Monday, April 25, 2005

SEARCY ’46-’56 – Part 08

Chapter Three - 2

Tom Pry

Day-to-Day – The 40’s

The second-most exciting day of the week was Thursday; that was the day The Paper came in the mail.

The Searcy Citizen published six days a week; every day except Wednesday, it was the Searcy Daily Citizen, an afternoon paper. On Wednesday, though, it became the White County Citizen, a weekly that differed from the Daily in several respects, besides the name. First, it was the day that all the grocery store ads came out, with their weekly specials. (This was to become the bane of my grandfather’s existence, because Billie would spend two days finding all the “two-fers” and other specials, and Grandad would spend a good part of Saturday ferrying her from one store to another. As he bemoaned more than once, “I spend $5 worth of gas so she can save $3 on groceries!” But that Thursday and Saturday was the high point of her week and we all felt she was entitled to it).

The other difference was that the White County Citizen contained all the “community news.” Little old ladies, the resident gossips, and frustrated would-be journalists all sent in the minutiae of smalltown America: “Miss Leslie Bent hosted a party for the Sidon 4-H girls Saturday night at the home of her parents, Arthur and Guinevere Bent. The theme was ‘Cotton Again?’” No event was too small to be caught by their eagle eyes: “Norman Fullofit, formerly of Antioch, and his wife, Alice (the former Alice Empty of Bohunk, Arkansas), visited with Norman’s parents, Herman and Gloria Fullofit of Antioch Saturday on their way to their new home in Palarm. They were accompanied by their children, Able (10), Beta (9), and Cain (8). Herman and Gloria have been married for eleven years.”

The only thing never mentioned was divorces and “messin’ around” (a very popular pastime, then as now). Otherwise, church socials, awards day at the local school house, illnesses … all grist for the journalistic mill.

And that brings us to Saturday, the day to hit the grocery stores (especially so Billie could sell her excess eggs to Kroger and, with the money, buy a couple of packs of Kool™ cigarettes and Listerine™ mouthwash. That egg money was “hers” and she used it to finance her only vice, smoking. In all the years I knew them, she never lit up in front of Grandad, instead sneaking a few puffs here and there where the smoke wouldn’t linger, before she’d take a fast swig of Listerine and go back to what she was doing. My mom never smoked in front of him, either. I have a strong suspicion that he was aware that both of them smoked, but it amused him that they’d go to such great lengths to try to hide it from him, a tobacco-chewer and ex-smoker).

We’d also go by Person’s Feed & Grain, over a block from the square, and pick up cowfeed, which came in sacks made of doubled cotton fabric in pretty finely-figured floral prints. There was a reason for those pretty prints: it wasn’t that the feed companies thought farmers were a bunch of pansies, but because the farmers’ WIVES could get a yard-or-two of nice but sturdy fabric out of it. Billie would make housedresses out of it and, once we moved to Arkansas, I don’t think I ever saw her wear anything else but blouses and housedresses made – literally – out of feed sacks.

As I said about precious little going to waste on the farm … If whatever feed was bought was in a plain white sack, those turned into kitchen towels.

If Grandad was feeling really flush, we could buy an RC™ or Nehi™, maybe even a Dr. Pepper™. Here’s a shocker: soft drinks cost a nickel, 7¢ if you took the bottle with you. Pepsi-Cola’s advertising jingle was:
“Pepsi-Cola™ hits the spot,
12 full ounces, that’s a lot!
All of that, and a nickel, too!
Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you!”

While Pepsi was an undeniable bargain, it always, for some reason, carried vaguely Yankee overtones to it, so it never really did well here. Perhaps it would’ve done better if they’d had Little Jimmy Dickens singing the jingle.

In later years, Saturdays for my sister and I were much more exciting. We’d get into town either with Grandad or riding in the back of a neighbor’s truck (I remember once riding in the back of a dump truck from Virgil Boyd’s, not as bad a ride as it sounds: the truck was filled with just-picked cotton).

Once we got to town, we’d meander over to the square and the Rialto Theatre, where we’d drift into line with the rest of the kids. At 9:30 or 10, they’d let us in, we’d get our popcorn and Coke, then get into the auditorium and pick our seats, chattering away as only grammar school-age kids can. Finally, a half-hour after the doors had opened, the show would start. Always a western or two, and a serial installment, and a cartoon.

My sis and I NEVER sat together: that was not Cool.

It was early afternoon by the time we got out. My sis and I would join up, and walk over to this little “café” on Spruce Street, next to Person’s Feeds. There, we would have our lunch: a foot-long hot dog and a soft drink. (Funny, but foot-longs don’t taste as good today as they did then. I wonder why?).

We were in no hurry, for a very good reason: at that point, there was nothing we could do to affect the rest of the day’s schedule. We might go over and drift through the Woolworth’s and/or W.T. Grant store, just off the square, or might just go on over behind the dry goods store and go ahead and get on the bus.

The bus?

Yep. In a later installment I will speak more of this but, for now, suffice it to say we climbed on Charlie May’s bus, the one that made 2-or-3 round trips a day to-and-from Rosebud. It was a pre-WWII schoolbus, painted in a dead rose color that was more like old paint primer, but it was clean inside, and the seats intact. Charlie would finally climb on and collect our fares (I seem to remember it was a quarter apiece for my sis and I), and then out highway 36 we’d go, to be dropped off at the head of the road.

By the time we walked the slightly-over-a-mile home, it was time to change clothes, do our evening chores, and eat supper.

We REALLY liked Saturdays!

(Series originally published late 2003/early 2004 on the old site).


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