On September 1, 1956 (my birthday), our family returned to Hamlet after living in Franklin, NC for 15 months. Dad was furloughed from Seaboard so we did what he knew best. We returned to his hometown, planted a garden, got some chickens, a cow and a pig and were in a position to not starve to death. I think they call that survival today. Dad was returned to Hamlet and his railroad job about 2 months after we had moved to the mountains. We lived 6 miles out in the country in a Big House. It was on a hill and when the wind blew, the curtains moved. We named it Breezy Hill Farm. Gwen and I had to feed the chickens, slop the hog (gross) and milk the cow. Just the thought of that amazes me. I was 9/10). Dad came home every two weeks to help care for us and the farm. In Hamlet he lived in an upper room in the old Hamlet Fire Station until we were able to move back. He found this wonderful old house with high ceilings, a fireplace in each room, I think it had 11 rooms and it was big time dilapidated. There was no heating (or air) system in the house. I remember hearing he had paid $2200. for it. Dad was a wonderful carpenter and Mom was a visionary so they saw the potential in the house. We had a wonderful home at 415 Spring Street. We had quite a few kids in my age bracket that lived up and down Spring Street. They are Jimmy Liles, Patsy Boney, Ashley Fetner, Glenn Davenport, David Davenport, Harold Roper, Vickie Parker, Sybil Harris, George Cox, Dee Dee Bradshaw, O. W. Altman, Betty Moore, Bonnie Brown and Eddie Johnson lived on up the hill on Spring Street. We had a ball. If kids today knew how to play as we did back then, they would be a happy little bunch of people. This will sound as if I am rambling but what is so unusual about that. I am thinking of things that we did. We played Horse (a basketball game) on the school grounds. I remember OW being particularly good at that. One summer we spent a lot of time in the ball park. I think we were about 13 at that time. We use to “Walk the Wall” in the ballpark. There was one place that you had to get down on your tummy and slide under the electrical lines. Thank God none of us were injured. It was during this time that we “learned to smoke”. We started out with “Indian Cigars” and then we did a little rabbit tobacco. Thank God we didn’t kill ourselves. We “graduated” to cigarettes because Dee Dee had easy access to cigarettes from Bradshaw’s (back when it was a store). We had some good times hanging out in the ballpark. We were so stupid running around and smoking in the gas station rest rooms. It probably looked like a fire when we opened the door. We also took up tennis at this time. Dee Dee, Betty and I use to call Bert Stafford “Court Hog” because he played a lot. He was a senior and we were 7th or 8th graders and we actually had a crush on him. I am sure he thought of us as pests. I was never a great tennis player but we had good times. At one time there was a hole in the fence at the tennis courts. I don’t know who but someone pushed Kirk Kirkley’s VW in there and rewired or roped the fence opening closed.. We use to “Ride the Pine Trees” up at the ballpark. We would somehow get a rope to a top section of the young, pliable pine trees and someone would climb to the top and the people on the ground would pull the pine towards the ground and then let go. You went whomp, whomp, whomp like windshield wipers until it quit moving. Thinking back on it, that was not really a lot of fun because pine trees have prickly stuff and sticky sap on the tree. It was not really comfortable at all. Little League games were the social event of the time. The boys went to play and I am sure we went to see and be seen and just maybe watch the game. My “First Love” was George Cox and I don’t remember how it came about but we were a couple after a Little League game. He was a Cutie Pie Cub. My old scrapbook is falling apart so I took pictures of what I wanted to keep and it is pretty much trashed now. The Raby front porch was quite a social hall. They could have put that glider in the Smithsonian as a relic with a past. LOL. We had people there outside and being loud until midnight. Midnight was when Daddy's 2nd shift ended. I truly don’t know how our neighbors stood us but they never complained. This was in days with fans and no air conditioners. We probably entertained them as much as we bothered them. We also played a lot of Canasta at that time. I played so much I have never wanted to play again. Then there was the famous incident with Jimmy Liles and the hula hoop. We had such a great time. We use to have parties at each others home. We had parties for no reason. We use to dance to “old 45s”. We called it close dancing or shagging, depending on the tempo. We also had some great “Sock Hops” after school in the gym. Anyone remember the old record players that were brown plastic, almost square, had no top and played 45’s exclusively. I just had a flashback to those aggravating little yellow or red things that you had to put in the center of the records so the 45s would fit the spindle. We had to use the little inserts after we graduated to a record player with High Fidelity and it played 33s. . Well, I think the reason for the parties was to dance, play “Spin the Bottle” and “Post Office”. Those are little numbers games where you guess a number to get a partner and go kiss in a closet. We had a few parties at Dee Dee’s too. LOL. What innocent fun. George and I use to give each other our numbers. In the 7th grade Dee Dee and I were particularly good friends. The two of us together spelled TROUBLE. We got caught writing “Just Married” on cars with soap at the Junior-Senior Prom. We got caught and punished. That was probably 1957 so if we wrote on your car, I would like to apologize now. I was absolutely forbidden to go to “The Purple Top” grill on Hamlet Ave. I think they must have sold beer there so it was forbidden turf. They had good hamburgers. It was located next to the Esso Station. We use to go there, put money in the jukebox and dance. That would have been me, Dee Dee, Betty, Harold Roper, Mike Harris, George Cox and probably Delores Maples (who lived close by but not on Spring Street). I was forbidden to hang out at The Hub too but I practically lived there at some points during my life. I loved Frog and Walter Bell. They looked after us girls when strangers would come to our car and talk. We had some PJ parties that will not soon be forgotten. The deal was to stay up all night and sleep all day. It seems the later it got, the more adventurous you got. I think the one at my house was the most famous LOL. My Dad was a light sleeper and he had to go to work so we had to be quite. Can you imagine getting a bunch of 8th grade girls to be quite. The next morning we walked all the way over to Gene Winfree’s house on Minturn Ave (I think) at about 6 a.m. We loved our 8th grade teacher, Mr. Winfree, but he probably didn’t care too much for us at that time. We had one at Bonnie’s after she moved to Hamlet Ave.and were doing the “Can Can” for truckers in the middle of Hamlet Ave. I think the police came to that one. The fun part of the PJ parties is that the boys crashed them. We had one at Shirlee Russ’ and they were doing some work on their house at the time and the boys were climbing up the scaffolding. As a bunch of giggling 7th and 8th grade girls we loved to call WKDX and dedicate songs to anyone and everyone we knew. I can still here them now saying “this goes out to Dee Dee, Doe Doe, Radiator and Tater Head”. That would have been Elizabeth Bradshaw (Dee Dee), Delores Maples was Doe Doe, I was aptly named Radiator because I was so shy that I blushed all the time and Tater Head was Betty Moore. I don’t know the full story but in 5th grade she got in a fight with some guy and got the best of him. She was called tater Head after that. I never hear “Night Train” that I am not immediately taken to that era of time once more. Betty, Dee Dee and I use to sleep out “:Under the stars” in Betty’s back yard. I can’t imagine the mosquitos and other crawling things. I am not talking a tent here. We took a blanket and got at one end and rolled up in it. You couldn’t have run if you had to. One night there were some boys sleeping in a tent in the neighborhood. We went over about 5 a.m. and pulled their tent stakes up. We were running between house laughing and screaming. We had a lot of fun in clubhouses too (fun…nothing bad). Sybil Harris had one that we were allowed to paint. I can see it today. We had one Pepto Bismol pink wall with Maynard Clebb (the beatnik) painted on it. The other walls were other colors but they all had very large polka dots painted on them. We had such a good time there in our little corner of the world. The Cox family lived next door and George had a nice Clubhouse the guys use to play in. Pretty much as it has been portrayed all along, the clubhouse was a guy thing. I think that is where they went to get away from us. My bedroom was a social hall. My room was 20 x 20 and we could even dance in there. I always loved orange and after much time was able to talk Mom into a orange (soft) sherbet color room. I took black construction paper and cut out footprints and walked them out of a corner and all over the walls and back into a corner. If you were my friend, your name was on one of my barefoot footprints. I had a good friend in high school who confessed to me that she was terrified to come to HHS because “we” would be there. I had no idea that we were so famous. After our world expanded in high school our friendship circles greatly expanded. Well, high school was pretty interesting too. We were all good kids and had a blast. I am sorry that the kids today can’t (or don’t know how) to have fun like we did. We gathered on the Raby home porch until I left home in 1965. We had some good times there. I am more than sure my Mom was looking through the blinds. I will quit now but it was fun strolling down memory lane. I will show this to my kids and we will laugh. Our kids love my stories. When they were young they would say “tell us a story Mom” and they weren’t talking fairy tales. They didn’t have the privilege of living in one place and having roots. I think they lived a little through mine. I am thankful to have grown up in Hamlet. Those were definitely the last of the June Cleaver days. I love today too but I do enjoy reminiscing in the past. I frequently hear people talking about bad childhood memories, I was blessed to be in the family I am in and to have grown up in Hamlet, NC.
written by Jean Raby Nelson
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