by Russ Lancaster
This was my first neighborhood, my first friends, my first real memories of Hamlet as my friends and I grew from 6 year old first graders to teen-agers between 1947 and 1953. The Second World War was just ending, school was just beginning and things never to be forgotten were taking place. Times were simple, money was scarce and friends were forever. During this seven year span, radios would slowly be phased out as television took over, families would become car owners and kids would be kids.
I lived in three separate places on Washington Avenue during that time from one end of the street to the other. Toys were not abundant but games were known and played by all of us kids handed down to us from our families who sometimes in the late summer evenings would sit out and watch us play.
The kids all lived within a block of Washington Avenue and stuck very close together.
The Boys: Donald Harris, a leader; Johnny Hamrick, best looking; George Glenn, the fastest; Martin Brown, the enforcer; David Lee Smith, the follower; Kent Hicks, another leader, Mike Gray, great marble player; Jimmy Pollard, graham cracker eater/scientist; Buck Tarlton, the bully.
The Girls: Cynthia Honeycutt, the beauty; Sue Strickland, the tom boy; Gay Lovette, the other tom boy; Martha Sue Warwick, the kisser; Sarah Wadell, the heartbreaker.
The Adults: Dutch and Madge Fisher, Chief and Mrs. Hicks, June Pollard, Mrs. Vickers, Jack and Ernestine Lancaster, Bill Boney, The Hamricks, The Griffins, Mrs. Ketner.... these were the ones who kept an eye on us.
The named games we played were "Mother, May I?", "Red Rover", "Dodge Ball" and "Red Light". Of course there were the others like baseball, football, battle, cops & robbers and cowboys and indians as well as jumprope, hopscotch, jacks and marbles. A lot of the time we spent playing these games disappeared shortly after TV appeared on the scene but even then kids and adults would get together at places like Mrs. Griffin's on the lower end of Washington Avenue to watch favorites like "The Lucky Strike Hit Parade" on Saturday nights with everyone counting down to the top hit of the week. Lucy and Desi were another popular favorite for everyone to watch together.
We finally got our first TV (a Crosley) in 1949 and it was a big occasion. It was purchased at the RW Goodman Furniture Company in Rockingham and installation was something else. They sent a man to put the antenna high upon the two story house we rented at 412 Washington Avenue and hooked all the wires to the TV and we were in business. The only channel available was channel 3 in Charlotte some 75 miles away and the picture was quite fuzzy at times. The station carried all the networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and the old DuMont network). Those were the days when one company could sponsor an entire program and some of our favorites were "The Big Top" by Sealtest on Saturday mornings. Others included "Man Against Crime" with Ralph Bellamy by Camel cigarettes, "I Led 3 Lives" a FBI, Communist party counterspy thriller, "Boston Blackie" by FFV (Famous Foods of Virginia) a cookie maker, and "The Friday Night Fights" by Gillette Blue Blades.
One Christmas, most of the kids in the neighborhood received roller skates, the kind you fastened to your shoes with a skate key, but we had no real place to skate except the sidewalks that ran around and through the Washington Court Apartments. Some nice parent called the police station and talked the City into blocking off that nice paved part of Seaboard Street between Spring Street and Washington Avenue and we would skate for hours, sometimes so long that when you took the skates off walking felt awkward.
Bicycles were had by one and all ranging from 20" Western Flyers to the big 26" monsters and everyone thought of his or her own self as the best cyclist around. Once again, those sidewalks around Washington Court Apartments were the perfect venue for our bike riding trails.
My favorite home on Washington Avenue was the Vicker's house which we rented. It was next to Chief Hicks' house and had so much to keep us kids occupied. The gigantic back yard was blocked from street view by a magnificent row of trees. Back there were pear trees, grapevines, pecan trees, a tin roofed garage and a very large garden. We spent many summer nights sitting out back with Madge Fisher, my parents and my brothers and sister. Listening to the adults tell tales of their younger years was always more interesting to me than TV or radio and listen, we did. While they told their stories we would be shucking corn, hulling peas and beans or whatever to go into the brand new chest freezer we had. Those good old veggies would taste good in the winter and it wasn't all that hard to do. The only really hard work we did back there was when my Dad would make a trip to the beach and come back with a crate of fish (spots) weighing well over a hundred pounds. Cleaning all those iced up fish was never much fun and I wasn't much of a fish eater either. At least he did most of the work then and we kids could sort of slide away and catch fireflies or something. We had a big barbecue grill back there also and cooking out on it in the summer was nice and kept the house from getting too hot. Air conditioning and central heat were not a luxury of ours back then but I never remember being too hot in that well shaded old house. Nor do I remember being too cold in the winter even though our heat was a big pot bellied coal burning stove in the living room. Ahh.. to be that young and conditioned again....
We had great trees to climb, a dog (mixed breed spitz) named Spot and ourselves to keep us occupied. There was even a cat named Elizabeth that had kittens ever so often to keep my sister, Fran, happy.
That was a wonderful neighborhood back then and friends were made that will never be forgotten and family memories passed down that remain to this day dear to my heart. I loved Washington Avenue and that period of my life and love it even more today.
Yes, 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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