My Teen Years: Growing-Up!

The East side- Hendrix Street, Growing up Memories!

Finally, Dad was able to buy a car. If I remember correctly, he bought his first car just before we moved from the Redding Street residence. It was an off color green, Nash Rambler. Soon after, we moved to Hendrix Street where he bought a 1951 Ford. It was I think, about 1957-58 when we made, what for me would be, my last child-hood move with my family, again to the east side of town, out to the suburbs.. I don’t know exactly what prompted Dad and Mom to move about this time, but we did. We no longer had to depend on family, neighbors and the taxi cab company when we needed to go somewhere! Maybe it was because of the nosy, obnoxious neighbors who lived next door. Perhaps it was the mobility the car provided making it easier to get to work and to the grocery store. Also, we had started attending church on the east side of town. So, this move was more likely because of a combination of all of the above!

131 Hendrix Street would be home to me for the next eight years. The house we moved into was a small, four room frame house, with a good sized front and back yard. The back yard was big enough for Dad to keep a few chickens and to plant a small garden. The house was on a dirt street which was scraped, graveled and oiled regularly by the city. Back then they put oil on the dirt streets to keep the dust down. It was a much nicer house than anything we had lived in before, except that we five boys had to sleep in one very small bed room. There was no inside bath room. The toilet was an outhouse in the back yard and the only toilet paper, at times, was the local newspaper. The seven of us had to keep ourselves clean by bathing in a wash tub. That meant heating and hauling a lot of water. Fortunately, we had water in the house, so we didn’t have to carry it from the outside as we did in the mountains a few years previously. Our land lord, Mr. Epton, built us a bathroom a couple years later.

We were fortunate to move into a fairly good neighborhood. Most would prove to be good neighbors.The Putman’s lived a street over from us on Scientific Street. Both parents were school teachers. I mention them because Hubert Putman, their son was a friend and I spent a lot of time in their back yard playing basketball. Howard Elliot and his wife Maxine and their two children, Steve and Kathy, lived next door to us on the upper side. Below us was a patch of woods. Mr. Elliot was a baseball fan and thankfully, patient with kids. Because we had no television at our house, and they did, we boys would make ourselves uninvited guests when there was a ball game on. Howard and Maxine lived in this house several years after their children were grown. The Elliot’s were not a church going family, but were good moral people and very good neighbors. In later years I visited with them on occasion. I ministered to them when Mr. Elliot was diagnosed with a brain tumor and preached his funeral when he died a few months later.

Mr. Gurley lived across from us, but as I recall, he never had much to do with his neighbors. He was pretty bad to drink and gamble. I remember seeing his car parked at Evelyn’s Grill and a lot of cars parked in his drive way on the weekends. Evelyn’s Grill was for the most part a beer joint. It was located on the corner of Kivett Drive and our street. Men and women met there after work to socialize. And for some it was a place to gamble and get drunk. There were two small ponds behind Mr. Gurley’s house. I remember one time he hired Dad to remove the green algae from one of the ponds. We older boys got to help of course. We floated around on inflated inner tubes using flat shovels to gather the algae and toss it onto the bank. That is the only time we ever got to swim in his ponds, otherwise they were strictly off limits.
I remember well the times spent in the Putman’s back yard playing basketball with neighborhood friends, the football games played in the empty lot next door to Mr. Gurley’s, the smell of Honeysuckles outside my bedroom window in the summertime, and the fishing trips to the little stream below Linthicum’s lake on Scientific street, where I would catch stringers full of fish!

Mr. and Mrs. Turner lived behind us. It was not long after we had gotten settled at our new address on Hendrix Street, that they moved their small, silver mobile home onto property they had bought on Scientific Street, the street directly behind us. They soon would become my adopted, third set of “grand-parents”. The Turner’s were good people, with a Pentecostal back ground, but they did not attend church regularly. As I recall, they did visit the church we were attending one time during the years we were neighbors. They occasionally attended services at their daughter’s church. In spite of the fact that they were not regular church attenders, these precious people were as good a Christians as I have ever known. Mrs. Turner was not a public person. I will share later the reason, I feel, they were not regular in church.
Mrs. Turner was a wonderful cook. Her kitchen was a favorite hangout for my brothers and me! I had the good pleasure of eating her meals, and especially enjoyed her cookies and cakes. Oh, how delicious were those warm sugar cookies and cold milk to a young twelve year old boy! She made us feel very welcome, so we gathered there on a regular basis!
It was on one such occasion, when I was sitting at her table eating cookies, that I looked up to see Mrs. Turner, who had been sitting on the couch, slumped over, now partially lying on her side, almost ready to tumble onto the floor. Her eyes were rolled back into their sockets, her face was contorted, and snuff was running out the corner of her mouth. I immediately panicked. I ran out the door for home, scared half to death, convinced that Mrs. Turner was dying. Down the driveway and out the path to our house I flew. As I ran, I was screaming: “Mrs. Turner is dying, Mrs. Turner is dying!!” Our neighbor Mr. Elliot, who was in his back yard, heard me screaming and responded in a panic. We hurried back to the trailer, went in, and to our surprise found Mrs. Turner sitting on her couch, needle and thread in hand, doing what she had been doing when she had her seizure. You couldn’t tell from her composure that anything at all had happened. She was fully recovered. She then explained to us about the Epileptic seizures she had suffered for years.
There were other times I would be at the Turners when she would have a seizure. Thankfully, they would last only a few minutes and she would be alright. Mrs. Turner not only loved to cook, she also enjoyed raising a vegetable garden and raising chickens. How well I remember hearing her singing gospel songs as she cared for her chickens and garden! A few times I saw her lying in her garden, but only for a moment or two because about as soon as she had a seizure she would recover and go about her business. Thank the Lord for this Godly woman. I had the honor of speaking at her memorial service years later. I realize now why she was not such a public person and how it is that God can use the simplest among us to bless and affect the lives of others.

Mr. Turner later built a small building down below his trailer. He put a wood stove in it for heat in the wintertime and a black and white television for entertainment year round! He had a “man-cave” before men knew what a “man-cave” was! I do suspect he built it for a place of refuge. Mrs. Turner, like most women, loved to talk. I remember her constant chatter as I sat in their trailer eating her cookies. Now that I think about it, maybe the cookies were a tradeoff for someone to talk too. I’m sure this incessant chatter got on Mr. Turner’s nerves. Mr. Turner was a heavy smoker, and for his wife’s sake, and because of her chatter, I am guessing, he chose to spend his evenings in his little building. So, after a hard day’s work and a good meal he would retire to the little building to smoke and watch television until bedtime.

As I have already stated, we did not have a television at home and because I had already picked up the smoking habit early on, and was sneaking around to do it, Mr. Turner’s little building became my favorite hangout! Why? Because he not only had a television, he also let us boys smoke. He would at times even provide the smokes for us! Now days, this would be considered child abuse I suppose. But in my early years and especially in my Dad’s and Mr. Turner’s generation, tobacco use was not considered to be a social or physical health issue.
One of the things I remember about this period in my life is the many “whippings” I got from Dad because of my smoking habit and the habit of hanging out at Mr. Turners. Although Mom used snuff off and on during these early years but gave it up, Dad never was a tobacco user and he was determined that his boys wouldn’t take up the habit! Dad was insistent, but we boys were a stubborn lot! In spite of all the “whippings”, we all turned out to be smokers. How I wish I had not been so stubborn! I was a smoker until I was twenty-one years old. As far as I know, none of us boys now smoke. Maybe the “whippings” did do some good after all!

Television was a relatively new invention in the 50’s and because of that not everyone owned one. But that was not the primary reason we did not have one. Not being able to afford one was a secondary reason. Primarily, we did not have a television for religious reasons. In those days, many preachers preached against the evils of television. At least they did at the churches we attended and from hind sight, they were probably right to do so! Dad grew up in a very rural, mountain area where they not only did not have televisions, they didn’t even have electricity to power them. So, for him, television was an unknown, something to be feared, especially in light of his religious upbringing. But we boys were growing up in a different era. We didn’t see the evil in television and we enjoyed being entertained, so, every opportunity we had we watched television. Since we couldn’t watch it at home, we watched it elsewhere.

I remember sitting in Mr. Turner’s little smoke house/ TV building, watching The Beverly Hillbillies or The Lone Ranger, when suddenly I would hear Dad’s shrill “it’s time to come home” whistle. He whistled by placing his little finger and his index finger together on his tongue and lower lip and blowing real hard. You could hear him whistle a mile away! He would be standing on the back steps of our house when he whistled the first time. When I heard him whistle the second time, I knew that I was in trouble. I knew that it was time to get home, but usually I would keep sitting, especially if a program I was watching was not finished. In about a half hour I would hear him whistle again, this time he would be standing at the end of the trail that ran from our yard to the Turner’s property. But this time the whistle was louder because it was closer. You could hear the aggravation and frustration in this “you’re gonna get a whipping when you get home” whistle! And most of the time a whipping was what I got! Poor Dad! I caused him so much grief during those years!

As a teen-ager living on Hendrix Street, I have some fond memories of hunting and fishing. Mr. Turner loved outdoor sports and seemed to really enjoy taken us boy’s with him when he went hunting or fishing. We didn’t have to go very far to hunt. Across the highway from Mr. Turners property was about three or four square miles of open fields and wooded area which at that time had not been annexed by the city and was not posted. It was on this property we hunted on a regular basis. We would hunt for dove, rabbit, quail and squirrel. Mr. Turner kept rabbit and bird dogs, training them from pups to hunt. It is great to remember the excitement of seeing his bird dog on “point” and hearing his Beagles yelp when they “jumped” a rabbit and the “boom”, when Mr. Turner shot! He was an excellent marksman, even though he accidently had his trigger finger cut off years earlier.

He also took us fishing. We mostly fished for Bream, Crappy, and Carp. He would take us to High Rock Lake where we would night fish for crappy under a highway bridge beside the railroad trestle. He would rig up a light using a car battery. The light not only helped us see what we were doing, it also attracted the fish. Using three hooks on each line, each tied to a leader about six to eight inches above the other, many nights we would be catching Crappy two and three at a time! When the train came by, which was not often, the noise and vibration would cause the fish, by the hundreds, to jump out of the water. They would make a big splash when they went back into the water! We also fished for Bream and Crappy in a large lake down toward Asheboro, Peavine Lake I believe it was called. We used rods and reels with a single hook and torpedo shaped floats which Mr. Turner made out of wood on his turning lathe at work. With a minnow on the hook, and a small lead weight on the line, from the bank, you could cast the float several yards out into the lake. The minnow and the lead weight would sink causing the float to gently bob up and down in the water. You knew you were about to catch a fish when the float began to move around in the water. Suddenly, whoosh, the entire float would disappear under the water. When that happened you set the hook, and reeled in a huge Bream or Crappy!

At other times we fished in local carp ponds at night. There were lighted booths around the lakes. These ponds were commercially profitable to the owners in as much as you had to pay a small fee to rent a booth and fish. There was also a concession stand where he sold fishing supplies and food, candy and drinks. The owner kept the lake stocked with fish, tagging some of them as “prize” fish. If you caught a “prize” fish you either won money or a free night at the lake. Additionally, you could put money into a jackpot, in hopes of catching the largest fish. Because Carp are not good to eat, the fish caught would be put back into the lake. The prize winning added a lot of excitement to a night of fishing. In those days this was a very popular past-time for sportsmen, so, Mr. Turner always tried to get there early in order to get a good spot.
Because the lakes were small, you couldn’t cast out very far. And because of the closeness of the booths and the number of fishermen crowded around the lake, tangled lines were the norm. Yellow corn was sometimes used for bait but dough usually was preferred. Sometimes the carp would not be biting. To entice the fish, each fisherman had his own formula for dough making. And of course each swore that his was the best!! A dough ball about the size of a quarter was squeezed onto the hook before casting it into the water. And letting it sink to the bottom, they would reel the line in until it was tight. Then they made a smaller ball of dough about the size of a dime, which was then pressed onto the line about three feet from the end of the pole. The line with the small dough ball would then be slackened until the dough ball slightly dropped at the end of the pole. The handle of the fishing pole would then be placed into a holder. Then it was a waiting game. While waiting for the fish to bite we would sit in lawn chairs or on the ground. The men would occupy themselves by smoking and swatting moths attracted by the overhead lights. They would engage in conversation, usually about the fish they caught last week or about the big one that got away earlier in the evening! And of course, while they talked, they were watching for any movement of the dough ball on the line. They waited! Any movement of that dough ball would get their immediate attention. Then suddenly the action would start! After waiting for what seemed forever, you would see the dough ball on the line begin to move slowly up and then down, up and back down. Carp can suck on a dough ball forever. It’s like they are savoring each special recipe. But when they make up their mind, it is on! Suddenly, the line with the small dough ball snaps tight. The fisherman grabs the pole, sets the hook and after a battle, reels the fish in, hoping that this one is a prize winner! Mr. Turner was a prize winner. He won this young boy’s heart and in the process taught me a lot of great lessons about hunting and fishing and life!

During those days, I left my innocent, adolescence and entered my frightened teen and uncertain, young adult years. Growing up on Hendrix Street with my parents and brothers, was in some ways idyllic. And while we were probably poorer than most in the neighborhood, as an adolescent-teen, I never noticed it, nor was it ever brought to my attention. I was too busy fishing and hunting, playing ball and being a boy, to care! Mom and Dad were always able to provide food to eat, cloths to wear, (even if they were hand-me-downs) and a roof over our heads. My siblings: Calvin, Tim, Ron and Sam, and I were typical, average boys, which means we were very rambunctious and more than a handful for our parents. We got many whippings which were well deserved. We had our good times and we had our bad times, but from this vantage point they were some of the best times of my life!

For Mom and Dad, from a parenting stand point, I am sure they were mostly hard times. My Dad was barely five foot tall and weighed about a hundred and twenty five pounds but that did not slow him down or keep him from a hard day’s work. He was hard as nails from his mountain experience and because of all the hard work he had engaged in all of his life. By this time he had been working at Carolina Spring Corporation for years running heavy coiling machines that made springs for beds and living room furniture. He worked long, hard hours, taking advantage of every opportunity to get in some overtime. Overtime meant a bigger pay check but it also meant a lot more grueling, hard work. Overtime for him consisted of unloading railroad boxcars, wrestling and rolling three and four hundred pound rolls of wire into the plant, lifting the wire, and stacking the rolls. I did some of that work myself, having quit school at sixteen and going to work with my Dad at Carolina Spring. It was hard work! I honestly don’t know how Dad managed it all those years, except for his character and for the fact that he loved his family.

Mom didn’t have it easy either. Imagine loving a husband with all his idiosyncrasies and needs and caring for five un-cooperative boys who required constant twenty- four hour supervision. She saw to it that our bodies were bathed, all our clothes were clean, the meals were cooked, our school work was done, (boy, did we give her a fit there!) and that the house was kept in some semblance of order. She was indeed a wonderful, hardworking, house-keeping wife and mother. Her value was far above the price of rubies!

We boys were very rambunctious, but, I suppose, typical. As Calvin and I reached the teen years, we certainly had minds of our own. We became very interested in cars, girls and our own independence. Calvin, who was about seventeen or eighteen years old, and had quit school at sixteen, was working in the furniture industry. But being more mechanically inclined, he began earning his own way as a mechanic and was able to buy his own transportation. Calvin was an excellent auto mechanic all of his working career. Among other places, he worked for Horace G. Ilderton, a local Dodge dealership, but most of his working career owned his own businesses. Wilma Jean Grant became his life-long companion. When they married, Wilma was sixteen and had to have her parents sign for her. Calvin was, I believe, eighteen. They soon had a daughter. Not long after Ginger’s birth they moved to Daytona Beach, Florida for a brief time. They then moved to the mountains, where they lived and worked the rest of their lives.

As I mentioned a little bit ago, when I turned sixteen, I also quit school and went to work. My first job was at Carolina Spring Corporation where my dad worked. My first boss man was Johnny Guffey, another displaced mountain man. My job was as a lace-up boy making box spring mattresses. This job consisted of placing coil springs on cones. These springs were then “laced” together by laying a notched wire vertically across the springs where they over-lapped, and “lacing” or threading a straight wire thru the notch with the little finger. After both sides were laced up, the mattress went on down the line where it was finished. If I remember correctly, I was earning about $2.50 an hour, which was good money for a sixteen year old lace-up boy! I worked there about a year and then went to work at Staley’s Incorporated, a furniture manufacturer. As a tow boy, I was earning a little bit more money. Herbert Staley owned and operated this family business which was located just off Kivett Drive on the east side of town. Mr. Staley provided employment for a number of people. Several of his employees were from the mountains: Avery Dills, who was a spring-up man; Doyle McMahan, Max Wishon were upholsterers; Carroll and Clyde Passmore were truck driver- salesmen. My job consisted of keeping the upholsterers supplied with what they needed to build the furniture, i.e. the frames, covers, staples, cotton and other hardware. Within a year or so, I had learned to upholster and being on piece work, was earning big bucks—- around $5.00 an hour!

Updated: June 21, 2014 — 10:24 pm

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I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. Psalm 143:5 Frontier Theme