Raif: A trip back to a simpler time

I’ve been on an other nostalgia trip. Ron and I were in Fort Worth and drove to Polytechnic — Poly — where I spent my childhood.

We drove by the junior high we both attended. Then across the street where my elementary school was. Now it is nothing more than a huge lot of bare ground. My church across the street met the same fate: It all has been torn down. Texas Wesleyan University needed more room for dormitories.

Two blocks farther was where the shopping center across the street from the campus used to be. There was a drugstore with bar stools at the counter where the high school guys worked part time making ice cream sodas, vanilla cokes and other drinks. I felt really silly one time when two friends and I all shared one coke, but with three straws.

There was Ashburn’s Ice Cream, where a single cone cost five cents. Next was the 5 & 10, where we really could buy things for as little as five cents. A department store was next, then the music store that sold instruments as well as sheet music. There was a hardware store, a Safeway grocers, then a U.S. post office on the corner.

Out in front of the post office, there was a huge steel box with a pull-down letter slot. On the side of the box, facing oncoming pedestrians, was a life-size picture of Uncle Sam with his finger pointed at you, saying “I need you.”

Across the street from the drugstore was a cleaners where one can still take clothes to be dry cleaned. Houses lined the street further on for two blocks where we turned right and walked one block to my grandparent’s house. They were Missie and Daddy Oscar.

Missie had let the chickens into the backyard and there was Pete, the rooster. He was mean and always chased and pecked my sister and me if we couldn’t get away from him fast enough. One morning before church, Missie called to tell us to come by afterward and we’d have dinner (lunch was always called dinner. The evening meal was supper.) We didn’t have just chicken and dumplings, we had Pete and dumplings.

Two girls and their parents lived next door to Missie and Daddy Oscar. Nancy, the older one, and I were friends. Many twilight nights we sat on her front sidewalk playing jacks. Sometimes we played hide-and-seek when it was almost dark. Other times we played hopscotch or Simon Says. We rode our scooters or wagons on the sidewalk, or read from Nancy’s extensive collection of comic books.

There was no television until I was 9 yeas old. There was no cell phone; only the one with a dial and separate receiver. We never lacked for a way to play and stay busy.

From Missie’s house it was another two blocks to our house, where I lived with my parents and younger sister. On the way I passed an old gray house where two elderly sisters had lived for what seemed forever. They were schoolteachers and I had one in the sixth grade and the other in junior high. We kids thought their house was haunted.

Our house was a red brick two-story with trees in front and back. Now, it is a bright coral. The trees are gone, including the pecan tree in the back.

There were no friends close by, so I spent my spare time reading. A library was three blocks away so I never was without a good supply of reading material. I especially remember “The Hardy Boys” and a similar book with girls. During the hot summer months, I would lie on the couch in the living room and read. Mother kept telling me to get outside. I did. But I climbed the pecan tree, lay down on the only horizontal branch and read my book.

As you might imagine, the entire area has changed. Old houses are gone, new houses in their places, friends long moved away. But the memories are still there of a time when life was not complicated, friends were really friends, local crime was almost unheard of. All my friends went to church, as did their parents. The parents met often to play 42 (a domino game), drink gallons of coffee and enjoy their time together before it was time to pick up us kids at the movie house.

It has been a real adjustment for many of us senior citizens in more ways than one. First, there are the physical problems many of us have. There is the longing for a time when most people respected and helped each other. If a person knocked at the door, we didn’t have to check them out first to make sure there was no danger. We didn’t have to be afraid of guns and wanton killing. Our ears weren’t assaulted with curses.

I’m not saying none of this happened. It did, but not usually where we lived, shopped or worshiped.

Truthfully, I am concerned for my younger grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. Their parents have a hard job ahead of them to rear them to be kind, courteous adults. Maybe they can find an old person to help.

— Gayle Raif, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.

Today's Bible verse

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Get news sent to you!

Sign up to get our newsletters emailed to you.

Upcoming Events

Featured Businesses