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Daily Archives: June 13, 2010

19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . .

This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his boyhood pet.

I was not there—my mother and my sister described the incident to me in considerable detail on the same night that it took place. I hasten to add that my sister was given to extreme exaggeration in her story-telling, and in such instances my mother would confirm the story as told by my sister, purely to avoid confrontation with her. This posting therefore, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.

When we lived on 19th Street South there was a small church down the street from our house, just across the Big Ditch—I have capitalized Big Ditch because it figured so prominently in my life while we lived on that street, and it is definitely a subject for a future posting—stay tuned!

I don’t remember the name or the denomination of the church, but I do remember my mother and my older sisters occasionally strolling down to the church in the evening, usually on Saturday nights. I am hesitant to use the term holy rollers, but in my memory that would describe the assembly. On summer Saturday nights in the absence of air conditioning, the doors and windows of the church were left wide open to provide relief from the summer heat. The sounds that I remember coming from the church reinforce that memory—no, I wasn’t invited but I sometimes sneaked down the street and listened and watched through the open door of the church.

Holy Roller as defined by Wikipedia:

Holy Roller is a term in American English used to describe Pentecostal Christian churchgoers. The term is commonly used derisively, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor or speaking in tongues in an uncontrolled manner. For this usage, the Oxford English Dictionary Charles G. Leland, in which he says “When the Holy Spirit seized them..the Holy Rollers..rolled over and over on the floor.” It is generally considered pejorative, but some have reclaimed it as a badge of honor, e.g. William Branham’s statement “And what the world calls today holy-roller, that’s the way I worship Jesus Christ.” Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians include Jesus freaks and Bible bashers. The name Shakers was created as a portmanteau of shaking Quakers. Gospel singer Andrae Crouch stated, “They call us holy rollers, and what they say is true. But if they knew what we were rollin’ about, they’d be rollin’ too.”

Now fast forward some eight years later to a time when I lived for several months with my mother and my youngest sister on Seventh Avenue South—yep, I intend to devote some time and effort to pulling aside the curtain of time and revealing some interesting facts about life on Seventh Avenue South, life in a small three-room house just fifty feet from railroad tracks, a house with running water and electricity but no bathroom. Strategically placed several yards behind the house was a small tin-roofed two-hole wooden privy that served quite well for toilet purposes.

Our sojourn in that house, immediately adjacent to an active railroad lasted several months, an interim period during one of various times that we were separated from our stepfather and on our own, living life as best we could with the resources we had—spare resources, indeed!

Buster was my dog, a left-over from the time I lived with my brother in Maryland—yep, that is also a future posting—is there no end to this?!! Buster spent his early years as my brother’s dog, but was inherited by me when my brother returned to military service with the United States army. Click here to learn how Buster fared during my service as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm.

Now on to Buster’s breakup of a Saturday night worship service. On a special summer Saturday evening my mother and my sister walked several blocks to the church on Nineteenth StreetSouth to join the assembled worshipers—well, they really went to observe—and Buster, as always when anyone left the house, walked with them. He was a well-trained and obedient animal and stayed outside the church as ordered. However, he could see much of the activities and could hear the sounds, and at a moment when the sounds of the worshipers reached a crescendo he broke and charged through the open door and down the aisle to the altar where those that had been entered by the spirit were demonstrating the spirit’s presence, both physically and vocally. Apparently some of the sounds consisted of keening, high-pitched tones that aroused the bulldog to action—he joined the group gathered near the altar, howling mightily in tune with the worshipers, and pandemonium ensued.

Hey, I’m not making this up—I’m relating the incident strictly as I remember it from the tale told to me by my mother and my sister, with no embellishments other than those that may have been added by my sister—I wasn’t there so I can’t vouch for its truthfulness. I do believe, however, that the basic facts are true. My mother tended to go along with my sister’s embellishments, but she was not prone to supporting details that were obviously untrue.

The way my sister told it, some worshipers abandoned the church through the two open doors. Others climbed up on benches and crawled under benches, and still others exited through open windows leaving the bulldog at the altar, still howling. He made no effort to attack anyone. There was no biting or attempts to bite, but his presence and his howling was enough to empty the church.

After my sister calmed the dog and the congregation returned with its sanity restored—not all returned, but some did—the pastor politely but forcefully asked my mother if she planned to return for future services and if so, to please refrain from bringing the bulldog. I have no recollection of my mother or my sister or my bulldog attending later assemblies of worshipers.

So there—I’ve related the incident as told to me, succinctly and completely as possible—in fine (that’s Latin for at the end), that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a watermelon party . . .

In a recent posting I outed a boy that lived next door to my house on Eleventh Street South. His name was Edward Earl but he responded to Tootie, a justifiable moniker that he could easily demonstrate—Edward Earl could, with little or no urging toot at will, hence the nickname Tootie.

Tootie and I were friends and we rambled together all over town and country, but I don’t remember whether he attended my school. There was another elementary school nearby and he may have been enrolled there. I say may have been, but in retrospect I suspect that he was not enrolled anywhere. I have no memories of walking to or from school with him—I usually walked with my sister, eighteen months older than I and one grade ahead of me. She constantly lorded over me in our elementary school because she was ahead, and I spend a lot of time dreaming and hoping and praying that she would fail at least one grade—two grades if the good Lord could manage it.

But I digress—back to Tootie and the watermelon party.

Early one sunny summer Saturday morning Tootie and I decided to go uptown to check out the flood waters of the Tombigbee River, a normally peaceful stream that was in flood mode at the time and was the subject of much conversation. We walked the eleven blocks east to First Street, then eleven blocks north to Main Street, a distance of some two miles—city blocks usually run about twelve blocks to the mile.

Most of the homes on First Street were, and I suppose still are, owned and occupied by the upper crust of Columbus—the wealthy, the near wealthy and a few wannabees. All the homes fronted First Street and backed up to the bluff overlooking the river. We checked out the flood waters from several backyards along the street, and at one point the water had risen so high that we were able to walk out over the flooded area on a limb of a huge tree near the bluff.

Our destination was the high bridge over the Tombigbee River. We traversed the length of the bridge, marveling at the flotsam and jetsam moving down the river, did the uptown thing, checked out the marques and the black-and-white lobby cards posted at the town’s three movie houses, rambled through Woolworth’s and McClellan’s Five and Dime stores—didn’t shoplift anything—and sometime in mid-afternoon we headed for home, primarily because we had no money and we were hungry—considerable time has passed since breakfast.

We made it home safely but not under our own power. Several blocks from home on Eleventh Street was an ice plant, a business that operated five and one-half days a week. The plant’s loading dock was near the street and as we drew near we noticed numerous watermelon halves on the dock and walked over to take a look. Apparently the workers had a watermelon party after their shift was over. The plant was silent, no vehicles or people anywhere in sight.

Evidently the workers had just left because theĀ  melons were still cold. In most of the melons only the heart, the part with no seeds, had been gouged out, so one can guess the rest of this story. Tootie and I feasted on cold watermelon, digging out melon bites with one hand, swatting flies with the other hand and competing to see how far we could spit seeds—for two tired and hungry little boys it was heavenly!

We were still enjoying our find when a city police cruiser, a black-and-white with two patrolmen, drew up and stopped at the loading dock. The driver asked us what we were doing and we told him the honest truth—we told him we were eating watermelon. He asked us for our names and we told the truth to that question also. He suggested that we hop into the rear seat so he could give us a ride home. Tootie said that it was not far and that we would rather walk, that we were going home and only stopped to eat some watermelon.

Both patrolmen exited the car and each opened a rear door. The same officer repeated his suggestion, but couched it in different terms and in a different tone—we scrambled off the dock and into the rear seat. As the doors closed Tootie whispered to me that yeah, they’re taking us home alright—home to jail. I made no response because I was so scared that I couldn’t even swallow, let alone talk.

When we got home we were met by some very relieved and very angry family members. Calls had been made to the city police around mid-morning and the search had been going on ever since. I don’t know what sort of system they had at the time—obviously there was no Amber Alert system in place. I imagine the search was simply a call to local law enforcement personnel to be on the lookout for two wayward boys, one named Mikey and one that was called Tootie.

I have every reason to believe that some sort of corporeal punishment was meted out to us. There was no doubt that we deserved it—we had earned it. However, I do not remember what transpired following our triumphant homecoming. My punishment may have been so severe and so traumatic that I blotted it from my memory. I may awaken some night screaming, drenched with perspiration, reeling from a whip lashing and recalling threats of being drawn and quartered, but I may have suffered nothing more than a few bear hugs and kisses.

At least seventy years have gone by since that day, and I have never had such dreams and what scars I have were earned in other places and in other ways. I have serious doubts that I will ever have such dreams, but hey, anything is possible. The punishment may be so deeply buried in my subconscious that nothing can bring it to the surface—I hope!

I am honest enough to admit the possibility that I may have—may have, mind you—embellished this story a tiny teeny weeny little bit along the way in my efforts and desire to enlighten and entertain those that may pass this way, but the story is true—honest! I can prove it by demonstrating that I can still eat watermelon with one hand and swat flies with the other hand.

It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a stolen candy bar . . .

At some point during the time I resided at the house on Eleventh Street South with my family—three older sisters and one older mother—I stole a Payday candy bar. Yep, I casually strolled into Mr. Fuqua’s corner grocery store at the opposite end of my block, cruised around pretending to shop and purloined a full-grown Payday, perhaps the most exotic and tastiest candy bar in existence both then and now, and casually strolled out of the store undetected.

I stuffed the Payday into my pocket while the proprietor was busy with a paying customer and exited the store. Calendar points—days, weeks, months and years have dimmed considerably over time, but I can say with confidence that I was either six or seven years old when I stole the Payday, an age that most would consider a bit early for one to begin a life of crime. I hasten to add that shortly after the theft, on the same day in which I committed the theft, I reluctantly but firmly renounced that life—read on for the details.

I researched the history of Payday candy bars in preparation for this posting and learned that the Payday candy bar and I were born in the same year, an amazing coincidence. We’ve both grown since that time, but in opposite directions—I’m considerably larger—Payday, conversely, is considerably smaller and considerably more expensive—for a brief history of the storied candy bar, click here: Can’t get enough peanuts? Try a PAYDAY Peanut Caramel Bar, with sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts.

As was Macaulay Culkin, the child actor in the Home Alone movies, I was alone at home that day and thus free to roam at will. My roaming took me to the store and started me on a life of crime, albeit short-lived. On that day I became a criminal—small time and insignificant in the overall history of crime in the United States but a criminal nonetheless, a doer of a bad deed—a lawbreaker and a thief.

I’ll fast-forward and confess that after hiding the candy bar, still in its original wrapper, its sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts untouched by fingers, lips, teeth or tongue—at least untouched while in my possession. In retrospect, I felt that if my theft was discovered I could return the item, virginal in every respect and thus avoid prosecution and subsequent incarceration. I probably planned to plead guilty and hope for probation and community service at some place other than grocery stores with extensive candy displays.

I hid my purloined Payday in several places in my house. Each seemed logical at first but doubt soon set in and the hiding place was changed—none was satisfactory. I briefly considered hiding it in our outdoor toilet, but wisely rejected that location. At one point it spent some time beneath a bush in the vacant lot across the street from my house, craftily hidden under dry leaves.

I finally returned the Payday candy bar, that concoction of sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts, to its original display shelf in Mr. Fuqua’s corner store, its wrapper a bit wrinkled from its unauthorized and illegal sojourn and covered with my fingerprints but with its innards pristine, ready for sale to and consumption by anyone with the necessary nickel.

I would like to believe that the proprietor of that corner store, a long-time friend of my family, was aware of my criminal act—that he witnessed its departure from and its return to the candy shelf and decided to overlook the incident, to consider it insignificant in the greater scheme of things but resolving to keep a sharp lookout any time I entered the store in the future. If he did reason in that manner, it was a good choice—I never took another item from his establishment—I was tempted, but I never again succumbed to that temptation.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Oops, I forgot something—a few years later at some time during the conflagration of World War II, I rescued a turtle, a teeny tiny real live baby turtle with its one-inch-diameter shell sporting a painting of the American flag. I’ll save that story for a future posting, but as a teaser I’ll say that by my action I mercifully released the turtle from its display case in a five-and-ten-cent store, one of a chain that is now defunct. That little guy—or little girl, perhaps—such determination with turtles is quite difficult—lived a long and varied life following his—or her—release, rescued from and no longer subjected to the stares, giggles, anti-turtle comments and unlimited handling by untold numbers of an uncaring public. McLellan Stores were a 20th-century chain of five-and-dime stores in the United States. You can click here to read McLellan’s history.

The first image above shows the size of my turtle—no, that’s not my hand—I didn’t steal three turtles—I stole only one. The second image is a somewhat expensive representation of a turtle, size unknown—it’s available online for anyone with $995 to spare.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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