out there by Judson Middle School OUTSIDE the Longview city limits, she was like, No way, Jose- And so, through what I suppose was lying about my address, too, I didn’t go to Mozelle Johnston and meet my future classmates at Judson five years early; I went on to East Ward. (Maybe my daddy being in the service had something to do with me staying where I was at. I don’t know.) So every morning, I watched my neighbor, who was also in the first grade, come outside around 6:50am and catch a bus to Mozelle. I never did think why him and not me, and to be honest, I didn’t actually care all that much. I was going to a new school regardless of whether or not it was East Ward or Mozelle.

What do I remember about the first day of school? The very first thing I remember was the smell of the classroom. It smelled like lunchboxes with fresh salami sandwiches and fruit, my teacher’s perfume, and like pencils and Big Chief tablets. I remember seeing the different centers, for instance library and grocery store centers, and all the different books we would read during the year. Pug. Zip, Pop, Go! Blue Dilly Dilly. Mustard Seed Magic. I loved to read, and I couldn’t wait to read those books. I remember meeting my teacher, Ms. Eckhardt, who from first appearance, looked to be a really nice, pretty, and friendly teacher. And of course I remember my first grade classmates (some of them anyway) and meeting them for the first time- Jennifer Anderson, a true friend for a long, long time; John Young, my buddy and another true blue friend; Kevelyn Peoples, someone I will never forget; and Deyavor Harnage, who was as pretty as she was smart, and who’d be my main competition when it came to who was making the best grades.

Deyavor and I got along like the way most little boys and little girls got along back then: we mostly argued about who was smarter, and we’d try to outdo the other in certain things. But for the most part, we got along pretty good. (At least, we didn’t fight one another.) Jennifer and I got along really well; our mothers became really good friends back then, so we’d visit often. John was my buddy in catching bugs and stuff like that, and I think Kevelyn tried to catch me a few times back then- I remember her chasing me around a lot.

However, the person who was what would be called today, my bestie, was someone I haven’t seen since the end of the 2nd grade. This person was the FIRST first grade classmate who spoke to me on the first day of school, this person would sit next to me on the first day of school and continue to do so everyday the next couple of years, and this person and I would do everything together in the first grade, from artwork to singing to playing during recess to actually holding hands at different times when we were walking to different activities. I wouldn’t even hold Deyavor’s hand back then, so this was different, in more ways than one. Her name was Joanna. Joanna Rodgers. And she was white. And she was my best friend in the first grade and in the whole wide world back then.

Next: Joanna

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The three water towers in Longview back in the day

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Starting Now- Things I Should Have Put In the Book, But Didn't

I am starting a new series called "Things I Should Have Put In the Book, But Didn't"

This series will focus on things that happened in my childhood during my time in Longview, that for some reason or another, I did not mention in my book. 

So I decided to do it here. 
And no names will be changed to protect the innocent- :-)

(Basically I'm doing this because I don't feel like drawing right now-)

Without further ado, here we go:

Stuff I Should’ve Put In the Book, But Didn’t-

Episode 1: Moving to Longview For The Second Time

My family and I moved (back) to Longview in 1974. I remember the trip going from Alamogordo, New Mexico all the way through eastern New Mexico and northern Texas. I didn’t have any feelings of happiness or sadness; I don’t think it had dawned upon me what we were doing exactly. Therefore, I had no idea I would never see New Mexico again for another 30+ years. I didn’t know I was leaving my friends behind, never to see them again. I didn’t know I would never go through the mountains again for a long time. The same mountains I hated when I was really small, but grew to admire and love viewing them. All I knew at the time was, We are going on another trip to Longview, Marshall, and possibly Tyler. In the past, we had taken trips like this during holidays and the summer, and since it was June, this one didn’t feel any different. So, as we went through Abilene, Fort Worth, Dallas, and on down Interstate 20 all the way into East Texas, I didn’t feel anxious or anything; I was just looking to see what would happen next.

My grandparents on my daddy’s side still lived in Tyler at the time, but I think they may have moved to Marshall shortly after we moved or a little before. My grandmother on my mom’s side was living in Marshall on Key Street (I remember that because it was easy to spell and read), and I’m positive we went there first and stayed until the moving truck brought our things to wherever we were going to live. I liked my grandmother’s house at the time; I remember I liked it because there was a giant hole in the front yard that my mom told me to stay away from, and I’d imagine that all kind of people lived down that hole. My grandmother would move into a different house on a different street in Marshall after we settled in Longview, and although the house was bigger and a little nicer, it reminded me of a haunted house more than anything with humongous spider webs and bigger rooms which looked like anyone and anything could’ve been hiding in them. (I usually went no further than the living room and the first bedroom.)

I can remember Daddy, Momma, Poinsettia, and I riding around looking for a house to live in Longview. Even though they were from Marshall, they did not want to live there, which was kinda interesting later on as I grew older and thought about it. Longview in 1974 was TOTALLY different compared to the Longview of today. Everything was downtown. There wasn’t anything on the Northside. There was no mall, no high school, or any shopping centers on the loop back then. The loop was mostly just 2 lanes, some of it might have been 4, but it was very seldom I got to go on that side of town. Again, everything was in South Longview. All of your department stores, Dillard’s, Sears, JC Penney’s, Anthony’s, Perry’s, and Montgomery Ward, were located downtown, mostly on Tyler Street. There were grocery stores and neighborhood churches on all the main streets: On Mobberly, there was Brookshire’s and Krogers; On Green Street, there was Safeway; and on High Street, there was Brookshire’s. There wasn’t any dollar stores back then; The places to go to if you was a kid like me were Gibson’s, T.G.& Y., and soon to be our favorite, M.E. Moses. With everything being on the southside, there really wasn’t any reason for us to go on the northside. I wouldn’t know of Judson Road and McCann Road until later on; North 4th Street was basically a neighborhhod street which ended at Hollybrook back then; Gilmer Road and Pine Tree Road seemed to be in another town altogether. Airline Road was a dirt road. The only McDonald’s in Longview was on Highway 80. There were hundreds of Dairy Queens, a couple of Whataburger’s, and no Wendy’s or Sonics. Longview High School was in downtown on Whaley Street. There were three water tanks in the middle of Longview, one big one and two small ones (and another off S. 16th Street, the future MLK Jr. Boulevard). Highway 259 used to come from Kilgore through the center of town and on down Judson Road. Then it came down east Highway 80 all the way to N. Eastman Road, then would continue north on that thoroughfare.

In other words, Longview was just beginning to grow. I don’t recall if we looked at too many houses, and I think we may have looked at just a very few, if that. All I remember is we came down Young Street and stopped at a yellow house which was empty. My parents talked to a man outside the house, and the next thing I know, I was told this was where we were going to be living. Being five at the time, I was naturally excited about the move (now I realized what we were doing) and couldn’t wait for the truck to bring our stuff. My excitement died somewhat when I realized Daddy would not be staying with us; He would be stationed in Hawaii and would only come home when he was granted a leave by the Air Force. Daddy had been gone before, to Vietnam and Thailand, I believe, but I was too little to realize he was gone back then. Now I realized it, and although Poinsettia was 2 going on 3 at the time, she realized it, too, and she let herself be heard what she thought about that, as she would cry and scream nonstop everytime Daddy had to go back to Hawaii. (Yes, by this time, she was definitely a “daddy’s girl”.)

The house on Young Street wasn’t all that bad; it was ok and comfortable, and my sister and I shared a room with a window unit. In time, the truck brought our things and the yellow house on Young Street became our home for the next couple of years.

Next: East Ward Elementary School