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Front Page - Friday, May 13, 2016

Are We There, Yet?

Jay Edwards

In the sixth grade, we were the Crestwood Crickets, a name that didn’t exactly instill fear into the hearts of our opponents. 

I emailed Fred a photo I found of both the sixth grade classes, back in 1969.

I wrote that we were the Crickets, which I should have kept to myself, because my phone immediately rang.

“Crickets! That’s terrible, who came up with that?”

“Well, weren’t you a Wabbit? No room to talk.”

“You were a small boy,” Fred observed, studying the photo. This wasn’t true, but I guess it seemed that way to him because of the height where I finally topped out.

Then Fred started circling others in the picture; he was gaining momentum, like a shark swimming through a sixth grade salty sea.

Soon, sentimentality mercifully kicked in and he said, “That was a great time to be a kid, bud.” 

I couldn’t resist, “Are you talking about when I was a kid or when you were a kid?”

“Easy bud,” he growled. “But it’s sort of true, I guess, because around the time you were posing for this cute little photo with all your fellow Crickets, I was trying to figure out who my date would be to the game of the century, the Big Shootout in Fayetteville.”

“I can’t talk about that now,” I told him.

“Me either,” he quietly said.

So we pooled our memories and he began, telling about the drug store in the Heights, and old Mrs. Shaw who worked behind the counter, and the day when he was in the fifth grade and came in and saw three sixth graders he knew huddled together in a corner, whispering and giggling. 

“They were looking at an Esquire magazine,” he said, “and they had these little bottles with some green liquid, that they were passing around. It was called Breath Tip, and if you drank enough of it you could get a pretty good buzz.” 

“I asked Henry Doolittle to let me try one but he gave me the stink eye and said, ‘No way, you’re too young.’”

“So I went back to the counter to buy my comic and some Atomic Fire Balls from Mrs. Shaw.”

Fred grew up in Little Rock. A few years later, I was loitering at my own drug store on the north shore, Lakehill Drug. It was a Norman Rockwell-like haberdashery, with a counter in the back where you could get hamburgers, grilled cheese, and tuna fish. They also served fountain drinks and shakes. My favorite was limeaid, with lots of sugar and real limes.

And I liked the sour apple gumballs, those yellow balls with the red flecks.

Two stores down was a Ben Franklin’s, the predecessor to Walmart. Mom would drive my brothers and me there every Saturday, in her green Vista Cruiser, with the wood grain sides and the rear seat that let you see where you were coming from. 

She would give us each a dollar and point us to Ben Franklin’s, telling us to stay in there while she went in the shoe store next door, always with instructions to me, being the oldest, to keep an eye on my brothers. She said she would come and get us after she finished shopping and we would go to the drug store and get a hamburger.

“OK,” we all said.

“Watch them Jay,” came the reinforced orders.

“Yes ma’am.”

I always left them behind as soon as we got inside the store, telling Dean to keep an eye on Bill. I looked back in time to see them taking off in opposite directions. 

It was pretty much always the same, except for this one time.

To be continued.

Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at jedwards@dailydata.com.