Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another Landmark Bites the Dust

I just read that the Cobb County Civic Center will be closed down soon. That is a shame. It has been around Marietta a long time – in fact, I believe it was built in 1947. It was being built the year we moved across park from it. We watched it being built.

The top main floor was a huge auditorium with bleachers and basketball goals, with of course, a hardwood floor marked basketball court. A slope went around back and in the back was the ground level which had a pool room and a bowling alley. Outside the doors to the ground level was a public swimming pool.

For twenty or so years it looked like a big brick building. Then it was remodeled or torn down and built again, I’m not sure which, but the end result was more attractive – it had a bronze or copper look – very modern, but with all that modern look with windows and metal awnings going ever which way, they had to leave out a few things that made the place so good – they did away with the bowling alley, pool room, and the swimming pool.

However, they did name the building after my Little League coach, Romeo Hudgins.

And next door, sharing the same parking lot and pavilion was the Jenny Tate Anderson Theater of the Arts where plays and concerts were often. I was in school with Jenny’s three children and two I got along with great but one he and I were natural enemies. I’ll have to write a blog about that family sometime, if I can figure how to word it right to sidestep a lawsuit. Anyway, I hope the Jenny Tate Anderson Theater is not included in the closing.

The big building, new and old, and I go back together from its beginnings. They had professional wrestling matches most Wednesday evenings. One time at a match, I was showing off on the bleachers trying to impress a girl of my acrobatics when I misjudged and fell off the top level. I broke my arm. I have been to Civil War Collectors shows, Antique Shows, and many other kind of shows that just blend with time. I have taken my sons to the Shrine Circuses there. In one of the side rooms in recent years I attended a photography club meeting weekly…. In high school sometimes there would be concerts there. There I saw Jerry Lee Lewis, The Coasters, Ray Peterson (I think that was his name – his biggie was “Corrina, Corrina” ‘ where did you get those…and I forgot the rest of the words).

Down on the ground floor Pop Smith ran the pool room. He would not let me play pool because I was too young but he enjoyed my company because he knew my father and his brothers. Later his grandson Jimmy moved in with him and we became good friends.

Each year my father got my sister and I season passes for the pool. We took to the water like fish and still both us enjoy swimming regularly. There at the Civic Center for maybe seven or eight years we went swimming almost every day it was opened.

Of course when you have a big area like a pool that attracts kids any age you are going to have some interaction. Some of it was not all that positive. In my case for a couple of years I was picked on by a wise-ass talking kid named Vernon. He was always trying to get me to fight him or always picking on me. I politely ignored the bully. Then, a good friend of mine, Frankie Hunter (no relation), had a problem with Vernon. Vernon picked on him and Frankie was hot tempered. Frankie told Vernon for them to step outside, down by the creek to settle it. Of course all the boys followed. Frankie beat the hell of Vernon.

Wait!!! Lets go in fast reverse for a moment<<<<<<< Ok…. That is back far enough. One time, before Frankie and I knew each other well, we got into a fight. I whipped his ass.

So, now lets fast forward back to where we were: >>>>>>> OK. It occurred to me if Frankie whipped Vernon and I whipped Frankie, why am I taking all this shit off Vernon?

The next time I entered the pool there was Vernon standing there with his friends, leaning against some railing. I walked up to him with my fists clenched. I was ready to stand my ground. He didn’t even recognize my presence. He would look ever which way but at me. So, itching for a fight with a sure win, I got right in front him with my fists clenched, ready to get down to business. Vernon climbed off the rail and walked away.

He avoided me ever since.

The Romeo Hudgins Civic Center is on a 50 acre park which is mostly baseball fields and tennis courts. Now, there is also a running track. The name of the park is Larry Park, named after the founder of Bell Bomber Company, which would eventually become Lockheed Aircraft.

The boys from the Marietta Place Project, like Vernon, called themselves the Bell Gang.

For the past dozen years each year, the first Friday or Saturday night in October the Bell Gang has a reunion. Everybody is invited. I have been tempted to go several times.

Maybe I will go and see Vernon with an oxygen tank nearby – the cost of smoking all his life – or maybe in a wheel chair. If so, I just might move in and settle that score.

But getting back to the Civic Center. I hate to see that it is closing. All that pretty metallic stuff will be covered in graffiti do lack of caring what happens to it. And if it is lucky it can survive by being a big gigantic flea market with booths.

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