Buildings and folks in my memory bank
I did a fair amount of military duty in Italy, and I loved those folks. I never will forget when I first gandered at what they call The Leaning Tower of Pisa. It sure as shooting had a lean to it alright, but I have to chuckle about something else from that first visit to Pisa. My buddy, L.Z. Johnson, and I had traveled to the Plaza where the tower is located. As I was taking pictures of that wonder of the world, L.Z. taped me on the shoulder, and said, “Look yonder, Boss, if you wanna see something funny.” I swannie, there back where all the shops were located was a rather plump, middle aged Italian lady with an itch. I mean to report that she had her hand behind and below her ample waist … further down, and that lady was digging back there to beat the band … or the itch, and she just kept on, even while I was taking her picture to go with the famous tower. She was one determined lady, and I had to respect her dedication to the task at hand, so to speak, and her complete disregard for social refinement. Just as the tower, she was leaning into her work.
I was fortunate and blessed to have been able to view sights in the world I had only heard about down in Linden, Alabama as a boy, the Leaning Tower of Pisa being one of them, but you know what? In the twilight of my memory, there will always be three other structures foremost in my mind, and none of them are now standing, whether they were perfectly vertical or not when they existed.
The first is the old school where my mother graduated in Linden, and where I began the First Grade. That ancient building also housed the upstairs auditorium where we youngsters put on plays, marveled at magic shows, and gathered for assembly before our gym was constructed. It was where we sweltered from the heat in the summer, and huddled around coal burning pot bellied stoves in the winter. Didn’t seem to matter much about those distractions as we made memories in that red brick school building with the twin chimneys sticking up in front.
Then there was the old castle looking jailhouse my Ma tried to get the Board of Revenue to spare back in the fifties, but it, too came tumbling to the ground. Never will forget going up to look at the hanging room way up top one day when my classmate, Marvin, talked his daddy, Mr. Jimmy Hall, into giving me a tour of the upstairs. I could envision all sorts of goings on throughout the history of that building, but it passed away.
The most vivid construction in my memory bank is the grand old courthouse that burned flat to the ground in 1965. Climbing the winding stairs of the Tower of Pisa didn’t hold a candle to my slipping way up into the clock tower of the Marengo County Courthouse as a boy. Seemed like I could survey near ‘bout the whole town from that vantage point and I remember thinking during the Korean War that I could probably hold off the entire Chinese army from up there.
Of course, my recollections of those three superstructures in my hometown are filled with memories of people in those places, like teachers Frances Crocker, Mrs.
Watson and Mrs. Holston, Janitor and Korean veteran, Dewey Webb, as well as classmates Frank, Billy, Melvin, George, Peggy, Ouida Faye, and so many others. I’ve already mentioned Marvin Hall and his daddy from the jail, and then I think of the folks who occupied that old courthouse so many days ago. My daddy, Sam Drinkard, Elwin McManus, Shine Westbrook, Wilmer Shields, and Charles Rentz just to recollect the elected officers I first remember.
In all due respect to the famous tower across the sea, I have to admit I do associate it with one very uninhibited Italian lady with a great big itch that needed a great big scratching.
— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.
(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, August 14 issue of the Demopolis Times.)