by Ed Thrift
My younger years, when life was much kinder.
|Growing Up, A Long Time Ago
I was born at home at 11 Stall Street; Greenville, SC. Stall Street was the dividing line between the city and the county, and we lived on the county side. Our house had a large front porch, which, at various times, served as a hiding place, a fort, a ship, or any other structure that a young boy needed at the time.
We lived across the street from the M. M. West Grocery Store, which had one of the largest candy counters in Greenville, or so it seemed to a 6-year old, returning soft drink bottles for the deposit in order to buy penny candy. The store was owned by Marshall McKinley West, and his wife, Emma. Occasionally, Mr. West's brother Luke would help out. Where I lived this was as close as you can get to a general store, with a butcher block for the meats, and a hand-drawn kerosene pump. This was one of those stores where you ran a weekly tab, and at the end of the week, paid up.
Located diagonally across the street was the David Street Baptist Church, the church of my youth. When I was about six years old, the church was a wood frame, white clapboard building that had been a cabinet shop. I don't remember the original preacher's name, but I do remember the song leader, "Red" Gallimore. He was a slim, wiry man, about five feet eight or so, with fading red hair, combed straight back, and piercing brown eyes. He couldn't sing that well as I recall, however since no one else wanted the job, nobody told him. Also, he came as part of a package, with his wife, Margaret, serving as the pianist. What he lacked in voice, she more than made up for in her piano playing; one of those who could put a two-minute flourish onto 'Do-Re-Me,' and make it sound good.
As we grew up in the church, it expanded from the single original building, adding three surrounding houses, each serving as classrooms, offices, etc. I can still remember building birdhouses in Royal Ambassadors in one of those houses, with J.W. McAllister, our RA leader, spinning out his own brand of theology. In later years, the original complex was torn down and replaced by a larger brick building that contained everything, but that was after we moved away.
This tearing down seemed to be a pattern as I grew up, beginning with the church, then the elementary school I attended, Poe Mill Elementary. Yep, they tore that sucker down after I got out. The house I grew up in, obviously destined to become a national landmark or shrine...gone. Then I went on to Greenville Junior High School for three years. You guessed it, tore it down after I left. This was enough to give a fellow a complex. I know the man said that you can never go home again, but this was getting ridiculous. Maybe this was their way of guaranteeing that. So far, Greenville High School is still standing, but for a while, I was looking over my shoulder.
Up until high school, I walked to school. I still remember walking to Poe Mill Elementary during the winter and 'accidentally' stepping onto the ice ponds and places on the way. This was a distance of about one-quarter mile, (seemed longer) if you took the route down David Street, through Crestview Apartments, and up 3rd Ave. This was a mill village, and for some reason, unknown to me, this area was known as the "Ape Yard." Now, this was not something we advertised. I mean, can you imagine someone asking you where you were from, and you replying, "I live in the Ape Yard?" Not cool at all.
I remember some mornings Mom would fix fatback or "streak-o-lean" (fatback with actual meat on it). This was from the end of the slab of bacon that they couldn't sell for bacon, so it was much cheaper. The skin part was what we called the "rind." And it was left after we ate the meat off of it. I used to gather about five or six of these, and put them in my coat pocket. During the day, that was a snack to be enjoyed. Now you can buy them for $1.29 a pack at any convenience store. Boy, if I only knew then what I know now, I could have become the 'Fatback King of the Country.' Another chance at fame and fortune gone forever.
Also on this route was Mrs. Taylor's Store. It was just another general grocery store, as they go, but with a very special difference. What made her store famous, 'worldwide,' were Mrs. Taylor's hot dogs. Now here, we're talking about world class dogs. Steamed hot dogs placed into soft, steamed buns, with mustard, chopped onions, and chili. By the way, for reference, chili for hot dogs DOES NOT have beans. These were delicacies intended for gods, heroes, cowboys, and other very special people, including the Thrift boys. Oh, I can still taste them. I know that when I get to heaven, Mrs. Taylor will have a hot dog stand up there, serving up those angelic morsels.
Hey, you've got your idea of heaven...I've got mine.