Thursday, December 30, 2010

We Were Young Once


With the upcoming Billy Joe Royal concert coming up tomorrow night at the Strand Theater brings back memories of a pre-“Down in the Boondocks” area when we were much younger.

Billy Joe and his family lived in the Clay Homes overlooking the west court. Back then a court in the Clay Homes was a spacious green between apartment buildings. I’m sure they were not nearly as big as I remember. A green court had about the same proportions as a football field.

I lived in the Clay Homes before the Royal family and the court in front of the Royal apartment is where somebody brought their 16MM movie projector and showed movies on warm Sunday nights. I remember lying in the grass watching TOM SAWYER.

We moved from the Clay Homes to Manget Street across from Larry Bell Park. It was in the same school district, I went to the same school, but with different neighbors. My sister Frances and I kept up a relationship with Clay Homes chums but also developed friendships with our new neighbors.

Although during the Billy Joe and Jack Royal era of the Clay Homes I wasn’t a neighbor, just a frequent visitor.

I remember we liked to sit out in the dark on the green grass of the court after dark and talk. I don’t think we talked loudly, we just talked and laughed a lot.

Mr. Caudell, across the court felt differently. Just our presence, sitting in the dark talking and laughing irritated the hell out of him.

I remember he was always smoking. On the porch in front of his apartment you could not see him in the dark shadow, only the red glow of his cigarette. The madder he got the more the little red light would bounce or shake.

Then, it would only be a matter of time that you would see the red light take flight – down the few steps and across the court towards us. He would always first politely tell us to hold the noise down. And we politely told him we would.

Not long afterwards, after forgetting to hold down our ruckus, you could see that little red hot dot come bouncing towards us again. The next time he was more demanding and rude.

After his 3rd or 4th trip he was always spitting mad.

I don’t remember us ever working it out. It was just a confrontation we could count on.

I don’t know how I know this, but I do. Mr. Caudell was the father of a cashier at the Big Apple where I later worked. One time a customer hit the roof when she told him how much his groceries were and said he demanded for them to be added up again. With the manager, L.L. Thurmond, standing over her to read off each price – that was before bar codes – she recalculated it and came up with the exact same total. She won my respect for being efficient. But I still didn’t care for her daddy.

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