Dope Wagons and Bottles of Milk

One of the best perks of growing a bit older is reminiscing about days gone by and of course, emphasizing how much better it was then. This thought struck me today in a brief  conversation I had with an older customer on my mail route. And since last weekend when we traveled to my hometown and talked a  bit about days gone by, the past has been very present with me.

Let me hasten to add that there are no illegal substances referred to in the title of this post. Just wanted to clarify that.

Both of my parents were long time  employees of what was then Fieldcrest Mills, Inc, an Eden,Nc based textile manufacturer. Both were production employes in  what was  known simply as the Blanket Mill. She was  a spooler hand and he was a warper tender. Their careers began around  the 1930’s or 40’s and in those days there were no canteens  or break rooms as we know today to take a few moments for  a soft drink or cup of coffee. If my memory is at least partly accurate, the snacks/drinks etc were delivered by a pushcart that made its rounds through the  plant. Again, this next is my recollection of what I was told. The carts were known as dope wagons since they also distributed a variety of headache remedies, a virtual necessity.  Or they might have been called by that name since  a Coke was  at one time known as  a “dope.”Cant prove but I  bet that Goodys, a Richard Petty favorite,  was a popular choice. I actually  have a  hazy memory of touring the plant as a child and being overwhelmed by the pungent aromas coming from the bleachery department.

Part deux of the title  is from a delightful memory I have of home delivery of our  milk by the Pet Milk  man. The empty glass bottles were placed on the porch the night  before I think with  a note “ordering” the milk /juice to be delivered that morning. For many years I thought that Pet was the only milk available . To this day however, I believe that  milk  should  be available only in glass bottles simply because it is  a”proven” fact that it tastes better.


February 28, 2011 Posted by | Culture, History | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going Back Home

Thomas Wolfe 1937 4

Image via Wikipedia

Asheville native Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again. I have wondered about that phrase. After all, one can almost always go home again unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent that from happening. But, after this past weekend I think I have a better grasp on what he meant.

My wife and I have different hometowns and at this time in our lives we live in hers, having lived in my hometown of Eden,NC  on two separate occasions.

For many reasons, some valid and some  not , we have not been to Eden  in over 20 years. As is often the case we returned under difficult circumstances; the  sudden death of a relative. One of my sisters lost her husband quite suddenly last Wednesday and were drawn home again, at least it was home in my case.

I  have tried to put the trip into some type of perspective, knowing all the while that the trip was not about me, but rather being there for my sister. My wife and I talked   a bit about going back as we traveled, particularly as we  drew closer. The main artery for us is NC Hwy 14 into town and  I was predictably astounded at what I observed. There were businesses galore that we did not know,and could scarcely believe that were there. They had a Cookout, for goodness sake. Old businesses were gone, others inexplicably remained. The hospital ( Morehead Memorial) seemed to be stretching its tentacles everywhere as if it were the only game in town and maybe it is.

Going down main street, Washington,was, as in most small towns sorta sad.  Alas,vacancies seemed to outnumber stores. But, even more surreal was arriving at my home church, Bethel Baptist. The church sanctuary was the venue for the receiving line prior to the funeral. This was a place where I had not set foot since probably 1970. Really, really strange.

Predictably, I  did   not know most of those paying their respects, but every now and then, a familiar face emerged and once again the past became the present and quite nicely I might add.

The service itself was not really a funeral but more of a celebration of what had transpired in my brother in laws life and really my sister’s as well. She was that crucial figure, largely unseen that made a lot of what he did possible. There was as much laughter as tears, largely due to the common bond of Christian faith shared by the members of my family.

The church’s pastor, Darrell Boles, was one whom I knew by word due to my sisters and their spouses, two of whom faithfully attend. I was so very pleased to met him and get to know him for myself. From this point of view he is the right man in   the right place at the right time. I would be remiss if I did not mention  the caring  but professional job done by Fair Funeral Home under the direction of Neil Fair.

So, we went “home” again and I think I learned once again that it’s not so much the  place but those people who are there and were once there that really provide that  unique aura that is no where else.

To all who were there,


February 21, 2011 Posted by | Family, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


Had to step away from the health care fiasco for  a bit although I guess this may end up being related somehow or the other. One of my fellow bloggers did  a great  job raising issues and points of concern of which you may be  unaware. So check out warrantonegirl for some good info.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog. For the uninitiated, the title refers to  cemeteries. I had not heard the term until a co-worker identified where he lived as being across the street from the boneyard. Rather apt term, come to think of it. I actually grew up just a block or two from our local boneyard in Eden, nee Leaksville, NC. The name is Lawson Cemetery, the name of the street on which I lived.

I know very little about the place other than it has always been there( since 1843 I learned) and it was the final earthly resting place for  both of my parents. I was always intrigued by the place as a child with all the different  tombstones and grave markers and how old I thought they were, little did I know how true that was.

So why boneyards? I suppose with the onset of spring and the approach of Easter I have ben thinking about such issues. I typically read and re-read the Gospel narratives (Matthew,Mark,Luke and John) about Passion Week that of course culminates in Jesus resurrection. There will be  a time a bit later for more about that subject.

But, strictly from a boneyard aspect, I remember teaching a high school age Sunday School class many years ago on the above topic and discovering that in New Orleans and in Israel ( not sure where else) that people  had to be buried above ground due to those  areas being largely below sea level. Not sure if the class was as fascinated with that trivia as was I .

I have noticed since my arrival in the northeastern corridor of our state that not all boneyards are like that of my childhood. There is a plethora of small, family plots in some of the most unlikely places. Usually there are just a handful of graves, often barely marked and separated from a busy highway by  virtually no barrier at all. But, ahh the history that lies in these small plots, gradually but inexorably fading away.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | Christianity, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Know Hate Is A Strong Word, But….

Strong words often generate strong reactions such as this line from a Wayne Watson song. ” Sticks and stones can break my bones,lies  can break my heart, before you fire your poison tongue, contemplate the scar.” Those lyrics came from a song he did years ago that talked about the destructive power of speech. I  trust that my title will not have that kind of impact, for the allusion is not to a person, but rather a thing.

My feelings of antipathy are for the public school system, not in an overall  sense, but rather for my experiences as a public school student and how I fit or rather didn’t fit.

These feelings wandered back to my thoughts when I read a brief book review on a  book entitled Why Don’t Students Like School by psychology professor Daniel Willingham. Dr Willimgham has been at the University of Virginia sice 1992.  Willingham says he in his book content is more important than “learning strategies” . This next part is what got my attention. Kids get bored because teachers don’t know enough about the line between a mind that has too little stimulation and one  that is overwhelmed. That started me thinking, was I one of those and   was that the reason I struggled so much.

Although, that may have been a factor, I’m inclined to think my shortcomings in the area of social interaction were the biggest issue for me. Again, I just didn’t fit. How does a teacher get  a child to fit? I really don’t know. There were some teachers in my early years that I remember positively, more so in the early years, say, grades 1-4. After those years, the positive feelings that I remember became less and less until college, of all things. When I arrived at Rockingham Community College as a freshman, it was as if a light came back on. I liked college there and even more so at Appalachian State. My grades  were pretty good but they had been pretty good in public school. When I made it to college, it was if the pressure was off and I could be myself, whatever that was, and no one minded .

Perhaps, it went from being required to go to having an option. Being exposed to different types of people with different backgrounds helped as well. So, those who are afflicted with an antipathy toward school from days gone by, it’s ok. Skip those class reunions if you want, don’t wax nostalgic and most importantly, try to dismiss the junk with which you put up as I am doing. It by no means must define you anymore.

One picture as a close. My very frist school was Burton Grove Elementary in Leaksville, NC (now Eden) Although no longer a school, it still remains the place where it all began.

Burton Grove Elementary School(flickr.com)

Burton Grove Elementary School(flickr.com)

The caption perhaps tells it all of a school that once served well, now sits empty and abandoned, shuttered and decaying. Rest in peace, home of the Burton Grove Bulldogs.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | education, History | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Long Ago Yesterday

This week is an anniversary week for  my wife and I  . Not wedding but that which precedes the wedding . On October 14 , 1970 we met for the first time and might I add I was definitely smitten. On October 16 we had our first date which thankfully led to other dates and to the sharing of our lives together . But some detail . It  was one of those do you know anybody that might be interested kind of things . Appalachian home coming was near and I had no date and no prospects thereof . But looking back at what had to be the Lord at work , a blind meeting was arranged between a young lady from Elizabeth City ( which i had no clue about ) and a socially awkward guy from Eden . The place  was Cone dorm on the ASU campus and it was a Wednesday . In those days one didnt just waltz up to a girls dorm room- there were guys and girls dorms of course . One had to march bravely up to a desk and tell an intimidating woman who they were there to visit  . By the magic of the intercom the young lady was called, informed of her potential visitor at which time she had the option of saying yes or no . To my dying day , I will be glad she said yes . My wife actually remembers what she was wearing that day, all I remember was wow ! I still wonder at times why she said yes , maybe just to hear the Four Seasons sing ( yes they were popular then ) when she in all likelihood could have made a different and perhaps better choice . But wonder of wonders , she even agreed to attend the football game on Saturday after the concert . I couldn’t have foreseen what was to come of course but I have had a faithful , loving partner to experience it . So, thank you Boone NC and Appalachian , for putting us together . One postscript, years later we drove through the ASU campus with our children and pointed and told them, see that building , that was your mom’s dorm, where we met for the first time . Their collective awe struck response – So ?

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Family | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment