A few of us were sitting around talking the other day and talk got around, as talk is wont to do, to the old days. I wonder how many columns I have started with that line. This time it was Chuck Landy who harkened us back to a better time, however -- and Chuck was raised in Pennsylvania, for goodness sake.
He was waxing nostalgic over the days when he was a child and could leave town for a week of vacation without even bothering to lock the doors of their house. I could identify. I don't know if we ever locked our doors when I was growing up in Porterdale and if we had I am not sure we could have found a key to get back in.
Locking the doors would have created too many complications. If we had locked the doors Mae Johnson couldn't have gotten in to iron the clothes Mama left for her in the basket every Thursday. Mae lived outside of town and cleaned and ironed for folks. She carried all of her belongings in a croaker sack and for a long time I was convinced she was really Soap Sally. She wasn't of course. I eventually learned that Soap Sally wasn't even real. The Goat Man was real, but Soap Sally wasn't.
Mae wouldn't have been the only one who couldn't have gotten in. I couldn't have, either. There is no way I could have ever been a latch-key kid because I could never have kept up with a latch-key. I couldn't even keep up with my skate key and it was tied to a shoe string that I wore around my neck. I almost hung myself with it one day, trying to climb onto the top of our house. I wanted to jump off and see if I could fly like Superman. Hey! I had a red towel pinned to my shoulders that looked just like a cape. Anyway, I couldn't -- but that's another story for another day.
The point is, we didn't need to lock our doors because nobody would have bothered anything, even if we had had anything to bother -- which we didn't. Besides, my daddy always said that locks were only made to keep honest people out, his reasoning being that crooks and punks would just break the lock if they wanted to get in -- or a window. Then you would have lost your stuff and have to fix your door of window. My daddy had sense like old folks.
I remember one summer when we were on vacation in Jacksonville Beach. I must have been in about the 10th grade because I slipped out of the house we were staying in with a roll of quarters and went to the pay phone down the street to call my girlfriend, Kim Puckett. I put the required amount of money in the phone, but I dialed my own number instead of hers. Bud Cason answered the phone. Bud was the little boy who lived across the street.
"Bud," I said. "What are you doing at Kim's house?"
"I ain't at Kim's house," he said. "I'm at your house."
"Oh," I answered, thankful that a 9-year-old wasn't beating my time. "Why are you at my house?" I thought to ask him."
"Our television antenna fell off the roof," he explained, "so I came over here to watch 'Beverly Hillbillies.'"
"OK," I told him, thinking nothing about a guy in need helping himself to the use of our home. "Be sure to turn the set off when you are done."
"I can't," was his response. "Mama and daddy are coming over next to watch 'Gomer Pyle.'"
Made sense. See what I mean about the good old days?
The sad truth is, those days aren't really all that far gone by. It wasn't all that long ago that I didn't see a need to lock our doors right here in Conyers. One summer we went on a cross-country excursion to California. We were gone three weeks. Like the Pennsylvania Landys before me, I saw no reason to lock the doors. If a thief or thug wanted in, they would have gotten in and you never know when Bud Cason might need to watch a little television.
Bud didn't, but somebody else did. We got home and found a McDonald's container and a couple of napkins in our trash. We knew for a fact that we had emptied the trash before we left. My oldest daughter Jamie started roaming all over the house, looking for clues as to the interloper might have been.
"Aha!" she exclaimed, "spying a particular DVD case on top of the TV. "John Shea has been here! I loaned him that DVD before we left home. She immediately got John on the phone. "You've been at our house, haven't you?"
"Yep," he admitted, nonchalantly. "Brad (his older brother) came home from college last weekend with his baseball buddies and we didn't have enough beds. Mama sent me over to your house to stay for a couple of days.
I wish it were still that way. Now we have to bolt our doors and windows and turn on the alarms and my brother-in-law and I take turns leaving an attack dog in the house. I ain't telling anybody which days the dog stays with us.
Now excuse me. I am locking up the house and going to Henderson's for some fried catfish.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.