The Vagabond Growing up in Gadsden, Part 9


By Danny Crownover

Author’s note: Robert Elton recently sent The Vagabond his memoirs of growing up in Gadsden. Robert is originally from Gadsden and graduated from Gadsden High School. He studied broadcast production at Auburn University and went on to work for South Carolina Educational Television Network. Robert and his wife Jean Pearce Elton live in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Bill Morris

Bill was a class ahead of the rest of us in school and a class ahead of us in other ways as well. He lived just about a stone’s throw from me on Berea Court. When he wasn’t at school, Bill was working at the Firestone Service Station on Ches-tnut Street downtown. He was an absolute straight arrow – even tempered, honest, hardworking and morally perfect. He married the preacher’s daughter. At 12th Street Baptist Church, Dr. Hopkins was our minister. Carolyn Hopkins caught Bill’s eye, and the rest was history.

Ben Barnes

I don’t know if Benny was the class clown growing up, but he certainly qualified. Don’t let his crazy sense of humor fool you – he was serious about the things he wanted to accomplish in life. The kids in our gang were borderline juvenile delinquents, and Benny was our unofficial leader. His gifts and talents were a rare combination – he was an excellent writer as well as an electronics engineer. As an adult, Benny worked for Chance Vaught Aircraft in Texas and NASA in California and Alabama, was a professor at Auburn University and head of the Alabama Computer Network in Montgomery.

Paul Wayne Womack

I had never darkened the door of a church until Wayne invited me, I was a teenager. Wayne was always a “people” kind of person. Whatever we did together, when the day was about over, he and I would sit in his car and talk about things that mattered in our lives. He was a man of many talents. Besides his counseling skills, he was a great artist.

After college, he became a senior engineer for a company in Huntsville responsible for the electronics on the LEM that landed on the moon. It’s rare to find that kind of combination of counselor, artist and engineer. Wayne used all three skills in his work. To top it all off, he married one of the sweetest and prettiest girls I have ever known in Carolyn Page. They were perfect for each other – a match made in heaven.

From Wayne’s daughter, Amy Womack Loden

“On Father’s Day I remember my dad. He was one of a kind. He was a brilliant engineer that helped put men on the moon but didn’t think it was a big deal. He was an athlete playing basketball in the army and golf and tennis with me later in his life. He was an artist that made beautiful watercolor paintings. He loved music, had a beautiful voice and played the guitar. He loved and respected my mom, and her opinion was valuable to him. I have a wealth of memories. I am very lucky. I miss him.”

Well, that about wraps it up for this series. About now, most all of us old gee-zers and geezerettes are headed toward the setting sun. It’s been a good run. I’m sure that one day, the old home place in Gadsden will be bulldozed like some of its neighbors, and that will be a shame. When our house is gone, that one old picture, the one we made of the house back in the snow of 1940, will be all we have left to help us relive those days gone by. That old picture seems to be fading now. For some reason, it’s getting harder for me to make out the fine details.

Would I like to go back? I don’t know; maybe just being able to keep the memories is better. But maybe if just one more time I could ride my tricycle down that sidewalk or go visit the elderly couple next door and beg for a sugar biscuit or sit on our front steps one night and listen to my brother and sisters tell ghost stories, or climb that old plum tree in the back yard, or go inside the house and crawl up on Mother’s lap and listen while she rocks and sings…

Just a song at twilight,

When the lights are low,

And the flick’ring shadows

Softly come and go.

Though a heart be weary,

Sad the day and long,

Still to us at twilight

Comes love’s old song,

Comes love’s old, sweet song.

(Composer: James L. Molloy 1884. Copyright expired.

And that is how I experienced growing up in Gadsden.

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