Friday, September 26, 2008

Part 2: Playgrounds on South Second Street, 1945 – 1953

-click to enlarge-

by Dave Heflin

There were mystical playgrounds, basketball courts, open fields, woods, and any number of places of “friendly trespassing” on the south end of town. Thanks to “Comments” entered on Part 1, I should be ashamed to forget good pals like Milton Nanney, the Lytals, Billy Wayne Houston, etc.

Here’s a shot at recalling stomping grounds (literally, when it came to Joe Murray): Tom Shellnut’s basement, shady “jungle”, and open area for games offered immediate re-plays of Saturday afternoon picture shows.

Lowell Wallace provided tours of the Home Hotel, and the cliffs that extended south along the railroad tracks behind Mack Walker’s, Larry and Bob Johnson’s led to a unique ball court (will leave this as trivia right now).

The Depot and all the parked box cars invited “trespassing” and rummaging through the crates and sometimes, caskets. The open pasture behind Knowles and the house with renters served as an occasional ball field. Bordering it was the gravel road that began at Joe Murray’s, Houston Woods’s, the Castleberry’s, the Gower’s, Margie Purvis’s and ended at the large Walker house just before the Tabernacle. Why details? There was only one streetlight near the Gower’s and going home alone after the late show turned into a fitness trail.

Back to South Second, John Olan and Joe had a basketball court and a huge backyard filled with outbuildings resembling our ideas of the wild west. Heading to the dead-end to the Outlaw’s, there was a cutoff going across the tracks and “See Saw’s” plus the Cemetery Road. On the road headed south, we had unlimited privileges to roam through most of the backyards except Miss Fanny Bell Sloan’s. Starting in Henry’s back- yard, a vast wilderness opened up in all directions. Many homemade kites were tested in the open, hilly Gower’s pasture plus many adventures in the timber thicket just to the south. A clubhouse was built near the center made from scrap piles at nearby Davis’s Lumber Mill. It was short-lived as a “secret club” long enough to initiate several members via “forced eating” rotten candy.

Continuing at the Cunningham’s and the curve at Milton Nanney’s, we spent a good chunk of our elementary school years, playing “shooting” games in the two adjoining backyards of Joe Murray and Bobby Thompson’s. This was where some of Joe’s warped inventions were tested such as hide-and-seek with a loaded BB gun, “Annie Over” with anything other than a rubber ball, sling shot chase plus “catch”, and jungle crossings with vines made from borrowed garden hose.

NOW! My world from birth in 1940 – 1953, reached the rolling open fields just north of the Patton’s, west to beyond Caldwell Circle, east to the Kirk’s and Outlaw’s, and all the way to Billy Wayne Houston’s on top of Twitchell Hill. Eddie was our leader and opened the world to everything we saw at the picture shows, then re-enacted all behind his house and even up the steep hill to the Kirk’s backdoor. Just a few samples, Fall cardboard sledding; Civil War battles (nobody agreed to be Yankees---so they were imaginary or the poor chickens and ducks); all sports in their front yard; little cars under the house;, tree climbing; and more.

The Patton’s large storm house-greenhouse was a welcome excuse to huddle with the entire neighborhood during storm scares; the long tales should have been recorded, because we relished every detail.

Hayden Burns had the best basketball court with a real basketball. We respected it and kept our bantering clean due to Betty Jo and her mother. BUT, all rules were broken in Jap and Bud’s hilltop court. Their front yard was a perfect ball field, except for the universal problem of keeping air in footballs and basketballs---remember, we had Joe Murray and a barbed wire fence. Voit brand balls were usually flat, but served the purposes---many games came down to Calumet Baking Soda cans or rocks.

Caldwell Circle and beyond to the Grissom’s farm were magic. The Circle had live deer inside the fenced loop plus a pond that hosted colorful baptisms. The Norman’s backyard was loaded with outbuildings and another basketball goal. Rev. Dan Patch family occupied it before Gwen
Norman came in with a photography studio.

Okelala Creek was blessed with two blue holes. We hid and swam in the one below the Grissom’s. Let you wonder why? Buddy’s books document the creek and surroundings.

Twitchell Hill! What can I add to all who roamed around looking for Christmas trees; parking (a record of four smooching couples parked in a pickup after church one night---I’ll never tell.), buying beer (a tall boy was $.50 and it could have been “green” Eddieweiser---please, someone back me up!), and the pure pleasure of roaming about the many gullies?

Billy Wayne’s dad operated a serious car repair, junkyard, plus sales. Dreams started with sitting and pretending to drive all sizes of cars. Remember, a blind mechanic worked there (Mr. Taylor) and could perform miracles.

The challenge is still on for you North Second Street residents to bring together a list and description of your “play mates” and “playing fields”. I admit I mostly experienced only the Fish Lake and Twenty Mile Canal on the east, Arch and Lunelle Young’s on the west, and the brickyard north.

Please jump aboard and add to memories between 1940 and your moments of MAGIC in our timeless small town.

Photo courtesy of Milton Copeland

Orientation: You are flying directly over Twitchell Hill in 1950 or thereabouts. Old US 45 is seen going north toward and through town (toward top of photo). Henry Outlaw's home is at the end of the road at roughly 4 o'clock, and Okeelala Creek is at the lower left of the photo.


  1. Dave, I missed most of those places, and wish I had been able to join the bunch back then. One thing you mentioned is very well remembered - The "Eddieweiser" (Edelweiss Malt Liquor) was, as you say, "green" and terrible. I never acquired a taste for it, and all others like it over the years.

    Also, didn't Glenda Rowan live in a small home near Huse Woods, across Third Street from Henderson's? Seems that I delivered a paper there.

  2. dave, do you or anyone know whatever became of Eddy Patton?

  3. Dale, Several of us tried to email him a year ago. He wrote a short note about retiring from a ministry-counselor position in eastern Tennesse and living close to the Appalation Trail. Didn't respond to my email. Maybe, some of you have had contact with him? Any of you on the Coast know Birdie Kaye Patton Gentry? Curtis's wife. She's his sister. Dave

  4. Yes, Glenda lived just north of Houston Woods. Dave nailed it with a very entertaining article for me. He remembered so many things that I had forgotten, especially memories of Joe Murray's instigating so many activities. He saw every movie that came out, like "Mighty Joe Young", Frankenstein movies, "Little Rascals" and all those Saturday serials. We also had some carnivals in the neighborhood after the real carnival came through town.