|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “For you who remember, a glance into the past” was originally published in the Aug. 23, 1990 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Just the other day, a very nice young lady asked me to write about how things were a few years back. This request surprised me because she could have been a day older than 18, and this wouldn’t have allowed her to remember much about how things were, as she put it, when times were good.
But perhaps she liked to sit and listen to her parents or grandparents relay information about their earlier lives to their family members. So for this reason alone, this is dedicated to her:
Pass in review all those memories that dwell within my soul, for the time of shadows on the horizon, when the happy thoughts of yesterday will be lost forever.
First, let me say that I do not think of myself as being old. A little out of date maybe, but not old. The number of birthdays a person celebrates does not make one old. I know people who are old at 25. I also know some people who are not old at 80. My beautiful and most wonderful mother departed this life at just 28 days short of 102 years. She never mentioned being old. And it was in one’s best interest not to drop any hint that this darling woman even thought about being old.
But whether we like it or not, time has a way of gathering a lot of thoughts and turning them into what we often call experience. But if we sometimes take the time to look back into the past, the rough road ahead often can be made easier to ride on.
As I write this article, to price of gasoline soars to lofty peaks, because of the Mideast crisis. Would you believe that I remember when this precious liquid sold for 20 cents a gallon? As one stopped for fuel, one could go into the gas station or grocery store and drink a cold Coca-Cola that only cost a nickel.
The first and only bicycle I ever owned was not the finest bicycle in that part of the country. I swapped a full grown hog that I had raised from birth for this already well-used means of transportation. Many repairs were needed before the bicycle was ready to use; for example, all the spokes in the wheels were loose. I sat down and ordered a spoke wrench from Sears Roebuck & Co. for the amount of five cents; the postage to send it amounted to six cents.
My father told me if I wanted to make some money, he would give me two acres of corn. He would help me plant the corn, but I would be responsible for cultivating it and keeping it clean and free of weeds. At harvest time, the two acres were gathered and my father paid me the whole amount of $3 for the several large wagon loads of good corn.
Proud of my wealth, I wanted to carry the money to school and show it off to my schoolmates. My mother was so afraid that I would lose the money, she took a large safety pin and pinned the $3 inside the bib pocket of my overalls. I was given strict orders not to remove the safety pin or the money from the pocket. If anyone wanted to see my fortune, they would have me bend forward, and they could look down into my pocket and marvel at my bankroll.
I remember my older sister going to the hospital to have her appendix removed. The total hospital cost was the staggering amount of $48. We wondered what the world was coming to. Down the road a ways, our neighbor purchased a new automobile; the gossip circle had it that he paid the unheard amount of over $750 for it. The world couldn’t stand much of those inflated prices.
But then, things were looking up. We had purchased a new radio. We could now listen and know what was going on across the country and sometimes the whole world. And we were never short on company coming. Always, there were 12 or 15 extra people at our house on Friday and Saturday nights. When the Grand Ole Opry was blasting out over the airways, complete quiet was in order. If one spoke, there had better be a reason. Many hard and ugly looks came your way if you spoke while the music was playing. If one had any idea of going off to bed, one had to ease off into one of the back rooms and bed down, being sure not to make any noise or cause any disturbance.
For, as the clouds gather on the hills of yesterday, the memories are fast fading, and the blowing winds of oblivion remind us that nothing is forever.
And the wealth continued to roll in. New carbide lights replaced the old coal-oil lamps. No more did one have to carry the bundlesome old lamp from room to room. A flick of the lighter and the room was bathed in a white light so bright that it took on a ghostly appearance. You didn’t have to sit under the lamp to get your school lessons; you could sit almost anywhere in the room. Miracles were happening right and left.
Then one day, upon returning from school, I found in the kitchen a kerosene-operated refrigerator. No more did one have to go to the well for a fresh drink of cold water. No more did one have to go to the old homemade ice box and chip ice for iced tea. The sawdust-filled box joined the other relics under the shed beside the barn, to be used only to store ice of the Fourth of July, when making ice cream was in order.
But, with the coming of all the new inventions, the family continued to find time for telling family stories and legends. There were stories of how my paternal great-grandfather fell in the great battle of Shiloh, and how my great-great-uncle almost won a steamboat in a card game aboard the very steamboat he was gambling for. And at Christmas time, my grandfather dressed in his Scottish kilt and would dance for his grandchildren while the old man Kilpatrick from down the road played the bagpipes.
So, pass in review, all those memories that dwell within me. I must close once and for all the joys that were yesterday. I must return once again to the cruel world of reality. The past is no more; only the tomorrow.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)