by: Russ Lancaster
My memories of Hylan Avenue center around 1957. I probably lived there part of 1956 and 1958 as well, but 1957 sticks in my memory because that is where I lived when I got my first drivers license.
The house we lived in was in the first block West of Highway 177. It had been a doctor’s office in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Doctor Brown was the name of the doctor and he has been mentioned in a couple of my other stories, notably “The technicolor shot” and “Close Calls”.
It was a very nice neighborhood. The Cades lived immediately on our West side, a preacher (Moody may have been his name) lived on our East side. Teacher Ms. Gibbons and Joe Gregson lived across the street.
The house had a screened in porch that ran the entire length of the house on the East side and I spent most of my time out there. Wiffle ball had just been invented and my brothers, sister and I could play out there even when it was raining without destroying anything.
We had a hammock out there and in the summertime I chose to sleep on the porch in it. I often went to sleep very early in the evening because I had to be up by 5:00 a.m. to deliver my papers for the Charlotte Observer. I had a bedside radio with a 45 rpm turntable built into it. I fell asleep listening to baseball games on distant stations from Chicago and Pittsburgh or listening to music on great stations like WCKY in Cincinnati or WLAC in Nashville.
The preacher’s wife from next door would often complain about the music. I didn’t think I played it too loudly. It certainly wasn’t anything like the loud music you hear these days from automobiles or boom boxes. I think she also was a little upset that her daughter flirted with me from time to time.
Gloria, David and Sandra Cade lived next door. Gloria was in my class in high school but we never had much interaction. She had a steady (Bugs Brown) and I think she may have ended up marrying him. I haven’t seen her since 1959.
David had his gang along with Jerry Clark and others called the “Owls”. They mostly left me alone but once bombed me with water balloons. I chased them down and the only one I could catch was Jerry. That was a mistake. Though younger than me, he was bigger and he backed me down. I saw both David and Jerry at the Seaboard Festival in 1999 and recognized them both immediately. They have held up quite well.
Sandra Cade was much younger than me but seemed to have a crush on me and I did nothing to discourage it. She was strikingly beautiful and would spend those summer afternoons out on that screened porch with me listening to my record collection. She was even allowed to go in the car with me after I got my drivers license to take lunch to my dad at the Yard Office. She invited me as her date to her birthday party and I accepted. I probably ruined her birthday that year though. When I got there, I saw all the boys and girls her age and realized I was much older than they were (3 or 4 years meant a lot back then). I sneaked out early and never dated her again. However, I did find myself in a canoe alone on a lake with her one night in 1957. The girl scouts were having a get together out at their cabin and they had called and asked if I could bring a TV set out so they could watch UNC and Kansas or Kansas State (can’t remember which) play for the NCAA basketball championship.
Somehow, she talked me into the canoe and out on the lake we went. Just us two. It was a cool if not cold evening and she knew how to handle that unsteady little boat. Soon we were out in the middle of the lake and she became a little romantic. I was a shy boy and didn’t take advantage of the situation.
I think Sandra ended up marrying Linda Lee’s brother (Billy, I think). I have seen her only once since 1959 and she still looked fantastic.
Ms. Gibbons (5th or 6th grade teacher) lived across the street. She had a blue 1955 Chevy. From the time she bought it until the last time I saw her she was still driving that car. I’ll bet it never went over 50 mph ever. She was a great teacher at Hamlet Avenue School.
Joe Gregson lived across the street, he still owned Joe’s Florist at the time. His house featured a huge basement with a basketball court inside. I found myself knocking on his door many a night asking if I could play basketball there. He let David Cade, Jerry Clark, myself and some others in nearly every time. I’m sure we probably pestered him but he always looked after us with the same courtesy as he did folks down at the florist shop. His brother, A.K. was a family friend. A.K. and my dad along with Willard Neighbors played a lot of basketball back then and refereed many a High School game, including those played in the Hamlet High gymnasium. A.K. lived down on the lower end of Bauersfeld Street. He and my dad also were great golf partners for many years.
We had a dog named “Roon” when we lived in the old converted doctor’s house on Hylan Avenue. She nearly died there one day. We discovered a partial basement at the back end of the house and decided to see what was behind the door that we had never opened. It was a surprise all right. We found old doctor’s records, test tubes and glass vials of who knows what. There was also some broken glass on the floor. Roon cut her leg on one of those shards of glass and would have bled to death had my dad not known how to tie a tourniquet. He saved her life.
I made myself sick one night while living there on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I had played a baseball game that night at the old ball park and came home hungry. I ate probably four or five thick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, washed them down with water and went to bed. I remember my mouth filling with water and didn’t recognize the tell-tale symptom of nausea coming on. Even though the bathroom was only one door away, I never made it there and covered the entire floor of my bedroom with thrown up sandwiches. I called my mom to help, she ran in, hit the slick floor and slid into the wall on her butt. She found no humor in it and I was too sick to laugh. But, when I think back on it now, I wish I had a video of that event. She got up, bawled me out and let me know it was I that would have to clean that awful mess up. I was too old to be the sick kid and was now going to pay by cleaning up my own mess. I got it done but I didn’t have a taste for either peanut butter or grape jelly for many years thereafter.
This story is just a memory of mine that I take time to write down before it disappears. It probably won’t make any impression on whoever reads it but it surely was a special time of my life, turning 16, getting a drivers license, having a beautiful young girl enamoured of me. It was a time when adults treated me as more than a kid like Joe Gregson did and even like my mom did when she insisted I clean up what I had messed up.
So, even if you didn’t like this tale, at least you know why I wrote it. To remember Gloria, David, Sandra, Jerry, Joe, A.K., Ms. Gibbons, the Moodys and all the other folks who did something enough to touch my life to make me remember them for so long a time. And I also wrote it to say… I remember Hamlet
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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