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 really glad that I grew up here in those good ole days.”
As one of my long-time 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 and 1960s when Murfreesboro had a population of less than 20,000, 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.
Somehow, at times, the plunge for success has dropped our ability to respond to the needs of others in this community. Our zeal and obsession for prosperity has made us callous and insensitive.
In addition, 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. I remember souls like Mr. Baxter Hobgood, former Superintendent of Murfreesboro City Schools and my employer for 11 years. When he saw me, he never failed to ask me what I was doing for the community and always remarked how proud that he was of me. Those were enormous words of support and encouragement in the days when I was floundering both in my personal and professional life.
In the 1960s, we had a great neighborhood. The kids — Bill, Gloria, Linda, Mack, Wayne, Trisha, Jimmy and Michael — all were known as the “Monroe Street Gang.” Our childhood was like an episode out of the “Little Rascals.” We had clubhouses, lemonade stands, numerous adventures like playing army and sandlot baseball in the field next to our house.
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 (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 drive-in and had made enough money throughout the summer to buy us a calf which we were keeping at our grandfather’s farm. What fun it was to sell many a sweltering customer one of our frozen, fruity delights at Shacklett’s Drive-In on Broad Street! All of these enterprises would later translate in 25 year business relationship at Shacklett’s Photography.
Those days in our town, demonstrating love involved an investment of time. 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 that 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. Somehow, we knew that cold, bubbling lemonade would be a hit that our neighborhood could not resist. 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, Bill and I 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 to and fro 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 which consisted of those familiar sugary delights. For those of us who grew up in that era fondly remember —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. That was the way it was in those days, Mrs. Taylor, without hesitation, was one of those rare gems who responded to the needs of two imaginative children. 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. Its history parallels many towns across America, yet its history is as unique as the individuals who forged it. Perhaps the peaceful charm and wholesome goodness is merely idealized in my mind. However, I enjoy reminiscing to another time and place when life here had a little slower pace. Maybe that time only existed in the imagination of a child and fictionalized in my adult mind, yet I am drawn to that scene in the 1960’s, a restful place of safety from the storms of life.
Historically, August has brought change into my life. I divorced in August of 1981 after 10 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart. By August of 1983, my life was plummeting out of control. I found myself filled with disappointment and discouragement from the pain of a broken heart with seemingly endless nights of tossing and turning sobbing myself to sleep. It was in that same year that God began to recycle my pain and hurt by allowing me to get involved in the community as a volunteer with Uncle Dave Macon Days.
Finally, it was 25 years ago Aug. 1, 1989 that Bill and I acquired Shacklett’s Photography from our parents, Dick and Ginny Shacklett (established by my dad in 1937). In those tumultuous days of the 1980s, I had become an expert at putting on the mask to hide the misery. As multiple trials were assailing me, I began to find hope as well as the fulfillment of my destiny and purpose in my family’s well-established business.
During those times, I needed God with skin on, someone who would simply come along side with words of encouragement, would listen, not judge, but would hold me accountable. In my life, that person was my brother, Bill Shacklett. My attempts to fix my problems without God simply made them worse. As I was beginning to change, Bill’s faith set the standard for me. I had seen what a difference God had made in his life and wanted that for myself.
Believing in the power to change was Bill’s GIFT to me. Now I recognize that the ability to experience lasting change in any area of our life is a GIFT from God through others. I want to thank my dear brother, Bill for the most wonderful faith-building 25 years. I’m ready ... so let’s roll for 25 more!