14- 1965 July: Mansions, Picnics, Board Games, Driving, First Brush with Death
The details of life fill these childhood diary writings from 1965! I am reminded how images from childhood stay with us throughout life. Although I’ve traveled many times through the years to all parts of Tennessee and have been in Nashville on countless occasions, I always find myself thinking of the homes of my Uncle George and my Uncle Blanchard and shared times with those families in Nashville, whenever I pass through. In some ways those early ties to Tennessee leave a feeling of ‘that’s family’ or ‘that’s home’ whenever I think of that part of the South.
“16 July 1965, We left Joe’s place in Lebanon and are staying with Aunt Irene and Uncle George tonight. Little Rody came with us. Boy, he’s been pretty good. 17 July 1965, We bought a new board game. It’s called Yahtzee. It’s a fun play. Had a family picnic. Joe came to pick up Rody. Leaving Nashville tomorrow. 18 July 1965, We are finally home. I’m glad. Stopped by Columbus. On Friday, Ms Effie Cherry’s house burned down. (Neighbor) 19 July 1965, I talked to Laurie on phone. I’m spending the night with Debra. Adie took me out and let me drive on a small dirt road, just off the Eufaula highway!“
I emphasize again that the fun that I have with re-reading all these entries is that there awakens within me floods of memories with such crispness and clarity. I really enjoy that and hope that those details I’m sharing can also convey that world of simplicity and rural country life with family and bring alive the many ways that we (those of us with childhood roots in this era) spent time with family and friends.
Well, my Uncle George certainly had financial means beyond what most folks had in our inner circle of family and friends. He made most of his money in the banana and produce business. He lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs of Nashville out on River Road. The expanse of his land was vast and I always felt I was visiting royalty.
Dare I ask: Isn’t that a grand adventure for a 13 year old? Driving on country dirt roads to learn how to drive a car! Cool to have had a brother who was willing to share that risk and let little sister have a chance to experience a small look at that independence.
“20 July 1965, I can’t believe it, but it’s true. Grandmama died today. Oh dear God! It just cannot be true. It just can’t. 21 July 1965, Joe, Uncle Leonard, Uncle Red and Aunt Carolyn are here. Grandmama is resting in our living room.(in a coffin) Lots of friends have come by and brought food and words of comfort. I love her so very much. 22 July 1965, Today was Grandmama’s funeral. I cried a lot. Joe left today. We bought a Monopoly game. I can’t believe Grandmama is gone.”
The reality of death hits strong when we lose someone close to us. I only had the one grandparent during my early childhood. Three grandparents died before I was born. I wrote about my grandmama Minnie in an earlier story published on Medium. Born in 1880, she lived to see electricity become common place, cars replace horse and buggy, women get the right to vote, airplane travel become available to the general public, two World Wars waged, women’s roles shift, and humans fly into outer space. What unbelievable changes she saw in her 85 year walk on this planet!
I wrote a piece on Weddings, Funerals, and Revivals in which I described some of the cultural norms of these events back in these days. Please click on the link, if you desire to get a little more information.
“23 July 1965, We went to graveyard to see Grandmama and Granddaddy’s graves. Later went to Columbus. Got our little Simca checked out. I went to the softball game at the schoolhouse tonight. 24 July 1965, Rolled my hair this morning. Mom and Adie went to the dentist. I went over to Nan’s house with Debra. Billy W. is there. We watched the Miss Universe pageant on TV. Miss Thailand won. 25 July 1965, I went to Sunday School. Adie and I went to Columbus with our cousin to see the movie, “What’s New Pussycat?” Went to choir practice and church tonight.”
I have to laugh a little bit at having seen the movie “What’s New Pussycat” starring Peter O’Toole. Movies had not begun to have ratings in 1965, so it remained hit or miss sometimes with what was appropriate. Granted that the drama which unfolded on the silver screen was much tamer than today, but parents still monitored as best they could. My parents didn’t go with us to this one and probably a good thing. That particular movie used phrases and portrayed facets of life that went way over my head!
“26 July 1965, Joe is 27 years old today. Laurie came over. We talked and played records. Debra, Mitzi and I played badminton. 27 July 1965, I’ve been babysitting my little 3 year old cousin all day long. Man, I’m tired. Joe called. It’s 11:45 nighttime. Mama is writing thank-you notes for remembrances for Grandmama. 28 July 1965, Laurie has been here all day. She went swimming with Debra, but I took her — She’s spending the night with me.”
As my brother Joe (in Tennessee) and his family with their new baby celebrated his 27th birthday, I enjoyed the common activities of summer. Time with friends, whether playing outside, going swimming or spending nights together are recurring themes in my diary.
The adolescent girl stuff is amusing as I look back. We all competed for each others’ attention throughout these years. Someone “got in good” with someone else. I see that Laurie went swimming with Debra, but “I took her” meaning I stole her away and won the prize that she was spending the night with me! I don’t have any continuous communication with either of these dear girlhood friends, but in the last year I had dinner with one of them and passed through the town of the other, phoned her, but was unable to connect in person.
“29 July 1965, Laurie let me borrow her sheet music for the song “More.” I went to the softball game up at the school tonight. Laurie and Diane got together and acted a bit crazy. 30 July 1965, Today I went to Laurie’s house. I’m afraid we are going to get tired of each other before we ever get to camp this year. Adie (brother) and I played Monopoly. Sometimes, he makes me so mad, about the playing of the game. 31 July 1965, I am getting all ready to leave for camp on Monday. We had a cook-out at Aunt Gladys’ and I had a late birthday celebration. My cousin made me a birthday cake.”
I remember really enjoying playing the piano when I could choose to play popular rather than classical music. Oh, I enjoyed learning the classical pieces to sharpen my skills, but I really preferred something I could sing along with or just relax with the melodies of familiar sounds.
In 2017, of course, folks still play board games such as Monopoly or Yahtzee, more often digitally rather than board game fashion. When our families get together for holidays or special occasions, we use card games or board games as the basis for socializing and striking up interesting conversation and exchange of ideas. It’s been a few years since I’ve played either Monopoly or Yahtzee, but Canasta or NineCardGolf or Sequence are favorites among our family members.
My late birthday celebration at my aunt and uncles ended the month of July. I loved time at my Uncle Rody and Aunt Glady’s place. They had an outdoor patio just off their kitchen with easy chairs and a picnic table. The grill gave off that wonderful aroma of cooking outside. The outdoors around their home was picture perfect with tall pine trees, open spaces, a pond on either side of their property. An ideal space for family time and kids enjoying life.