The best of times, in the best place

Published 7:58 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Growing up, it seemed that all neighborhoods had three things: an open lot, nearby store and a team. Now, please understand that these lots did not have lush green grass that was manicured by professionals. Most had just enough rocks to make a baseball take a bad hop and sand spurs that stuck in you when tackled (the exception being the Horse Lot on West Main Street). These lots were taken care of by the neighborhood team and each took great pride in their appearance. During baseball season, some of these lots had base paths cut by a lawn mower. It never really mattered during football season because a little scratch was expected.

Some of the best fields were in neighborhoods on Eleventh Street (across from Donnie’s house), Tenth Street (beside Tomp and Bill’s home), Summit Avenue (beside the Stewarts’ and where the Graves built their home) and the Horse Lot on West Main. The only problem with the Horse Lot was it had no store nearby. If you were lucky, you got to see Dr. Dave! He lived across the street, and he was everyone’s pediatrician.

During one of these neighborhood games of football at Bill and Tomp’s, I met a person that would become a lifelong friend. The Hardys had just moved to Washington, and Bobby Hardy came over and we invited him to play. Bobby and his brothers, Woody and Scotty, were a fixture in many games to come. Bobby Hardy became a teammate and a friend throughout school and life. To this day, Bobby and his wife, Brenda, are two of my closest friends whose friendship is valued, and it all started in a lot!

There were plenty of kids in each neighborhood and all it took was a phone call to arrange a game. Sometimes we just “chose up” and played, depending on the number there. The mode of travel was either bicycle or foot, to and from these neighborhoods.

Once the games were over, it was on to the nearby store for soft drinks (16 oz.) and peanuts (put inside our drinks).  Stores like Jolley’s, Congleton’s, Raymond Jolley’s, Mrs. Briley’s and W.B. Scott were spread throughout town and in different neighborhoods. These kind people would let you even charge your drink if you lost your money and then you could bring your dime back to pay for it later.

Some of the best games were played at these sites and, boy, were they competitive! Many lasting friendships were made, and dreams shared while sitting on the porch of the stores drinking soft drinks afterward. These were the best of times and in the best place, Washington, North Carolina, and we did not even know it.

—Harold, Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.