Traveling on down the road

Traveling east on Highway 80 out of Demopolis, I pointed out to grandson, Jackson, over to the right what looked like not mor’n a pig trail. “Son,” I said, “that little two-lane road used to go from the east coast to the west coast, passing through every little ol’ town as it went.”

I had just run up to a little court hearing in Birmingham the other day, and got back before noontime. Seems like a pretty short time ago that heading to the Magic City from Marengo County, on a two-lane road, we had to head straight through downtown Tuscaloosa, through the campus, and dadgum, through all those traffic lights in Bessemer.

But you know what? Back yonder in the 40s and 50s, and some up in the 60s, you’d get to see some of the folks living in this United States. In the small towns with maybe no traffic light atall. You’d get to see farming folks on the farm or coming into town, and you could just stop in the middle of any little town, run in a drugstore to get you an aspirin or even a milkshake, without having to figure out where the exit off the road was, where the store was and that sort of stuff.

Motels right there on the side of the road you were traveling, and even though they didn’t have televisions and air conditioner units, they only cost about 10 bucks a night. Any of y’all recollect those Indian Tepee motel units going into Birmingham back then?

Hey, while we talking ‘bout road trips let’s talk a moment about the mode of transportation. Y’all know the granddaddy of the modern sport utility vehicle everybody’s getting these days? That would be a 1946 Chevrolet Suburban. I knew a family that had one of those 1955 Nomad. All six of those folks could ride all over the country in comfort.

Two other travel automobiles I liked in that 1955 year were that sleek-lined Ford Crown Victoria and that rip-roaring V8 Oldsmobile Super 88. Now, you talking ‘bout an elegant landmark of American automotive design: that would be the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk. It looked like a danged ol’ bullet near as I can recollect, but in my mind’s eye, I still get the tingles remembering that high finned 1957 Chevy. You could shift those overdrive gears without even mashing in the clutch if you knew how … and I did.

When I first got my license, Daddy had a Pontiac with a lit-up Indian head on the hood. My buddies and I would make our appearance up there north of the Bogue, and our Demopolis buddies would recognize that Indian coming into town. I bet one of those hood ornaments would fetch a pretty penny these days if you could fine one of ‘em.

Jerry Kirkham and them had a pink Desoto with push-button gears on the dash. I’ve told this story before, but one night, when there were not that many cars and trucks on the roads, especially after dark, Jerry steered that Desoto form Linden to Demopolis city limits in seven minutes. Whummmmp! Okay, Chief, the statute of limitations has run on that traffic ticket I’m pretty sure.

I just remembered sitting around listening to my Ma and some of her cousins talking one afternoon, and one of the older cousins laughed as she told about seeing folks sitting on their porch as she drove by in a strange area. She’d slow down, throw her hand up out of the car window, and holler out to those folks, “Hey, we’ll be back for supper.” She always wondered how many of those ladies sitting in the porch swing really got up to go be sure she had plenty of food for company.

Well, when you’re traveling about, even these days, and you see somebody, don’t forget to wave. They’re liable to wave right back at you … and they might even be prepared to have you for supper.

— 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, December 5 issue of the Demopolis Times.)