(Writer’s note: This was a story Johnny Hardin gave me years ago that didn’t get published. I ran across it and thought I’d resubmit it.)
Life is so great. God gives you your youth to explore, take chances and enjoy the beauty of this great world.
I was born in the town of Hardesty in Washington County in 1937 in a large two-story white house, where I lived with my grandpa, Colie Hardin, and my parents, Theo and Veneta Hardin. I can barely remember my granddad.
He died when I was three-and-a-half. Mom, dad, and I moved down the road about a mile-and-a-half and I grew to be six years old.
Then life began. I actually walked to school in Hardesty, about three miles each way.
I had the honor to go to a one-room schoolhouse with eight grades. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Maggie Chesser, and the rock fights we would have coming home. I am glad we were all bad shots.
Then my life changed. We moved to Springfield to live. I lived in a four-room house at the bottom of Armory Hill and Doctor Street. I had the pleasure of exploring the junkyard every day behind my house.
I remember the interesting conversations each day with Joe “Hopper” Leachman at his oil plant. I was just across the street. I would walk over and watch him fill up his delivery truck.
He looked like a Jolly Giant way up there on top of his truck.
Then, I would move on up the street and go into Buster’s Poultry House and watch Mrs. Buster handle eggs. I’d drift into the back room and watch Ed and Joe Buster taking care of the chickens.
I would head up the street to the Gulf Oil Station on the corner and watch S.B. Sims change tires and pump gas. All the time I would listen to the great stories along the way.
Then, it would be a quick dash across the street and I would go into Milburn’s Shoe Shop. I’d watch Mr. Haldine Milburn repair shoes, harnesses for horses, and belts for thrashers and big machinery.
I would go next door to see Tom Wheatley and a lot of times it was a real thrill to see Mr. Sam Nalley stopping by Nalley and Wheatley’s Garage. I would go by the side door and speak to Roy Mattingly, John Osbourne, and Joe Mudd. They were the three best mechanics I ever saw as a young boy.
It was always a pleasure to stop by Collins Hardware to talk to Leo Swartsmiller, and then go up the stairs to watch Maurice Begley repair radios, televisions, and whatever else wasn’t working.
Mrs. Cecconi would be cleaning the glass door of their restaurant. Mr. Cecconi always spoke and Mrs. Cecconi always asked about mom. Mom worked for them when she was a young girl. Nadine Murphy and Bosley Smith worked at the restaurant.
Next door to Barbers was Mrs. Effie Foster’s Hat Shop. It was always a treat to look at those hats. Some small and some large. I wondered where they found those big birds to get all those long feathers.
I would make a quick stop by Joe and Jack Malone’s Barber Shop to talk with Sonkey Mudd.
Exiting the barber shop, I often heard this great, wonderful voice hollering across the street to a friend. Sometimes there would come a large man with a great smile, always a kind word, and a pat on the head. It would be Mr. J.R. Montgomery.
Just up the street a short distance was the Kroger Store. I went up there every Saturday and picked up our groceries in my red wagon. A nice place, but they were all business. No visiting there.
I liked to stop at Robertson’s Dry Goods and say hello to Booker Robertson, Clifton Murphy, Sherrill Turner, and Vivian Murphy.
Across the street was The Louisville Store and a man I always enjoyed watching smoke his pipe. It was Mr. Dee Edgerton.
Mr. Dee didn’t have a tooth in his head, but he held that long pipe in his mouth and talked right on.
Later on, Martin Mattingly, Aggie Burress, Mrs. Sweazy, Mrs. Coyle, and Amy Cambron worked there.
Close to dinnertime, my morning walk was almost over but I had a few more stops on my trip.
I would walk up the street across from the courthouse. The first door I opened I would receive a smell of antiseptic and doctor office smells.
I would venture up the winding steps to the second floor and open the green door.
I stuck my head in.
Dr. Joe Spalding would look at me and say: “Hey boy, what you doing up here?”
I would grin and go into the extra room and sit in the chair.
Pretty soon, Dr. Lem Spalding would look around the corner, smile and say, “Hello,” and ask how I was doing.
Dr. Joe would tell me he was going to check my teeth, so I figured it was time to leave.
I would bounce down the stairs.
Then, it was always a treat to stop by and say hello to Mrs. Katie Sutton at the water office. She was such a nice lady.
Just across the street was Dr. Hamilton’s office. Like all boys, I stayed out of there until it was time to go to school. You had to get a certificate to get into school.
I always looked in the window at Mrs. Gretchen Thompson’s shop. She always had some great items to view.
I would stop at the next window and wave to Mr. Joe Mayes. He was the fastest barber in town.
Barber Hardware would be next. What a great thrill to go in there. They had a little bit of everything.
The greatest thrill was in the back of the store, where they had a cargo elevator.
I would hang around sometimes for a long while waiting for Tink or Felton Barber to make a trip up to the second floor to bring something down. They would let me pull the big rope to make the elevator rise. This was great to a young boy.
As I would come out of Barber’s Hardware, I would look across the street and Mr. Cecconi would be sweeping the steps to Cecconi’s Restaurant and taking a moment, to say hello, to Richard Mudd, the Farm Bureau insurance man.
I would finish off my morning with one more stop. I would open the front door to Mr. Levi Nicholas Cleaners. The aroma of cleaning, soap, and heat was something different. I always went in the back and watched Mr. Levi as he pressed white shirt after white shirt and pants, and so on.
Coming out the door, I would look up the street and Mr. Pat Grigsby would be coming out of his office to go to lunch, and Judge McChord would be leaving his little office heading for the house to eat.
Across the street, the jailer, Charlie Switzer would wave. Judge Leo Anderson would be coming out of the courthouse and he must have been hungry, too.
After my morning walk, I rushed home to eat with mom, and my two sisters and two brothers.
Come afternoon, maybe I would go to the other end of town and see what was going on, but that’s another story for another time.