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