Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
Little incidents create lasting memories
Shirley Forester Ross often writes to share stories inspired by my columns. I am delighted to hear from readers, especially when interesting memories are stirred by these musings. In a recent letter, commenting on the child I wrote about who was accidentally locked in our church after she had tagged along to listen to her aunt practice the organ, Shirley wrote of an incident when her father, George Forester, worked at the Coca-Cola plant on South Center Street.
She said, “On our school lunch hour I would walk to the plant and to lunch with Daddy. One day I went in one door and Daddy did not know that I was there and went out the front door and locked it. Willie Foots, who was one of the drivers, saw me at the door and showed me how to lift the inside latch. I was friends with all the truck drivers and they taught me how to tie my shoes at an early age. I will always remember that day and Willie Foots, Shorty Driver, Jeff Hamner, with their kindness to me as a child.”
You’re right, Shirley. Little incidents often create lasting memories for children. When I answered Shirley’s letter, I promised I would write about my mother’s Coca-Cola story. Again…a little incident that created a lasting memory.
As I was told the tale, my mother’s story occurred when she was a student at Delta State College. In those long-ago days, few students had cars. It was not that cars were forbidden, it was just that in the depths of the Great Depression few adults, not to mention students, could have afforded one. The campus was a full mile from downtown Cleveland, and though I was fully used to riding my bike between our home near the campus and downtown, I would have thought it a pretty fair walk in my younger days. Still, the students walked back and forth because, as I said, nobody had a car.
In my mother’s case, one boy had a car (I think it was Bill—William D. McCain—who went on to become President of the University of Southern Mississippi), and he invited some of the other students, including Mama, to ride downtown for a Coke at “Denton’s.” Denton’s was across from the courthouse, and colas then were a nickel.
Giddy with excitement, my mother committed a social blunder—or was it an act of rebellion—given that this was the “flapper era” following on the “Roaring Twenties?” She never said, but having heard the story many times, I have my own ideas. Anyway, Mama drank her Coca-Cola right from the bottle—which, believe it or not—was a great sin in those days! Almost as bad as going without a hat or smoking in the street!
Spies are everywhere in small towns, and so Mama quickly found herself summoned to appear before the dean—the dean, in this case, being her father, my grandfather, Dr. William H. Zeigel! Punishment was meted out, along with a firm admonition that students—all of them—must uphold the proprieties of alma mater! So, with the honor of Delta State vindicated, my mother was sufficiently chastened, and for the rest of her life, she could not drink a Coca-Cola from one of those green bottles without a flashback to the ethical expectations of an earlier time.
As I write this on Mother’s Day, I cannot help reflecting that every generation seems to have its confrontation with the elders. I guess Mama was lucky that hers was as innocent as it was. But it is a good incentive to “mind your manners,” especially when you are out in public!
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