Warm weather and school holidays remind me of my childhood years at 407 East Main Street. Like many children of that day and the present, both my parents worked outside the home. Thankfully, we had my grandmother, Mary Dixie Bearden Brown, who lived with us, so my parents had no worries about leaving me at home during the long summer months. The youngest of five, my older siblings were busy with friends or jobs, while my brother Joe and I stuck around the house. Except for the week of Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church, GA* camp for me, and Boy Scout camp for Joe, we were pretty-much homebodies.
WHAT’S A KID TO DO IN THAT PRE-INTERNET ERA?
We never seemed to be at a loss for things to keep us busy. After all, we had our bicycles! Have bicycle—will travel. During the 1970s, Murfreesboro was still a small town, and traffic was at a minimum. One of my frequent bike rides was from Main Street to Evergreen Cemetery, where I could glide through the small paths among the graves, hands off my handlebars singing to my heart's content. I had no objections from the residents, and the trees gave great shade on hot days.
I could also ride my bike to Linebaugh Library, then on College Street, where my mother worked. This enabled me to check in on my mom, check out some books, and cool off, before heading out once again. Another favorite nearby stop was Messick’s Pharmacy on the Square because they had Archie comics and a coke machine. Mr. Messick and his family all went to my church, so I knew the family well, and his youngest daughter Jennifer was my age. I didn’t always have money for such treats but loved it when I did.
SUN-BATHING AND GRANDMOTHER
Eight years my senior, my sister Debbie led the way in all things growing up. She loved to lay out in the sun in our backyard to get tanned, so I of course joined her in her efforts. We come from a long line of pale-white ancestors, so we had to take drastic efforts before being seen at any local pool in the Coppertone tan seventies.
Laying out in the yard, however, had one problem—our grandmother. Born in 1889, she was not only from another era but century, and disapproved of young women (that was us) showing our stomachs or sunbathing. In order to avoid her displeasure, we positioned ourselves away from her window that looked out on the prime location for sunbathing and found a different spot away from her gaze.
Once we’d put enough color on our pearly skin (which actually meant, once we burned sufficiently), we could go swim at the swimming pool at Oakland’s Mansion. After I’d taken swimming lessons at Central High School one summer, I was finally proficient enough to join my sister or brother and friends at the huge pool located in Cedars of Lebanon State Park. This would be where I spent most of my high school summers with friends as well. I can still smell the suntan lotion and taste the honeybuns I bought from the concession stand there.
THE BEST SUMMER TIMES WERE THE EVENINGS
There are two distinct summer memories from those Main Street days—the smell and taste of the honeysuckles and lightning bugs. I was recently walking in the evening in my present-day neighborhood and took in the familiar scent. Not able to resist myself, I meandered over to the hedge row and pulled off the fragrant white bud, snipped the end off, pulled out the pistil (yes, I had to look it up), and sucked off the tiniest bit of juice it brought with it through the flower. Some things never change in Tennessee.
Back on Main Street, catching lightning bugs was an annual event. Mom would give me a mason jar and punched holes in the lid, so any little creatures I caught would have air. Our front yard was a perfect place to see and capture the fascinating bugs. I was always amazed at their ability to light up as they flew and loved it when one would settle on my hand or arm and let me take in God’s creative ability. I was on a catch and release program, so any lightning bugs I did catch didn’t suffer long before I let them go back out to finish their evening travels.
ICED TEA AND LEMONADE
I can’t end this trip down memory lane without mention of two extremely important drinks that helped to ease the summer heat, as our house had no air conditioning, except for an occasional window unit that would be sparingly used—my dad worked for TVA after all. Iced tea was a staple in the Brown household, as Mother made gallons and gallons of it each week, mixing half sugar and half saccharine (yes, I know). That was our drink of choice when there was no other choice.
However, lemonade did have breakthrough appearances in the hot summer months. Living on Main Street, I was even able to have a lemonade stand in that prime location on more than one occasion. There was good business on that busy street.
If you grew up in the Boro, you may relate to some of these memories, and even if you were not fortunate enough to have been raised in this great town, I trust my story may increase your love for the people and places of the city you now call home.
*Girls in Action or GAs is a mission organization of Southern Baptist Churches.