Going to town … those three little words glowed so intensely, when announced by Momma, and, oh my, opened so many possibilities. My imagination abounded as my eyes sparkled and the smile-of-the week emerged on my dimpled cheeks, because you see, going to town occurred only once a week in most Meridian households, or maybe two times, if a holiday week, such as Easter or Christmas.
My cousins and I were loaded in Aunt Elaine’s gray Plymouth station wagon as Momma and she made their going to town plans. Usually the first stop was to their favorite ten-cent-store, Kress, located in the heart of downtown Meridian. Now Kress was a world unto its own — so very exciting, with the long luncheon counter that was lined with red topped stools.
We kids would stop and imagine how important one must be in order to sit on one of those fancy stools and order, say a grilled hamburger, with store-bought pickles (pickles at home were always just the ones that Momma had made from the cucumbers grown in the little vegetable garden situated behind our house), but these pickles, ah, sigh, fit for a movie star, or maybe, at least President Eisenhower!
But before we could finish our pickle daydreams Momma would yell for me and we would take off to Marks Rothenberg. When we walked into this gala of a 1960s department store, Momma had made certain that my nose didn’t need blowing; my shoes were spick and span, and no dirt on my face. I must be in clean order as we marched hand-in-hand into the store.
Our visit to this fancy place was always very fast and efficient -- no time to tarry. Momma said we must stay within the family budget. Aunt Elaine said that my cousins and I must not touch any merchandise, or run anywhere, or disappear, or, well … you know.
Then it was off to the grocery, the old A& P located two blocks behind the Temple Theater on Twenty-Fourth Avenue. As we scrambled in the front door, the delicious aroma of fresh ground coffee practically smacked our faces, and I didn’t even like coffee – still don’t. Hmm, I can still smell it today.
Momma and Aunt Elaine would each grab a shopping cart (we termed buggy, then), and with list-in-hand began the once a week grocery shopping tournament – more difficult than brain surgery, more cunning than championship chess, and it all must be concluded before lunchtime (or dinner time as we called the noon meal).
Then, one more stop to Blackwell Meat Market, and we were nearly done. The entire morning shopping trip was mastered in time to rush by the all-service-filling-station to gas up and arrive home to meet Daddy at the door for the noon meal, which Momma had prepared before we left.
Yes, thus ended the going to town venture for yet another week. The following days were busy with the cloth purchased at Kress that was sewn with tiny stitches and edged with the fancy lace, purchased at Marks Rothenberg, which resulted into a beautiful Sunday dress for me to swirl and twirl, to show off for my Daddy, and cousins, and friends.
Then it was back to the once a week shopping list prepared with great diligence by my perfect housekeeper, best cook in the world, talented seamstress, dedicated wife, and sweet, loving Momma. At that time, it was just once-a-week, but really so much more during the 1960s in the life of a child from Meridian. Yes, much more – the weeks that stacked on top of each other to complete a childhood, my childhood -- my blessed childhood.
I am very thankful for my life, perhaps, as some would say, lived in a hick town, but, hey, let “them” think it. Yes, let us keep this sweet town a secret, just between me and you.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her website at annemckee.net.