Huge decisions were made with a nickel to spend


When I meet people and the conversation goes to things we did years ago, we’re talking about the 1940s, 50s and the early 60s. Children could ride in a car without seat belts and sometimes you would see a pickup truck with children or grownups riding in the back, which was a special treat on a pretty day.

I can’t remember any bad accidents. There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles. We rode bicycles with one pants leg rolled up to keep from catching it in the bicycle chain and we didn’t wear helmets when we rode.

During this same period of time, everything was painted with lead-based paint — houses, furniture and even baby cribs. We spent hours digging through trash piles until we found some wheels and there was always some lumber lying around. By the end of the day, chances are we would have a wagon or cart made.

The next job was to find a big hill and there were plenty around here. Chewing gum was 5 cents a pack along with candy bars and soda pop. I stopped in Athens, Georgia, one time and bought my first McDonald’s hamburger for 15 cents. I bought gas for 19 to 35 cents a gallon.

One treat gone is drive-in theaters. The movies were the ones that had already shown in the regular theaters but there was just something about going to the drive-in, visiting the concession stand, eating hot dogs and popcorn and drinking a giant Coke in the car while watching the movies and what was going on in the cars around you. It seemed like the film always broke and the car horns would blow. The lights would come on and you could see all the people you knew. Some people would duck down in their cars, not wanting to be seen.

One big thing was stamps. There were S&H Green Stamps, Q yellow stamps, plaid stamps and other stamps. Every time a person went shopping they looked for certain stamps. I need three more books and I can get this certain boiler or other item, they would say.

Penny candy was a big thing in the 40s and 50s. In the company store in town was a glassed-in counter and it was filled with all kinds of candy. A young boy or girl could stand there as long as they wanted to make up their mind. Do I want a nickel candy bar, such as a Powerhouse, Baby Ruth, Butterfingers or Payday or do I want five different penny pieces such as bubblegum, a sucker, a Baby Jane, Tootsie Roll and a Kool-Aid straw? Maybe I’ll change that and get a wax whistle filled with Kool-Aid drink. Maybe I’ll get a box of Cracker Jack. A lot of deciding went on when you had a nickel.

On the other hand, you could buy a pack of baseball cards with the worst-tasting bubblegum in the world, so there were more decisions to be made. The good part about penny candy is if you were with a couple of buddies all of you could share.

On Herd Street, we were all buddies. The girls on the street were kind of like sisters and us boys didn’t allow others to pick on them. We all walked to school together; in those days the only ones who rode a bus were the ones who lived in the country. A few who lived in East Tallassee rode the bus to the school in West Tallassee.

You have a lot by living now but you also missed a lot.