Category Archives: Memories

The Shopping Mall (Part 2)

Clothes

Sometime in the years 2016-2017, my granddaughter became a full-blown teenager. I got the first glimmer of this change when I went clothes shopping with her last August.  This year there was no doubt the transformation had occurred. Accordingly, and with some trepidation, I set out for the mall with both my granddaughters: 9 and 15.

The car conversation went something like this:

“Mom said we should shop for Hattie (9) at Old Navy. Since she doesn’t like jeans, they have a good selection of the leggings she likes. They also have shirts for her as well,” says Emma (15).

“Great. We can just shop there for you too,” I respond.

“Granddad, you have to be kidding, I hope?”

“YES.”

“Sometimes, Granddad, you can be cruel.”

The selections at Old Navy were very good as far as Hattie was concerned.  Of course, Emma took charge and began pulling things from the racks hoping that her sister would make fast decisions.  But Hattie has her own notions when it comes to fashion.  She has graduated from wearing a pink tutu with everything, but she knows what she likes. It took a while, but finally, we had some choices for the leggings and three tops or shirts or whatever.

Off to the dressing room, they went.  I noticed how careful Emma was with Hattie and how protective.  It was good to see the love these two girls have for each other.  The fitting lasted 20 minutes.  There were a lot of men and boys milling around waiting for mom, girlfriends or daughters to emerge.  One guy picked out two shirts from a sale rack for himself and another picked some Birkenstock knockoffs. Old Navy has some good merchandising techniques.  Total time including checkout, 51 minutes. And the receipt was only one GASP.

Hollister

Somehow, I knew Hollister would be different. This store positions itself as a cool SoCal beach shack as you can tell from the picture. You expect to see surfer dudes and gals talking about waves and boards.  What you see is a bunch of teens looking for something awesome to wear for the new school year. By the way, Hollister is a division of Abercrombie and Fitch and was established in Ohio in 2000.

One Mom was holding a pair of jean cut-offs.  Back in the day, you would simply take an old pair of jeans and cut the legs off. Today you pay $45 for the same thing.  I assumed the Mom was holding them for a daughter.  She held the cutoffs up to her waist.  I wanted to say something, but sanity prevailed since I didn’t want to be arrested for harassment.  Luckily, her daughter came to the rescue.

“You have got to be kidding Mom. Put those back! They are not for you!”

Emma was in action. First the jeans. Last year I was opposed to ripped jeans, but I have seen the light. I am not in control.  A pair of white ripped jeans and a pair of skinny jeans came out of the pile.  Then on to the shirts.  This took some time, so I found a nice chair.

There was a dad with a worried look on his face as his daughter had at least 6 pairs of jeans and as many shirts over her arm.  She headed for the dressing room.  He stood beside my chair and looked to be in pain.

“She can’t possibly wear all those clothes,” he said.

“She doesn’t know that!” I responded.

Since this was my second year of back to school shopping I was a veteran and I sounded like I knew something.  He sighed and looked resigned to facing a very large bill. That could easily be 5 gasps.

All of Emma’s stuff fit, but she told me to stay seated while she shopped for a few more things. The girl with all the clothes came out with a big smile and announced that all but one pair of jeans fit There was a big sigh of resignation from her dad. We are hopeless!

Well, we were next in line at the checkout.   The girl at the counter took all the stuff and began to sort it out.  She held up a purplish, lacy something or other and said, “I just love this color in a bra.” I froze, turned scarlet and made some sort of gurgling sound. Emma looked at me and turned scarlet.  The sales girl looked at me, “Granddaughter?” and smiled. I shook my head yes. The item disappeared into the bag. I was still recovering my breathing when the receipt came. I failed to look or gasp.

Chick

I was in need of sustenance–I was a little dizzy and in need of a real lift.  The chicken store was just down the hall.  I made a dash for it as the girls lugged their bags down the corridor after me.  A diet DP was just the thing along with a spicy chicken sandwich all the way with waffle fries with plenty of ketchup.  No need to gasp at this place. I will deal with the calories and fat later!

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RETRO sneakers!  Are you kidding me?  History does, in fact, repeat itself.  Last year, it was high-top gumboots from LL BEAN and this year it is white sneakers with no strings and elastic on the side. This was a three gasp item–how much can a little canvas and some rubber be. Of course, it’s the label–I get it!

Next stop Claire’s–the junk store of all junk stores.  Hattie needed some new fake nails.  This time they were purple with blue stripes.  Her mother does not let her out of the house with them on.

I love my girls and am already looking forward to next year.  I hope Emma will still go with me.

PERDUE HOLLOW REVISITED!

I have this cousin named Mary.  She came into my life when I was four or five and she remained there for eleven years or so.  Then my favorite Aunt Edith married Walt and Mary disappeared into Walt’s family.  She was no longer a part of my life and I missed her.  She was the sibling I never had and she got a brother and sister in the new arrangement. When there were opportunities to see her at my grandmother’s house, I stayed away because I didn’t want the pain of missing her all over again. I was seventeen and didn’t know what I was losing.

The year 2017 has brought a massive change and Mary has come back into my life with a bang. She is on a mission of reuniting those of us that have been lost and I am grateful to her.  She has been to my place in Roanoke, I have been to visit her and her husband Steve in Louisville, and recently we had lunch with our cousin John and his wife Kay at the Valley Country Restaurant in Green Valley, West Virginia.  After lunch, we drove to Brush Fork, West Virginia to our grandparents’ homestead in Perdue Hollow.  Our cousin Don owns the place today and he has done a terrific job refurbishing the house.

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As a youngster,  my bedroom was in the left back corner on the second floor of the house.  Mary slept in the front room across the hall from Weaver and Dora, our grandparents.  For the longest time, this house was about a mile off the Perdue Hollow Road.  It was also the home of our great-grandparents Will and Mary Perdue.  We were all part of the long line of Perdue’s that inhabited this large Valley or “Holler” as we preferred.  Then they built the airport road right through the middle of the farm.  It’s still a two-lane road–the airport is not very busy. I never liked that road.

Donnie, Mike(me) and Johnny new every inch of the mountains and plateaus around the place. Plus we knew a lot about the Whitt Hollow which was on the other side of our mountains.  This “Holler” was mysterious and a little scary, but we were brave lads looking for adventure.  Soon enough we had Mary tagging after us to the Whitt Hollow.  The memories of this wondrous place are much grander than the actual events in the fifties. But, I cherish every moment I was there.

Mary, John and I were waiting for Don in the drive where the old gate used to stand,  looking up the valley.  It all looked closer together–the big hill with the road to the plateau was somehow closer than it seemed in 1950 or even 1957.  I haven’t seen the place for 39 years and haven’t seen my cousin Don or his new wife, Connie, in that time.  I was upset by the way Don had manipulated my Grandmother to let him have the property.  She was a difficult person to deal with most of the time (actually she had a mean streak), so he probably deserved it for his efforts to help her.  I am not upset anymore.

Don finally arrived.  Connie was in the house and he took me in to meet her.  She was not feeling well but was very lovely and nice.  The house was beautiful on the inside and Don showed me a picture of Will, Mary and their ten children, including Dora Belle.  My grandmom hated the name Belle.  I knew all the children in that picture–my aunts, and uncles.

The fourValley Country of us stood in the yard and talked about old times.  It hit me like a punch in the stomach.  I love Mary.  I love Don. I love John.  I love Steve, Connie, and Kay.  Standing in that place we were one and always will be.

DOUBLEWIDE ON A HILL

DOUBLE-WIDE ON A HILL

My grandparents had a farm in Mercer County, West Virginia.  They had a nice little valley surrounded by very tall hills, some would even say mountains.  From about five on, I climbed those hills with regularity in the summertime.  I spent at least two months each year on that farm until I was 16.  The discovery of girls changed my attitude about quiet country living.

When I was 15 or so, I was standing on one of the hills on the western side of the valley.  The day was clear, it was hot on the mountain top, and the sky was high and blue.  You could see all the way to the Virginia line on the east side and at least to Welch on the west.

After sliding down the hillside, I met my grandfather on his way to the barn.

“Hey, granddaddy!”
“Hey, Boy. You been up on the ridge?”

“Yep, you can see forever up there.  Man, I would love to have a double-wide up on that hill with a nice big front porch and some rockers.”

“Listen, you got bigger fish to fry than a double wide on a hill.  You need to get on with that book learning your momma says you’re so good at.  You are going to work with your mind, not your hands and your back.”

“But Bud’s got a really nice double-wide and that pretty wife of his.  Looks pretty good.  Mine would be even better cause of the view.”

“Boy, you are just 15; what do you know about a view. Besides, Bud is an idiot—dumb as they come.  His momma didn’t have very good taste in men. That whole Maddox clan over by Bluewell is dumb as posts and she married the dumbest of the lot.  I know you think Bud is cool because he is your cousin and been in the Navy and he can’t help being dumb—it’s just part of who he is–just dumb.”

“But, granddaddy!”

“Listen, Boy, no more talk of a double-wide. Make yourself useful and milk Betsy.”

I listened to my grandfather.  But on particularly rough days in my calling as a financial advisor, I day dreamed about a simpler life on that hill.  I could have married my third cousin, Bobbi, a really pretty blonde girl I was chasing after that summer.  We could have had three or six kids and I could have worked on the railroad.  What a view.

As things turned out, when she was in an alcoholic haze, Bobbi killed her husband with a long-barrel .357 magnum.  My life is truly wonderful after all, market cycles included.

http://www.tmichaelsmith.com

 

The POWHATAN ARROW

Recently, a friend was visiting me from Maryland and wanted to go to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.  I was keen on doing that since I had heard Bev Fitzpatrick speak of the museum a few months earlier.  We went for our visit on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.  There were a fair number of folks wandering through the exhibits, but not so many that it seemed crowded.

The O-gauge model trains brought back some memories—I sold my Lionel train to buy a baseball glove I had admired at Jennings Shepherd.  The bus and car collection was terrific and I imagined the street car was the one I used to ride with my mother.  The story about the Claytor bothers was fascinating.

But the memories came flooding back when I saw the refurbished 611 engine.  I was standing in the old train station looking east toward The Shops, hoping for an early view of the Powhatan Arrow.  The train would take me to the farm of my beloved grandparents, John Weaver and Dora Perdue Hager.  It was in Brush Fork, West Virginia, a little spot between Bluefield and Princeton.  I loved it there and I rode The Powhatan Arrow every summer to Bluefield, where my grandfather would pick me up and “carry” me to the farm.  “Here it comes! I see it!  It is great! Look how big it si!”

Can you imagine that my Mother felt comfortable putting me on that train and sending me by myself at age 7?  She did—it was a different time, a truly lovely time.  She put her trust in the Conductor, who promised to faithfully watch over me, a promise he kept. I made the trip for 6 summers and a few time at Christmas, although my parents went along on those trips. Those gave me an opportunity to display my knowledge of train conducting.

My mother often came for the last two weeks of my summertime on the farm.  I was always a little disappointed because it meant summer was coming to an end and, more importantly, I would not get to ride home on that wonderful train. Somehow my father’s Buick was not that much fun.

 

  1. Michael Smith