The young lady, who shall remain anonymous, was cleaning out her mother’s stuff. She shall remain anonymous because her mother didn’t particularly want her stuff cleaned out, never mind the fact that her house had sat basically undisturbed for two or three years. She found an item or two that she thought I might find historically significant and brought them down to show me. She was right. I did find the items, which were brimming over with nostalgia, extremely interesting — and one was an absolute treasure.
I found myself holding in my 61-year-old hands a 64-year-old program from a three act comedy performed on March 4 and 5, 1949, in the Porter Memorial Gymnasium — by the Senior Class of Porterdale High School.
Wow! I knew exactly how my next hour would be occupied. I would spend that time allowing that faded program to transport me back to another time and place. It became a magic carpet and it took me on a wonderful journey down memory lane — to a time before my birth — but a time I knew and understood so well.
The Porter Memorial Gymnasium was a scene of many happy moments in my life. I played there. I performed there. I watched all manner of sporting events from his wooden bleachers — from Jr. High basketball to professional wrestling. The highlight of the first 14 Christmases of my life was the program held there each year on the day that school was dismissed for the holidays.
The directors of the play, which was titled “All a Mistake,” were Mary Leila Ellington and Stella Coulter. I never met Stella Coulter but I know that Miss Ellington had a huge impact on my life because her generosity would allow Marshall Edwards to answer God’s call on his life and become a great minister of the Gospel — and Marshall Edwards has had a tremendous impact on my life.
There was a big ad on the front of the program for Standard Pharmacy. Standard Pharmacy was a great constant in my life during my formative years. They provided me medicine when it was prescribed and ice cream and Cokes and penny candy when I could scrape up a nickel or a dime. Almost every baseball card in the priceless collection my mama threw away when I left for college was purchased — along with bubble gum, of course, at Standard Pharmacy. I also bought greeting cards and toilet water and model airplanes there, when I got a little older and started figuring out ways to make my own spending money.
I opened the program to the first page and read the cast of characters for the play. Honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t recognize every name on the playbill, but a few did jump off the page at me. Jerry Brooks was a part of the “Cub Scout Minstrel Show” and so were Cleveland Digby, Harold Darby, Spencer Boyd and his brother Quinton, and Jimmy Laster— who also did a special tap dance number.
I grew up with Cleveland Digby’s younger brother, Randy. I worked in the mill for Harold Darby’s father, 20 years after Harold performed in that minstrel show. Jimmy Laster was a childhood hero of mine. His mama and daddy lived two doors up from where I would live and he played on a National Championship team at Auburn University. Also in the program was a list of those vying for Miss Porterdale of 1949. I wish I recognized all of the contestant’s maiden names. I couldn’t, but I did recognize Pauline Crowell, who represented the Mechanical Department, Jewell Hodge, who represented Porterdale Mill Spinning, and Kathleen Kite, from the Osprey Mill Cloth Room. Gotta love a contest like that. It’s a linthead’s dream.
Polly Veal sang in the chorus.
I was enthralled. I also enjoyed perusing the other ads. Digby and Skinner. My daddy bought all of his gas there and they also did the mechanical work on his cars. Wyman Bowden, one of his best friends and one of my favorite people, was the parts man. The first ribald joke I ever read was from the page of a little magazine called “Parts Pup,” a gift from Weyman Bowden to my daddy. Of course there was a large ad from Bibb Manufacturing Company. They claimed to be the “First Name in Textiles,” and in 1949, they weren’t just whistling “Dixie.”
The Conyers Coca-Cola Bottling Co. had a 10th of a page ad. My second-grade class rode the train to Conyers and visited the Conyers Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Mr. Bill Austin drove us to the Covington train depot in his school bus and picked us up in Conyers to bring us back to the school.
There were so many more sponsors in the program that I remember so fondly. “Covington Jewelry Company — Your credit is good with us.” “Covington Furniture Company — Low Prices. Easy Terms.”
Holifield Farms. They still make the best sausage on Earth. Porterdale Theater. It cost a nickel. The last movie I saw there was “The Alamo” with John Wayne. Dr. J. B. Mitchell Jr. had an ad and so did Henry Odum Jr. J.C. Harwell and Son advertised their ambulance service. The telephone number was 2524. Ramsey Furniture proclaimed the fact that they sold RCA Victor records. Gailey’s Shoes had been in business since 1899. I wish they still were.
Precious Memories. How they do linger.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author. Email him at darrellhuckaby.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.