New View … Gentle On My Mind

Published 12:36 am Sunday, April 3, 2011

Editor’s note: A recent Sound Off caller described an old Bartow Houston column that was recalled fondly. We think we’ve found the 1975 column (or something similar) and are running it again in the WDN with the author’s permission. We also discovered an old photo of Mr. Houston from the time period, that is reprinted without his permission.

Now, I freely acknowledge that I am not old enough – not really – to have amassed more than a modicum of remembrances of “days gone by” in Washington.

Such recollections accrue only to those who live long enough to become virtually the last of their generation. People in their seventies, eighties, and beyond … the few who remain, who remember “when.”

But, irrespective of age, we all have our own cache of remembrances. In the wake of the recent nostalgia wave, circa 1950’s, that has swept our country; and also, because the “Original Washington” is poised on the brink of its 200th birthday … I suspect a lot of us, of all ages, have been engaged in “remembering.”

I have.

I remember the Tulip Festivals. The color, the parades, the bands, the costumes, the excitement of it all. The “Bughouse,” its grounds bedecked in a profusion of floral brilliance.

I remember the uniforms, the convoys, the blackouts, the talk of a war that had little meaning to one of a tender age. They talked about places in Europe and in the Pacific. Where were they? Across the ocean, people said. So very far away. Another world to one who related to things like birthdays and Santa Claus and visits to the grandparents’ farm.

I remember days at St. Agnes’ School. And playmates named Harry and Jane and E-Bette and Doc and Rufus and Eddie. And kindly teachers, nuns, like sister Geralda and Mother De Chontel. And Father Gilbert. Especially Father Gilbert.

I remember cold, happy, excitement-filled Friday nights watching the Pam Pack, those navy-clad heroes of mine, as my father explained the game to me … and pointed out the referees’ mistakes!

I remember the honeysuckle that grew in such abundance along that ditchbank off Market and 12th Streets, where Milton and Pat and Skinny and Ward and Tommy and Blake and Bo and others of us littered the “range” with dead and dying cowboys.

I remember Sunday night pancake and waffle suppers with 12th streeters all joining in. And homemade ice cream in summertime, and outdoor oyster roasts on cold November evenings.

I remember Mr. Gardner, and basketball on Saturdays at the old Parish House. And “Dr. John” and “Mr. John.” And ice cream at the little tables in Carolina Dairies. And hamburgers at “Web’s.”

I remember Boy Scout meetings at the Morris Scout hut, and watching TV on Thursday nights at Jordan Hardware.

I remember summer days and swimming at Mimosa Shores with Jack and Preston, and nights spent camping out near the shores of the Pamlico, in then not-so-developed Washington Park.

I remember cookouts at Pioneer’s Bluff, and “expeditions” out to the CCC Camp site. And going into “business” with Bud, as we set out to corner the candy market.

I remember Ada Ellen and her father in their pony-drawn cart. And Toyland on the third floor of Belk-Tyler’s.

I remember Walter Mayo, and how he always tipped his hat. And kindly “Mr. Jim” Eborn. And Mrs. Diamond and “Miss Nettie” sitting on their front porch. And eating at Mrs. Pickles’.

I remember a Huck Finn style “voyage” on a raft along the snake infested creek with Howard. And secret camps and clubs with “restricted” memberships.

I remember …

I suppose we all have our own private storehouse of memories. This is natural, and a bit of nostalgic looking-back is alright, so long as we don’t dwell on the past.

But, the time is now, and now is the time to live. One day at a time. We simply must have some faith in the future taking care of itself.

But … like it or not, for all of us, the afternoon is drawing on.

This is simply the natural order of things.

APROPOS – “All our yesterdays, those bitter and sweet – Prepare us for all the tomorrows we must meet.”