There is not a week that goes by that I don’t hear someone who grew up here say, “What has happened to Rutherford County? I just don’t recognize it anymore. I’m just glad that I grew up here in those good 'ole days.”
As one of my longtime friends remarked, “Murfreesboro’s not the Mayberry-like town we used to know.”
I am beginning to realize that those of us who grew up here are becoming the minority, dinosaurs of sorts who are becoming extinct.
Having grown up in the 1950s when Murfreesboro had a population of fewer than 10,000, there certainly has been a transformation not only in the landscapes and streetscapes, but more than that, a change in the attitudes of the people as well.
As I reminiscence, I recall how adults cared about children. You were loved, disciplined, encouraged and nurtured by a community of people who were genuinely concerned about you.
It was 1961 and the end the summer. Mom and Dad were complaining about the three “H’s”…hazy, hot and humid. My brother Bill and I were tired of endless backyard games of baseball and the many hours of childhood pretending and imagining.
Never mind the heat of a scorching Tennessee August. By the way, a 9- and 10-year-old were simply oblivious to that fact.
All summer at the farm, we’d enjoyed numerous gleeful splashes in the Stones River as tiny frightened minnows darted around our feet and scurried out of sight. Yet by August, we’d had enough of summer activities – swimming at the outmoded pool at Central High School, playing army with the neighborhood kids, the occasional movie at the Princess Theater (the only business in town that was air conditioned), Dad’s home cranked vanilla ice cream on a hot Saturday afternoon, and of course, the many other playful antics that a brother and sister could scheme throughout summer vacation.
Needless to say, by August right at back-to-school time, we had become bored.
That August, Bill and I decided that we needed to end the summer with an enterprise that would put us up over the top financially. Already, we had a snow cone stand at our Uncle John’s Shacklett’s Drive-In on Broad Street and had made enough money throughout the summer to buy us a calf that we were keeping at our grandfather’s farm.
In our town, demonstrating love involved an investment of time, and there were those who showed that “love” seamlessly, folks like Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, owners of Taylor’s Store on Vine Street.
“What if we had a lemonade stand?” thinking that this would be just the way to end the summer, but how would we finance the endeavor.
Brilliantly, Bill suggested we would sell our gathered coke bottles to Taylor’s Store in order to buy the needed packages of Lemon Kool-Aid and some penny candy to sell at our stand.
No doubt, we’d be rich. With our bicycle baskets overloaded, we headed for Taylor’s Store with our bundle of bottles.
The screen door slammed as we entered the store. The creaking slates of the wooden floor were deafening as we approached the counter.
Clumsily, we carefully lifted our barter, about 10-12 soft drink bottles which, as I recall, were only worth about 2 cents each. They rolled back and forth clanking across the wooden top.
“We’d like to turn these in, please. We’re going to have a lemonade stand and we need to buy some Kool-Aid and some candy.” I explained to Mrs. Taylor.
Mrs. Taylor stood behind the counter, her smooth, black hair pulled tightly into a bun. As always, she greeted Bill and me with her warm, beaming smile.
With a twinkle in her eye, Mrs. Taylor replied, “Well, sure, let’s see just how much we have here. One, two, three, four…,” Bill and I watched intensely as she counted hoping and praying we had enough to finance our enterprise.
Without hesitation, as she handed us several coins then she said, “Now, go get the things that you need.”
Bill and I began shopping for the Kool-Aid and the candy. We got straws filled that sour “Lickem’ Aide,” grape sour ball gum, waxed bottles with some unidentifiable fruit-flavored slurp, and then there were those red hot fireballs. In looking back, I realize that the value of our barter did not equal our purchase. This loving gesture is embedded in a memory which I have carried into adulthood.
Murfreesboro, once a safe haven where a child grew strong and free, is a town that is rich in heritage and history.
I am drawn to that scene in the 1960s, a restful place of safety from the storms of life. Wonder if those kinds of memories are being created for our children, the future citizens of our town?